Forget about J-lo or or Nicole or any of the other Hollywood actresses appearing in big summer movies - the hottest new name in town belongs to Kate Beckinsale, the 27-year-old English beauty who is about to become a major star thanks to her role in the most anticipated release of the year, Pearl Harbor (2001). The epic retelling of the Japanese attack, directed by Michael Bay of armageddon (1998) and Rock, the (1996) fame, may feature tons of bombs, explosions and guys blowing stuff up, but the quiet center of the story belongs to Kate's character, a brave young nurse who finds herself caught in a love triangle with two daring young pilots played by heartthrobs Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett.
Does she get the right man in the end? And what about all the rumours surrounding Michael Sheen - Kate's real-life sexy Welsh boyfriend and father of her two-year-old daughter Lily - and his fight with Jeremy Northam on the set of her other big new film, Golden Bowl, the (2000)? Kate sets the record straight here and talks about everything from love and romance to anorexia and the problems with movie kisses.
So what did you learn about being a nurse for Pearl Harbor (2001)?
(Giggles) I learned how to give people shots, in the bum. There's a big inoculation scene and we had these poor volunteers who had to bare their bottoms for me. It wasn't real drugs, just saline, and I got quite good at it until the last one jumped in the air. Then I lost my confidence.
Is it true you had no idea that [Pearl Harbor (2001) was such a big deal?
I honestly didn't. I read the script and loved it. It was never a case of, OK, I've done the indie movies, now it's time to do a big Hollywood blockbuster. I just loved the story so much, and my character who's kind of old-fashioned really appealed to me.
You have a big kissing scene with hot young star Josh Hartnett. How was that?
God, it was my very first day and I had to kiss him madly in the middle of the sea which was really difficult. We were splashing around and trying to stay afloat and we both ended up just spitting tons of salt water into each other's mouths, so I don't know how sexy it was. Kissing strangers in movies is never that easy either.
How was Ben?
He was great and he really helped me a lot as it was my first big film. He's just a great guy and very sweet. We all had a good time together, especially the girls.
Speaking of great guys, you and Michael seem to be very happy together.
Yeah, we are. We've been together since 1994 and it was only when I met him that my life really fell into place, and then we had Lily, so it's totally changed everything.
Is he very protective of you?
Yes, very, and I like that. He's protective of the people he loves, so I'm very glad I'm one of those.
Is it true that Michael got into a fist fight with Jeremy Northam, your co-star in Golden Bowl, the (2000) when he came to visit you on the set?
Oh God, this story is going to follow me around forever. What happened was that I'd just got there so it was the first week of shooting, and no one was that organized or prepared as we'd all just arrived at the very last minute. So there was all that sort of pressure.
The thing is, there's all these pressures anyway, and different actors behave differently, and basically Jeremy and I had a disagreement about something. So I'm also taking care of Lily who was just six months old at the time and I was still breast-feeding and then Michael came down to the set to pick her up and suddenly sees this man yelling at me. So naturally he got very upset and that was that.
The truth is, he's never hit anyone before in his life and it was kind of shocking, but in a weird way it really broke the ice and it was all OK after that. I actually had a good time making the film.
Recently you've been called 'beautiful' and 'gorgeous,' but you've also said in the past, 'I'm got small breasts and a pointy face.' Are you insecure about your looks?
No, I think it's that weird thing where things I said when I was 18 or 19 have come back to haunt me. I've reached the conclusion recently that nobody should be allowed to speak to anybody in an interview until they're about 25 (laughs), because some of the things that come out of your mouth. You just go, 'Oh Jesus, I wish I'd never said that. ' It's just so uncomfortable if you're sitting there in an interview and someone tells you, 'You're really beautiful,' especially if you're British as you immediately go, 'No I'm not. '
Do you ever wake up, look in the mirror and get a fright?
(Giggles) God, most mornings. I'd say nearly every single morning. And motherhood makes it even tougher. You just realize that you're not in your own orbit anymore.
How do you view the current Hollywood trend of actresses trying to look anorexic?
I must say, the ones I've met haven't been anorexic-looking at all. I think there is that annoying thing that the camera does add a little weight to you. I read an article in a British newspaper recently which was talking about how normal tends to look fat on screen, and I immediately bristled. But I kind of know what they mean. It's part of the job, looking OK on camera. Milkmen have to get up really early and we have to go to the gym. It's just one of those things you have to do. But when it gets to the point where your hair's falling out and growing on your arms, then it's time to do something about it. I think that people who are visibly anorexic really ought to be put on a sabbatical.
Didn't you have problem when you were younger?
Yes, I was anorexic when I was 15, and it was kind of scary and awful.
Did you feel a lot of peer pressure to be thin?
No, I keep saying that I think it's a mode of breakdown that's most readily available to teenage girls. I've seen it because it happened to me when I was such a young teenager, and I associate it with teenagers. I'm always surprised to hear someone in their '20s has got it because it seems such a teenage girl thing. Alcoholism then starts to become the front-runner, or drug dependence (laughs). But when you're just a 15-year-old girl - that's who gets it, the really good girls with A-plus genes.
Have you ever had your heart broken.
Yes, and seriously, but not recently. We didn't stay in touch but I did mourn it for over five years. I was studying Russian at the time, so I really got into it and it haunted me for ages. You just sort of remember all the soundtracks of a broken heart, so every time you hear those songs it's awful. It was a whole album, 'Rum, Sodomy and The Lah' by The Pogues, things like that.
