First making an impression on international audiences with her role as the sweet, virginal Hero in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993), pale-skinned, fine-boned British actress Kate Beckinsale has since stepped beyond period pieces to prove that she is anything but a fragile English rose.
The daughter of a BBC casting director and famed television actor Richard Beckinsale (known for roles on Porridge and Rising Damp), Beckinsale was born July 26, 1973. After her father's death from a heart attack in 1979, the actress was raised by her mother. By her own account, Beckinsale's childhood and adolescence were fairly troubled, marked by struggles with anorexia. She decided to follow in her father's acting footsteps while still a teenager and in 1991, had her major television debut in Once Against the Wind, a World War II drama in which she played Judy Davis' daughter. The same year, Beckinsale enrolled at Oxford, to study French and Russian Literature, and pursued her education until committing herself full-time to acting.