Kate Beckinsale, born Kathrin Romary Beckinsale, was born on July 26th, 1973 in London, England. Beckinsale is the daughter of actor Richard Beckinsale and his wife, fellow actress Judy Loe. Her parents introduced her to the concept of acting and performing at a young age; her first television role appearance occurred when she was only 4 years old, when she was granted a small guest appearance in an episode of This Is Your Life.
When Beckinsale was only 5 years old, her father–only 31 at the time–died of a sudden heart attack. Several years later, Beckinsale’s mother remarried to Roy Battersby, a famous director who had four children of his own. Growing up, Beckinsale attended Godlphin and Latmeyer school, where she became involved with the Orange Tree Youth Theatre. In addition to acting, Beckinsale also took to behind-the-scenes work, particularly writing. She won several awards when she was younger for her poetry and fiction work.
After graduating, she attended New College in Oxford, where she studied languages and literature; there, she became involved with Oxford University’s Dramatic Society. She had several roles under its patronage, including a notable production of A View from the Bridge, produced at the Oxford Playhouse. However, during her third year of university, she decided to quit in order to focus more on her acting career.
Her earliest film roles, which she took while studying at university, included One Against the Wind, a Hallmark film set during WWII; although the film itself received mostly mixed reviews, Beckinsale’s performance was singled out as being a bright spot in the film. In 1994, she was cast as Hero in the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Her performance was critically praised and the film was a great success.
After leading university, Beckinsale continued to take on acting roles in order to continue her acting career. She was cast in Cold Comfort Farm, a period drama set in the 1930s; she was originally not considered for the role due to her young age, but she convinced the director to cast her after writing him what Beckinsale described as a “pleading letter.”
In 1996, Beckinsale appeared in an ITV adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen. The ITV adaptation came just several months after a film adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and Beckinsale’s performance was often compared to Paltrow’s; Beckinsale was described by the New York Times as being “plainer looking” than Gwyneth Paltrow, but her depiction of Emma was “altogether more believable and funnier.”
Beckinsale’s career continued to grow throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Her most notable roles during this period include a role in Brokedown Palace, The Golden Bowl, Pearl Harbor, and an action-oriented role in the supernatural action series Underworld.
Her latest films have been primarily action; she has appeared in multiple Underworld sequels, including a new sequel set to premiere in 2015.
Beckinsale dated actor Michael Sheen from 1995 until 2003; the couple had one daughter, Lily, who was born in 2003. Beckinsale remarried to director Len Wiseman in 2004, after meeting him while working on Underworld.