- Kathrin Romary "Kate" Beckinsale
July 26, 1973 (age 47)
- Actor, Model
- Len Wiseman
- Richard Beckinsale, Judy Loe
Kathrin Romary "Kate" Beckinsale (born 26 July 1973) is an English actress. After some minor television roles, she made her film debut in Much Ado About Nothing (1993) while still a student at Oxford University. She then appeared in British costume dramas such as Prince of Jutland (1994), Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Emma (1996), and The Golden Bowl (2000), in addition to various stage and radio productions. She began to seek film work in the United States in the late 1990s and, after appearing in small-scale dramas The Last Days of Disco (1998) and Brokedown Palace (1999), she had a break-out year in 2001 with starring roles in the war film Pearl Harbor and the romantic comedy Serendipity. She built on this success with appearances in the biopic The Aviator (2004) and the comedy Click (2006).
Beckinsale appeared in 2003's Underworld and has since starred in many action movies including Van Helsing (2004), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Whiteout (2009), as well as Contraband, Underworld: Awakening, and Total Recall (all in 2012). She also makes occasional appearances in smaller dramatic projects such as Snow Angels (2007), Winged Creatures (2008), Nothing but the Truth (for which she earned a Critic's Choice Award nomination in 2008), and Everybody's Fine (2009).
Kathrin Romary Beckinsale was born in London, England. She is the only child of actor Richard Beckinsale and actress Judy Loe. Her father was of one-quarter Burmese descent, and she has said that she was "very oriental-looking" as a child. She made her first television appearance at the age of four, in an episode of This is Your Life dedicated to her father. When she was five years old, her 31-year-old father died suddenly of a heart attack. Beckinsale was deeply traumatised by the loss and "started expecting bad things to happen". While she has seen her father "more on television than I have in life", "there are certainly enough memories for me not to feel that it's somebody I didn't know." Her widowed mother moved in with director Roy Battersby when Beckinsale was nine and she was brought up alongside his four sons and daughter. She has a close relationship with her step-father: "I couldn't have knitted a better one ... He wasn't pushy, he let me come to him." She has a paternal half-sister, actress Samantha Beckinsale, but they have not had regular contact. Beckinsale was educated at the fee-paying Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, West London and was involved with the Orange Tree Youth Theatre. She has described herself as a "late bloomer": "All of my friends were kissing boys and drinking cider way before me. I found it really depressing that we weren't making camp fires and everyone was doing grown-up stuff." "I loathed being a teenager." She had a nervous breakdown and developed anorexia at the age of 15 and underwent Freudian psychoanalysis for four years.
Beckinsale read French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford and was later described by a contemporary, journalist Victoria Coren, as "whip-clever, slightly nuts, and very charming". She was a two-time winner of the WH Smith Young Writers Award for both fiction and poetry. She was involved with the Oxford University Dramatic Society, most notably being directed by fellow student Tom Hooper in a production of A View from the Bridge at the Oxford Playhouse. She spent her third year in Paris as required of all Modern Language students at Oxford, after which she decided to leave university to concentrate on her burgeoning acting career: "It was getting to the point where I wasn't enjoying either thing enough because both were very high pressure. I was burning out and I knew I had to make a decision."
