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Comic-Con ’11: ‘Underworld: Awakening’ Interviews w/ Kate Beckinsale, Len Wiseman, New Directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein

Cast and crew of the latest installment in the Underworld series, subtitled Awakening, were on-hand at Comic-Con this weekend to discuss the new 3D sequel, which is set for release on January 20th next year. The film sees the return of original star Kate Beckinsale – who wasn’t in the last movie for obvious reasons – as the sexy, leather-clad vampire assassin Selene.

The drop-dead gorgeous star, wearing a short black dress that showed off her shapely, impressively toned legs, came by to chat with us briefly to discuss coming back to the franchise sans her Underworld 1 and 2 director (and now husband) Len Wiseman.

Underworld Awakening

Don’t forget, I’ve done two with Len and I did marry him and everything, so I quite liked him,” joked the actress. “So contemplating doing it without Len…that felt kind of funny.

“Awakening”, which takes place an undetermined amount of time after the second movie ended, has Selene waking (hence the title, I’m assuming) from a coma to discover a changed world.

I think the first part of the movie is…you’re sort of catching up, as she is, with everything that’s changed around her,” said Beckinsale. “The Underworld is no longer really under. [But] it’s boring to call a movie ‘World’, isn’t it? [Laughs] So it’s really a question of her waking up and going, ‘Where the hell am I, and what’s happening?’ And kind trying to figure…out who various significant people are.

She also admitted she’d never planned on coming back for a fourth film, but that the concept for the sequel was unique enough that she decided to hop on board.

Initially it was conceived as a trilogy, and the third one was always going to be a prequel,” she said. “And I think like everybody, I had, and Len had, and I think most people who are sensible have a slight allergy to a number ‘4’ coming after a movie title, cause it usually means it’s shit…So I think for us it was really a question of, you know, if you’re gonna take these characters…in order to make it sort of justifiable to make a movie, we really had to do something different and take it somewhere else, and not just continue exactly where we left off in the second one. So that’s really what I think clinched it for us, was that it was so different, there was so much new stuff going on.

Swedish directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, handpicked by Wiseman based on the strength of their 2005 dark fantasy film “Storm” to take the helm this time around, talked about the fresh perspective they tried to bring to the now-eight-year-old franchise, which was actually shot in 3D as opposed to post-converted.

This one is in 3D, so that presents some changes,” said Stein. “So we said let’s try to use some of the building blocks we have from the other ones, with the bluish kind of look, keep that, but this brings something else to it. So it had to be lit different and work different. And also the world we’re presenting…in this one, man has found out about [the underworld]…so we had to come up with a concept of how does this world look that doesn’t just feel like Pittsburgh, or New York, or whatever, but at the same time feels [like] a relative to the world [where] we’ve been. So that was the challenge, to kind of create that. New, but not too new.

When asked how much influence series creator Wiseman exerted over the shoot, Marlind told us that unlike on some projects – where a director-turned-producer micro-manages the production every step of the way – there was never a major butting of heads over the film’s creative direction.

Len’s a really, really, really nice guy, he’s not an asshole. So it’s never been a problem, and same goes [for] Kate,” he said, while adding: “But…yeah, we are the new kids in this family. Everybody’s [done all] three films. All the producers and so on. So when we want…to change something, we have to really, really sell it…so we had to gain a lot of respect.

There’s a different approach to how they would do a film versus even an American director that I was interested in,” said Wiseman. “There was a sensibility, too, there that they do all of their storyboards themselves…[that] just kind of connected with me [since] that’s what I did for the first film. And so the language of how they talked about how they would do the film, it was just something that was very familiar to me.

As for the 3D aspect, Wiseman admitted he was initially wary of it.

I’ll be completely honest that I was very skeptical of 3D,” he said. “At the time ‘Underworld’ was not greenlit as a 3D film…3D came into it months later after we were going through, and it took a lot of testing. Cause at the time there were not a lot of live-action 3D movies that were out to see. A lot of them were being made, everybody was talking about them, but nothing had been seen yet…nobody had really seen full live-action [3D] stuff. So I was very nervous about what the technology’s gonna be, is it gonna hurt the action?…You know, all these things.

Well, obviously he came around on the idea, which I’m sure was a purely creative decision and not at all one one made for commercial reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s not high art, it’s freaking “Underworld”. These are movies made to rake in the dough, not win awards or critical acclaim. And besides, Kate Beckinsale in leather AND 3D? I’m sure the fanboys will be just fine with it.



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