Name: Kate Beckinsale
Born: 26 July 1973 (Age: 37)
Where: London, England
Height: 5′ 8″
It was only with her role alongside Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in the $130 million blockbuster Pearl Harbour that Kate Beckinsale finally came to be regarded as a major screen actress and personality in her own right – as opposed to the damaged daughter of a famous father. Being smart, well-read and occasionally outspoken – much like her screen heroines Geena Davis and Katherine Hepburn – she had producer Jerry Bruckheimer say of her: “She has such subtlety and style. She can switch to humour from high drama in a split second. She reminds me of Meg Ryan some years back”, while legendary director John Schlesinger added that she has the “same combination of freshness and intelligence” as the young Julie Christie. High praise, hard earned.
As said, Kate took some time to emerge from the shadow of her father, the much-beloved comic actor Richard Beckinsale, star of Rising Damp, The Lovers and Porridge. Born on July 26th, 1973, she was only five when he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving her to be raised by her mother, the actress Judy Loe (Kate has a half-sister, Samantha Beckinsale, herself an actress and star of London’s Burning – they met when very young, but not again till 1995). Yet, so popular was her dad, and so shocked was the nation by his untimely death, that she would for years be talked about as his tragic daughter, rather than her own person.
Her bereavement affected her deeply. She describes herself then as “a furious and passionate child” who went off the rails at school. She was further disturbed at the age of nine when Loe began a relationship with director Roy Battersby and moved in with him – Kate now having to share her space with Battersby’s daughter and four loud sons. She remembers feeling “invaded”, and hoping that her mother would not remarry, though she now gladly acknowledges Battersby’s positive influence on her life.
Attending public school at Flexlands, Godolphin and Latymer, she was a bright student, tomboyish and encouraged to be foul-mouthed by Battersby, a working-class Londoner who found it hilarious to hear a posh girl swear. But her fury at her father’s death gradually turned inwards, making her troubled and withdrawn, with a paranoid fear of illness, till she reached breakdown in the form of anorexia – anorexia, as she says, being “the mode of nervous breakdown most available to teenage girls”. By the age of 15, she weighed just five stone yet, with the support of Loe and Battersby, and the aid of five years of Freudian analysis, eventually recovered. Now she claims that anorexia and the learning process it forced upon her were “the best thing that ever happened to me”.