The Stunning Transformation Of Kate Beckinsale

The following article contains references to disordered eating and substance use.

Even after gracing the screen for decades, Kate Beckinsale remains an enigma to many. Throughout her long career, the Hollywood star has been known to take on almost anything, from period films to romantic comedies to heart-stopping action thrillers (horror or otherwise). Beckinsale can do it all seemingly without breaking a sweat and apparently, without much planning ahead. "I always think that with any kind of creative career, it's something that you also have to be surprised by, and you shouldn't plan it," she once explained during an interview with Flaunt.

Even without any planning, though, things may turned out remarkably well for Beckinsale, thanks to her talent, charm, wit, and sense of humor. And with the way things have been going, it looks like this Hollywood star will just keep shining bright for many years to come. It's also hard to imagine that Beckinsale was a rather unknown talent once.

Kate Beckinsale was born into an acting family

It's almost easy to see why Kate Beckinsale took to acting so naturally. After all, she had was born to actors Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe. Richard was best known for his time as Lennie Godber in the BBC comedies "Porridge" and "Going Straight." He also appeared in the popular British show "This Is Your Life," where a much younger Kate once joined him as a guest star. Sadly, Richard died on March 19, 1979, after having a heart attack. Kate was only 5 years old.

Years after her husband's death, Loe married television director Roy Battersby, who had two children of his own. "It was hard: Losing a parent when you're so young is a very big deal, and [blending] two families into one is a lot more difficult than it looks," Kate once told Glamour of that time in her life. Despite this, however, she grew up close to her stepfather. Later on, the Hollywood star even moved Loe and Battersby from the U.K. to Los Angeles so she could help care for them.

Battersby died on January 10, 2024, just a few days after Kate rushed to the hospital to be by his side immediately following the 81st Golden Globe Awards ceremony. He was 87.

She developed an eating disorder at 15

Losing one's father at a very young age can always be hard for anyone. For Kate Beckinsale, the loss affected her health significantly when she was a young teen. She developed an eating disorder at the age of 15. "Although I know not everybody who gets anorexia has a parent that's died, if you learn as a kid that seemingly fairly healthy people drop dead at 31 it sets you up in a fairly crap way," she told the Independent in 1997. "And there's a certain amount of guilt that flies around." The actor admitted, "Had I been older when I had a breakdown I think I would have been an alcoholic."

Beckinsale opened up to her mother about what she was going through and asked to undergo Freudian analysis to better understand her condition. Her family was incredibly supportive, and eventually, she recovered. Ten years later, in an interview with Glamour, the Hollywood star also admitted that she would love to stop being asked about her past eating disorder; however, she highlighted her reason for first speaking up: "The only reason I ever brought it up in the first place is because when I was young, I read a lot of misinformation about eating disorders."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Kate made her big-screen debut in 1993

Years after briefly appearing on television with her parents, Kate Beckinsale started taking acting projects here and there, landing small-screen roles in the miniseries "Devices and Desires" and the TV movie "One Against the Wind." Not long after, she made her big-screen debut in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing." This romantic comedy is based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name and features a star-studded cast, including Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard, and Michael Keaton. While working on the movie, Branagh treated the cast like a theater company, having everyone share a house, which gave Beckinsale a chance to bond with her famous castmates.

The film also later led to the actor's Cannes debut. "I was 18 years old, and I was completely stunned when I got here! No one had told me what to expect. I didn't even know I could bring a guest, so I spent the whole time on the red carpet alone, completely terrified," Beckinsale recalled during an interview with Festival de Cannes. Years later, the actor also revealed that she suffered a major wardrobe malfunction while attending the festival. "All the poppers in the crotch [of the bodysuit] popped themselves open and it flipped up like a roller blind," she shared on Instagram. She ended up having to hold down the front gusset while Reeves and Leonard held down the back. "Absolute legends who may not even have fully understood the physics of what was happening or even heard the word 'gusset' before, but both jumped in to save me no questions asked," Beckinsale added. 

