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The Real Reason Kate Beckinsale Won't Return For Underworld 6

As it crashed into cinemas at the tail end of 2003's summer movie season, "Underworld" vividly re-imagined what vampire fiction could be by positioning its blood-sucking beasts square in the middle of a full-blown action epic. In the process, it made a legit action superstar out of actress Kate Beckinsale. Perhaps more surprisingly, "Underworld" launched the vampires vs. werewolves franchise the cinematic world never knew it needed, and essentially put low-budget genre shingle Screen Gems on the Hollywood map.

To date, Screen Gems and their partners at Lakeshore Entertainment have produced three sequels and one prequel for their flagship franchise, and Kate Beckinsale has appeared as "Death Dealer" Selene in every single one of them. The most recent "Underworld" flick, subtitled "Blood Wars," hit theaters in 2016, and, well, let's just say it wasn't particularly well received by either critics (per Rotten Tomatoes) or audiences (via Box Office Mojo). 

That sort of performance rarely means great things for a movie series, and to further complicate the "Underworld" producers' potential dreams of Selene's future adventures, it appears that Beckinsale has joined the ranks of people who don't want anything to do with the franchise. In a 2018 Variety interview, the actress gave some candid remarks about certain roles she'd passed or, it turns out, had left behind. While addressing rumors she'd once been tapped to portray DC's Wonder Woman for a big-screen adaptation, she noted: "It would have been a terrible movie based on the script that I read." When asked about the possibility of making another "Underworld" movie, she was even more blunt. "I wouldn't return. I've done plenty of those."

Even by Hollywood standards, that curt response doesn't leave much wiggle room for the makers of "Underworld" to try and tempt their franchise star back into the latex for another round of Lycan throw-downs. 

Kate Beckinsale has a surprisingly robust indie movie history

If you're among the few "Underworld" fans who actually bought a ticket and experienced "Blood Wars" in theaters, you probably aren't too heartbroken over Beckinsale's outright dismissal. After all, "Blood Wars" really was a bit of a mess, and its less than enthusiastic reviews are enough to give an impression that the franchise itself might feel a bit long in the fang.

While Beckinsale didn't really address why she's ready to move on from "Underworld" for good — save, of course, for that "I've done plenty of those" dig — it's a reasonably safe bet that she's grown as weary of the franchise's neo-gothic escapades as critics and viewers seem to have. That's hardly a surprise, given that the actor was never really the blockbuster franchise sort. 

It's easy to forget, but Beckinsale actually came up in showbiz on the strength of her work in smaller-scaled projects like "Much Ado About Nothing," "The Golden Bowl," and "Laurel Canyon." In the years since her "Underworld" breakout, Beckinsale has continued to dip her toe in the indie cinema pool every once in a while, balancing these projects with larger-scale fare like "Click." For instance, Beckinsale's 2016 reunion with her "The Last Days of Disco" director Whit Stillman for the tragically underrated period piece, "Love & Friendship," earned rave reviews (per Rotten Tomatoes) ... and came out the same year as "Underworld: Blood Wars." Which career path would you choose?

Could Selene's outfit be why Kate Beckinsale was keen to leave Underworld behind?

Per a 2017 interview with Yahoo, while again addressing the rumors of her playing Wonder Woman, Beckinsale was quick to note that she is indeed a mom, and that her desire not to appear in Princess Diana's famously short-skirted outfit and embarrass her daughter for all eternity was just part of why she passed on the role. In her statement, Beckinsale clearly addressed her "Underworld" getup, as well.

"I don't know if I was desperate to be in a leotard. I'd already done the rubber trousers. You have to take in that you have a child at some point and how much could you possibly embarrass them."

It would seem, then, that Kate Beckinsale wasn't too keen on those "rubber trousers" throughout her "Underworld" tenure. Whether or not the thought of squeezing back into that skin-tight ensemble another time fueled Beckinsale's decision to leave the franchise for good remains a mystery, but it sounds like the pants may very well have factored into the process.

Age is definitely not a factor in her decision to move away from an action franchise

Whatever the reason behind Beckinsale's decision to leave the "Underworld" franchise is, one thing is certain: It definitely isn't because she's feeling too old for action roles. In a 2020 interview with Women's Health, the then 46-year-old actress discussed her healthy diet and action star-worthy fitness regime — and, indeed, her 2021 Amazon Prime Video action movie, "Jolt."  

"'It can feel like a little bit of a political act to be a woman over 32 who's having any fun at all," Beckinsale discussed the double standard between men's and women's aging. "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. And I witness men constantly doing whatever they like, whether that's in relationships, or deciding to buy a motorbike, or getting a tattoo."

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, "Jolt" turns this concept on its head. Beckinsale plays Lindy, a former bouncer with violent impulse control issues. "I explain, 'It's this woman who's got this rage disorder.' And every single woman has said, 'Oh. Me”" Beckinsale said. "Women are really f*****g angry right now."

This line of thinking may further explain why the actress has decided to leave the rather one-dimensional role (and rubber trousers) of Selene behind, and take her action chops to an environment that resonates with people. As she told Entertainment Weekly: "There's a small scene where some guy is like, 'Cheer up, love,' and [Lindy] just pushes his face into a wall. We've all had that urge!"

Kate Beckinsale's future is in complex and nuanced projects

Kate Beckinsale's recent and upcoming filmography makes her star-making role as Selene seem like the odd one out in her résumé. The actress seems to be building on the critical success of "Love & Friendship," and focusing on projects like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's autobiographical coming-of-age drama "Farming,"  and the Amazon Prime Original mystery drama "The Widow." 

According to Deadline, one of Beckinsale's more interesting upcoming projects is director Catherine Hardwicke's ("Lords of Dogtown") "Prisoner's Daughter," which Hardwicke makes clear is roughly as far from vampire action movies as you can get. "Mark Bacci's script is a raw, personal look at a deeply fractured family, similar to my first film, 'Thirteen'," the director revealed. "With 'Prisoner's Daughter', I want to fully immerse the viewer in Kate's character's intense world as she, her father and her young son try to heal generational family trauma and find a new way forward."

Perhaps this is the ultimate reason Beckinsale won't return for "Underworld 6:" She simply wants to star in projects like these instead. Beckinsale clearly has much to give on the acting front, and let's face it — five movies of stunts in a skin-tight costume is plenty for anyone. After all, as Beckinsale once told Yahoo! about her dedicated "Underworld" fans: "That's the wildest thing, especially because I grew up not expecting to do movies like this one."

Barring surprise recasts, spin-offs or reboots, Beckinsale's "Underworld" departure will likely signal the end of the franchise as we know it. Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing, it's exciting to see what she does with her career, with the world of vampires, Lycans, and "rubber trousers" now firmly in her past.