Scheduled for release on January 20th, Underworld: Awakening is the upcoming fourth entry in the successful action/horror franchise that has so far grossed nearly $300 million worldwide. Shot in 3D and boasting the return of Kate Beckinsale to the role of Selene, the film is being directed by Swedish duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, representing their first outing at the helm of the series.
Back in May I visited the Vancouver set of the film to get a look at some of the action and interview cast and crew including Beckinsale, Marlind & Stein, new cast member Michael Ealy, and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide. In the process I was given a look into the relatively fraught production, which began principal photography without a finished script and was allegedly operating on a rather tight shooting schedule.
Also in the mix will be a discussion of this installment’s new features, including a twelve-foot-tall “uber-lycan”, a half-vampire/half-werewolf girl named Eve, the addition of a “Big Brother”-esque biotech company called Antigen, and perhaps a more ferocious Selene than you’ve ever witnessed before.
See inside for the full set report.
“I feel like I am the grandma of vampires now. At the time [of the first 'Underworld', there hadn't been vampires and werewolves in the same movie. Remember when that was a new concept?" - Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale sat at the head of the table, that famous black latex catsuit and accompanying leather corset hugging every angle of her curvaceous body. She was stunningly beautiful, of course - the kind of woman who can easily hold any straight man in the palm of her hand, and likely more than a few gay ones as well.
In spite of myself, I couldn't help but be drawn in by her: the coy, brilliant white smile; the slightly devilish twinkle in her eye; the soothing softness of her voice, every word rolling off her tongue in that pristine English diction.
If we'd been assembled in a cartoon world, obscenely wagging tongues and bugged-out eyes would've no doubt been the rule among the dozen or so male journalists sitting before her. Or perhaps puddles of drool, spilling over the lip of the table and dribbling onto the floor.
We were there, of course, to visit the Vancouver set of Underworld: Awakening, the fourth film and second sequel in the popular action/horror franchise (the third entry, Rise of the Lycans, functioned as a prequel). Although it was May the weather outside was bone-chillingly cold, with intermittent rain and gusts of wind that cut right through the thin layers of clothing I'd armed myself with. I clearly hadn't gotten the memo that in Vancouver, spring isn't necessarily in the cards.
So here we were, an all-male group of rumpled journalists, chatting with Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive" circa 2009 in a gloomy wood-paneled room at Simon Fraser University (actually located just outside Vancouver in the nearby town of Burnaby.) For whatever reason I'd expected her to be fairly cold and standoffish - the whole "British" thing, I suppose - but instead she was gracious and friendly and...well, perhaps even a little bit of a flirt.
"I really wasn't intending to do another one," she said of slipping into her role as vampire assassin Selene for a third time. "I kind of always heard that it was a trilogy and that was that. I didn't like the idea of rehashing the same old thing too much. ...I've never played the same part even twice before. So I thought that doing it for the third time was like, 'Where would you take it where it is worth doing?'"
What ultimately sold Beckinsale on the project was the idea of giving Selene a daughter - a half-vampire/half-lycan cross-breed named Eve.
"What is interesting during the movie is that the circumstances in which Selene has a child are such that...she isn't even aware that it has happened," she told us. "We go on that journey with her where someone who isn't necessarily your most maternal type finding that she not only has a child, but it is a relatively quite a big child."
By "big", Beckinsale is referring to the fact that Selene doesn't actually even meet Eve (played by India Eisley, Olivia Hussey's daughter) until the girl is already 14 years old. That's because for the last 15 years Selene has been suspended in involuntary cryogenic sleep, only now awaking to a radically-altered world in which vampires and lycans have been hunted to near extinction by humans (a development that will be established in a brief ten-minute prologue at the beginning of the film).
One vital component in man's quest to rid the world of the supernatural creatures comes courtesy of a biotech company called Antigen, which has developed a method to test people for the presence of vampire or lycan DNA. As a result of this, over the last 15 years the company has transformed into an all-powerful "Big Brother" type entity, ruling the new world into which Selene re-emerges with an iron authority.
Antigen may also have been responsible for Selene's initial capture and subsequent cryogenic confinement, and the film is partially structured as a mystery as she attempts to figure out exactly what happened to her and why.
"[I liked] the fact that it opened up the world a lot and had it come into the real [human] world,” said Beckinsale. “[And] the whole presence with a daughter was such a different take that I was sort of going, ‘Okay. That is interesting.’”
Also introduced in the film is a twelve foot tall “uber-lycan” hybrid, created by Antigen for some unknown purpose. The creature (which Selene goes “mano a mano” with in the big climax) will be fully rendered in CGI, a fact Beckinsale admitted she was somewhat disheartened by.
“I was a bit sad about it just because I think one of the features of ‘Underworld’ is that we have pretty much done everything practically so far,” she said, while also acknowledging the obvious difficulties of pulling off such a large creature practically. That said, as in previous Underworld films there will still be a plethora of flesh-and-blood suit actors in the mix.
