She may be one of the world's biggest female action stars these days, but when Kate Beckinsale first hit the scene she was best known for her dramatic portrayals of classic characters such as Hero in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, and the beloved heroine Emma Woodhouse in a TV movie version of Jane Austen's timeless story, Emma.
Back in the '90s, if someone told me that Kate Beckinsale would go on to become the ass-kicking star of action flicks like Underworld and Whiteout, I probably would have thought they were off their rockers. But her unlikely career path from period piece darling to rom-com sweetheart (Serendipity) to action badass has worked surprisingly well.
Her thespian roots help her bring depth and complexity to characters that could have easily gone the very one-dimensional route in the hands of a less skilled actress. Just look at Selene, her Underworld character. She isn't just leather-clad eye candy on a vigilante-esque killing spree. She's a complex, rather tortured and morally conflicted character, which makes the Underworld series that much more compelling to watch.
This week, Beckinsale plays a multi-dimensional killer once again in the Total Recall remake. This time around, we get to see her messing with Colin Farrell's mind and kicking Jessica Biel's ass. The flick is directed by Beckinsale's husband, Underworld director Len Wiseman. Clearly, this husband and wife team works well together.
Looking back on Beckinsale's rather unusual career path got me thinking about which young actresses today seem like very unlikely candidates to ultimately evolve into action stars. (But, as we've seen, anything is possible.)
1. Carey Mulligan. With a BAFTA award and Oscar nomination already under her belt at the tender age of 27, Mulligan seems more poised to become the next Meryl Streep than the future lady Terminator. Plus, her face is too sweet to be intimidating. (Though perhaps that could be her secret weapon to disarm foes.)
2. Aubrey Plaza. Plaza certainly has the witty one-liners down pat. But she's done such a great job of mastering blasé characters like April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation and Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, I just can't picture her exerting herself enough to become an ass-kicking action star. She certainly has the terrifying withering stare going for her, though -- that could definitely intimidate some bad guys.
3. Ellen Page. Like Mulligan, Page has that whole "serious actress" thing going for her. She was just 21 when she scored an Oscar nomination for her starring role in Juno, and since then she's worked with serious directors like Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Woody Allen (To Rome With Love). Upon contemplation, she did play Boltie in Super and Kitty Pryde in X-Men, so a future as an action star may not be entirely out of the question. (It would still be surprising, though. Look at her sweet face!)
4. Zooey Deschanel. Unless she takes an ass-kicking role ironically, chances are pretty good that Deschanel is too cool for action flicks. Plus, how would she work her singing into the mix?
5. Lea Michele. I'm always surprised to see Michele in anything besides Glee. I was certainly shocked to see her playing Ashton Kutcher's love interest in New Year's Eve, but I would be most surprised to see her doling out punches and hunting bad guys on the big screen. Y'know where I wouldn't be surprised to see her? Broadway.