Kate Beckinsale through the years

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There are several reasons why I have
long admired Kate Beckinsale. She’s a talented actress, who
is capable of both excellent comic timing and subtle emotional response.
She is, to state the obvious, extremely beautiful. She’s intelligent
— she had started a degree at Oxford, studying French and Russian, before
she dropped out after her third year to pursue her flourishing acting
career. But, courtesy of the fan site KBeckinsale.net,
I think I may just have found another reason to admire her:

The site doesn’t state what year
this photo was taken, but I think it’s safe to assume she can’t
have been more than 18. I honestly cannot imagine what you would
have had to do to me when I was a teenager to persuade me to pose with
my mother (that’s Kate’s mom, actress Judy Loe, on the right),
in matching outfits as if we were both dancing. I truly think that there’s
something admirable, not only about being able to do something so adorably
dorky, but also to look really cheerful doing it. Mothers across the world
must wish their teenage daughters would be as sulk-deficient as Kate.

Perhaps the cheerfulness has something
to do with the fact that it was about this time that she captured her
first big-screen role, featuring as the sweet, innocent Hero in Kenneth
Branagh
’s excellent film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing.
I was 12 the year the movie was released, in 1993, and when I set
eyes on Kate, it was pretty much love at first sight:

Since then I’ve also grown fond
of Emma Thompson, who costarred as Hero’s older and wiser
cousin, Beatrice:

After Much Ado, Kate starred
in a series of British period pieces: the hilarious rural comedy
Cold Comfort Farm
, the old-fashioned ghost story Haunted,
and the BBC adaptation of Emma. Perhaps in order to try to force
casting agents to consider her in more modern parts, she then hacked
off her hair:

Which led to a role as the tomboyish
Georgie in Brit comedy Shooting Fish, before she snagged her
first Hollywood job opposite Chloe Sevigny in The Last Days
of Disco
:

She starred with Claire Danes

in the drama Brokedown Palace, about two best friends imprisoned
on a charge of drug smuggling in Thailand:

(A warning: you should be prepared
to cry if you see this movie).

What came next, of course, was the
part in Pearl Harbor that was to launch her as a bona fide Hollywood
star. While I hope we can all agree that the film was … not a masterpiece,
the publicity for it did at least give us Kate in a soldier hat:

Then there was the Lisa Cholodenko–helmed
Laurel Canyon
,
the indie that gave Kate her one slightly lesbianish role so far, as
an uptight PhD student unexpectedly drawn towards her boyfriend’s
bisexual mother, played by Frances McDormand:

And then there was … well. This was about the time that the rest of the world was cottoning
on to the wonderfulness of The Beckinsale. I know how many of you are
fans of Selene in her black leather catsuit.

But I have to confess: I haven’t
seen a Kate Beckinsale movie since Laurel Canyon. As sad as it
was, my onetime favorite actress stopped making movies that interest
me. I’m not an action movie or a horror movie or an Adam Sandler

movie fan. And as much as I can understand her not wanting to be stuck
in Jane Austen–style corsets forever, I can’t help wishing her Hollywood
choices had involved a few more character-driven dramas.

Looks-wise, too, I miss the old Kate;
the one who had straight black hair, and unabashedly pale skin, and
who didn’t wear so much make-up that she started to look like a different
person:

Am I totally wrong? Should I awake
to the glories of Underworld? Do you prefer Old British Kate,
or New Hollywood Kate? Give me your thoughts below.

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