In addition to this being Beckinsale’s third time out as Selene, it’s also her first time out sans Underworld 1 & 2 director/husband Len Wiseman at the helm. Replacing him is Swedish directing duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, who previously co-helmed the 2005 horror/fantasy film Storm and the as-yet-unreleased-in-the-U.S. supernatural thriller Shelter, which stars Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
“We’ve known each other since we were like eight or nine, and I think we did out first movie together when we were fifteen,” said Marlind when we spoke with him and Stein on set during a break from filming. “It was called ‘Wednesday The 11th’. It was not a classic.”
Though most directing duos work side-by-side on set throughout principal photography, Marlind and Stein actually switch off days so that the one taking the helm is always refreshed. It’s an arrangement I’d never heard of before, but when you consider the incredible rigors of the production process it actually does make an odd sort of sense.
“When we prep, we’re next to each other all the time…and we do all the storyboards and we do all the meetings and decide the vision of the film together,” said Marlind, the “long-haired” one with a perpetual scarf wrapped around his neck. “But then, when we shoot, we do every second day and when Bjorn directs I’m his ‘best buddy’, which means I’m just there for him [in case he needs me] because war is totally fucking hell, you know?
“‘Best buddy means that I’m helping him and sometimes I can tell him, ‘You’ve got it… move on’ or ‘Maybe you should punch in here and get a closer thing,’” he continued. “Also, the thing is… I’m prepared to talk to producers or the production designer while he’s taking care of the fire of the day. And the next day, we change. Then, I’m directing and he’s my ‘best buddy’.”
The only downside to the arrangement?
“Money,” said Marlind. “We share everything. But we’re from Sweden, which is almost a Socialistic country, so…[laughs]”
With the mother/daughter aspect of the plot, the directors (who count The Shining, Audition, Robert Wise’s The Haunting, and, er…Friday the 13th Part II among their horror-movie influences) are also hoping to add a new, more sentimental layer to the Underworld universe this time around.
“We really, really love the hardcore action and all of the blood and all of the guts, but we also love the emotional things and the things that touch you, and makes you care. Not just go, ‘Wow!’ but [that make] you want to cry,” said Marlind. “So, I think we’re going to see a new side of Selene in this film, a much softer and a much more emotional Selene.“
Not that she won’t still be kicking some major ass, however. As pointed out by the directors, maternal instincts can lead a woman to become even more ferocious than she would be otherwise if she feels her child is threatened. Noted Stein: “You become more fragile, but you also become more defensive.”
“Like a tigress,” added Marlind. “She’s more brutal in this one than you’ve ever seen.“
On the technical side, the film was shot in 3D with RED’s currently-hot EPIC cameras, and it will be the second EPIC-shot movie, after David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake this December, to hit theaters.
“This is the first time I’m impressed, actually, [by] a video camera, a digital camera, and it’s quite amazing,” said Stein (essentially Marlind’s clean-cut, baby-faced double), who noted they’ve only ever shot on film. “As we have it right now, it is almost too good because, in movies, you want to hide some stuff because it’s an illusion and digital shows fucking everything. The resolution is awesome. We just saw yesterday tests on a big screen because…we haven’t really seen any good 3D films yet that technically work.”
“Well, except for ‘Avatar’,” noted Marlind.
“Yes! ‘Avatar’ works, but they spent an exorbitant amount and that’s something else,” responded Stein. “It’s also very much a CG environment. But, with this one, you don’t get the artifacts – the ‘ghosting’ [when an image meant for one eye bleeds over into images meant for the other eye, thereby creating a double image] – and all those problems you can have with 3D. We saw none of it and, for us at least watching these scenes, it’s like watching a movie that [just] happens to be 3D and I think the EPICs are helping that because of the resolution.”
Of course, when you’re handed directing duties on a sequel to an established franchise, there’s a fine line between crafting your own vision for the film and veering too far off the beaten path. Marlind and Stein appeared to recognize that.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Stein. “For us, [we're] just trying to keep it in the zone of the previous films and yet we bring out own personalities to it and, as I said, it’s also 3D, so it will feel different no matter what we do. But, I mean… We’re not going one-eighty in the total other direction in terms of the moods of the film.”
“We are fans of these films before we even knew we were going to direct it,“ said Marlind. “So, we respect the films and we respect the people that love these films. So, it’s not about, ‘Hey, you know what? She’s gonna wear pink the whole movie, Fuck you!’ Her dress… We spent weeks talking about…her new coat. Those things are important, you know? And we spent weeks talking about the guns. ‘What are her new guns going to look like?’ The details are really, really important… and that’s for the fans.“
The script was sent to the directors by their agents at CAA, and, immediately responding to it, the duo wrote up a pitch for the film and got it into the hands of Wiseman and franchise producer Gary Lucchesi. Impressed by their treatment, the two Underworld decision-makers became even more interested after watching Storm, also a very dark film with, in Stein’s words, “a tough, kick-ass chick” as one of the central characters.
