Beckinsale was born in Chiswick, London, England. She is the only child of actors Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe. She has an older paternal half-sister, actress Samantha Beckinsale, but they have not had regular contact. Her father was of one quarter Burmese descent. She made her first television appearance at the age of four, in an episode of This is Your Life dedicated to her father. When she was five years old, her 31-year-old father died suddenly of a heart attack. Beckinsale was deeply traumatised by the loss and "started expecting bad things to happen." Her widowed mother moved in with director Roy Battersby when Beckinsale was nine and she was brought up alongside his four sons and daughter. She has a close relationship with her step-father, who was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party during her childhood. Beckinsale helped to sell The News Line, a Trotskyist newspaper, as a child and has said the household phone was tapped following Battersby's blacklisting by the BBC. Family friends included Ken Loach and Vanessa Redgrave.
Beckinsale was educated at Godolphin and Latymer School, an independent school for girls in Hammersmith, West London and was involved with the Orange Tree Youth Theatre. She is a twice winner of the WH Smith Young Writers Award for both fiction and poetry. She has described herself as a "late bloomer": "All of my friends were kissing boys and drinking cider way before me. I found it really depressing that we weren't making camp fires and everyone was doing grown-up stuff." "I loathed being a teenager." She had a nervous breakdown and developed anorexia at the age of 15 and underwent Freudian psychoanalysis for four years.
Beckinsale read French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford, and was later described by a contemporary, journalist Victoria Coren Mitchell, as "whip-clever, slightly nuts, and very charming". She was involved with the Oxford University Dramatic Society, most notably being directed by fellow student Tom Hooper in a production of A View from the Bridge at the Oxford Playhouse. As a Modern Languages student, she was required to spend her third year abroad, and studied in Paris. She then decided to quit university to concentrate on her burgeoning acting career: "It was getting to the point where I wasn't enjoying either thing enough because both were very high pressure."
Beckinsale decided at a young age she wanted to be an actress: "I grew up immersed in film. My family were in the business. I quickly realised that my parents seemed to have much more fun in their work than any of my friends' parents." She was inspired by the performances of Jeanne Moreau. She made her television debut in 1991 with a small part in an ITV adaptation of P. D. James' Devices and Desires. Also that year, she appeared as a young woman engaging in a forbidden affair with a Nazi officer in the Hallmark film One Against the Wind. In 1992 she starred alongside Christopher Eccleston in Rachel’s Dream, a 30‑minute Channel 4 short, and in 1993, she appeared in the pilot of the ITV detective series, Anna Lee, starring Imogen Stubbs.
In 1993, Beckinsale landed the role of Hero in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. It was filmed in Tuscany, Italy, during a summer holiday from Oxford University. She attended the film's Cannes Film Festival premiere and remembered it as an overwhelming experience. "Nobody even told me I could bring a friend!" "I had Doc Martens boots on, and I think I put the flower from the breakfast tray in my hair." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone was won over by her "lovely" performance while Vincent Canby of The New York Times noted that she and Robert Sean Leonard "look right and behave with a certain naive sincerity, although they often seem numb with surprise at hearing the complex locutions they speak." The film earned over $22 million at the box office. She made three other films while at university. In 1994, she appeared as Christian Bale's love interest in Prince of Jutland, a film based on the Danish legend which inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet, and starred in the murder mystery Uncovered. In 1995, while studying in Paris, she filmed the French language Marie-Louise Ou La Permission.
