After starring roles on the British stage and in small American films, Kate Beckinsale had her first taste of blockbuster success with the 2001 film Pearl Harbor. Her career transformed in 2003 into that of an action star with Underworld, a horror/action film that became an international hit.
Kate Beckinsale was 5 years old when her father, British comedian and actor Richard Beckinsale, died of a heart attack. The loss affected her deeply, and she later developed anorexia. To overcome the condition, she attended Freudian psychoanalysis five days a week for four years, eventually recovering. Beckinsale began acting on the stage while enrolled at Oxford University and landed her first major film role in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen Shakespearean adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing as a freshman.
In 1995, Kate Beckinsale she dropped out of Oxford to pursue her blossoming acting career. Shortly thereafter, she appeared in Cold Comfort Farm, Haunted, and an adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma for television.
Move to Hollywood
Kate Beckinsale’s Hollywood acting career began in 1998's The Last Days of Disco (with Chloe Sevigny). Brokedown Palace (with Claire Danes) soon followed in 1999, and her work in the film earned her a London Critics Circle Film Award.
Also in 1999, Beckinsale gave birth to a daughter, Lily Mo Sheen. Beckinsale and fellow actor Michael Sheen met in 1995, and remained together until 2003.
After a short break following the birth of her daughter, Beckinsale was cast in 2001's Pearl Harbor opposite Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, and it became one of the highest-grossing films of 2001. A large-scale, large-budget historical action film, Pearl Harbor brought Beckinsale a new level of fame, but she followed this blockbuster with Serendipity, The Golden Bowl, and Laurel Canyon—a romantic comedy, a period piece, and a character study, respectively—none of which would give any indication to the direction the actress’s career was about to take.
Underworld and Beyond
In 2003, Kate Beckinsale took on the starring role of a vampire in the supernatural action/horror movie Underworld. While the film was nearly universally panned by critics, the moviegoing public swept it to the top of the box office, and it raked in over $95 million worldwide.
Underworld was also significant in Beckinsale's personal life. She fell for the film's director, Len Wiseman, and ended her eight-year relationship with Michael Sheen. Becksinale and Wiseman married in 2004.
Beckinsale reprised her role in 2006, in Underworld: Evolution. The film didn’t resonate as well with audiences, but its moderate success led to a third film in the series, the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, in which Beckinsale had a small, uncredited role.
Kate Beckinsale has continued her unique path as both an action star and dramatic actress, and she is reprising her starring role yet again in the fourth Underworld film, Underworld: Awakening, co-written and produced by Wiseman.
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