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Kate Beckinsale kicking butt in 2012

Kate Beckinsale battles foes while garbed tight leather catsuit “Underworld Awakening” fourth installment her hit franchise.

Kate Beckinsale battles foes while garbed in a tight leather catsuit in “Underworld Awakening,” the fourth installment of her hit franchise.

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Updated: February 16, 2012 8:11AM

LOS ANGELES — Kate Beckinsale is just a harried mom. She’s trying hard to convince you of that fact today despite the 10-foot billboard of her in the tightest leather catsuit known to womankind overlooking greater L.A.

Is this your average stint at motherhood in 2012?

“I have a very strange existence,” she says. “One minute, I’m in the carpool lane with my daughter. The next minute I’m fighting zombies and werewolves in constricting leather.

“Then I’ll walk around Los Angeles and men, complete strangers, will walk up to me and say, ‘I just loved you in that romantic comedy ‘Serendipity’,” she marvels.

There are no kissy-faced interludes with the creatures in the fourth installment of her hit franchise called “Underworld Awakening” which opens Friday. In fact, she’s also staging her own little coup of Hollywood this year.

She also stars in the new thriller “Contraband” with Mark Wahlberg and soon will have some catfights with Jessica Biel in a remake of “Total Recall,” where the shots were called by her husband, Len Wiseman.

He’s the one who put her in the “Underworld” films as kick-butt Selene.

“The funny part of me being in an action film is that I was never the big jock in high school. I was the one who was very literal-minded and had her head buried in a book,” says Beckinsale, who studied French and Russian literature at Oxford, no less.

“But I do have to say that I’m grateful to the ‘Underworld’ series because this character got me out of my own head in the best possible sense.

“It’s great to get out of your own mind and focus on something as exhilarating as a monster chasing you. For me, that was like learning a new skill, which as an adult is a very rare thing to do.

“I’ll never forget the first time I was handed a gun for one of these films and said, ‘You have to be kidding me’,” she says with a warm laugh. “I was like, ‘Really? I’m the one you want fighting some zombies?’ ”

Beckinsale was her own worst enemy. “I nearly broke my hand the first time I had to deliver a punch on screen. It’s true that many women and many men don’t know that you should never tuck in your thumb when throwing a punch.”

Beckinsale wasn’t sure about doing another “Underworld.” She skipped the 2009 prequel “Rise of the Lycans.”

“You have to worry about a film with a 4, 5 or above in the title,” she says. “But I really love this character, and this was a great script where we find out that after a very deep sleep this woman actually has a child.”

Equally interesting was remaking “Total Recall,” where she will play the bad-girl villain who Sharon Stone portrayed in a star-making turn in the 1990 original.

“I do fight with Jessica, and it’s brutal, but we’re women. So there was a twist. When you fight a guy in a movie, it’s a case of being told to let them have it.

“When two women fight on screen, I was so worried, thinking, ‘I don’t want to mess up her nose’,” she says. “That said, it’s a great fight. I am the bad guy here, so I’m brutal, but I will go on the record to say that Jessica Biel gives as good as she gets.

“Still, I was like, ‘Don’t want to rip out any hair. On ‘Underworld,’ I’m used to fighting with big, burly stuntmen. They’re not breakable.”

All this action doesn’t mean she’s abandoning drama. Taking a role in “Contraband” was a nice diversion from the fists flying.

“I play Mark Wahlberg’s wife. He used to smuggle things for money, and let’s just say that my brother in the film gets us both in trouble,” she says.

At 38, the gorgeous Brit says that sailing toward her 40s hasn’t had an impact on her career.

Ask for her anti-aging secrets and she laughs. “Yoga, yoga, yoga. Plus, it just helps to grow up in England, where I think there have only been two sunny days my entire life.”

Big Picture News Inc.

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