Shortly after leaving Oxford University in 1995, Beckinsale starred in Cold Comfort Farm as Flora Poste, a newly orphaned 1930s socialite sent to live with distant family members in rural England. The John Schlesinger-directed film was an adaptation of Stella Gibbons's novel and also featured Joanna Lumley, Eileen Atkins, Ian McKellen, Rufus Sewell and Stephen Fry. Beckinsale was initially considered too young, but was cast after she wrote a pleading letter to the director. Emanuel Levy of Variety was reminded of "the strength of a young Glenda Jackson and the charm of a young Julie Christie." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times classed the actress as "yet another of those effortlessly skilled British beauties who light up the screen." Janet Maslin of The New York Times felt she played the role "with the perfect snippy aplomb." The film grossed over $5 million at the US box office. Also in 1995, she appeared in Haunted, a ghost story in which Derek Elley of Variety felt she "holds the screen, with both physical looks and verbal poise." 1995 also saw Beckinsale's first professional stage appearance as Nina in The Seagull at Theatre Royal, Bath. She became romantically involved with co-star Michael Sheen after meeting during play rehearsals. "He was the young lion of the theatre." "I was all revved up to feel very intimidated. It was my first-ever play and my mother had cut out reviews of him in previous productions. And then he walked in ... It was almost like, 'God, well, I'm finished now. That's it, then.'... He's the most outrageously talented person I've ever met." Irving Wardle of The Independent felt that "the casting, including Michael Sheen's volcanic Kostya and Kate Beckinsale's steadily freezing Nina, is mainly spot-on." In early 1996, she starred in two further plays; Sweetheart at the Royal Court Theatre and Clocks and Whistles at the Bush Theatre.
Beckinsale next starred in an ITV adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, playing Emma to Mark Strong's Mr Knightley and Samantha Morton's Harriet Smith. "You shouldn't necessarily like Emma," Beckinsale has said of her character. "You do love her, but in the way the family of a teenage girl could be exasperated by her outrageous behaviour and still love her." The programme was aired in autumn 1996, just months after Gwyneth Paltrow had starred in a film adaptation of the same story. Caryn James of The New York Times felt that while "Ms. Beckinsale's Emma is plainer looking than Ms. Paltrow's," she is "altogether more believable and funnier." Jonathan Brown of The Independent has described Beckinsale's interpretation as "the most enduring modern performance" as Emma. In 1997, Beckinsale appeared opposite Stuart Townsend in the comedy Shooting Fish, one of the most commercially successful British films of that year. "I'd just had my wisdom teeth out," Beckinsale later recalled of the initial audition. "I was also on very strong painkillers, so it was not the most conventional of meetings." Elley wrote of "an incredibly laid-back performance" while Thomas felt she "just glows as an aristocrat facing disaster with considerable aplomb." She narrated Austen's Emma for Hodder & Stoughton AudioBooks and Diana Hendry's The Proposal for BBC Radio 4. Also in 1997, she played Juliet to Michael Sheen's Romeo in a radio production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Sheen.
At this point in her career, Beckinsale began to seek work in the United States, something she has said wasn't "a conscious decision...My boyfriend was in a play on Broadway so that's why we ended up in New York, and my auditions happened to be for American films." She starred opposite Chloë Sevigny in 1998's The Last Days of Disco. The Whit Stillman film focused on a group of Ivy League graduates socializing in the Manhattan disco scene of the early 1980s. Beckinsale's attempt at an American accent was widely praised. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt her role as the bossy Charlotte was "beautifully played." Todd McCarthy of Variety was unimpressed by the film but noted that "compensations include Beckinsale, looking incredible in a succession of black dresses, whose character can get on your nerves even if the actress doesn't." Her performance earned her a London Critics' Circle Film Award. The film grossed $3 million worldwide.
Also that year, she starred as Alice in a Channel 4 production of Through the Looking-Glass. In 1999, Beckinsale appeared opposite Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace, a drama about two teenage Americans forced to deal with the Thai justice system on a post-graduation trip abroad. A then 26-year-old Beckinsale played a teenager. Danes had hoped to become friends with Beckinsale during the shoot but found her "complicated" and "prickly." McCarthy said the leads "confirm their status as two of the young actresses on the scene today most worth watching," finding Beckinsale "very effective at getting across layered character traits and emotions." "Danes and Beckinsale are exceptionally talented young actresses," said Thomas, but "unfortunately, the script's seriously underdeveloped context defeats their considerable efforts at every turn." Stephen Holden of The New York Times felt that Beckinsale's character "never comes into focus." The film was a box office failure.
