Kate Bosworth anchors Netflix’s castaway thriller ‘The I-Land’
Kate Bosworth is universally regarded as a fashion darling, but in her new sci-fi show, “The I-Land,” she wakes up on a deserted island wearing something horrifically basic: a white shirt and khaki pants — which also happens to be the same thing every other character is wearing. Everyone’s memories are completely wiped — blank slates with no idea how they’ve gotten there or who they are. As the show progresses, snippets of the characters’ pasts — and how they’re all interlinked — are revealed. So what’s with the uniforms? Only time will tell.
Co-produced by Bosworth and Neil LaBute, the show (which debuts this week on Netflix) is one of the most anticipated of the fall season. “It’s the idea of nature versus nurture,” Bosworth explains, tucked into a back table at a restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. “If you and I were to wake up on a deserted island, and something drastic were to happen, would we have souls? Is our instinct ingrained, or is it something we’ve learned through experience? All those themes are explored in a very extreme way throughout the series. Each episode gets more and more intense, and drastically so. The stakes get raised higher and higher. It’s binge-able.”
Bosworth’s character, KC, is what she describes as a “question mark” who remains silent, observing as the other characters run around like they’re in “Lord of the Flies.”
“They get very involved with each other, and irritated with each other, and my character has this restraint that allows her to stand out,” the actress, 36, explains. “She’s the most mysterious. And there’s a reason for that — it’ll be explained.”
As theater and moviegoers know, LaBute is a magnet for both mystery and controversy. Last year, the prominent playwright and screenwriter, known for his portraits of misogynistic men, was abruptly let go by the prestigious Off-Broadway MCC Theater. “We’re committed to creating and maintaining a respectful and professional work environment for everyone we work with,” the theater’s executive editor said at the time.
But Bosworth — who first rose to fame nearly two decades ago in the surfer flick “Blue Crush” — insists that “The I-Land” was nothing but a fun experience. “It’s funny, because [Neil] is so not controversial in person. He is interested in really making people uncomfortable with his work. It’s deliberate — he likes to have audiences react. And he doesn’t mind that it’s polarizing at times. I think that’s probably his favorite type of cinema, and same for me. [Sergio Leone’s] ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is one of my favorite movies, and yet, when there’s that rape scene, it’s such a tough thing to take, and it makes you so angry and almost turned-off with the movie as a whole. But, sometimes, that’s part of the best cinematic experiences, when you feel totally conflicted. It’s not force-fed to you. Neil doesn’t shy away from that. I thought, probably like many people, that he was just gonna be very dark, but he’s not. He’s so sweet and so nice. He’s one of the most collaborative people I’ve ever worked with.”
Anyone who stalks Bosworth’s Instagram (followers: 810,000) can attest that her most heartfelt collaborations, however, are with her husband, writer and director Michael Polish. The two met in 2011 on the set of “Big Sur” (an adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel) and married in Montana in 2013. (Bosworth wore a custom Oscar de la Renta gown.) “I really like my director,” she captioned a giddy photo of herself with Michael this July, snapped on the set of their latest film, “Force of Nature” — which wrapped shooting in Puerto Rico just days after she finished chatting with Alexa.
When asked about working with her husband and their production company, Make Pictures, Bosworth becomes happily animated, much like her aforementioned Instagram pic. “At dinner the other night, we were talking to a friend, and Mike said, ‘We don’t have a normal marriage, obviously — in the best way.’ Meaning that all we do is talk about creating and what can we do and, ‘What if we did this?’ and ‘You should play this!’ — all the time.”
Five years ago, the pair tried to make a rule for themselves that the moment the clock struck 6 p.m., they wouldn’t talk about work until the following day. Recalling night one of their new agreement, Bosworth erupts into laughter. “After six, we were gonna be a quote-unquote normal husband and wife. But 6 o’clock comes, and we were literally like, ‘Oh, and — ’… ‘You should — ’… ‘Umm … so how about the weather?’ [Creative work] is just who we are. It’s in our DNA.”
