Vampire action-thrillers are Kate Beckinsale's nasty new niche. Last year, she vamped it up as a spooky heroine in Underworld. Next, she plays a vampire slayer opposite Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing (opening Friday). Has she gone all Buffy on us? The 30-year-old Brit denies it, insisting she doesn't even like all those fanged fiends she's been hanging with.

"I was so surprised to do any vampire movies at all, because I'm not into them," Beckinsale admits. "When I first got sent the script for Underworld, I didn't even want to read it."

So what motivated her return to this gory genre for Van Helsing? (Besides a bloody-good paycheck, we mean.) "When I got the script for [Van Helsing], even though it had vampires and werewolves in it, my character was so different," she enthuses. "First of all, I'm not a vampire myself. [My character's] a gypsy and passionate and human. It just seemed like a different role."

While Beckinsale wants "to keep going in different directions" in her career, she still plans to sink her teeth into an Underworld sequel. No surprise there, since she is engaged to director-writer Len Wiseman. Has her close proximity to the boss afforded her a sneak peek at the second installment? "I know he's working on scripts in the bathroom while I'm supposed to be doing something else," she laughs. "The first draft is under lock and key at the moment."