2000's The Golden Bowl marked Beckinsale's first role following the birth of her daughter. The Merchant/Ivory production was based on the novel by Henry James and also starred Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam. Beckinsale's partner, Michael Sheen, hit Northam on the film set after he followed Beckinsale to her trailer to scold her for forgetting a line. Holden noted "the most satisfying of the four-lead performances belong to the British cast members, Ms. Beckinsale and Mr. Northam, who are better than their American counterparts at layers of emotional concealment," adding each beat of Beckinsale's performance "registers precisely." Thomas felt her performance would take her to "a new career level." Andrew Sarris of The New York Observer asserted that she "comes close to capturing the sublimity of Maggie, despite the obvious fact that no movie can capture the elegant copiousness of James’ prose." The film grossed over $5 million worldwide.
Beckinsale rose to fame in 2001 with a leading role in the war film Pearl Harbor as a nurse torn between two pilots, played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. She was drawn to the project by the script: "It's so unusual these days to read a script that has those old-fashioned values to it. Not morals, but movie values. It's a big, sweeping epic....You just never get the chance to do that." Director Michael Bay initially had doubts about casting the actress: "I wasn't sure about her at first...she wore black leather trousers in her screen test and I thought she was a little nasty...it was easy to think of this woman as a slut." He eventually decided to hire her because she wasn't "too beautiful. Women feel disturbed when they see someone’s too pretty." He asked her to lose weight during filming. In a 2004 interview, the actress noted that his comments were "upsetting" and said she wore leather trousers because "it was snowing out. It wasn't exactly like I had my nipple rings in." She felt grateful that she had not had to deal with such criticism at a younger age: "If I had come on to a movie set at [a younger] age and someone had said, 'You're a bit funny-looking, can you go on a diet?'—I might have jumped off a building. I just didn't have the confidence to put that into perspective at the time." However, speaking in 2011, she said she was "very fond" of Bay. Pearl Harbor received negative reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised "the avid eyed, ruby lipped Kate Beckinsale, the rare actress whose intelligence gives her a sensual bloom; she's like Parker Posey without irony." A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted that "Mr. Affleck and Ms. Beckinsale do what they can with their lines, and glow with the satiny shine of real movie stars." However, Mike Clark of USA Today felt that the "usually appealing Kate Beckinsale" is "inexplicably submerged —like her hospital colleagues —under heaps of tarty makeup that even actresses of the era didn't wear." The film was a commercial success, grossing $449 million worldwide.
Beckinsale's second film appearance of 2001 was in the romantic comedy Serendipity as the love interest of John Cusack. It was filmed directly after Pearl Harbor and Beckinsale found it "a real relief to return to something slightly more familiar." Turan praised the "appealing and believable" leads, adding that Beckinsale "reinforces the strong impression she made in Cold Comfort Farm, The Golden Bowl, and The Last Days of Disco" after "recovering nicely" from her appearance in the much-maligned Pearl Harbor. Claudia Puig of USA Today felt that "Beckinsale's talents haven't been mined as effectively in any other film since Cold Comfort Farm." McCarthy found her "energetic and appealing" while Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times described her as "luminous but determined." In an uncomplimentary review of the film, Ebert described her as "a good actress, but not good enough to play this dumb." The film has grossed over $77 million at the worldwide box office. In 2002 Beckinsale starred in Lisa Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon as a strait-laced academic who finds herself increasingly attracted to her free-spirited future mother-in-law. The independent film was another opportunity for Beckinsale to work with Christian Bale, her Prince of Jutland co‑star. She found their sex scene awkward because she knew Bale well: "If it was a stranger, it would have been easier." While Frances McDormand's performance as Bale's mother was widely praised, Beckinsale received negative reviews. Holden found the film "superbly acted, with the exception of Ms. Beckinsale, whose tense, colourless Alex conveys no inner life." Schwarzbaum was unimpressed by the "tedious" characters and criticized "the fussy performances of Bale and Beckinsale" in particular. The film has grossed over $4 million worldwide.
