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HAMSTER; chops is the tops; Kate beats teeth agony to hook role.

Kate Beckinsale's full-lipped, sensual mouth and porcelain complexion have won her many fans - even among film directors.

So when she turned up to audition for the film Shooting Fish, director Stefan Schwarz had quite a shock.

For Kate had just been to the dentist for major treatment, and her face had swollen up like a hamster's.

"I'd just had my wisdom teeth out," says Kate, 27, her fine cheekbones now fully restored.

"I was also on very strong painkillers, so it was not the most conventional of meetings."

However, she still landed the part of Georgie - a posh medical student who gets caught up in scams organised by two conmen, played by American Dan Futterman and Dublin-born Stuart Townsend.

"It's a romp in which people do very odd things and make money in strange ways," says Kate, who bears a strong resemblance to her late father, Porridge star Richard Beckinsale.

"We were all over the place making this film. One day I'd be standing in a skip at Alexandra Palace in London, the next driving along a country road in a Rolls-Royce convertible singing Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

"When I told my boyfriend what I'd been doing he just looked bemused."

Kate's boyfriend is actor Michael Sheen, who stars alongside Stephen Fry in Wilde.

Kate and Michael met three years ago when they appeared in a stage production of The Seagull, and now live together in a West London flat. Having decided that Kate was right for his film, director Stefan Schwarz ordered her to have a haircut.

She says: "I've spent most of my career in bodices and corsets doing period drama and Stef wanted me to look like a woman of the nineties. And so.."

She points to her shaggy cropped hair styled by Nicky Clarke.

"It was shorter than this," she says. "I'd wanted to do it for ages and finally I had a reason."

Kate's new look was just one of the shocks for the Shooting Fish cast and crew, who were interrupted on location by an animal rights group demanding to know whether the fish were being properly treated.

In fact the film's title is just American slang for a swindle.

Kate adds: "Dan and Stuart tested out a scam on Oxford Street, selling dodgy perfume out of a suitcase.

"Stuart had to pretend to buy the perfume and then Dan, as the salesman, took his money and ran off with it. Apparently Dan was chased for ages by an old woman who kept yelling, 'You b*****d, give him back his money'."
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Grant, Brigit
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 16, 1997
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