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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Beckinsale's monster career
Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale turned heads in Hollywood
British actress Kate Beckinsale is starring in summer blockbuster Van Helsing and she will be hoping the film does not receive the same critical mauling as Pearl Harbor in 2001.

Van Helsing is Beckinsale's second monster fantasy flick, following on from vampire movie Underworld.

In Van Helsing, she plays opposite Hugh Jackman, whose character goes on the hunt for Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and Wolfman.

Beckinsale, 30, has had varied success in her career since making an impact in British films such as Shooting Fish and Much Ado About Nothing.

She followed in the footsteps of Kate Winslet as the quintessential "English rose" loved by American audiences.

But with her pedigree, Beckinsale was destined for great things in the acting world.

Her father was the late actor Richard Beckinsale, famed for comic performances in Porridge and Rising Damp.

Career choice

But he died of a heart attack at the age of 31, when his daughter was just five.

Her mother, Judy Loe, is also an actress, most recently appearing in Casualty and Holby City.

It was while studying Russian and French at Oxford University that Beckinsale caught the eye of Kenneth Branagh who cast her in his adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Richard Beckinsale
Her father Richard died at the age of 31
She was eventually faced with the dilemma of choosing between academia or acting - and the acting won.

Her role in the British TV series Cold Comfort Farm won her a fanbase in the US after it was given a cinema release.

Beckinsale then began to notch up more film credits with roles in the critical hit Shooting Fish and The Last Days of Disco, alongside Chloe Sevigny.

It was her casting in Pearl Harbor that really brought her to the notice of Hollywood, with a lead role in the 140m World War II drama.

But reviews varied from "never have so many spent so much on so little" and "an epic disappointment" to "a dumb, soulless behemoth that delivers the cinematic equivalent of shell shock".

The claws were largely out for Ben Affleck and Josh Harnett's performances, with Beckinsale escaping relatively lightly.

Private life

Her next big screen outing was in the light romantic comedy Serendipity, with John Cusack, which was a box office success.
Kate Beckinsale
Beckinsale's career took off in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing

It was during filming of the vampire movie Underworld, in which she co-starred with her partner Michael Sheen, that there were seismic changes in her private life.

After filming she separated from Sheen, the father of her four-year-old daughter.

Beckinsale then got together with Underworld director Len Wiseman, fuelling stories the pair had been having an affair during the production.

But the publicity has done little to dent Beckinsale's popularity, as she is now seen as a style icon and advertises Diet Coke and Gap.

She and Wiseman have made their home in Los Angeles and are planning to marry, but Beckinsale insists her split with Sheen was amicable.

Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, in which Beckinsale played a nurse, was a critical disaster

With happiness in her private life, Beckinsale will be hoping her latest film will prove her Hollywood status is justified.

Although early reviews for Van Helsing are far from promising, in the turkey stakes it has a long way to go to surpass Pearl Harbor, which consistently features in polls to judge the worst movies to date.

Beckinsale will also have big shoes to fill when she portrays Ava Gardner in Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator alongside a stellar cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett.

Van Helsing opens in the US and UK on 7 May.

Pearl Harbor sinks fast
25 May 01  |  Entertainment
Stars attend Van Helsing premiere
04 May 04  |  Entertainment
Review: Van Helsing
07 May 04  |  Entertainment


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