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Kate Beckinsale bio
Kate Beckinsale (born July 26, 1973 as Kathrin Beckinsale) is an English actress. After some minor television roles, she made her film debut in Much Ado About Nothing (1993) while still a student at Oxford University. She then 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 a break-out year in 2001 with starring roles in the war film Pearl Harbor and the romantic comedy Serendipity. She built on this success with appearances in the biopic The Aviator (2004) and the comedy Click (2006).
Beckinsale appeared in Underworld (2003) and has since starred in many action films, including Van Helsing (2004), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Whiteout (2009), as well as Contraband, Underworld: Awakening and Total Recall (all in 2012). She also makes occasional appearances in smaller dramatic projects such as Snow Angels (2007), Winged Creatures (2008), Nothing but the Truth (for which she earned a Critic’s Choice Award nomination in 2008), and Everybody’s Fine (2009).
At this point in her career, Beckinsale began to seek work in the United States, something she has said wasn’t “a conscious decision…My boyfriend was in a play on Broadway so that’s why we ended up in New York, and my auditions happened to be for American films”. She starred opposite Chloë Sevigny in 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. The Whit Stillman film focused on a group of Ivy League graduates socialising in the Manhattan disco scene of the early 1980s. Beckinsale’s attempt at an American accent was widely praised. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt her role as the bossy Charlotte was “beautifully played”. Todd McCarthy of Variety was unimpressed by the film but noted that “compensations include Beckinsale, looking incredible in a succession of black dresses, whose character can get on your nerves even if the actress doesn’t”. Her performance earned her a London Critics’ Circle Film Award. The film grossed $3 million worldwide. Also that year, she starred as Alice in a Channel 4 production of Through the Looking-Glass. In 1999, Beckinsale appeared opposite Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace, a drama about two teenage Americans forced to deal with the Thai justice system on a post-graduation trip abroad. A then 26-year-old Beckinsale played a teenager. Danes had hoped to become friends with Beckinsale during the shoot but found her “complicated” and “prickly”. McCarthy said the leads “confirm their status as two of the young actresses on the scene today most worth watching”, finding Beckinsale “very effective at getting across layered character traits and emotions.” “Danes and Beckinsale are exceptionally talented young actresses”, said Thomas, but “unfortunately, the script’s seriously underdeveloped context defeats their considerable efforts at every turn”. Stephen Holden of The New York Times felt that Beckinsale’s character “never comes into focus”. The film was a box office failure. 2000’s The Golden Bowl marked Beckinsale’s first role following the birth of her daughter. The Merchant/Ivory production was based on the novel by Henry James and also starred Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam. Beckinsale’s partner, Michael Sheen, hit Northam on the film set after he followed Beckinsale to her trailer to scold her for forgetting a line. Holden noted that “the most satisfying of the four-lead performances belong to the British cast members, Ms. Beckinsale and Mr. Northam, who are better than their American counterparts at layers of emotional concealment”, adding that each beat of Beckinsale’s performance “registers precisely”. Thomas felt her performance would take her to “a new career level”. Andrew Sarris of The New York Observer asserted that she “comes close to capturing the sublimity of Maggie, despite the obvious fact that no movie can capture the elegant copiousness of James’ prose”. The film grossed over $5 million worldwide.
Beckinsale rose to fame in 2001 with a leading role in the war film Pearl Harbor as a nurse torn between two pilots, played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. She was drawn to the project by the script: “It’s so unusual these days to read a script that has those old-fashioned values to it. Not morals, but movie values. It’s a big, sweeping epic …You just never get the chance to do that.” Director Michael Bay initially had doubts about casting the actress: “I wasn’t sure about her at first…she wore black leather trousers in her screen test and I thought she was a little nasty…it was easy to think of this woman as a slut”. He eventually decided to hire her because she wasn’t “too beautiful. Women feel disturbed when they see someone’s too pretty”. He asked her to lose weight during filming. In a 2004 interview, the actress noted that his comments were “upsetting” and said she wore leather trousers because “it was snowing out. It wasn’t exactly like I had my nipple rings in.” She felt grateful that she had not had to deal with such criticism at a younger age: “If I had come on to a movie set at [a younger] age and someone had said, ‘You’re a bit funny-looking, can you go on a diet?’ – I might have jumped off a building. I just didn’t have the confidence to put that into perspective at the time.” However, speaking in 2011, she said she was “very fond” of Bay. Pearl Harbor received negative reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised “the avid eyed, ruby lipped Kate Beckinsale, the rare actress whose intelligence gives her a sensual bloom; she’s like Parker Posey without irony.” A. O. Scott of the New York Times noted that “Mr. Affleck and Ms. Beckinsale do what they can with their lines, and glow with the satiny shine of real movie stars”. However, Mike Clark of USA Today felt that the “usually appealing Kate Beckinsale” is “inexplicably submerged — like her hospital colleagues — under heaps of tarty makeup that even actresses of the era didn’t wear.” The film was a commercial success, grossing $449 million worldwide.
