LOS ANGELES — Although she was born into a respected British acting family and got her big break in an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," Kate Beckinsale has always been blessed — or cursed — with a knack for genre films. While films like "The Golden Bowl," "Nothing but the Truth" and "Laurel Canyon" have underperformed, the "Underworld" films have coupled with "Van Helsing" to make her the queen of fanged, sexy cinema.

This week, Beckinsale returns with "Whiteout," an ice-cold thriller based on the beloved 1998 comic book of the same name. Although she's traded in her leather bodysuit for a burly winter coat, geeks will still drool over her take on U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, an imperiled officer investigating a murder in Antarctica. But despite her status as a geek goddess, she told us recently that she wasn't even aware of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's graphic-novel series when she first learned about the gig.

"Joel Silver sent it to me and said, 'I really want to make a movie set in Antarctica. It's super exciting, and no one's ever seen it before,' and he was all riled up," Beckinsale laughed, remembering the energetic super-producer behind such blockbusters as the "Lethal Weapon" and "Matrix" films. "Joel's enthusiasm is incredibly infectious."

As for what made her want to play the main character, Beckinsale said that a different element gave her the same enthusiasm as Silver. "I like the fact that the character was this quite tortured, sort of funny person who has a funny point in her life where she won't be trusting anybody," she explained. "But the Antarctica thing was also cool."

To most of us, a few months in the freezing cold might sound a bit miserable. But for this hot Hollywood actress, it sounded like a cool idea.

"It was interesting. It was quite hard-going, actually — the first few weeks at least — because I had not been in minus-50-degree weather before, and it was surprisingly cold," she said of the shoot in Manitoba. "We got told all the different ways we can accidently kill ourselves — by taking off our coats too soon or too late or whatever. There was a lot of different ways you could come to a sticky end."

Check out everything we've got on "Whiteout."

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