Pale-skinned, fine-boned British actress Kate Beckinsale gained recognition for her portrayal of altruistic con artist Georgie in the independent hit Shooting Fish (1997). Directed by Stefan Schwartz, she nabbed a Catalonian International Film Festival Award.
A year later, she turned film critics’ heads again with her supporting role of cool and catty WASP university graduate Charlotte Pingress in the independent ensemble drama The Last Days of Disco, where she netted a London Critics Circle Film Award. Initially making an impression on worldwide audiences with her performance as the lovable, virginal Hero in the Shakespeare outing Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Beckinsale went on to take roles in such high-profile films as Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Michael Bay’s lavish World War II epic Pearl Harbor (2001), the romantic-comedy Serendipity (2001, with John Cusack), the fantasy film Underworld (2003), the Sci-fi film Van Helsing (2004) and the Oscar-winning film The Aviator (2004, directed by Martin Scorsese).
Beckinsale’s admirers should not miss her performances in the upcoming Underworld: Evolution (2006) and Click (2006).
Off screen, Kate Beckinsale was listed as the 63rd of Stuff magazine's “102 Sexiest Women in The World” (2002) and was named England's “Number 1 Beauty” by Hello Magazine (2002). As for her private life, Beckinsale was involved with Edmund Moriarty, whom she dated while she was a student at Oxford. In 1995, she began a long-term relationship with Welsh actor Michael Sheen, but they broke up in 2003. With Sheen, Beckinsale shares a daughter named Lily Sheen (born in 1999). On May 9, 2004, she married director Len Wiseman.
Childhood and Family:
London native Kate Beckinsale Loe was born on July 26, 1973, to British celebrity parents Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe.
Her father died of a heart attack when Kate was six, leaving the little girl in the care of her mother. Noticeably gifted from a very young age, Kate won prizes in several young writing competitions, most notably for three short stories and three poems at the British bookseller W. H. Smith Young Writers' competition. As a teenager, she became anorexic, for which she had to endure four years of five-day-per-week analysis.
Spending most of her time in London, Kate was educated at the London’s Godolphin and Latymer private school. Following in her parents’ footsteps, she gradually began acting after graduation. Already known by the British public in the early 1990s, Kate decided to attend Oxford University's New College, where she majored in French and Russian Literature. After studying for three years and spending her last year of studies in Paris, Kate came to the decision to leave her studies and fully focus on her acting career.
She met director Len Wiseman while on the set of 2003’s Underworld. Shortly after this, the couple became engaged on June 14, 2003, and then married on May 10, 2004, in Bel-Air, California. Before her marriage, Kate had a daughter named Lily Sheen, who was born on January 31, 1999, from her previous relationship with actor Michael Sheen.
Much Ado About Nothing
Daughter of British television actors, Kate Beckinsale wanted to become an actress just like her parents and so she steadily took on roles for British television after finishing school. Starting with a speaking part in the television miniseries "Devices and Desires" (1991), 18-year-old Beckinsale had a major TV acting debut in CBS’s television movie One Against the Wind (1991).
Costarring as Judy Davis’ rebellious daughter Barbe Lindell, she became widely known to British audiences. The film was also broadcast in America at the end of that year. Also in 1991, Beckinsale began studying at a university and sporadically appeared in TV films.
While in her first year at Oxford, Beckinsale’s big breakthrough arrived when she was cast in the supporting role of the sweet, virginal Hero in Kenneth Branagh’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Her notable performance won some degree of appreciation among the American audiences as well as opened doors to other films. In 1994, the actress continued with the medieval historical drama Prince of Jutland (1994), in which she played the part of Ethel and then played the lead of Julia in the contemporary mystery drama Uncovered (1994). In the spring of 1994, after completing three years of study, Beckinsale eventually left Oxford to pursue acting more professionally.
Shortly thereafter, she scored a success with John Schlesinger's adaptation of Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm (1995), where she starred as the orphan Flora Poste who goes to live with her relatives. Initially made for BBC TV, the film opened to fantastic reviews in the U.S, grossing over $5 million during its American cinema run. She next had the title character in Marie-Louise ou la permission (1995) before landing a starring role opposite Aidan Quinn and John Gielgud in the romance/horror film Haunted (1995).
In 1995, Beckinsale also appeared on stage. She made her stage acting debut in Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" and spent the first part of the year touring England with the Thelma Holts Theatre Company. She continued performing on stage with the London stage productions of "Sweethearts" and "Clocks."
Starring as Emma Woodhouse in the British small screen version of Jane Austen's novel Emma was Beckinsale’s first project in 1996 (aired on USA in 1997). A year later, Beckinsale had a victory on her hands when she teamed up with Stuart Townsend and Dan Futterman for director Stefan Schwartz’s quirky romantic comedy Shooting Fish (1997). Portraying philanthropic con artist Georgie, she gained positive feedback and took home a Catalonian International Film Festival award for Best Actress in 1997. The film itself was an unqualified hit in its native country, landing in the third position of the highest grossing film in Britain for 1997.
Beckinsale netted a London Critics Circle Film award for British Supporting Actress of the Year for her bright portrayal of calm and catty WASP college graduate Charlotte Pingress in Whit Stillman's ensemble drama The Last Days of Disco (1998). Unfortunately, the film itself met with mixed responses. She then had a title role in the British television production of Alice through the Looking Glass and finished the decade with a big-budgeted Hollywood feature titled Brokedown Palace (1999). In the prison drama, she played an American girl named Darlene Davis who gets caught with heroin while being on vacation with her best friend (Claire Danes) in Thailand.
The performer opened the new millennium with the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of Henry James' The Golden Bowl (2000), which cast her as Nick Nolte's daughter Maggie Verver. However, it was the 2001 Bruckheimer bloated epic Pearl Harbor, which made her a star. With Michael Bay directing at the helm, she starred as Evelyn, a gutsy nurse caught in the middle of a love triangle with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. She then found herself acting with John Cusack in the romantic comedy Serendipity (2001) before portraying Alex, the love interest of Christian Bale, in Laurel Canyon (2002).
The following year, Beckinsale played the female lead of vampire warrior Selene in the big-budget film Underworld (2003), and further increased her visibility that same year with Matthew Bright's Tiptoes (2003, opposite Gary Oldman). Her next blockbuster exposure came in 2004 when she joined Australian actor Hugh Jackman in the action/horror/adventure Van Helsing, and appeared as screen legend Ava Gardner in the Academy Award-winning Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004, starring Leonardo DiCaprio). Beckinsale will soon return as Selena in the sequel Underworld: Evolution (2006). She is also scheduled to star with Adam Sandler and Christopher Walken in the Jack Giarraputo/ Tim Herlihy-scripted Click (2006).