Beckinsale decided at a young age that she wanted to be an actress: "I grew up immersed in film. My family were in the business. I quickly realised that my parents seemed to have much more fun in their work than any of my friends’ parents." She was inspired by the performances of Jeanne Moreau. She made her television debut in 1991 with a small part in an ITV adaptation of P. D. James’ Devices and Desires. Also that year, she appeared as a young woman engaging in a forbidden affair with a Nazi officer in the Hallmark film One Against The Wind. In 1992 she starred alongside Christopher Eccleston in Rachel’s Dream, a 30‑minute Channel 4 short, and in 1993, she appeared in the pilot of the ITV detective series, Anna Lee, starring Imogen Stubbs. In 1993, Beckinsale landed the role of Hero in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. It was filmed in Tuscany, Italy, during a summer holiday from Oxford University. She attended the film's Cannes Film Festival premiere and later remembered it as an overwhelming experience. "Nobody even told me I could bring a friend!" "I had Doc Martens boots on, and I think I put the flower from the breakfast tray in my hair". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone was won over by her "lovely" performance while Vincent Canby of the New York Times noted that she and Robert Sean Leonard "look right and behave with a certain naive sincerity, although they often seem numb with surprise at hearing the complex locutions they speak". The film earned over $22 million at the box office. She made three other films while at university. In 1994, she appeared as Christian Bale's love interest in Prince of Jutland, a film based on the Danish legend which inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet, and starred in the murder mystery Uncovered. In 1995, while studying in Paris, she filmed the French language Marie-Louise Ou La Permission.
Rose to fame
Beckinsale rose to fame in 2001 with a leading role in the war film Pearl Harbor as a nurse torn between two pilots, played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. She was drawn to the project by the script: "It's so unusual these days to read a script that has those old-fashioned values to it. Not morals, but movie values. It's a big, sweeping epic ...You just never get the chance to do that." Director Michael Bay initially had doubts about casting the actress: "I wasn't sure about her at first...she wore black leather trousers in her screen test and I thought she was a little nasty...it was easy to think of this woman as a slut". He eventually decided to hire her because she wasn't "too beautiful. Women feel disturbed when they see someone’s too pretty". He asked her to lose weight during filming. In a 2004 interview, the actress noted that his comments were "upsetting" and said she wore leather trousers because "it was snowing out. It wasn't exactly like I had my nipple rings in." She felt grateful that she had not had to deal with such criticism at a younger age: "If I had come on to a movie set at [a younger] age and someone had said, 'You're a bit funny-looking, can you go on a diet?' – I might have jumped off a building. I just didn't have the confidence to put that into perspective at the time." However, speaking in 2011, she said she was "very fond" of Bay. Pearl Harbor received negative reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised "the avid eyed, ruby lipped Kate Beckinsale, the rare actress whose intelligence gives her a sensual bloom; she's like Parker Posey without irony." A. O. Scott of the New York Times noted that "Mr. Affleck and Ms. Beckinsale do what they can with their lines, and glow with the satiny shine of real movie stars". However, Mike Clark of USA Today felt that the "usually appealing Kate Beckinsale" is "inexplicably submerged — like her hospital colleagues — under heaps of tarty makeup that even actresses of the era didn't wear." The film was a commercial success, grossing $449 million worldwide.
Beckinsale became known as an action star following an appearance as a vampire in 2003's Underworld. It was markedly different from her previous work and Beckinsale has said she was grateful for the change of pace after appearing in "a bunch of period stuff and then a bunch of romantic comedies". "It was quite a challenge for me to play an action heroine and pull off all that training when [in real life] I can’t catch a ball if it’s coming my way." The film received negative to mixed reviews but was a surprise box-office hit and has gained a cult following.
Beckinsale had an eight-year relationship with actor Michael Sheen from 1995 until 2003. They met when cast in a touring production of The Seagull in early 1995 and moved in together shortly afterwards. She has said it was "love at first sight" and that he saved her from "a hospital for the criminally insane".In 1997, they appeared in a radio production of Romeo and Juliet. Their daughter, Lily Mo Sheen, was born in London in 1999. The actress has said she was "embarrassed" that Sheen never proposed but felt as though she were married: "If you keep a library book out long enough, you feel it's yours."
Their relationship ended in early 2003, after the filming of Underworld. Beckinsale had persuaded director Len Wiseman to cast Sheen in the film, but, while on set, she and Wiseman (who was married) began a relationship. All parties, aside from Wiseman's first wife, have maintained that there was no infidelity. Wiseman married Beckinsale on May 9, 2004 in Bel-Air, California. They live in Los Angeles. Beckinsale and Wiseman both remain friends with Sheen.