Kate Beckinsale

Beauty, Brains, Badass 

This stunning English actress is known for her fast-paced action films, her incredible looks and physique, and her bright personality and witty humor. Kate Beckinsale seems to get better with age, just like a fine wine!

Kate Beckinsale was born on July 26, 1973 in Chiswick, a town in London, England. Acting was always at the forefront of her mind due to her upbringing in a family of actors. Both of her parents were English actors, with her father being Richard Beckinsale of popular sitcoms Porridge and Rising Damp, and her mother being Judy Loe of General Hospital and the sitcom Singles. Because of this, Kate actually made her first TV appearance at four-years-old, starring in an episode of the British biographical documentary This Is Your Life, which was dedicated to her father.

Unfortunately, when Beckinsale was just five-years-old, her father died suddenly of a heart attack. This altered the course of her life and shaped her to become who she is today. Due to her father’s death she struggled with mental health issues and later on in life even an eating disorder. “[My dad’s death] was 100% soul-destroying and totally impacted me forever,” Beckinsale opened up and shared.

When Kate was nine-years-old, her widowed mother began dating English TV director Roy Battersby and they soon moved in together. She ended up growing very close to her stepdad, who coincidentally was also involved in the acting world. Despite Kate’s acting dreams, she wanted to broaden her horizons, and to do so, she attended New College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford. She had always been talented at writing, and at Oxford she studied French and Russian literature. She had won the WH Smith Young Writers’ Award for both fiction and poetry while she was in high school.

While pursuing her studies at Oxford, Beckinsale continued to also seek out acting roles. Her first notable role came during her time at the university—she landed the part of Hero in the English/American rom-com Much Ado About Nothing (1993). It raked in over $22 million worldwide and critics praised her performance. She was able to attend her first red carpet due to the film, appearing at the Cannes Film Festival. “I was 18, and I wore my dirty old scuffed steel-toe Doc Martens on the carpet, because I didn’t know other shoes existed,” Kate spilled about her fashion choices at the time.

She appeared in three other films during her time at the iconic university, including Royal Deceit (1994) alongside Christian Bale, Uncovered (1994), and the French film Marie- Louise ou la permission (1995). As more and more roles were offered to the budding starlet, she eventually decided to leave Oxford to pursue acting full-time. When she departed the university in 1995, big lifestyle changes arrived. She starred in the English comedy film Cold Comfort Farm and also in the horror film Haunted. She even tested her acting chops out on the stage when she was cast in the play The Seagull. She played Nina in the Russian drama and performed it at The Theatre Royal in Bath, England. It was during play rehearsals that she actually met co-star Michael Sheen and it didn’t take long for them to click and fall in love. The two young stars moved in together and even had a daughter, Lily, who was born in London in 1999. The relationship lasted a solid eight years but the two broke up in 2003. Despite this, Kate and Michael remain good friends and co-parent their daughter together. “He’s really dear, close family. He’s somebody I’ve known since I was 21 years old. I really love him a lot,” Kate had to say about their still-close relationship.

After accepting a few small roles in some English films, Beckinsale decided it was time to take her career to the next level. She had begun to receive lots of offers to appear in American films so it was only natural to make the move to Hollywood, California. Her first American role was alongside Chloë Sevigny in 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. It received great reviews from critics, although it didn’t do exceptionally well at the box office. In 2001, she landed her first extremely visible role in Pearl Harbor, a Michael Bay-directed film also starring Ben Affleck. The epic drama won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing and put Beckinsale’s face in the spotlight. The film was also a commercial success, raking in $449 million worldwide.

Following Pearl Harbor, Beckinsale found more triumph in Serendipity (2001), a romantic comedy with John Cusack. The film, which features Cusack and Beckinsale as star-crossed lovers, became a cult-classic—she’s still asked about the movie and its memorable scenes today!

In 2003, Beckinsale endured even more career changes. After spending the majority of her early acting career starring in period dramas and romantic comedies, she was relieved to play a vampire warrior in the action film Underworld. The movie ended up becoming her most well-known yet as it went on to earn a cult following, bringing home over $95 million at the worldwide box office. It introduced her to the world of action films and quickly she began to be regarded as an action star. It also marked a change in her love life. As she separated from Michael Sheen, she welcomed someone else into her heart. She had grown close to her Underworld director, Len Wiseman, on set and began dating him soon after. They married May 9, 2004 in Bel-Air, California. However, this relationship didn’t last—the couple filed for divorce in 2016, citing “irreconcilable differences.”

Kate’s career advanced after her exciting, adrenaline-rushing performance in Underworld. She racked up more roles in action films like 2004’s Van Helsing, which she starred in with Hugh Jackman, and Underworld: Evolution (2006), the sequel. She appeared in four other Underworld films throughout her career, with the sixth installment, Underworld: Blood Wars premiering in 2016.

In 2012, Beckinsale starred in Contraband, as Mark Wahlberg’s character’s distressed wife. The story followed a former smuggler who heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills. The film had a production budget of $25 million and has grossed over $96 million worldwide, making it a fruitful project.

Many action-packed productions later, Kate returned to her romantic comedy days to star in the period film Love & Friendship (2016). She again was able to act with her previous co-star Chloë Sevigny, who she had worked with on The Last Days of Disco. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was universally acclaimed by critics, as well as finding commercial success via arthouse cinemas. Two years later she starred in the British film Farming, a drama that follows the life of a young Nigerian boy who grows up in a white British family. She played the emotionally abusive, dismissive mother of the boy and shares that it was based on the childhood of the director, making for a moving experience. “It was very different from anything else I’ve ever done because you were always aware that this was Ade’s story and some of it was incredibly upsetting. You felt very privileged to be in this incredibly vulnerable space,” Beckinsale said.

Her latest project is the Amazon Prime series The Widow (2019), where she plays an Englishwoman who believes that her husband, who was killed in a plane crash, is still alive in the Congo. The series was filmed on location in Africa, meaning Beckinsale lived there while shooting for six months. Although she lives in California, where the weather can get pretty hot, it turns out she wasn’t too prepared for the scorching heat that arises in Africa. “It was incredibly hot—so hot that I ended up getting taken to the hospital one day for passing out! I just keeled over into this very nice, huge actor, which was lucky!”

The Widow follows Kate’s character as she grieves her late husband, nearing a nervous breakdown from the stress. Beckinsale was familiar with the grieving process, she did lose her father when she was very young, so she somewhat related to the story.

“I’M PRETTY FASCINATED BY GRIEF AND THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF GRIEVING THAT PEOPLE TAKE. I FEEL THAT ALMOST EVERYONE WHO HAS LOST SOMEONE…HAS THIS COMMON EXPERIENCE OF SAYING, ‘I WAS ON THE SUBWAY AND THOUGHT I SAW MY HUSBAND OR MY DAD,’ AND THEY’RE RUNNING AFTER THIS PERSON, AND FEEL LIKE AN IDIOT WHEN IT ISN’T THEM,” Kate said.

Although the show won’t be getting a second season, Kate still has other projects on the horizon. She’s starring in the action movie Jolt, where she plays a woman with an anger management problem that is so intense that she becomes slightly murderous. To control her rage, she wears an electrode-lined vest that she uses to shock herself back to normalcy. Jolt is expected to be released sometime this winter but may be pushed back due to the pandemic.

By Selene Rivera