In December 2018, Make Pictures released the film “NONA” (short for “No Name”), about human trafficking, an issue that is very close to Bosworth’s heart. (She produced and completely financed the film; Polish wrote and directed.) “Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable — if you’re from a broken home, or looking for a better life, or in an abused relationship, or a drug addict. If they can find a vulnerability, they’ll latch on,” says Bosworth, who works closely with CAST, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s a beautiful movie, and ultimately, I hope it empowers people to get more involved with the issue.”
Next up is another labor of love: “Tate,” a biopic that Bosworth describes as “a love letter to Sharon”— with filming set to begin this October. (Bosworth will star as Sharon Tate and co-produce the film with Polish, who is also directing.) By design, the film will focus on Tate’s life instead of her shocking death at the hands of the Charles Manson Family. “We’ve been involved in it for three years,” Bosworth explains, “researching truly everything there is to know about her and her life, and the people who knew her and loved her, including her sister, Debra, and her close friends. If we’re successful in telling the story — and I bet my life on it we will be with Michael — people will really feel like they know her, not what happened to her. To know her is to love her, and I really mean that. She had a purity. She was life personified and love personified. It’s such a tragedy that she was defined by tragedy.”
On the home front, the couple recently finished another collab: an extensive renovation on their midcentury Los Angeles home, originally built in 1955. One of Kate’s favorite new rooms is her “dressing room,” where she gets her hair and makeup done, and which houses shoes and “stalls” of clothes. “I try so hard to keep it coordinated, because I’m a Capricorn and I need order. I’m so not a hoarder. I purge all the time, and I get so much joy from that. I archive the pieces that are really special — the Met dresses and, obviously, my wedding dress.”
As for her off-duty style, Kate says she’s still the same tomboy who grew up loving horseback riding (remember her very first film, 1998’s “The Horse Whisperer”?); her favorite quality in a person remains grit.
“Sometimes I struggle when I’m asked, ‘What’s your style?’ Because it evolves from day to day. I suppose it sways between very minimalist and experimental. I have a real passion for new designers and people looking to do different things. I love fashion for the same reason I love my job as an actor: You’re playing a role.”
Kate Bosworth Knows What She Wants
This is how Kate Bosworth styles herself: First, the front-row fixture rifles through her internal catalogue of runway looks. For example, “I’d mentally earmarked an amazing Prabal [Gurung] dress—turquoise, Dolly Parton, mermaid glam,” Bosworth says on a late summer afternoon in New York. “Keep that one in the back of your head if something arises.” Her brain is like Cher’s computerized closet in Clueless; as a teen, Bosworth was accepted to Princeton but deferred admission. According to her husband, director Michael Polish, she reads “40 or 50” books a year.
The moment for the Prabal dress soon came in the form of an invite to present at this summer’s CMT Awards, but Bosworth isn’t one to have her people call Gurung’s people. Instead — step two — she texts or emails the designer, a fashion fantasy that trumps even Net-a-Porter same-day delivery. (“It’s always such a dream to collaborate with Kate,” Gurung says of the experience.) In addition to copious “crazy cat photos” of her rescues, Teak & Neko, Bosworth’s phone is filled with exchanges with Erdem Moralioglu; Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez; Kym Ellery, whose “weird, drippy silhouettes” she is coveting; and her close friend Jason Wu, with whom she vacations at Tulum’s Hotel Esencia.
Earlier this year, “She saw a Resort pink jumpsuit, and she texted: ‘Jason, can I have this for this event?’ It was in a box within 30 minutes,” Wu tells TZR. “With Kate, there is always just one option. She knows exactly what she wants.” Because Bosworth lives in Los Angeles and Wu in New York, fittings are done via FaceTime, with the designer giving notes to Bosworth’s tailor.
Bosworth explains through bright magenta lips, after we bond over our shared astrological sign, “You can see it, being a Capricorn too, the need to be the person putting the pieces together.”
The literal pieces that Bosworth is reaching for this fall are sleek, tailored, take-charge suits (earlier this year Gabriela Hearst lent her a sharp, berry-colored suit straight from her own closet). “I’ve always loved Katharine Hepburn in that iconic visual,” Bosworth says. “There’s something about it that feels like a relaxed confidence. Like, ‘I can be a boss, but be chill about it.’”