Beckinsale became known as an action star after playing a vampire in 2003's Underworld. The film was markedly different from her previous work, and Beckinsale has said she was grateful for the change of pace after appearing in "a bunch of period stuff and then a bunch of romantic comedies," adding that "It was quite a challenge for me to play an action heroine and pull off all that training when [in real life] I can’t catch a ball if it’s coming my way." The film received negative to mixed reviews but was a surprise box-office hit and has gained a cult following. Also that year, she starred in the little seen Tiptoes with Gary Oldman and Matthew McConaughey.
In 2004 Beckinsale starred in the action horror film Van Helsing. She was "so surprised" to be appearing in her second action film in two years. "It just seemed like a very good role." Beckinsale had just separated from her long-term boyfriend Michael Sheen at the time of filming and appreciated the warm atmosphere created on set by director Stephen Sommers and co‑star Hugh Jackman: "I really did find that working with people like Stephen and Hugh made it possible to get through what I was going through." The film grossed over $120 million at the U.S. box office and over $300 million worldwide, but it was not well-reviewed. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described her as "a pretty actress doing her best to maintain dignity, vainly trying to craft a feminist statement from a filmmaker's whimsy" while Rex Reed of The New York Observer felt she was "desperately in need of a new agent."
Also in 2004, Beckinsale portrayed Ava Gardner in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator. Scorsese decided to cast Beckinsale because, "I’ve always liked her. I’ve seen all her work, and I was glad that she agreed to audition." Beckinsale's performance received mixed reviews. Ken Tucker of New York Magazine said she played the part "in full va-va-voom blossom" while LaSalle felt that she manages "to convince us that Ava was one of the great broads of all time." However, Clark described it as "the one performance that doesn't come off (though Beckinsale has the requisite beauty)" while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian stated that "Gardner's rich, voluptuous sexiness is completely absent as Beckinsale sleepwalks through the role as if she was advertising perfume." The film grossed over $213 million worldwide.
In 2006, Beckinsale reprised her role as Selene in the successful vampire sequel Underworld: Evolution, directed by her husband. It was the first time she had "been involved with a movie from the moment it’s a germ of an idea right through the whole editing process." Her daughter had a small role as the younger Selene. The film was a box office success, grossing $111 million worldwide. Beckinsale's second film appearance of 2006 was opposite Adam Sandler and Christopher Walken in Click, a comedy about an overworked family man who discovers a magical remote control that allows him to control time. The opportunity to play a mother "was one of the things that was attractive to me" about the part. It was highly profitable, grossing $237 million worldwide from a production budget of $82.5 million.
Beckinsale then made a return to smaller-scale projects: "My experience is that I sort of stepped away from the independent movies and did a couple of big movies. But that's not necessarily how it's perceived by everybody else, which I do understand." "I enjoy an action movie as much as the next person [but] it’s not something that I would like to do solely." She explained that she had originally decided to appear in Underworld because she felt typecast in classical roles — it was "assumed that I use a chamber pot and wear bloomers"—but that her action career "kind of took off a little too much."
In 2007, Beckinsale starred opposite Sam Rockwell in the independent drama Snow Angels, based on the novel by Stewart O'Nan. The harrowing film, in which she played an overwhelmed single mother, put Beckinsale "in kind of a tough place." "I did have my kid, my husband and, in fact, my ex was around a lot, so it was very nice to come home to my people whom I love." Puig felt "Beckinsale gives her best performance in years" while Richard Corliss of Time described it as "her sharpest work yet." However, Scott felt that "her skill and discipline cannot overcome the sense that she is an exotic species transplanted into this grim ecosystem. Hard as she works to convince us otherwise, it’s a stretch to believe that a woman with the kind of poised confidence in her own beauty she manifests would wind up with an underachieving mouth breather like Glenn." The film grossed just $414,404 worldwide.
