British beauty Kate Beckinsale has always avoided typecasting by acting in both English indies and Hollywood blockbusters. But suddenly, this 30-year-old Pearl Harbor vet is becoming the go-to vampire starlet: Moviegoers will find her flashing her fangs in Underworld — opening Friday — and hunting bloodsuckers with Hugh Jackman in next summer's Van Helsing. How odd for an actress who initially turned up her nose at the whole vamp genre.

"I was a little bit prejudiced about vampire movies," admits Beckinsale, who's now engaged to Underworld director Len Wiseman. "I didn't fancy running around in a nightgown and waving garlic and getting my neck bit. Then, I got [the script] and it was a cool comic-book action movie, with a girl who looked like she was a proper action hero."

Looking the undead part in Underworld meant forgetting all about those distressed damsel nightgowns. No, this dominant lady's clad in skintight black latex — and loving it. "It was like a condom with sleeves!" Beckinsale laughs. "The only restrictive thing was the corset, but I'm accustomed to wearing a corset in English movies."

It's good thing, too, because as a warrior battling werewolves in modern-day Budapest, she really had to move in that getup. "I had two or three months of wire training, guns, boxing and yoga and all those good things that English people don't like," she says. "It was a life-changing experience... As a woman, I realized I was quite inhibited, physically... Suddenly, I have to be realistically beating up three men!

"You get, for a couple of months afterwards, a completely false sense of yourself as a total badass — which is dangerous," Beckinsale adds. "Luckily, I have four brothers and a lot of male friends. 'Cause you go home and you're like, 'Come on, come on, wrestle me!' And they always still win."