As of 2020, Kate Beckinsale is worth the grand sum of $20 million (well, she is if our sources over at Celebrity Net Worth are to be believed). As well known for her quirky humor, intriguing love life (who can forget that short-lived affair with Pete Davidson?) and ability, at the grand old age of 46, to rock a bikini as she is for her movies, the actress ranks as one of Hollywood’s richest. So, how exactly did she make such a phenomenal fortune?
Acting in the Blood
Kate isn’t the first Beckinsale to make a success as an actor. Although her father, Richard, is largely unknown outside of the UK, in his birth country, he’s something of a legend. At the age of 4, Kate made her first-ever TV appearance in an episode of This is Your Life dedicated to her famous dad. Tragically, Richard died soon after, struck down at the age of just 31 years old from a fatal heart attack. A few years later, Kate’s mother, the actress Judy Loe, remarried, this time to the director Roy Battersby. Growing up surrounded by her family’s illustrious group of friends (which included Ken Loach and Vanessa Redgrave in their mix), it was perhaps inevitable that Kate would eventually seek her fortune as an actress. As she later commented at Cannes Film Festival,“I grew up immersed in film. I soon realized my family was having a lot more fun in their work than any of my friends’ parents.”
In 1991, Kate made her professional debut with a minor role in an ITV adaptation of P. D. James’ Devices and Desires. The following year, she starred in Channel 4’s Rachel’s Dream, and the year after, she appeared alongside Imogen Stubbs in the detective series, Anna Lee. In 1993, she made her big-screen debut in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. At the time, she was still studying at Oxford University and found the experience of shooting on such a huge scale an intimidating one. Nevertheless, her performance pulled in a wowed reception from the critics, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone describing her performance as “lovely”, and Vincent Canby of The New York Times saying she “look(s) right and behave(s) with a certain naive sincerity.” Over the next couple of years, she made three further films, all the while pursuing her studies at Oxford. Eventually, the struggle of combining her university degree with her blossoming acting career proved too much, and she decided to quit Oxford to concentrate fully on acting. Over the next few years, she starred in numerous UK TV, stage, and film productions, with some of her most significant work from the period including her portrayal of Flora in Cold Comfort Farm, Nina in The Seagull at Theatre Royal, and Emma in an ITV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.
After making her name in the UK, Kate began to audition in the US… something she’s since claimed to have been a purely un-conscious decision, but which none-the-less set her on the road to the kind of fame and fortune a strictly UK based career was unlikely to provide. One of her first big hitters was 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, in which she starred alongside Chloe Sevigne as part of a group of Ivy League socialites in the early years of the 1980s. Her performance received widespread acclaim, with Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times saying her portrayal of Charlotte was “beautifully played.” The London Critics’ Circle Film Awards even honored her with a trophy for her efforts. Over the next few years, she continued to earn rave reviews for her performances in the likes of Brokedown Palace and The Golden Bowl. However, it was her portrayal as a nurse torn between the affections of two pilots (Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett) in 2001’s Pearl Harbor that really catapulted her into the big time. Despite being panned by critics, the film was a commercial success, grossing $449 million worldwide and opening the door to even bigger roles.
Bolstered by the success of Pearl Harbor, Kate made the move into action films with 2003’s Underworld. Despite flopping with the critics, the film was a smash at the box office, earning Kate the new title of action heroine. The following year, she achieved similar success with the action horror film Van Helsing, which went on to gross over $120 million in the US box office and over $300 million worldwide. Having established herself as box office gold, Kate spent the next few years starring in various big hitters, including Martin Scorsese’s 2004 Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, and both Click and Underworld: Evolution in 2006.
Back to the Start
Kate is an actress that’s always revolted against being typecast. After earning fame in action blockbusters in the early noughties, the middle of the decade saw her return to the smaller, independent films she’d first made her name in. The movies may not have earned the same kind of millions as the Underworld franchise, but they re-cemented her status as the queen of indie cool. In 2016, she made one of the best performances of her career in the romantic comedy, Love & Friendship, with Justin Chang of Variety describing her portrayal of the calculating Susan as “one of the most satisfying screen roles of her career”. In 2019, meanwhile, she made her first appearance on the small-screen in over 20 years after landing a starring role on the ITV/ Amazon Prime drama, The Widow.
So, how has Kate Beckinsale made her millions? Simple… for over 25 years, the actress has worked constantly, consistently, and rarely anything but commendably. Not all of her films have been commercial successes, but those that haven’t have earned her enough critical acclaim to ensure that when the big blockbusters come calling, she can rely on her reputation to pull in the big bucks.