Kathrin Romary Beckinsale was born 26 July 1973 and is an English actress and model. After some minor television roles, she made her film debut in Much Ado About Nothing (1993) while still a student at the University of Oxford. She appeared in British costume dramas such as Prince of Jutland (1994), Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Emma (1996), and The Golden Bowl (2000), in addition to various stage and radio productions. She began to seek film work in the United States in the late 1990s and, after appearing in small-scale dramas The Last Days of Disco (1998) and Brokedown Palace (1999), she had starring roles in the war drama Pearl Harbor (2001), the romantic comedy Serendipity, and Tiptoes (2003). She followed those with appearances in The Aviator (2004) and Click (2006).
Since being cast as Selene in the Underworld film series (2003–2016), Beckinsale has become known primarily for her work in action films, including Van Helsing (2004), Whiteout (2009), Contraband (2012), and Total Recall (2012). She also continues to make appearances in smaller dramatic projects such as Snow Angels (2007), Nothing but the Truth (2008), and Everybody’s Fine (2009). In 2016, she received critical acclaim for her performance in the period comedy film Love & Friendship.
She was born in Chiswick, Borough of Hounslow, London, England. She is the only child of actors Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe. She has an older paternal half-sister, actress Samantha Beckinsale, but they have not had regular contact. Her father was of one quarter Burmese descent. She made her first television appearance at the age of four, in an episode of This is Your Lifededicated to her father. When she was five years old, her 31-year-old father died suddenly of a heart attack. Beckinsale was deeply traumatized by the loss and “started expecting bad things to happen.” Her widowed mother moved in with director Roy Battersby when Beckinsale was nine and she was brought up alongside his four sons and daughter. She has a close relationship with her step-father, who was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party during her youth. Beckinsale helped to sell The News Line, a Trotskyist newspaper, as a little girl and has said the household phone was tapped following Battersby’s blacklisting by the BBC.
Beckinsale was educated at Godolphin and Latymer School, an independent school for girls in Hammersmith, West London and was involved with the Orange Tree Youth Theatre. She was twice a winner of the WH Smith Young Writers Award for both fiction and poetry. She has described herself as a “late bloomer”, stating that all of her friends were kissing boys and drinking cider way before her and she found it really depressing that they were not making camp fires and everyone was doing stuff like that. She loathed being a young girl. She had a nervous breakdown and developed anorexia at the age of 15 and underwent Freudian psychoanalysis for four years.
Beckinsale read French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford, and was later described by a contemporary, journalist Victoria Coren Mitchell, as “whip-clever, slightly nuts, and very charming”. She was involved with the Oxford University Dramatic Society, most notably being directed by fellow student Tom Hooper in a production of A View from the Bridge at the Oxford Playhouse. As a Modern Languages student, she was required to spend her third year abroad, and studied in Paris. She then decided to quit university to concentrate on her burgeoning acting career.
Beckinsale has worked occasionally as a model. In 1997, she appeared in the music video for George Michael’s “Waltz Away Dreaming”. She starred opposite Orlando Bloom in a 2002 Gap television advertisement directed by Cameron Crowe. She appeared in a Diet Coke television advertisement in 2004, directed by Michael Gondry. She advertised Absolut Vodka in a 2009 print campaign photographed by Ellen von Unwerth. She has also promoted Lux shampoo in a Japanese television advertisement.
The British Heart Foundation has been Beckinsale’s charity of choice ever since she was six years old, when her father, who had a congenital heart defect, died of a massive heart attack. She has also donated film memorabilia to the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, MediCinema, Habitat For Humanity and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. In 2008 she hosted the 4th Annual Pink Party to raise funds for the Women’s Cancer Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and organised a screening of All About Eve for FilmAid International. In 2012 Beckinsale joined Nestlé’s Share the Joy of Readingprogram to raise awareness about the importance of people’s literacy.