Your career's going great now, but you must have had some low points?
I've had loads. Everyone does, but I had a couple of very early ones thrown at me, such as my dad dying when I was just 5. And I wasn't a big fan of being between 15 and 20. I just didn't enjoy it much. I remember my stepfather used to say, 'You're not ready to come out of your glass coffin yet,' like Snow White. And I wasn't ready. But then I met Michael and my life changed dramatically.
What are your big extravagances now you're fabulously wealthy?
(Laughs) I'm so not fabulously wealthy! I keep reading in British newspapers that I'm getting this extraordinary backend deal on Pearl Harbor (2001) which is so untrue. Everyone in England thinks that if it's a hit I'll be rolling in it, but the truth is they spent all the budget making the film, not paying the actors huge salaries. I think it cost something like $130 million to make, so there was literally nothing left over to pay anyone with. I certainly didn't make a lot.
If you do ever get some cash, what will you spend it on?
More baby clothes. I'm an obsessive baby clothes shopper. It's so much fun as you don't have to try anything on and I always get exhausted trying on clothes (laughs). So you don't have to do that and they always look great in everything, so that's great.
What's your biggest extravagance?
My big, big extravagance when I first began working was black London taxis, and that's still my favorite thing ever when I go home. I just love getting in and shouting out a destination and they know exactly where it is. I've got a really bad head for directions, so that's great for me.
Have you and Michael bought a house yet?
No, we don't even own one. We just live out of suitcases, and when we go home we have to buy a couple more.
Doesn't that drive you mad after a while?
Not so much yet, as the baby's still pretty portable. She's 2 and not in school yet. It's actually really nice to have the feeling that we will have to settle down in one place, as right now the day before we all move somewhere everyone gets PMS, especially Michael. I'm sure he gets PMS anyway, poor bastard, as he's only around women the whole time. He had to go off and make [Four Feathers (2001).
What are your vices?
I hate to admit it but I began smoking again. I pretty much gave up for 3 years, as soon as I got pregnant, and then I remember seeing Uma Thurman at some event and she was smoking and that just got me going again. It looked so much fun. And then I rediscovered actual books that aren't just about potty training. When you have a baby, that's all you read, so now I'm getting my life back a little.
What really upsets you?
Rudeness. I hate it and I'm never, ever rude first, and I can say that with all honesty. But now I'm a poor old lady I'm not quite as hotheaded as I used to be. I was terrible, but then I had four brothers so I had to be tough.
What's the most romantic thing Michael's ever done for you?
God, there are so many. I remember once waking up from a bad dream and being really scared that I was going to die, and he said, 'If you do, I will dive down and get you back,' and I really did believe him - and I wouldn't believe it from anyone else. He's a magical person.
Do you dream a lot?
(Laughs) I do now if I can have a sleep. The first few years with a baby you just don't sleep much. I'm surprised Michael's still here, actually.
Is Lily a good baby?
She's absolutely fantastic. I was a horrendous baby, very grumpy, and I frowned a lot, says my mother. But I have to say, I was born at the end of July, and my mum says, 'You were born frowning,' but in all of the pictures that she's shown me we're standing outside in this blistering sunlight, so no wonder.
So you're a Leo?
Yeah, and so's Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. But Michael and Lily are both Aquarius, and I'm very drawn to that sign. In fact, I've never even been on a date with anyone who wasn't an Aquarius - seriously, honestly. That's when I began to think, maybe there's something in it after all. My first boyfriend who broke my heart was also an Aquarius and after that I swore I'd never do it again. But look what happened.
Do you like to travel?
(Laughs) I do, but I travel so much for my job that I'm quite happy to sit at home. And with a young baby, a holiday's really quite like a work week in the Amazon.
What's next for you?
I'm not doing anything now. I did Serendipity (2001) immediately after Pearl Harbor (2001), and then it felt like a good time to take a break, but as there's so much to do with Pearl Harbor (2001) it hasn't even felt like any time off. I read a lot of scripts but there was nothing that appealed to me enough to put all my gang through it. I'm actually thinking about writing something myself. I've been threatening to do it for a long time, and I've got a few different ideas. It's funny, because writing is what I was always originally going to do. That was my big thing, and then I got sidetracked into acting. So I really do miss writing, and I have that slight anxiety that maybe I can't do it now. But hopefully it'll always be there.
Is it getting harder for you to walk around without being recognized all the time now?
Not really. All I have to do is change my hair a bit and people don't know who I am, which is great. I can just disappear and go shopping for baby clothes or whatever and people don't bother you.
Would you ever consider moving to Hollywood?
I don't think so, although I already seem to spend a lot of time there. You get such a distorted picture of it living in England. You always hear stuff like, 'They hand out these big fake boob jobs the moment you land at the airport and everyone is going to make you take tons of coke and then you'll have to give blow jobs to all the casting directors' and of course when you get there, it's just so not true. Everyone just seems to be workaholics.
How do you like to relax?
Really, it's all about spending time with my family. Michael and I looked at ecah other the other night and went, wouldn't it be fun just to sit and stare at the wall for 20 minutes. Maybe those days are around the corner. We like to go to the odd movie, especially here as TV's so dreadful in America. Basically I could do with a nice long rest now and catch up on my sleep.