Meet Kate Beckinsale, The Leather-Clad Vampire Who Rules The Movie Business

Photo: Sony Pictures

This weekend, with a $25 million box office take, Kate Beckinsale proved once again that she’s one of the few female stars who can open a movie franchise. “Underworld Awakening” is the fourth movie in the saga of Beckinsale’s leather-clad Selene character, which has grossed $337 million worldwide.Until the first “Underworld” movie in 2003, however, Beckinsale’s career was a modest one. You may have seen her with John Cusack in “Serendipity,” but did you remember her in “Laurel Canyon,” “The Golden Bowl,” or the infamous straight-to-video fiasco “Tiptoes”?

There’s more to the mother of 11-year-old Lily Mo and wife of director Len Wiseman than looking good while fighting werewolves.
Beckinsale studied at Oxford, hates exercise—despite her well-toned physique—and allegedly shuns cosmetic surgery.
Sure, she’s famous for “Pearl Harbor” and the “Underworld” series, but those blockbuster roles only came after her performances in smaller movies, such as the British multi-cast starrer “Much Ado About Nothing,” and the indie films “The Last Days of Disco” and “Snow Angels.”

With “Underworld: Awakening” and “Contraband” out this weekend, both of which are already making waves at the box office, here’s why Beckinsale can’t be stopped.

1973: Kate comes from acting royalty

Kate Beckinsale was born in London to respected actors Richard Beckinsale (seen here at far right) and Judy Loe. Richard is most notable for his hilarious role on the British sitcom 'Porridge' alongside funnyman Ronnie Barker. Richard was also set to star in the late '70s BBC2 show, 'Bloomers,' but he passed away before filming ended.

1979: Her father died young

1988: She battled an eating disorder

Beckinsale has been open about her personal life, but that openness went a new level when she revealed that at age 15, she struggled with anorexia.

She attributed her disorder to her father's death, and rather than keep it hidden, Beckinsale went to her mother and requested Freudian analysis to get help.

1993: She made her first big splash

1993-1995: Beckinsale juggled films ... and term papers

1995-1998: She became a TV movie maven

Not only was Beckinsale delighting audiences in silver screen period pieces, she was also an expert in movies on the small screen.

A big break came her way in the form of 'Cold Comfort Farm,' a British comedy set in the 1920s. It starred Beckinsale as a young orphan who moves in with a family of rural misfits and tries to help them re-establish themselves in modern society. 'Cold Comfort Farm' did so well on TV that it was even picked up for theatrical release by Gramercy Pictures and had a small but successful following.

She also gave charming performances as the title roles in both 'Emma' and 'Alice Through the Looking Glass.'

1995: She found romance on the stage

1998: She stars opposite Chloe Sevigny in an indie classic

Beckinsale first got noticed in the U.S. in 'The Last Days of Disco,' a wry look at life in New York from cult director Whit Stillman.

1999: She has a daughter

Beckinsale and Sheen welcomed their daughter Lily into the world in 1999, four years after getting together. The couple continued to perform with one another in plays and movies throughout their relationship while trying to maintain a normal environment for Lily.

2002: She's also a model

This trailer tells you all you need to know.

2003: Beckinsale was in a love triangle

After working on set for 'Underworld,' Michael Sheen and Beckinsale broke off their eight-year relationship in 2003.
Beckinsale and director Len Wiseman, who was also married at the time, fell in love while filming. Beckinsale had fought for Sheen to get a role in the film. Scandalous? Perhaps not. Beckinsale, Sheen, and Wiseman all remain friends. They've even worked on two 'Underworld' sequels together.

2004: She gained 20 pounds for a film!

2004: She hates exercise

Sure, the vampire huntress may have a trim bod and killer abs, but it takes a lot of weight training and yoga to maintain her figure -- exercise she can't stand.

'I run, do yoga, and weight training almost every day. I don't like it but I know I have to. I should train more because I can feel it doing me good. I don't like this obsession about being thin. The female body is naturally rounded and it's a shame to ignore it,' she told Vanity Fair in 2004.

2006: She gains some comedy cred

2006: She's against cosmetic surgery

After dealing with an eating disorder for most of her teenage life, Beckinsale told the Sunday Express she's not a fan of enhancing surgeries.

'I'm against it. If I were 45 I might think about having my eyelids done. Although the result is unnatural. My eyes are fine as they are: their slightly almond shape is a legacy of my Burmese great-grandfather,' she told Sunday Express in 2006.

2007: She's a mum first, Hollywood actress second

Beckinsale doesn't care for the glitz and glam Hollywood Lifestyle. She told Glamour she rather skip a premiere if it meant missing out on her daughter Lily's bath time.

'I can't tell you how many times I've gone to present at the Golden Globes, come home, whipped the dress off and read to my daughter wearing gazillion-dollar earrings. That's how it goes in my house, and I wouldn't have it any other way,' Beckinsale told Glamour in 2007.

Don't let the tights fool you. Beckinsale can do more than action films. She starred in the underrated 'Snow Angels' with Sam Rockwell ('Moon') and thriller 'Vacancy' with Luke Wilson. Next year, she appeared in 'Nothing but the Truth' alongside Matt Dillion and Angela Bassett. Her lead role as a female reporter facing jail time got her a nod for Best Actress at the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Two years later she reunited with Rockwell in 'Everybody's Fine' where Robert De Niro starred as a father reconnecting with his grown children.

2009: She was the 'Sexiest Woman Alive'

With a number of film roles under her belt, Beckinsale began catching more than just the director's eye. She has been on's annual 99 Most Desired Women's list for the past four years. In 2009, Esquire named her the Sexiest Woman Alive while Maxim listed her as 22 in their Hot 100 list. Esquire even put together this steamy video of the model/actress:

2009: She has no filter and we love it!

2010: She loves her dog

Almost anywhere Beckinsale goes, her Maltese-Chihuahua mix, Ingrid, can be found close behind.

2012: She has a big year in store

Beckinsale traded in her brunette tresses for blonde locks as Mark Wahlberg's wife in 'Contraband

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