Also in 2007, Beckinsale appeared alongside Luke Wilson in Vacancy, a thriller set in an isolated motel. Sarah Jessica Parker was originally cast in the part, but dropped out before filming began. Bradshaw felt "Wilson and Beckinsale have the chops for scary movies" while Gleiberman noted "Luke Wilson, with his hangdog defensive mopiness, and Kate Beckinsale, all sexy severity, are ideally matched as a couple who hate each other." However, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times was unimpressed, referring to Beckinsale as "the reigning queen of the bland B's." The film was profitable, grossing $35 million worldwide from a production budget of $19 million.
In 2008, Beckinsale appeared in Winged Creatures, a film about how six different witnesses cope with the aftermath of a shooting. Beckinsale played a waitressing single mother in an ensemble cast which included Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, and Forest Whitaker. "It was a really, really nice experience but it was quick," said Beckinsale of the filming process. "I just felt a bit like I was shot through a cannon." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times felt she played the role "with a white trash verve" and found her character's "raw ache for that someone with money and respectability is palpable." However, Dargis felt that Beckinsale and her cast mates have a "tough time filling out characters that are at best abstractions of grief and often just clichés." The film received a very limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles; it was released simultaneously on DVD.
Also in 2008, Beckinsale starred in Nothing but the Truth as a journalist who refuses to reveal her source. The film, co‑starring Vera Farmiga and Matt Dillon, was inspired by the case of Judith Miller. As part of her research for the role, "I spent some time at The L.A. Times with some female reporters, and I spoke to Judith Miller about her experience....I really researched the hell out of that one and it was an amazingly fulfilling, brilliant experience." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post asserted that Beckinsale and Farmiga played "two of the most fascinating female movie characters to hit screens in a long while, and they've been brought to life by two gifted actresses, each working at the top of her game." Beckinsale received a Critic's Choice Award nomination for her performance. The film never received a full theatrical release after the distributor filed for bankruptcy and the film has grossed just $186,702 worldwide. "I have prayed—prayed—for film companies to go bankrupt on films I've made, and then this happens on the one I love," said Beckinsale. "Usually it's the ones you're most embarrassed about that are on the side of every bus."
In 2009, Beckinsale starred in the comic-book adaption Whiteout as a U.S. Marshal tasked with investigating a murder in Antarctica. It was filmed in Manitoba, Canada. She found the action scenes less physically demanding than those in Underworld because "three pairs of trousers and a parka gives you a bit more protection than the latex suit." The film was critically panned and a box office failure, failing to recoup its budget. With critics consensus: Beckinsale is the lovely as ever, and does her best with the material, but moribund pacing and an uninspired plot leave Whiteout in the cold. She also made a brief cameo in the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; she appeared in flashforwards composed of footage from 2003's Underworld. Also in 2009, Beckinsale starred in the family drama Everybody's Fine alongside Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, and Rockwell, her Snow Angels co-star. Beckinsale was excited by the opportunity to work with De Niro, whom she had first encountered "years and years ago when I just had Lily and he was putting together a reading of The Good Shepherd.". Everybody's Fine was a box office flop, failing to recoup its production budget. In May 2010, Beckinsale sat on the nine-member 2010 Cannes Film Festival jury, chaired by director Tim Burton. Unable to find a script she felt passionate about, Beckinsale kept a low profile in 2010 and 2011, opting to spend time with her daughter.