After going through several rounds of meetings Marlind and Stein finally landed the job, though they felt the script still needed quite a bit of work. The task then became to whip it into proper shape in the two-month period left before the start of production.
“The general ideas were there, and the big story was there, but I don’t think anybody was super-happy with that script,” said Marlind, who along with Stein, Wiseman, Lucchesi, and a new screenwriter set about extensively rewriting the script. “We actually got the new ending a week ago, so it’s been in constant [flux]. But yeah, [it's] a lot [different].”
The tone of the script was a major factor in the creative team’s decision to give it an overhaul. In their view, the original screenwriter simply didn’t take the world seriously enough, injecting too much irony into a franchise that has remained almost completely humorless in its approach up to this point.
“Although it’s cool and fun and everything, these guys, they bleed and they die, and it’s almost Shakespeare how they are these vampires, and you have to take it seriously although it’s entertainment,“ said Marlind. “You can’t say to Kate, ‘Walk up there and be fucking cool.’ You have to tell her why. ‘Your daughter is burning in there.’ So I think we had to beat the script so it felt like it touched you and is not just popcorn.”
To keep the film free of the “wink-wink” tone of the original script, Marlind and Stein also made a decision to keep this installment free of any obvious homages to the first two movies. Nevertheless, astute fans will still notice a couple of brief moments that nod ever-so-slightly to the franchise’s past without peddling in overt references.
“I think there’s some iconic shots from ‘Underworld’ that we took and reversed them, flipped them around, so I think that fans will recognize them, but it won’t be the same thing,” said Marlind. “You know the [scene in the first movie] when [Selene] makes a hole when she shoots downwards, right?. …And she falls through and the Lycans miss her? So we’re playing with that, but instead, there’s an elevator rushing down towards her that the cables are cut, so it’s coming down really fast and she’s at the bottom of the elevator shaft and she’s fighting a Lycan and she [shoots] like a hole [in the bottom of the elevator]…that gag is really really badass.“
The overall look of the film, meanwhile, will pay homage to an architectural style known as “brutalism” that originally became popular in the 1950s. Marlind and Stein felt it was important to change up the aesthetics of the world in this one, particularly given that this sequel is the first of the Underworld movies to take place mostly above-ground.
“The first film is shot in Eastern Europe and has that gothic feel and an old look to it, and this one is more in man’s world, so were saying, ‘How does man’s world look?’” said Stein. “There’s an architectural design called brutalism, which is what we’re sitting in right now. You see all these concrete slabs and very hard angles and everything, and it’s actually something that exists a lot in Eastern Europe as well.”
Though Vancouver, where the second film was largely shot on soundstages, is an attractive filming location for financial reasons (i.e. tax incentives) alone, Stein and Marlind also found that it just so happens to boast quite a few structures in the brutalism tradition.
“We actually came up with the idea and then just took a look around and just said, ‘Fuck, there’s a lot of brutalistic architecture in Vancouver,’” continued Stein. “So it wasn’t that that brought us to Vancouver. We just happened to find something that exists quite a lot over here.”
“We said we want neo-goth, we want some new kind of goth, and the brutalism, see these squares?” said Marlind, pointing to one of the university buildings behind us. “We love them. That was the new cathedrals, the heavy, heavy concrete and stuff like that. There’s a rawness in it that we saw. ‘Oh, this is goth, but it’s a different goth.’ It’s almost like if the first one was Sisters of Mercy, this is more Nine Inch Nails.“
Marlind did note, however, that a few parts of the film will evoke a more traditionally “gothic” atmosphere, including an emotional scene in which Selene talks to Eve in the vampire’s underground coven (in a set built beneath Vancouver’s Cleveland Dam).
“[It's] one of the coolest places in Vancouver, very brutalistic,” he said. “While [Bjorn was] directing it, I saw there was candles burning and I was like, ‘It can’t be fucking more gothic, you know?’ We had these two beautiful women, they’re both vampires and there’s candles burning. So we do deliver a lot of gothic things that are pure gothic.”
We witnessed the filming of two different setups during our visit, the first of which involved Beckinsale (or one of her seemingly endless parade of stand-ins, depending on the angle of the shot) walking up an outdoor stairwell toward “Antigen headquarters” (represented by one of the university’s more imposing-looking buildings) in full Selene regalia, and then turning as she senses someone or something approaching from behind.
“It is towards the end of the movie. I have a cunning plan of getting everyone to chase me so that I can cause mayhem,” said Beckinsale. “It’s not a great day for you to see. It is kind of a boring day.”
