Although the stunning Kate Beckinsale told yours truly in a recent interview that she never set out to be an action heroine, filmmakers keep asking the 38-year-old British actress to get tough on-screen since the first time she appeared as vampire warrior woman Selene in 2003's Underworld. The movie was directed by her future husband, Len Wiseman, with Selene at the center of an ancient war between vampires and Lycans. Beckinsale again slipped into the shiny black latex suit and blew away more werewolves and other immortals in 2006's Underworld: Evolution with the help of her hybrid hunk of love, Michael (Scott Speedman).
Beckinsale sat out the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and appears only in flash-forwards but returns to the big screen this weekend in Underworld: Awakening, in which Selene rises after a 12-year slumber to find that her kind has a new enemy—humans—and she now has a young hybrid daughter.
After she sent fanboys' hearts atwitter in the first Underworld, Beckinsale appeared opposite Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing as Anna Valerious. The Transylvanian woman is hell-bent on killing Dracula, whose demonic brides have destroyed her village. Although her thick accent might elicit snickers, Beckinsale is still a knockout as a corset-wearing, sword-swinging vampire exterminatrix.
Although she isn't kicking supernatural beings around in The Aviator, Beckinsale plays one tough broad as Ava Gardner opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Howard Hughes.
It's hard to believe that on-screen Manhattan shoe shopper Sarah Jessica Parker was originally cast to play Kate Beckinsale's part in the harrowing thriller Vacancy. Beckinsale plays a woman who ends up at what turns out to be Motel Hell with her husband (Luke Wilson) after their car breaks down on a remote mountain road. The quarreling couple soon discovers that the motel's staff records snuff tapes in the guest rooms and that she and her husband are the next unwitting stars. With two Underworld movies under her belt at this point, Beckinsale doesn't go down without firing off some rounds and running over a few deranged hicks.
In 2009—the same year she sat out filming new material for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans—Beckinsale instead took on the role of Deputy U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko in the chilly thriller Whiteout. Carrie has spent two years working at a remote Antarctic station and is ready to leave when a body is discovered and murder is suspected. After she is attacked by an ax-wielding man in black, Carrie stops at nothing—even after having her frostbitten fingers amputated and venturing out in a blinding snowstorm—to catch the killer.
To balance out the butt she kicks in Underworld: Awakening, Beckinsale can also currently be seen in theaters as ex-smuggler Mark Wahlberg's victimized wife who gets knocked around and nearly buried alive in cement in Contraband. She is likely to be back on the giving end of pain in her husband's remake of Total Recall, in which she takes on the role originally played by fellow lethal lady Sharon Stone.