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Enter the UNDERWORLD PDF Print E-mail
Written by by Lakeshore Entertainment and Screen Gems   
Jan 13, 2005 at 02:00 AM
For centuries, two races have evolved hidden deeply within human culture - the aristocratic, sophisticated Vampires, and the brutal, feral Lycans (werewolves). To humanity, their existence is no more than a whisper of a myth. But to each other, they are the lifelong mortal rivals, sworn to wage a secret war until only one race is left standing.

In the midst of this ongoing struggle, a Vampire warrior, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), discovers a Lycan plot to kidnap a young human doctor. After shadowing Michael (Scott Speedman) through the city, she forms an unprecedented bond with him, and when the Lycans make their next move, Selene is there to try to fend off their vicious assault.

As she races to save Michael and unravel the Lycan plot surrounding him, Selene discovers a secret that has terrifying repercussions for both tribes - a plot to awaken a new invincible species of predator that combines the strengths of both creatures and the weaknesses of neither, which threatens to tip the balance of power in favor of the werewolves, who have been on the losing end of the struggle for centuries.

Kate Beckinsale (Serendipity, Pearl Harbor) and Scott Speedman (Dark Blue, TV's Felicity) star in a sweeping tale of deadly action, ruthless intrigue and forbidden love, all set against the backdrop of an ancient feud between the two tribes in a timeless, Gothic metropolis.

Lakeshore Entertainment and Screen Gems present Underworld, produced by Lakeshore Chairman Tom Rosenberg, President Gary Lucchesi and Head of Production Richard S. Wright. The screenplay is by Danny McBride from a story by Len Wiseman, Danny McBride and Kevin Grevioux. The Director of Photography is Tony Pierce-Roberts (Disclosure, Howards End). The cutting edge werewolf creatures are designed and supervised by acclaimed special effects artist Patrick Tatopoulos, whose credits include Godzilla, Independence Day and Stuart Little. Academy Award winner Trefor Proud is key make-up artist (Topsy-Turvy).

The tradition of vampires and werewolves in Hollywood goes back to the beginning of film, but Underworld takes the myths deeper. Unbeknownst to the humanity around them, Vampires and Lycans (werewolves) have been engaged in a centuries-long battle for dominance in hidden sectors of the city. "This isn't drawn off a comic book or a novel," explains screenwriter Danny McBride. "This is from genre guys sitting together in a living room, wanting to create a universe, base it on science and bring vampires and werewolves into a new light."

One night while riding the subway, medical student Michael Corvin is caught in a fierce firefight between the two mysterious "gangs." He is spotted by a striking and sophisticated woman, the vampire warrior Selene.

Kate Beckinsale, who has garnered acclaim for diverse performances in films like Laurel Canyon, Serendipity and Pearl Harbor, takes on the intensely physical role of Selene, the sophisticated Vampire who is a top ranking member of the Death Dealers, an elite Vampire warrior class charged with hunting the Lycans into extinction. Selene's ferocity, says Beckinsale, is personal. "She's very much grounded as a character in the war," she says. "Her whole motivation is very emotional and involves having lost her whole family to the Lycans. In her job, she is committing constant revenge for that."

Neither side has ever had much use for people, preferring to avoid the dangers of close human contact. Her alarm raised, Selene informs the arrogant Vampire leader of the growing danger, but Kraven (Shane Brolly) dismisses the Lycans as no more than common street thugs and not a legitimate threat.

Disobeying orders to let it go, she steals away from Kraven's estate to shadow Michael through the city. In spite of her centuries of paramilitary training, she finds herself becoming curiously interested in Michael ? who, like all other humans, has no idea that Vampires or Lycans even exist. "Her personal crusade gets undermined when she meets Michael," says Beckinsale. "It's interesting to play a character who is off her feet a little bit, who suddenly has to think differently about things." Scott Speedman, who recently starred in the film Dark Blue after a long-running role in the TV drama Felicity, stars as Michael Corvin. Speedman describes him as a loner who is new to the city. "Michael's a guy who has suffered a great tragedy in his life," says Speedman. "His girlfriend has been killed in an accident. He's decided to take off to a different world where nobody knows him."

When the Lycans attack again, Selene takes on their most skilled fighters, but is unable to stop Michael from being bitten by the ruthless Lycan leader, Lucian (Michael Sheen). Sheen notes that Lucian is an ancient being that should not be underestimated. "He's centuries old," says the actor. "He has a very long history and a whole mythology tied to his connection with the Vampires from many, many centuries before when werewolves were slaves to the Vampires. Lucian has a huge hatred of Viktor, the Vampire overlord, especially."

Selene believes that Lucian is organizing a werewolf army intent on revenge after years of persecution at the hands of the arrogant Vampires. In her desperation for an ally, Selene awakens the Vampire leader Viktor (Bill Nighy) from his five-hundred-years sleep. "He's reawakened a century too soon and is not too pleased about that," comments Bill Nighy. "He thought they'd cleared up the werewolf trouble hundreds of years ago by killing everybody. But, in fact, that wasn't the case, and now the werewolves have regrouped and are threatening the vampire world." Nighy describes Viktor as "bigger, better, stronger, quicker, faster, more powerful than anyone else, so it should be a breeze. Selene awakens him because she believes he is not only all-powerful, but the force of good in the story."

