Born on July 26, 1973 in London, England, Beckinsale pursued her education at Godolphin & Latymer School, then Oxford University, where she took up acting. In "Royal Deceit/The Prince of Jutland" (1994), which was based on the Danish prince whose life inspired Shakespeare's "Hamlet," she starred opposite Christian Bale. A lighter, more charming side to the actress was displayed in "Marie-Louise, or The Leave" (1995), in which she played a young woman searching for her lover in a crowded train station.
Kate Beckinsale was 5 years old when her father, British comedian and actor Richard Beckinsale, died of a heart attack. The loss affected her deeply, and she later developed anorexia. To overcome the condition, she attended Freudian psychoanalysis five days a week for four years, eventually recovering. Beckinsale began acting on the stage while enrolled at Oxford University and landed her first major film role in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen Shakespearean adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing as a freshman.
She next graced American movie screens in Whit_Stillman's The Last Days of Disco (1998). She received good reviews for her portrayal of a cool and catty WASP college graduate (for which she assumed an American accent), although the movie itself met with a deeply mixed reaction. The following year, Beckinsale, in addition to giving birth to a daughter (fathered by longtime boyfriend Michael_Sheen), starred in her first big-budget Hollywood feature. Playing opposite Claire_Danes in Brokedown_Palace, the actress portrayed an American girl who, while on vacation with best friend Danes in Thailand, gets caught with heroin and is sentenced to 33 years in a Thai prison.