Beckinsale’s second film appearance of 2001 was in the romantic comedy Serendipity as the love interest of John Cusack. It was filmed directly after Pearl Harbor and Beckinsale found it “a real relief to return to something slightly more familiar”. Turan praised the “appealing and believable” leads, adding that Beckinsale “reinforces the strong impression she made in Cold Comfort Farm, The Golden Bowl, and The Last Days of Disco” after “recovering nicely” from her appearance in the much-maligned Pearl Harbor. Claudia Puig of USA Today felt that “Beckinsale’s talents haven’t been mined as effectively in any other film since Cold Comfort Farm“. McCarthy found her “energetic and appealing” while Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times described her as “luminous but determined”. In an uncomplimentary review of the film, Ebert described her as “a good actress, but not good enough to play this dumb”. The film has grossed over $77 million at the worldwide box office. In 2002 Beckinsale starred in Lisa Cholodenko‘s Laurel Canyon as a strait-laced academic who finds herself increasingly attracted to her free-spirited future mother-in-law. The independent film was another opportunity for Beckinsale to work with Christian Bale, her Prince of Jutland co‑star. She found their sex scene awkward because she knew Bale well: “If it was a stranger, it would have been easier.” While Frances McDormand‘s performance as Bale’s mother was widely praised, Beckinsale received negative reviews. Holden found the film “superbly acted, with the exception of Ms. Beckinsale, whose tense, colourless Alex conveys no inner life”. Schwarzbaum was unimpressed by the “tedious” characters and criticised “the fussy performances of Bale and Beckinsale” in particular. The film has grossed over $4 million worldwide.
Beckinsale became known as an action star following an appearance as a vampire in 2003’s Underworld. It was markedly different from her previous work and Beckinsale has said she was grateful for the change of pace after appearing in “a bunch of period stuff and then a bunch of romantic comedies”. “It was quite a challenge for me to play an action heroine and pull off all that training when [in real life] I can’t catch a ball if it’s coming my way.” The film received negative to mixed reviews but was a surprise box-office hit and has gained a cult following. Also that year, she starred in the little seen Tiptoes with Gary Oldman and Matthew McConaughey. In 2004 Beckinsale starred in the action horror film Van Helsing. She was “so surprised” to be appearing in her second action film in two years. “It just seemed like a very good role.” Beckinsale had just separated from her long-term partner Michael Sheen at the time of filming and appreciated the warm atmosphere created on set by director Stephen Sommers and co‑star Hugh Jackman: “I really did find that working with people like Stephen and Hugh made it possible to get through what I was going through.” The film grossed over $120 million at the United States box office and over $300 million worldwide, but it was not well-reviewed. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described her as “a pretty actress doing her best to maintain dignity, vainly trying to craft a feminist statement from a filmmaker’s whimsy” while Rex Reed of The New York Observer felt she was “desperately in need of a new agent”.