The fashion-obsessed actress is dressing for the newly “boss, but chill about it” phase of her career. Seventeen years after emerging bikini-clad from the surf in Blue Crush and 13 years after diving into the role of Lois Lane in Superman Returns, 36-year-old Bosworth is leveling up: both starring and making her television executive producing debut in Netflix’s new sci-fi series, The I-Land, which has been branded a hybrid of Lost and, ahem, Fyre Festival; and starring and co-producing Tate, the forthcoming Sharon Tate biopic she’s been shooting with Polish.
Bosworth says she was growing tired of the built-in limits on an actor’s contributions. “You show up, you have your lines learned, you might have some creative collaboration in terms of the character, or you might not,” she says. “And then you go home, and that’s it.” Like many other actresses of her generation, Bosworth found herself ready —finally — to call the creative shots. “I like to have a seat at the table. If I see something that’s happening and I can’t help, it drives me crazy,” she says. “It was a natural progression for me to officially become a producer.”
Bosworth says “officially” because, in fact, she’d been a producer before in all but name, consulting on scripts, giving casting notes, and poring over edits. The I-Land just marks one of the first times she’s getting credit for that work.
“It was Mike who said, ‘You should own the title. You are producing this. Ask for a producing title,’” Bosworth — in frayed white cut-off shorts and a yellow cropped Levi’s logo tee, her hair still in a tight topknot from the TZR shoot — tells me.
The exchange is a little glimpse into the intensely loving artist/muse relationship between Bosworth and Polish, who she met when he directed her in the 2013 Jack Kerouac adaptation Big Sur. Polish says he knew within seconds that there was a spark: “I said, ‘Uh-oh. If I’m not with this person, I’m going to have to leave the country.’”
Bosworth was equally enchanted. “Sometimes he’s my muse, sometimes I’m his muse. We always say it’s an interchangeable title.” She smiles as she talks about her husband, who just wrapped directing her in Force of Nature, an action movie set in the midst of a hurricane that had Bosworth dodging bullets and dangling from wires on the Puerto Rico set with co-stars Mel Gibson and Emile Hirsch. She likens the couple’s artistic shorthand to that of “Leo and Scorcese” or Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar: “Honestly, sometimes, it’s hard to have faith in things… and to have someone who you feel like gives you faith in the process, gives you faith in humanity, gives you faith in yourself… it just helps.”
The couple first bonded over whiskey, but they flirted over fashion — specifically a pair of Burberry boots Bosworth was wearing on the Monterey County, California, set of Big Sur. “He looks at me, and he’s like, ‘Oh those are cool boots… Who makes them?’” she recalls. Bosworth cringed at the prospect of label-dropping with the “well-respected, critically acclaimed” director. At times, she has worried that her interest in clothes somehow made her less of an artist. “For a while, in my late twenties, I felt apologetic… like, ‘Can I be an actress and be serious about it and also love fashion?’” she says. Stereotypes about the industry didn’t help, even though she didn’t identify with them. “I’ve never associated with [its] snobbiness or ‘You can’t sit with us’ energy. I don’t believe in that. It’s not like I sit there and I judge it, I just don’t want to participate, you know?”
Polish later revealed that Bosworth’s interest in clothes was a draw for him. “I love that you know fashion and you love fashion,” Bosworth remembers her future husband saying. “‘You’ve gotta own that. Don’t apologize for that.’”
When Bosworth started out in the ‘90s, “It would be weird to say that you had a stylist. It wasn’t what it is today. And I also was… 16? And lived in a small town [outside] Boston,” she says. Now that it would be decidedly not weird, “I like doing it myself because it’s really about my relationships with designers.”
Those relationships have led to some of her most iconic looks, including the ethereal Oscar de la Renta gown and veil that the house’s lead designers, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, created for Bosworth for the 2018 Met Gala’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme. She recalls “a moment where we were not sure if we were going to commit to the veil or not, and ultimately we just had a gut instinct to go for it. It turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the look.”
