Kate is just 5 years old when her father, British comedian Richard Beckinsale, dies of a heart attack in his sleep. Richard, 31, was at the height of his acting career as the star of the English sitcoms Rising Damp and Porridge. "It stayed with me, the incredible shock and huge loss," she tells PEOPLE. "I started expecting bad things to happen, that friends will leave, that loved ones will die. It kept building until I had a nervous breakdown when I was a teenager."
Still grieving for her father, Beckinsale develops anorexia around age 15 and withers to just 70 lbs. She asks her mother and stepfather to send her to Freudian psychoanalysis, and she attends sessions five days a week for four years. "It opened my eyes to things, not to be afraid of facing these fears," she tells PEOPLE. "I at least understood what they were and where they had come from."
Beckinsale stars in Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado About Nothing, in which she plays Hero, a maiden who is the sole heiress to her father's fortune. Two years later, Beckinsale drops out of the University of Oxford to focus on acting, before heating up across the pond with roles in The Last Days of Disco and Brokedown Palace.
While performing in the touring play, The Seagull, Beckinsale meets Welsh actor Michael Sheen. The couple begins a nine-year relationship.
Beckinsale gives birth to her and Sheen's only child, daughter Lily. "I was brilliant at breastfeeding," she tells Allure in July 2006. "I was like an overproducing cow. I miss it a bit."
Beckinsale stars in her highest profile film yet: World War II blockbuster Pearl Harbor, with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. While training for her role as a nurse, the actress practices giving shots to a bevy of men. "All these boys would come in and drop their trousers, and I would stab and inject them," she tells Playboy. "It was an odd day."
Beckinsale's next film, the romantic comedy Serendipity, with John Cusack, comes out. She began shooting the film while wrapping Harbor and tells the Bergen Record, "They saved the kissing scenes in Pearl Harbor for the last week, and me and John had all of our kissing scenes in the first week. There was a point when I was ricocheting between New York and L.A., madly kissing everybody."
While filming Underworld together in Budapest, Sheen and Beckinsale meet director Len Wiseman. Wiseman directs the couple in the supernatural thriller about the secret history of vampires and werewolves, which opens at No. 1 and grosses $ 95.7 million worldwide.
Shortly after Sheen and Beckinsale's move from London to L.A., the pair breaks up. Reports surface that Beckinsale left Sheen for Wiseman. The British beauty denies any infidelity. "Yes, I've been completely monogamous," Beckinsale tells Allure in 2006. "It was always rather odd to me when I'd get that 'Oh, what a slut' remark. 'Oh, she ditched the father of her child and ran off with somebody else.' I mean, look around this town and tell me one other person who's slept with only two people in a decade. I might just be the only one."
After dating for months, Wiseman proposes to Beckinsale over dinner at Santa Monica's Viceroy Hotel, where he requests a cabana by the pool, a presidential suite filled with white lilies and a special type of merlot.
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