10 Things You Never Knew About Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale has just been cast in Prisoner's Daughter, a movie about family reconciliation from Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke. It's another intriguing role for an actress who has done everything from high-stakes action movies (the cult Underworld franchise) to classy period dramas (Jane Austen adaptation Love and Friendship, Martin Scorsese' The Aviator). To whet your appetite, here are 10 things you might not know about this versatile performer with a wickedly playful sense of humor.

1. She thinks she's a bit of a "Marmite" character.

"We have this substance in England called Marmite," Beckinsale told the L.A. Times in 2019. "It’s a yeast-based vegetable spread that you really, really like or you really, really don't. I'm OK with being Marmite. The people who like me really, really like me and would jump in front of trains for me. But if you don't like me, I don't care. It really doesn't affect me."

2. Her father was Richard Beckinsale, an actor who starred in two of the U.K.'s biggest sitcoms of the '70s: Porridge and Rising Damp.

Tragically, he passed away suddenly at the age of 31 following a shock heart attack. Beckinsale, who was just five when her father died, posted a poignant tribute on the anniversary of his death earlier this year. "March 19th, 1979. And we were never the same again," she wrote next to a scan of a newspaper article reporting her father's death. "Thank you to everyone who has kept him alive in our hearts and on our lips. And love to everyone missing a shining, special person of their own. I wish I was with my mum today."

3. Initially, she avoided comedy roles because her father was so synonymous with the genre.

"Starting out, I was quite defensive of accusations of nepotism," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "It's a heavy thing for anyone whose parents are actors and in the very beginning I didn't want to tread on his patch. Having said that, comedy is my number-one favorite thing. I was raised on high-level, amazing comedy my whole life: I spent most of my childhood watching reruns of my dad's shows just to have a link to him."

4. Her family home was bugged when she was growing up.

Beckinsale has said this happened because her stepfather – TV director Roy Battersby – was a prominent Trotskyist. "Roy did a documentary called The Palestinian with Vanessa Redgrave, and consequently our phones were tapped growing up," she told The Guardian. "Me and my girlfriends would be on the phone talking, you know 'bum, willy, fanny,' and we'd hear the little click on the phone as the listener came on. And you can imagine some spook somewhere trying to crack the 'bum-willy-fanny' code!"

5. Her half-sister Samantha Beckinsale is also an actress.

Samantha is best known for her role as a firefighter in the '90s British drama series London's Burning. She and Kate met briefly as children but didn't reconnect until Kate was 21. "She got in touch and I was a bit nervous of meeting her because I wanted to get on with her. I thought, `What if she's horrible?' Luckily, she was really nice," Kate told The Independent.

6. She's fond of dressing up.

Head to Beckinsale's Instagram to see her funny impersonation of Freddie Mercury in Queen's "I Want to Break Free" music video.

7. She speaks excellent French and Russian.

Beckinsale actually read French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford before dropping out to pursue her acting career. A few years ago, she demonstrated her impeccable Russian accent during an appearance on Stephen Colbert's chat show.

8. She's spoken out about sexist attitudes in the movie business.

"You hear all these things about actresses being 'difficult'," Beckinsale said in an interview with The Guardian. "Well, to me, 'difficult' is someone who won’t come out of their trailer or who is late or uncooperative or doesn't know their lines or treats people rudely. Having an opinion and saying, 'I do think there's a problem here' isn’t difficult."

"I've worked with quite a few women about whom people have said, ‘Oh, she’s difficult’ and then I’ve found them actually rather rigorously professional and totally on time and on top of it," she continued. "So, just as I’d like to get rid of [the word] 'bossy' for little girls, I'd quite like to get rid of 'difficult' for actresses."

9. She has also called out double standards when it comes to aging 'gracefully.'

"It can feel like a little bit of a political act to be a woman over 32 who’s having any fun at all," she told Women's Health last year. "And by that, I don’t mean doing drugs and drinking and partying, because I never am, but being goofy, and going out, and not going, 'Oh my god, I'm going to sit home and anticipate menopause while crocheting.' Unless you’re doing that, it somehow seems to be risqué, which is just ridiculous to me."

She added: "And I witness men constantly doing whatever they like, whether that’s in relationships, or deciding to buy a motorbike, or getting a tattoo. It hasn’t been interpreted as, 'Why hasn’t he had more children?' or, 'Is he ever going to decide to become a parent?' or, 'Why has he had so many girlfriends?'"

10. She once played an amazing prank on someone she was sharing a bed with... and you'll be thrilled that person wasn't you.

Seriously, what kind of mad genius comes up with an idea like this?!

Do you have a favorite Kate Beckinsale moment to date?