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1995 also saw Beckinsale's first professional stage appearance as Nina in The Seagull at Theatre Royal, Bath. "You shouldn't necessarily like Emma," Beckinsale has said of her character.
She became romantically involved with co-star Michael Sheen after meeting during play rehearsals. It was my first-ever play and my mother had cut out reviews of him in previous productions. "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." At this point in her career, Beckinsale began to seek work in the United States, something she has said wasn't "a conscious decision...
She followed those with appearances in The Aviator (2004) and Click (2006).
Since being cast as Selene in the Underworld film series (2003–present), Beckinsale has become known primarily for her work in action films, including Van Helsing (2004), Whiteout (2009), Contraband (2012), and Total Recall (2012).
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. I quickly realised that my parents seemed to have much more fun in their work than any of my friends' parents." 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." 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.
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 socialising in the Manhattan disco scene of the early 1980s.
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.But that's not necessarily how it's perceived by everybody else, which I do understand." 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." However, Scott felt that "her skill and discipline cannot overcome the sense that she is an exotic species transplanted into this grim ecosystem.Beckinsale, whose tense, colourless Alex conveys no inner life." 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," 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." Also in 2004, Beckinsale portrayed Ava Gardner in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator.
The opportunity to play a mother "was one of the things that was attractive to me" about the part.