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, who have known Bosworth since the early days of their design house, describe Bosworth as “a natural”: “Kate’s the real deal. We are cool sending her things [because] we know that she will take our work and twist it into her own vibe and make it look effortless and utterly cool.” Bosworth’s ongoing decision to manage her own look makes sense to them. “If you have a natural gift for it, why hire a stylist?”
Bosworth now has the authority to fully apply her creative gift in her film work. Last year, through Make Pictures, the production company she owns with Polish, Bosworth remotely produced and fully financed Nona, a staggering look at human trafficking, while Polish shot in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the so-called murder capital of the world. Up next for the duo is Tate, which Polish says he has been shooting “under the radar… because we just didn’t want all of the attention while, you know, Mr. Tarantino’s thing was going on.” He and Bosworth are co-producing with Sharon’s sister Debra Tate, who initially raised concerns about her sister’s depiction in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (before later coming around).
“[Sharon Tate] is still a footnote,” Bosworth says, mentioned only in the context of the crime committed against her. “That doesn’t define the woman she is, and in fact, in many ways, that’s a horrifically offensive thing.”
By contrast, Bosworth insists that Tate “doesn’t even touch her death in any way. The killers are not mentioned. It only focuses on celebrating who she is.” (Put another way, Polish says his wife is striving to “take the megaphone from the maniac.”)
Their passion for the project is evident in the first photos of Bosworth in character, revealing a striking resemblance to Tate. “There are times where I’m photographing Kate, and it’s Sharon,” Polish marvels. “I think Kate identifies with somebody being beautiful and being judged, because there are times now that Kate won’t get a part in a movie because she’s too pretty. I mean, that comes right down the pipeline.’” He adds “I don’t truly believe there’s another Sharon Tate, just like there’s not another Kate Bosworth.”
But beyond their flaxen hair and elegant profiles, Bosworth cites an “innate,” almost spiritual connection with the late golden girl.
“She’s with us all the time,” Bosworth says.
With their lives and careers so closely intertwined, “I looked at Michael the other day, and I was like, ‘Sh*t, we better never get divorced,’ you know?” she laughed. “We kind of joke with each other.”
The pair is often praised as #couplegoals on Instagram—Polish is a deft Instagram Husband who posts artful black-and-white shots of Bosworth — but Bosworth insists their marriage is “real,” too. “It gets a little bit intense when it’s overtime on a film. I’m wet and cold and tired, and he’s been working longer than I have,” she says. “Exhaustion, hunger, the things that would make anyone kind of cranky, are basically on steroids.”
For the next step in Bosworth’s Hollywood evolution, Polish is pushing his wife to direct. The idea makes her squirm, but she’s not ruling it out. Earlier in her career, “I just remember feeling very vulnerable all the time,” she says. “I moved to L.A. when I was 18, on my own, and there’s so much loneliness in that,” to say nothing of the rejection and criticism. Now, “It’s kind of like becoming a senior in high school. You go from freshman year where you feel so awkward and you’re hating yourself. And then you’re a senior and you’re like, “Oh, who cares?”
These days, Bosworth is not only self-styled, but self-possessed. If she finds out, “‘Oh, they chose this person over you,’ or ‘They thought you weren’t good at this,’ you just move on,” she says. “There’s no looking back, there’s no wallowing. I just have to keep going.”
I’ve added photos of Kate from the 2012 film And While We Were Here to the gallery. I will add a project page in the near future so be sure to check back. Enjoy!
I’ve added photos of Kate from the 2017 film Nona to the gallery. I will add a project page in the near future so be sure to check back. Enjoy!
I’ve added photos of Kate from the 2011 film L!fe Happens to the gallery. I will add a project page in the near future so be sure to check back. Enjoy!
I’ve added photos of Kate from the 2007 film The Girl in the Park to the gallery. I will add a project page in the near future so be sure to check back. Enjoy!
I’ve added photos of Kate from the 2015 film Life on the Line to the gallery. I will add a project page in the near future so be sure to check back. Enjoy!