Kathryn Bailey "Kate" Beckinsale (born 26 July 1973) is an English actress. Her best known films include Pearl Harbor (2001), Underworld (2003), Van Helsing (2004), and Click (2006).
Born in Finsbury Park, London, Beckinsale is the daughter of actor Richard Beckinsale, who died from a heart attack in 1979, and actress Judy Loe. She has a paternal half-sister, Samantha, who is also an actress. Her paternal great-grandfather was Burmese, and she has said that she was "very oriental-looking" as a child.
Beckinsale attended the Godolphin and Latymer School, an all-girls independent school in London. In her teens, Beckinsale twice won the W. H. Smith Young Writers' competition—once for three short stories and once for three poems. After a rebellious adolescence, including a period of anorexia and starting a smoking habit, she followed in the footsteps of her parents and began her acting career. Her first role was in One Against the Wind, a television film about World War II that was first aired in 1991. Having gained three language A levels, Beckinsale studied French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford University, though she did not finish her degree. She thought that having an academic background studying foreign language and literature would broaden her range of acting roles.
During her first year at Oxford, Beckinsale was offered a part in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen film, Much Ado About Nothing, adapted from the Shakespeare play. She spent her last year of studies in Paris, after which she decided to leave the university and concentrate on her acting career. In 1994, Beckinsale had a supporting role in Prince of Jutland, working alongside Christian Bale, with whom she would later reunite in the 2002 drama Laurel Canyon. Kate starred in Haunted (1995) with Aidan Quinn and John Gielgud and in the 1996 TV film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. She subsequently appeared in a few low-profile films, including Shooting Fish and The Last Days of Disco, both in 1998. During this time, Beckinsale also appeared in television films and in stage roles, including the well-received Cold Comfort Farm, opposite British film and television notables Ian McKellen, Rufus Sewell, Eileen Atkins, Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry.
Beckinsale's first major American film, Brokedown Palace (1999), was not a commercial success. Soon after, Beckinsale was cast in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor as the female lead, after Charlize Theron turned down the part. The film was one of the highest-grossing films of its year. In the years following, she appeared in a series of American films that, while high-profile, were given a somewhat mixed reviews, including Serendipity (2001), Underworld (2003) and Van Helsing (2004). In 2005, she portrayed Ava Gardner in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, a role for which she gained 20 pounds.
In 2006, Beckinsale was placed at #23 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World", after being #71 in 2005. She has also been placed at #16 in Maxim's "HOT 100" (2003), #63 in Stuff's "100 Sexiest Women in the World" (2002), and was chosen by the English magazine Hello! as "England’s #1 Beauty", also in 2002.
In January 2006, Beckinsale reprised her role as a vampire in the movie Underworld: Evolution, a sequel to her 2003 film, Underworld, again directed by her husband, Len Wiseman. The film opened in the #1 spot at the box office, grossing over $26 million in its first weekend of release. Also in 2006, Beckinsale appeared in the comedy Click, starring Adam Sandler, which opened on 23 June. Next, Beckinsale replaced Sarah Jessica Parker in the film Vacancy, released in 2007. Her next role was in Snow Angels, which was released in 2008.
At Comic-Con 2007, Beckinsale expressed interest in playing Catwoman in the current Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films. In April 2007, during an interview promoting Vacancy, Beckinsale claimed no knowledge of the rumors linking her to a remake of Barbarella. "I was told on the set yesterday, someone said, 'Oh I hear you're doing Barbarella,' one of the grips. So that's the most official it's become. Every woman would consider Barbarella for a moment, but I don't know." Beckinsale eventually won a libel lawsuit against the Daily Express concerning the matter.
Beckinsale is signed to Independent Models in London.
As of 2009, Beckinsale's movies have grossed a total of $791,492,436 domestically.