But neither of the warring clans is fully prepared for the next revelation: Michael has not stumbled into their secret war by pure accident. He has a secret connection to both the Lycans and Vampires.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The genesis for Underworld began during a conversation about werewolf movies between director Len Wiseman and his friend Kevin Grevioux, who is a co-writer and plays the role of Raze in the film. "If it's the new werewolf film of the millennium, I want to see something different," says Wiseman.

Grevioux suggested creating a type of Romeo/Juliet story and instead of Montagues and Capulets, it would be werewolves and vampires. Further, his background in genetic engineering proved vital to the filmmakers' new take on these age-old legends. "We wanted to use science as a base rather than mysticism, so I created a virus which was the reason that vampires and werewolves became what they had finally become."

Wiseman adds that they eschewed the classic mystical associations of vampires with garlic and crosses. "I think if you take it down to a genetic state then you can really explain things," he says. "If it's about a genetic anomaly that creates these species or you're just dealing with a blood type that through the years has somehow been able to develop these species, then you can find ways to kill it. You can explore why silver affects this type of blood. Our vampires and werewolves are a little more grounded."

The filmmakers next enlisted screenwriter Danny McBride, who shares their love for the genre, to flesh out their ideas. "Danny really facilitated the process and got our ideas straight," says Grevioux.

From the outset, they were determined to have a gritty female central character whose arc would involve internal conflict. "To Danny and I it was refreshing to see a female in this role rather than a male," says Wiseman.

The project came to Lakeshore and was put together very quickly. As producer Gary Lucchesi points out, "Most of the time it takes two to three years to put a movie together, and this movie we put together in two to three months."

Wiseman's ability to articulate exactly how he wanted to make this film impressed everyone at Lakeshore Entertainment. As Lucchesi explains, "Len is a very eloquent guy. He comes from the world of production design, which I found rather interesting. He had apprenticed with Roland Emmerich and had worked at ILM. He was very committed to the atmosphere of the movie and felt that in a movie like Underworld, atmosphere was going to be a top priority in achieving what he wanted on screen. Producer Richard Wright adds, "Len is a very focused and hardworking guy. He has a bright new sensibility as a director."

With Lakeshore's history of working with first time feature directors, the support network was already in place for Underworld. As producer Tom Rosenberg points out, "One of the things we at Lakeshore are most proud of is that we've given a number of first time feature directors a chance. We had a very successful relationship with Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies) and have gone on to make three films with him; we have also recently worked with Paul McGuigan on Obsessed, so Len was a perfect fit." The next step was to find a cast that could give life to the characters the filmmakers created.

Kate Beckinsale had carved out a name in theatre and film but had not yet entered the genre. "Before Underworld, Kate was not somebody that you would expect to see running around toting a gun, wearing vampire teeth," says producer Wright.

"Kate didn't want to take a look at this script based simply on the fact that it was a werewolf movie and she told us that she wasn't interested," Wiseman says. "But her agent sent her the script anyway with all my drawings."

"Len had done these really fantastic drawings of Selene and the werewolves," Beckinsale remembers. "They were so cool and interesting and not old-fashioned gothic. They were really fresh and I thought ?Wow! That's interesting' and I read the script. It's not like a comic book where she does somersaults and isn't a real character. She's flesh and blood." Beckinsale's involvement helped paved the way for assembling a diverse cast of professionals. "Kate Beckinsale's fantastic. We were very fortunate that she agreed to star in this movie, says Lucchesi. Wright agrees, "Kate coming on board really legitimized the film and elevated its perceived status. We have a phenomenal cast of very talented actors and I think we owe that in large part to Kate coming aboard first."

The filmmakers also welcomed her collaboration, particularly with the character of Seline. "She was very passionate about the project," says Wiseman. "All of her ideas really gelled with our ideas and some of the things just made it so much better. We all wanted to make the best movie possible, regardless of genre." Comments McBride, "Kate is razor-sharp in this movie and I think she's going to blow people's socks off. Her acting is astounding, she looks amazing and she's doing a lot of these stunts herself. It is so out of the box from anything she's ever done. She has just breathed life into Selene and yanked her off the page - played with her like putty and created a slick, cool, complicated character." Wright goes on to explain what an arduous task the cast had in front of them. "This is not an easy movie to shoot, leastwise for Kate," he comments. "We have done all sorts of horrible things to her. We got her soaking wet, kept her outside in freezing cold weather and had her standing on top of an eight story building. But she's been a trooper and she's really soldiered through."

Beckinsale has nothing but praise for her experience making Underworld. "It's been an incredibly passionate, fantastic experience making the film," she says. Adding "I think it's been my favorite job so far, which is funny for me because I wasn't expecting to feel safe and secure on this film - because I'm slightly off my game, you know? But the fact that I do is a real achievement of Len's."