Beckinsale returned to acting in 2012 with appearances in three action films. Beckinsale first appeared in the action thriller Contraband. She had a supporting role as the wife of Mark Wahlberg's character, a former criminal who gets forced back into a life of crime after his family members are threatened. The film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also starred in the Icelandic language version of the film, Reykjavík-Rotterdam. The San Francisco Chronicle felt Beckinsale was "stuck in a bit of a thankless role as the victimised wife, but she does try to infuse a harder edge to the character." The Hollywood Reporter stated that "Beckinsale, her innate classiness calibrated down a few notches, has little to do but be supportive, worried and, eventually, besieged." Entertainment Weekly felt that the "woman-in-peril stuff is second-rate, giving off a whiff of exploitation" while Variety found the repeated violence towards Beckinsale's character disturbing. The film had a production budget of $25 million and has grossed over $96 million worldwide.
Beckinsale next reprised her role as Selene in the fourth installment of the vampire franchise Underworld: Awakening. The franchise was initially conceived of as a trilogy and Beckinsale was not "intending to do another one" but was convinced by the quality of the script. The Hollywood Reporter noted that "when she’s not actually fighting, her performance consists of little more than striding purposefully toward or away from the camera." The Los Angeles Times remarked that she "finally manages to perfect the monotone delivery she'd been honing for the series' first two entries." The film had a production budget of $70 million and has grossed over $160 million worldwide. Also in 2012, Beckinsale appeared as the villainess in the sci-fi action remake Total Recall, directed by her husband Len Wiseman. She has said Wiseman joined the project because he was unable to receive studio financing for an original sci-fi idea: "You’re constantly finding yourself having to defend doing a remake when you didn’t really want to make one in the first place." The film received mainly negative reviews. Variety found her performance "one-note" while The Hollywood Reporter described her as "one-dimensional." USA Today remarked she "spends much of the movie strutting down hallways and looking relentlessly, though blandly, nasty." The New York Post asserted Beckinsale "vastly overstays her welcome." The film has grossed $198 million from a production budget of over $200 million.
In 2014, Beckinsale starred in the legal thriller The Trials of Cate McCall opposite Nick Nolte and James Cromwell. The film received negative reviews and was released as a Lifetime movie. She next appeared in the little-seen psychological thriller Stonehearst Asylum, loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story. A lukewarm critical reception greeted the film upon its DVD release; Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times said Beckinsale was "emoting as if an Oscar nomination depended on it" while Dennis Harvey of Variety found her performance "overwrought." Also in 2014, she provided the voice for Queen Ayrenn, a character in The Elder Scrolls Online video game. In 2015, she starred in the psychological thriller The Face of an Angel alongside Daniel Brühl. The film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, was inspired by the case of Meredith Kercher. Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club felt her "charismatic" performance was wasted. Also that year, she starred alongside Simon Pegg in the poorly received British comedy Absolutely Anything, as an author agency employee and the love interest of a man (Pegg) chosen by four aliens to do anything he wants. Tom Huddleston of Time Out said her character "is never really developed—which is perhaps a blessing, because her cut-glass-posh performance is almost as grating as Pegg’s."
In the romantic comedy Love & Friendship, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2016, Beckinsale reunited with her Last Days of Disco collaborators Stillman and Sevigny. The film revolved around her character, a wry and calculating woman named Lady Susan, as she pursues a wealthy and hapless man for marriage originally intended for her daughter, though she eventually marries him herself. The film was universally acclaimed by critics and found commercial success in arthouse cinemas. Justin Chang of Variety described the role as "one of the most satisfying screen roles of her career[...] Beckinsale magnetizes the screen in a way that naturally underscores how far ahead of everyone else she is: an effect that doesn’t always work to the movie’s advantage." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter remarked, "There aren’t great depths to the role, but Beckinsale excels with the long speeches and in defining her character as a very self-aware egoist."
Also in the year, she starred in the horror film The Disappointments Room, opposite Mel Raido, both playing a couple in a new house that contains a hidden room with a haunted past. The film was heavily panned by critics and flopped at the box office; it only made US$1.4 million in its opening weekend, and a total of US$2.4 million in North America. Christian Holub of Entertainment Weekly concluded that "[m]ost of the film is just Beckinsale walking around looking worried", while Joe Leydon of Variety found her "credible and compelling [...] except for when she’s trying way too hard in a rather unfortunate scene that calls for drunken ranting." In late 2016, Beckinsale returned as Selene in the fifth installment of the Underworld franchise, Underworld: Blood Wars, which grossed US$81.1 million worldwide.
