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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 12:56 GMT
Beckinsale's 'big break'
Kate Beckinsale
Beckinsale won her first movie role while at university
British actress Kate Beckinsale is set to break into Hollywood's big time starring opposite heart-throb Ben Affleck in a World War II epic.

The 25-year-old, whose previous films include Shooting Fish, The Last Days of Disco and last year's Brokedown Palace, is in talks to take the female lead in Pearl Harbor - a high-profile project set to begin shooting next month in Hawaii.

Ben Affleck
Already on board: Ben Affleck
According to the US entertainment newspaper, Variety, she would play a navy nurse who meets Rafe - played by Ben Affleck - during a medical exam.

After they fall in love, she is shipped off to sunny Pearl Harbour - a supposed safe haven - to join the Pacific fleet.

Directed by Michael Bay, of Armageddon fame, the cast of the Walt Disney film already includes Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr and Josh Hartnett, who starred in Halloween: H20.

Affleck, who won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, has reportedly agreed to take on the role for no upfront payment in a bid to stem the epic's $135m (85m) budget.

Hollywood insiders believe Pearl Harbor may have the makings of another Titanic - and propel Beckinsale into the Hollywood big league.

Rise to fame

The actress is the daughter of the late Richard Beckinsale - a star of the comedy series Porridge and Rising Damp, who died in March 1979 from a heart attack at the age of 31.

Last year she told US reporters: "What I like a lot about working in America is that my father was very, very famous in England and because he died so suddenly and so young, there was such a shock around him that every time I ever did anything it was always mentioned."

She was still at Oxford University when she was picked for a small part in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. This was followed by the leads in the TV costume dramas Cold Comfort Farm and Emma.

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