She once attended Oxford, but a past tragedy has kept her from returning

With actors for parents, Kate Beckinsale knew that she wanted to give acting a shot, too. Nevertheless, the Hollywood star decided a little detour wouldn't hurt, which is how she ended up going to Oxford, where she took up French and Russian literature. Toward the end of her first year, however, Beckinsale booked her role in "Much Ado About Nothing" — and it was around this time that she started having second thoughts about juggling studies with film. "It was getting to the point where I wasn't enjoying either thing enough because both were very high-pressure," she once told the Daily Mail. After her breakout moment, Beckinsale eventually decided to give up pursuing a degree to fully dedicate her time to acting. Unbeknownst to many, she did consider returning, but a traumatic event kept her from doing so.

While at Oxford, she had friends who did drugs together from time to time. At one point while Beckinsale was out sick, one of her friends jumped out of a window and died. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Beckinsale's friends were all temporarily expelled. As for the actor, she couldn't bring herself to return after what happened. "When I was considering going back, nobody was there and there was this horrible whiff of death everywhere. That was the reason why I didn't go back," Beckinsale confirmed.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She found love while working

As Kate Beckinsale's star was rising, she found love with fellow actor Michael Sheen. The two met when they starred together in the touring production of "The Seagull." Sheen and Beckinsale remained together for eight years, welcoming their daughter, Lily, before splitting up in 2003. That period had been particularly hard on Sheen, who remained in the U.K. while Beckinsale raised their child in the U.S.

Since the breakup, however, the exes have remained close, with Sheen even appearing in some of Beckinsale's social media posts. At the same time, Beckinsale has also been supportive of Sheen dating other women, including comedian and actor Sarah Silverman, whom Sheen was with for almost four years. "I really love his girlfriend as well, and we are really lucky that we both get on, and Lily gets on great with her," Beckinsale told People back in 2016. "Having as many strong females in your teenage daughter's life as possible is a good thing." The group even spent Christmas together at one point.

Following Sheen's breakup with Silverman, the "Masters of Sex" star began dating actor Anna Lundberg. The couple share two daughters.

She began booking lead roles in films

After working on her first film, the roles kept coming for Kate Beckinsale as she joined Helen Mirren and Christian Bale in the 1994 film "Royal Deceit." She also shot the BAFTA-winning TV movie "Cold Comfort Farm." In 1998, she nabbed one of the lead roles alongside Chloë Sevigny in Whit Stillman's dramatic comedy "The Last Days of the Disco." The film tells the story of two women in Manhattan who frequent the disco as they search for love and discover more about themselves.

As it turns out, Stillman knew that Beckinsale would be one of his lead stars the moment he saw her performance in "Cold Comfort Farm." Stillman offered Beckinsale the part of Charlotte around the time that she was also offered a role in the theatrical production of "Closer." For the actor, her choice ultimately came down to one thing. "I made my decision based on which made me the most anxious. This was such a stretch: I was very, very English," she once revealed to The Guardian.

Around this time, Beckinsale also booked several other major film roles. She joined Claire Danes and Bill Pullman in the drama mystery "Brokedown Palace" and starred with Uma Thurman, Anjelica Huston, and Jeremy Northam in the period romantic drama "The Golden Bowl." 

The new mom filmed two hit movies at once

Even as Kate Beckinsale was starting a family with now-ex Michael Sheen, she kept working. The actor was landing a lot of projects; however, director Michael Bay remained hesitant to cast her in his war biopic "Pearl Harbor." "Because I wasn't blond and my boobs weren't bigger than my head, I didn't make sense to him as an attractive woman," Beckinsale once revealed during a "Role Recall" segment for Yahoo! Entertainment. "You think you'd take that really personally but I sort of managed not to," she added.

Beckinsale, who'd recently had her daughter, worked hard to get in shape for the movie, much like castmates Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett (both of whom also played her character's love interests). As Beckinsale detailed to Shape, her trainer also persuaded the vegetarian actor to add lean meat to her diet to give her more energy on set.

In the end, her hard work paid off. "Pearl Harbor" was a box office hit, pulling in over $400 million at the global box office against an estimated budget of $150 million. Just months after the war biopic hit the theaters, Beckinsale was seen starring in the rom-com "Serendipity" opposite John Cusack. "The two movies overlapped," Beckinsale said of filming to Vulture. "And I still to this day don't know how I functioned, because I had a 1-year-old who still hadn't slept through the night once."