In 2017, Beckinsale filmed a role in The Only Living Boy in New York and is attached to star in an adaptation of The Chocolate Money, written by Emma Forrest.
Beckinsale has worked occasionally as a model. In 1997, she appeared in the music video for George Michael's "Waltz Away Dreaming". She starred opposite Orlando Bloom in a 2002 Gap television advert directed by Cameron Crowe. She appeared in a Diet Coke television advert in 2004, directed by Michael Gondry. She advertised Absolut Vodka in a 2009 print campaign photographed by Ellen von Unwerth. She has also promoted Lux shampoo in a Japanese television advertisement.
Beckinsale had an eight-year relationship with actor Michael Sheen from 1995 until 2003. They met when cast in a touring production of The Seagull in early 1995 and moved in together shortly afterwards. In 1997, they voiced a radio production of Romeo and Juliet. Their daughter, Lily, was born in London in 1999. The actress has said she was "embarrassed" that Sheen never proposed, but felt as though she were married. Their relationship ended in early 2003, after the filming of Underworld. Beckinsale and Sheen remain close friends. She remarked in 2016: "He's really dear, close family. He's somebody I've known since I was 21 years old. I really love him a lot."
Beckinsale met director Len Wiseman on the set of 2003's Underworld. Beckinsale persuaded Wiseman to cast Sheen in the film, but, while on set, she and Wiseman fell in love. All parties, aside from Wiseman's then-wife, have maintained that there was no infidelity. They married on 9 May 2004 in Bel-Air, California. Beckinsale and Wiseman announced their separation in November 2015 and Wiseman filed for divorce in 2016.
Beckinsale is a smoker. She does not drink alcohol.
In 2007, she appeared alongside David Schwimmer in the sixth of the Writers Guild Of America member-conceived Internet videos for Project “Speechless”, in support of the WGA labor strike against the Alliance Of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
In 2012, she appeared alongside Judy Greer and Andrea Savage in the Funny or Die video "Republicans, Get In My Vagina", a satire of the Republican Party's policies concerning abortion and pre-natal care.
In July 2003, the Press Complaints Commission dismissed a complaint filed by Beckinsale. Beckinsale had claimed that the Daily Mail invaded her and her daughter's privacy by publishing photographs of the actress embracing and kissing her then new boyfriend Len Wiseman. The article was headlined "Mummy's latest love scene leaves Lily unimpressed" and included a picture in which her four-year-old daughter appeared to be ignoring her mother's romantic actions. The Commission found that "the photographs had been taken in a public place and did not reveal any private details about Lily—such as her health or schooling—but were restricted to general observations about her apparent reaction to her surroundings." In August 2003, Beckinsale received a published apology from the Daily Mail after the newspaper reported that she had "spent time in a clinic" following her split from boyfriend Michael Sheen. The apology was issued after the actress filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission. In 2009 Beckinsale was awarded £20,000 in damages by the British High Court after taking legal action against Express Newspapers. The Daily Express had falsely reported that the actress was "facing heartbreak" after missing out on a part in a remake of Barbarella.
The British Heart Foundation has been Beckinsale's charity of choice "ever since [she] was six years old.", when her father, who had a congenital heart defect, died of a massive heart attack. She has also donated film memorabilia to the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, MediCinema, Habitat For Humanity and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. In 2008 she hosted the 4th Annual Pink Party to raise funds for the Women’s Cancer Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and organised a screening of All About Eve for FilmAid International. In 2012 Beckinsale joined Nestlé's Share the Joy of Reading Program to raise awareness about the importance of children's literacy.