She has described herself as a "late bloomer": "All of my friends were kissing boys and drinking cider way before me.I found it really depressing that we weren't making camp fires and everyone was doing grown-up stuff." Beckinsale read French and Russian literature at New College, Oxford, and was later described by a contemporary, journalist Victoria Coren Mitchell, as "whip-clever, slightly nuts, and very charming".She was drawn to the project by the script: "It's so unusual these days to read a script that has those old-fashioned values to it. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised "the avid eyed, ruby lipped Kate Beckinsale, the rare actress whose intelligence gives her a sensual bloom; she's like Parker Posey without irony." However, Mike Clark of USA Today felt that the "usually appealing Kate Beckinsale" is "inexplicably submerged —like her hospital colleagues —under heaps of tarty makeup that even actresses of the era didn't wear." Beckinsale's second film appearance of 2001 was in the romantic comedy Serendipity as the love interest of John Cusack.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.
After some minor television roles, she made her film debut in Much Ado About Nothing (1993) while still a student at the University of Oxford.
The John Schlesinger-directed film was an adaptation of Stella Gibbons's novel and also featured Joanna Lumley, Eileen Atkins, Ian Mc Kellen, Rufus Sewell and Stephen Fry.
Beckinsale was initially considered too young, but was cast after she wrote a pleading letter to the director. He's the most outrageously talented person I've ever met." Beckinsale next starred in an ITV adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, playing Emma to Mark Strong's Mr Knightley and Samantha Morton's Harriet Smith.
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...