Also in 2004, Beckinsale portrayed Ava Gardner in Martin Scorsese‘s Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator. Scorsese decided to cast Beckinsale because, “I’ve always liked her. I’ve seen all her work, and I was glad that she agreed to audition.” Beckinsale’s performance received mixed reviews. Ken Tucker of New York Magazine said she played the part “in full va-va-voom blossom” while LaSalle felt that she manages “to convince us that Ava was one of the great broads of all time”. However, Clark described it as “the one performance that doesn’t come off (though Beckinsale has the requisite beauty)” while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian stated that “Gardner’s rich, voluptuous sexiness is completely absent as Beckinsale sleepwalks through the role as if she was advertising perfume”. The film grossed over $213 million worldwide. In 2006, Beckinsale reprised her role as Selene in the successful vampire sequel Underworld: Evolution, directed by her husband. It was the first time she had “been involved with a movie from the moment it’s a germ of an idea right through the whole editing process”. Her daughter had a small role as the younger Selene. The film was a box office success, grossing $111 million worldwide. Beckinsale’s second film appearance of 2006 was opposite Adam Sandler and Christopher Walken in Click, a comedy about an overworked family man who discovers a magical remote control that allows him to control time. The opportunity to play a mother “was one of the things that was attractive to me” about the part. It was highly profitable, grossing $237 million worldwide from a production budget of $82.5 million.
Beckinsale then made a return to smaller-scale projects: “My experience is that I sort of stepped away from the independent movies and did a couple of big movies. But that’s not necessarily how it’s perceived by everybody else, which I do understand.” “I enjoy an action movie as much as the next person [but] it’s not something that I would like to do solely.” She explained that she had originally decided to appear in Underworld because she felt typecast in classical roles — it was “assumed that I use a chamber pot and wear bloomers” – but that her action career “kind of took off a little too much”. In 2007, Beckinsale starred opposite Sam Rockwell in the independent drama Snow Angels, based on the novel by Stewart O’Nan. The harrowing film, in which she played an overwhelmed single mother, put Beckinsale “in kind of a tough place”. “I did have my kid, my husband and, in fact, my ex was around a lot, so it was very nice to come home to my people whom I love.” Puig felt “Beckinsale gives her best performance in years” while Richard Corliss of Time described it as “her sharpest work yet”. However, Scott felt that “her skill and discipline cannot overcome the sense that she is an exotic species transplanted into this grim ecosystem. Hard as she works to convince us otherwise, it’s a stretch to believe that a woman with the kind of poised confidence in her own beauty she manifests would wind up with an underachieving mouth breather like Glenn.” The film grossed just $414,404 worldwide. Also in 2007, Beckinsale appeared alongside Luke Wilson in Vacancy, a thriller set in an isolated motel. Sarah Jessica Parker was originally cast in the part, but dropped out before filming began. Bradshaw felt that “Wilson and Beckinsale have the chops for scary movies” while Gleiberman noted that “Luke Wilson, with his hangdog defensive mopiness, and Kate Beckinsale, all sexy severity, are ideally matched as a couple who hate each other.” However, Manohla Dargis of the New York Times was unimpressed, referring to Beckinsale as “the reigning queen of the bland B‘s”. The film was profitable, grossing $35 million worldwide from a production budget of $19 million.
In 2008, Beckinsale appeared in Winged Creatures, a film about how six different witnesses cope with the aftermath of a shooting. Beckinsale played a waitressing single mother in an ensemble cast which included Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, and Forest Whitaker. “It was a really, really nice experience but it was quick”, said Beckinsale of the filming process. “I just felt a bit like I was shot through a cannon.” Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times felt she played the role “with a white trash verve” and found that her character’s “raw ache for that someone with money and respectability is palpable”. However, Dargis felt that Beckinsale and her cast mates have a “tough time filling out characters that are at best abstractions of grief and often just clichés”. The film received a very limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles; it was released simultaneously on DVD. Also in 2008, Beckinsale starred in Nothing but the Truth as a journalist who refuses to reveal her source. The film, co‑starring Vera Farmiga and Matt Dillon, was inspired by the case of Judith Miller. As part of her research for the role, “I spent some time at The L.A. Times with some female reporters, and I spoke to Judith Miller about her experience…I really researched the hell out of that one and it was an amazingly fulfilling, brilliant experience.” Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post asserted that Beckinsale and Farmiga played “two of the most fascinating female movie characters to hit screens in a long while, and they’ve been brought to life by two gifted actresses, each working at the top of her game”. Beckinsale received a Critic’s Choice Award nomination for her performance. The film never received a full theatrical release after the distributor filed for bankruptcy and the film has grossed just $186,702 worldwide. “I have prayed – prayed – for film companies to go bankrupt on films I’ve made, and then this happens on the one I love,” said Beckinsale. “Usually it’s the ones you’re most embarrassed about that are on the side of every bus.”
