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WHY I AM STILL NOT MARRIED; Kate Beckinsale keeps dropping hints, but still her lover won't tie knot.

Byline: GILL PRINGLE EXCLUSIVE

SHE'S regarded as one of the sexiest women in the world, but Kate Beckinsale can't persuade her man to tie the knot.

Despite her gorgeous looks and bubbly personality, long-term partner, actor Michael Sheen, refuses to marry her.

Although the pair have been together eight years and have a two-and-a-half-year- old daughter, Lily, he won't pop the question.

Kate admits: "When I was doing the interviews for Pearl Harbor, everybody kept asking the same thing.

"And I was too embarrassed to admit I really didn't know why Michael hasn't got round to proposing to me yet. So I would make up stories like 'when Lily's old enough to be our flower girl, we'll get married'.

"But the truth is that Michael hasn't asked me to be his wife yet. I actually asked Michael outright, 'Why aren't we married yet?' I couldn't believe it when he said, 'Because every time I was going to ask you, you did something annoying'.

"So maybe if I can hold off being annoying for a while, then he'll finally ask me.

"But I should add that Michael is brilliant and wonderful."

Suggest to Kate, 28, that maybe she should propose to Michael, 33, instead, she slaps a hand over her mouth in mock horror: "Oh, no! I couldn't possibly. I'm much too lady-like for that. No, I'll wait it out. Besides, long engagements run in my family. My mother (actress Judy Loe) and stepfather (director Roy Battersby) only just got around to marrying after 16 years together."

The actress now finds herself fending off even more inquiries about love and destiny, since she plays a woman whose life changes overnight because of a romantic encounter in the feel-good comedy Serendipity alongside John Cusack. The flm opens in the UK on December 26.

"Oh, I absolutely do believe in serendipity and fate," she says. "When Michael and I first met, we discovered afterwards that we'd almost met each other 20 or 30 times.

"We'd lived in the same street in Paris. He was doing a play there and I was studying French while I was at Oxford. We'd actually been in the same lift a couple of times. We'd also been in London and New York at the same times, yet our paths had never crossed.

"I think we both felt we probably weren't ready for each other until we finally did meet." Chatting in the luxurious hotel surroundings, Kate expresses her delight to not be a guest of the hotel this time round - recently renting a fabulous high-rise apartment in Santa Monica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Lest anyone supposes she has "gone Hollywood", Kate is anxious to point out that her new home is just a temporary illusion; returning to the crashing reality of Nottingham early next year, where Michael begins work on his next film.

SHE says: "This is really our final year of travelling before Lily starts school. I don't want her to be plucked out of school to sit in movie trailers. I wouldn't do that to her.

"Lily is going to go to the same little primary school that I went to in west London and I'm just so happy that she's going to be there. The teacher who taught maths when I was there is now the headmistress.

"I might add that it's also very confusing for Lily when she witnesses what I do for a living, since she has accompanied me on every movie I've done since she was born.

"I mean, she's seen Mummy kissing an awful lot of boys. We'll have to talk about that when she gets older!"

Kate frowns when asked if she feels she may be missing out on all the fun to be had being Hollywood's current favourite leading lady by opting for domesticity.

She says: "Am I regretting it now? No. I feel so lucky. You catch your breath a bit and realise how terrifying it is to have a baby and a husband.

"Then I think, 'My God, imagine how it would be if I didn't have somebody who I knew really loved me, that I also love in return, and that I can go home to and have proper conversations with. I wouldn't trade my life with Michael and Lily for the world."

In Serendipity, she plays a happily-engaged young woman, plagued by doubts her fiance is not her true love, having 10 years earlier enjoyed a brief, unresolved, romantic encounter with another man.

She says emphatically: "I have no such doubts in my real life. Having met Michael before so much happened in my professional life was such a blessing.

"He and I have really ironed out each other's creases, and he has taught me so much. My stepfather always says to me that I was like Snow White and he got me out of the glass coffin, because I was so tortured.

"Yes, I do sometimes wonder what my life would like if I hadn't met Michael. God help me - I would probably be in a hospital for the criminally insane. We were both fairly crazy when we first met. We fought with each other for the first four years, so now we're having our honeymoon period.

"But don't get the wrong impression when I say I used to be crazy. It wasn't like I was taking drugs or anything.

"In fact, I probably never got into drugs because it wouldn't have ruffled any feathers at home. Growing up, my house was the one everybody came to smoke pot.

"My mother's biggest complaint was, 'Okay, you kids can smoke pot in my house, but I am not buying any more cereal', because there'd be 15 of my stepbrothers' friends chomping down Cheerios at 2am."

SHE added: "I was very intense and prone to be difficult. I had a very poetic side, and I think that probably Michael did, too.

"But the goal was always to progress from that and to meet somebody and make a great relationship. So it wasn't that I was some kind of wild child and then got tamed by some kind of svengali or anything. It's just that I met the right person.

Welsh-born Sheen also juggled his career with fatherhood, recently completing filming Four Feathers with Kate Hudson and Heath Ledger on location in England and Morocco. Kate says: "I always knew I was going to have a baby with Michael. A lot of the things that I found difficult in life were erased instantly as soon as I had Lily.

"Taking yourself out of the equation, particularly for actors, is very healthy. You don't have those midnight conversations with yourself anymore about things that aren't important, because you are dealing with the most important thing in the world."

Despite her joy at motherhood, Kate predicts there won't be any more babies on the horizon - at least for the time being.

She says: "Neither of us likes to leave Lily with anyone - apart from me and Michael, my mother, my best friend or anybody else we can coral from the family to bring with us. It's always such a military operation - and we've called in all our favours already.

"To be honest, I don't think you know what sort of parent you're going to be until you've got the baby.

"So I know that in the first two years, I don't really want to have to be held accountable by anybody but me - because baby comes first.

"Next time, I'd like to feel really ready to take a proper break - and I'm not really there yet, professionally.

"Plus, I put on so much weight in my first pregnancy that I can't face the prospect of having to go to the gym - which I hate - and lose another 60lbs. So, no more babies yet. Not for a while."

Whatever the size of her family, Kate needn't worry about her future finances, recently taking home a $1.3million pay cheque for starring alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Penelope Cruz in a Japanese hair product advert.

She says: "I am really blessed in that I don't have to worry about money, although that was never my criterion."

Kate, whose father, TV and stage actor Richard Beckinsale, died from a heart attack when she was just five, adds: "When you have parents who are as excited and fulfilled about their work as mine, it's a real inspiration to do the same thing.

"My father died when I was very young, but my mother never pushed me into acting. She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, except maybe a politician,

"I initially suffered a few disappointments. When I first got into the business I was quite shocked by how every single script had a scene where you peeled off your clothes. I refuse to go naked now.

"I haven't set out to be a star. I've not gone to premieres, parties and events.

"When my daughter was born, we weren't in Hello!. I find all the stuff that surrounds the business really scary - I'd throw up if I had to present an award."
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 5, 2001
Words:1522
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