The next critical cast-member was Michael Corvin. Wiseman had seen Scott Speedman on the TV series Felicity and though he didn't put that together with this film, it was the actor's attitude toward the material that convinced the director. "Scott takes everything in this film seriously and wants it to be as real as possible," says Wiseman. Beckinsale concurs, "I think Len attracts people who are in it for the right reasons and Scott's another one who really just wants to work and do a great job."

Working on Underworld was a great new experience for Speedman ? not only a first with Wiseman but also the genre. "It's exciting to work with first time directors because they're not so set in their ways," he says. "Len seems very excited about what he's doing and has a lot of passion for this project. I think that will be evident in the movie. No matter what's going on and what pressures he's under he seems like he's really enjoying himself. He's a great talent and has got a real sense of style and a vision of his own."

As Michael transforms from human to werewolf, Speedman underwent arduous hours of prosthetic makeup application. "It took five hours to put it on and one night it took seven people an hour and a half to get it off," he recalls. "They were all preparing me to be bored and antsy, but it was actually a really interesting process to sit there and watch five people do this amazing work on your body."

Speedman wasn't the only actor to undergo hours of makeup. British veteran actor Bill Nighy, who plays Vampire overlord Viktor, had a similar experience being transformed from a mummified state to fleshed out ?human' Vampire. "I had no idea what ?prosthetic' meant until I got here and it means pain, a lot of it," he comments wryly. "But you can't hate them because they're really groovy guys; they're very nice and tremendously gifted at their jobs."

For the filmmakers Nighy was an ideal match for Viktor because of his ability to project a presence and sense of control. "Bill Nighy came in and I didn't know anything about him," Wiseman remembers. "He sat down and read and it was the only experience I've had where I was taping somebody and got lost behind the camera. He became the Viktor that you think about when you write. That was incredibly exciting." Comments Lucchesi, "Bill Nighy was a sensational find. He really gave gravitas to the whole movie." To play Lucian, the Lycan leader, the filmmakers enlisted stage actor Michael Sheen, who had recently performed four-year run in a London production of Amadeus in addition to appearing in The Four Feathers. "From from the very first time Michael came in to read, it was electrifying," comments screenwriter Danny McBride. "He brings exactly what we needed for Lucian, the weight, the control, and he's a seasoned pro."

Rounding out the main cast is Shane Brolly as Kraven, the arrogant and emotional Vampire leader whose own bid for dominance plays a key role in the fate of both tribes. "It's the hardest part I've had to play because there's so much going on in his brain," says Brolly. "Plus, I shout in every scene. So, when you shout for twelve hours, I don't know about you, but I need an Advil and a glass of wine ? or a glass of blood."

User Comments

Comment by Peter on 2015-10-22 21:50:37
No, they shouldn't have stpepod at one because it has a strong fan base that appreciates it and wants to see more. I personally think this is a terrific franchise and I hope Kate does a few more. This and the Resident Evil series have become iconic and unlike some film franchises have remained popular or have grown more popular. It's funny, I always read on this site how Angelina Jolie is the ONLY actress whom audiences will accept in action movies, and yet, the last Resident Evil worldwide outgrossed SALT. Nothing against Angelina, I think she's terrific and I enjoyed SALT (Though she needs to start eating again), but these more modest action fantasies have solidified both Kate and Mila as iconic action heroes. They will be wise to keep these franchises going as long as they can while making other things in between. Not many actors (and even fewer actresses) are fortunate enough to become icons with their own series of films. The thing that I find odd is that HAYWIRE is coming out on the same day as this. Who the heck over at Relativity thought that was a good idea? It's not like we get tons of female lead actioners every year. You would think they could find another weekend for their movie. At best they will be limited the gross of both pictures, at worst (and most likely), they are just commiting suicide. And I don't care how many critics give it a good review just because Soderbergh made it. I'll be seeing both films but I'm hardly a normal film goer. Heck, I'll be seeing RED TAILS too. But wow. Three action movies on the same day? It's these kind of decisions that help contribute to dwindling box office.

Comment by Amanda on 2015-10-23 04:52:54
I can't wait to watch this!!! Just last month I watched the Trilogy of Underworld. And thknas to your post that there's the 4th new one. You're totally right a must see movie! And to those guys who wants to watch this, watch first the first 3 movies. So you will understand.

Comment by Tax on 2015-10-24 19:02:40
Oooh, looks cool I'm always up for a good vmpriae/werewolf movie. I don't know if I caught all of the first three yet but the ones I have seen were pretty cool. http://vtaxrnquw.com [url=http://bczpjsikd.com]bczpjsikd[/url] [link=http://igemnnpqbci.com]igemnnpqbci[/link]

Comment by Pereteli on 2015-10-26 07:00:48
If the movies make 20-30 milioln to make and bring in an average of 100 milioln per why shouldn't they make them? BTW, I enjoy these movies, they are a LOT better then Twilight. VAMPIRES DO NOT GLITTER IN THE SUN, THEY BURN UP AND DIE!

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