In 2009, Beckinsale starred in the comic-book adaption Whiteout as a U.S. Marshal tasked with investigating a murder in Antarctica. It was filmed in Manitoba, Canada. She found the action scenes less physically demanding than those in Underworld because “three pairs of trousers and a parka gives you a bit more protection than the latex suit”. The film was critically panned and a box office failure, failing to recoup its budget. She also made a brief cameo in the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; she appeared in flashforwards composed of footage from 2003’s Underworld. Also in 2009, Beckinsale starred in the family drama Everybody’s Fine alongside Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, and Rockwell, her Snow Angels co-star. Beckinsale was excited by the opportunity to work with De Niro, whom she had first encountered “years and years ago when I just had Lily and he was putting together a reading of The Good Shepherd. I was in New York because Michael [Sheen] was doing Amadeus“. Everybody’s Fine was a box office flop, failing to recoup its production budget. In May 2010, Beckinsale sat on the nine-member 2010 Cannes Film Festival jury, chaired by director Tim Burton. Unable to find a script she felt passionate about, Beckinsale kept a low profile in 2010 and 2011, opting to spend time with her daughter.
Beckinsale returned to acting in 2012 with appearances in three action films. Beckinsale first appeared in the action thriller Contraband. She had a supporting role as the wife of Mark Wahlberg‘s character, a former criminal who gets forced back into a life of crime after his family members are threatened. The film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also starred in the Icelandic language version of the film, Reykjavík-Rotterdam. The San Francisco Chronicle felt Beckinsale was “stuck in a bit of a thankless role as the victimised wife, but she does try to infuse a harder edge to the character”. The Hollywood Reporter stated that “Beckinsale, her innate classiness calibrated down a few notches, has little to do but be supportive, worried and, eventually, besieged”. Entertainment Weekly felt that the “woman-in-peril stuff is second-rate, giving off a whiff of exploitation” while Variety found the repeated violence towards Beckinsale’s character disturbing. The film had a production budget of $25 million and has grossed over $96 million worldwide. Beckinsale next reprised her role as Selene in the fourth instalment of the vampire franchise Underworld: Awakening. The franchise was initially conceived of as a trilogy and Beckinsale was not “intending to do another one” but was convinced by the quality of the script. The Hollywood Reporter noted that “when she’s not actually fighting, her performance consists of little more than striding purposefully toward or away from the camera”. The Los Angeles Times remarked that she “finally manages to perfect the monotone delivery she’d been honing for the series’ first two entries”. The film had a production budget of $70 million and has grossed over $160 million worldwide. With adjustments for inflation, Underworld:Awakening is the lowest grossing Beckinsale-led film in the franchise.
Also in 2012, Beckinsale appeared as the villainess in the sci-fi action remake Total Recall, directed by her husband Len Wiseman. She has said that Wiseman joined the project because he was unable to receive studio financing for an original sci-fi idea: “You’re constantly finding yourself having to defend doing a remake when you didn’t really want to make one in the first place.” The film received mainly negative reviews. Variety found her performance “one-note” while The Hollywood Reporter described her as “one-dimensional”. USA Today remarked that she “spends much of the movie strutting down hallways and looking relentlessly, though blandly, nasty”. The New York Post asserted that Beckinsale “vastly overstays her welcome”. The film has grossed $198 million from a production budget of over $200 million.
In 2014, Beckinsale starred in the legal thriller The Trials of Cate McCall opposite Nick Nolte and James Cromwell. The film received negative reviews and was released as a Lifetime movie. Also in early 2014, she provided the voice for Queen Ayrenn, a character in the The Elder Scrolls Online video game. Beckinsale has three projects currently awaiting release dates. She has filmed Stonehearst Asylum, a psychological thriller loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story, alongside Jim Sturgess, Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Beckinsale has filmed The Face of an Angel alongside Daniel Brühl. The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, is inspired by the case of Meredith Kercher. Finally, she will star alongside Simon Pegg in the Monty Python comedy Absolutely Anything.
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