She transformed into an action star

Now, Kate Beckinsale may not have been asked to get into the action in Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor." However, the star found herself doing a lot of fight scenes and stunts after being offered a huge role in the 2003 action thriller "Underworld." At that time, director Len Wiseman was looking for a relatively new talent to be the film's lead, and Beckinsale was interested in doing something new. "It created a different kind of film, because you don't associate her with [being] an action star, and so that was new and exciting," Wiseman once told Collider.

Because Beckinsale had never done anything like "Underworld," she underwent one of the most rigorous training regimens of her career. She also had to pick up a lot of new skills to convincingly play the role of vampire death dealer Selene. "I'd never fired a gun, I'd never punched anybody. The fact that I managed to do it at all felt like such a big achievement," Beckinsale told the BBC in 2003. Although the actor was stepping into unfamiliar territory at that time, she found some comfort in working with then-boyfriend Michael Sheen, who played the werewolf Lucian. He later returned to reprise his role in the prequel "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" while Beckinsale would remain the heroine of the franchise for all five films.

She met her husband in the Underworld franchise

As happy as Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen seemed together, they split in 2003 — the very same year that the first "Underworld" film was released. And while both continued their work in the "Underworld" universe, the stars moved on romantically. While Sheen went on to date comedian Sarah Silverman for a time, Beckinsale started seeing the film franchise's director, Len Wiseman. The trio actually got along very well. "Everybody involved has felt that the priority is Lily and wanting to get to a good place for her. And everyone is nice. So it's not bad," Beckinsale later told Entertainment Weekly in 2012.

In 2004, Beckinsale and Wiseman married in a lowkey wedding ceremony in Los Angeles. In 2016, Wiseman filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Even before the filing, though, it was believed that the couple had already been separated for some time and it might have been due to their incredibly busy careers.

During a 2007 interview with Glamour, Beckinsale alluded to this issue when talking about Wiseman's busy filming schedule. "It's awful! He's always busy. ... I tell him, "If you had told me what it was going to be like when we met, I never would have gotten involved with you!"

Her role in a small film led to her joining Instagram

As Kate Beckinsale dealt with her divorce, she delved into more projects, including one that's close to her heart. The Hollywood star reunited with filmmaker Whit Stillman and actor Chloë Sevigny for the period rom-com "Love & Friendship." Based on a Jane Austen novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), a widow who seemingly upends her in-laws' mundane lives after she and her daughter temporarily stay with them.

A film like this may have been the last thing anyone expected from Stillman, but Beckinsale had always known that he was the perfect filmmaker to helm a project like this. "The thing about Whit is that he is sort of Jane Austen-ish," Beckinsale told The Stanford Daily. "His movies specialize in a very particular strata of social milieu that only he has the precision to analyze." 

Compared to other films Beckinsale worked on around that time — including another installment of "Underworld" — "Love & Friendship" was a relatively small production. It also needed some help in getting promoted, which is why the actor created an Instagram account. While Beckinsale initially thought of working with a company that specializes in social media marketing, she eventually took matters into her own hands. "They said, 'We do it all for you.' But that was just not my vibe," the star told Flaunt.

Kate Beckinsale continues to experiment with different genres

Since having her breakout movie moment and subsequently headlining a highly successful film franchise, Kate Beckinsale has certainly established herself as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. She has pursued all kinds of projects and delved into a variety of genres. 

In 2017, Beckinsale starred as the other woman in Marc Webb's drama, "The Only Living Boy in New York." The film's star-studded cast includes Pierce Brosnan, Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Nixon, and Debi Mazar. In 2021, Beckinsale turned her focus back to action as she headlined Prime Video's "Jolt," which tells the story of a bouncer who tries to control her anger management issues by literally shocking herself. The actor followed this up with an action drama, "The Widow," in which she plays a woman who makes her way to the Congo following the mysterious disappearance of her husband.

In 2023, Beckinsale joined the star-studded cast of Charlie Day's comedy, "Fool's Paradise." The ensemble film stars Day himself along with Ken Jeong, Jason Bateman, Adrien Brody, Jason Sudeikis, Edie Falco, and the late Ray Liotta.