She wasn’t kidding. Take after take had Beckinsale or one of her stand-ins walking purposefully up the steps and then stopping in their tracks…slowly turning…and then heading back down the stairs to start all over again. Our group stood and watched a couple dozen feet away, buffeted by the icy wind – its cruel relentless made all the worse due to the university’s chilly mountaintop location. Of course, as opposed to the poor cast and crew, we were only forced to endure the freezing weather for a few short hours.
Richard S. Wright, on the other hand, clearly had bigger things on his mind than the frigid weather.
“This show has been a very difficult show,” said Wright when he stopped by to chat with us (“show” being a term often used by crew members on movie sets). “They’re all difficult, there’s no such thing as an easy movie, [but] this one is still an unusually complicated [one].”
If I’m being honest, what came through in our conversation with Wright was his rather obvious annoyance at the unusual directing methods of Marlind and Stern, which he seemed baffled by even several weeks into production.
“I’ve never heard of this before, I didn’t think it was going to work, it sure is confusing,” he said wearily of the “you direct one day, I direct the other” strategy employed by the duo. “But the way that you extract magic out of people’s minds, it’s not logical, it’s not rational. And sometimes you have to put up with stuff that just drives you completely crazy in order to get that magical essence out of them.”
“Filmmaking, in its best form, it is a benign dictatorship. The person in charge is the person in charge, and every creative decision is routed through that one person…the filmmaking system of today has evolved to treat the director as that person through whom everything has to go. And we have a much more devolved process than that. And it is confusing. I can’t tell you the number of times the prop person has come up to one of the directors and said, ‘Yeah, well, we’ve got this…’, and he’s [like], ‘No, no, no, I’m not the person today, you’ll have to go talk to the other guy about that.’”
Of course, as a seasoned Hollywood producer Wright clearly recognized the need to temper his earlier comments with a note of even-handedness (even if his true feelings seemed rather less politic than that).
“They have shown themselves to be very, very adaptable,” he said. “The other thing that having two directors does is…directing is incredibly stressful, every single thing, all day, is going through your head, and it is very, very hard to keep a clear picture of where you are in the script, and whether she should be more upset here, or less upset…and when every other day you’re taking a day off it really helps you keep a clear head all the way through. I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody as a way to do every movie, but there is certainly a value to it.”
Also of value to Wright was the continued involvement of Wiseman in the project – even as he went about prepping Total Recall in Toronto. According to Wright, the writer/director somehow made himself available to rewrite scenes at a moment’s notice.
“There have been a number of occasions over the last six or eight weeks where we’ve had to rewrite scenes, and Len’s rewritten all of them, even though he’s directing another movie,” said Wright. “I can’t even believe [it]…that guy must never sleep. We’ll call him at 11 o’clock at night and say, ‘Oh god, we’ve got this problem, we’re shooting tomorrow…what are we going to do?’ And [at] seven o’clock in the morning you’ll look in your email and there will be the scene.
“So Len is very, very much part of the process,” he continued. “We have a daily system called Pix, which a lot of people use now, which effectively puts your dailies [the raw, unedited footage from the previous day's shoot] onto a server and people with passwords can log in and watch your dailies. And invariably the first person to comment on all the dailies we’ve shot is Len.”
As for shooting Awakening in 3D, Wright indicated that Sony simply wouldn’t agree to greenlight the project as a 2D film – a reminder of just how ubiquitous the format has become.
“That was one of the conditions for making the film,” he told us. “Sony, the studio, the main financier and the main distributor of the film…because they’re Sony…an electronic manufacturer, [they have] a vested interest in 3D, they’ve put their entire weight behind 3D, and I think pretty much everything Sony is shooting now, certainly all the tent poles, are all 3D. So it was never a question: we were going to be shooting a 3D movie.“
Thankfully, one thing you’ll always be able to count on in the Underworld franchise is a strict adherence to the R-rating.
“This film is not going to be a PG-13 movie, it’s going to be an R – ‘Underworld’ films have always been R,” Wright assured us. “That’s what people expect. There was a time, well, there is a time, now, when people think a PG-13 action film or even a horror film will do more business…that’s not this one. There’s plenty of hardcore blood and guts in this one. No one will be disappointed.“
A vital component of the first two movies, in-demand stunt coordinator Brad Martin returned to the franchise after a Rise of the Lycans sabbatical for this fourth installment, and we had the opportunity to briefly speak with him about the evolution of the series (no pun intended) since he signed on to the first film eight years ago. Outside of the 3D aspect, which forced him to rethink the logistics of some of the stunt work, perhaps the biggest change has come in the franchise’s increasing reliance on CGI effects.
“The first ‘Underworld’ was founded on doing everything practically,” he told us. “That was really cool. The second one held out and most of the time was mostly practical. In the third one, there was a lot of CG in there although I wasn’t a part of [the movie].
“In this one, it’s quite a bit more CG than I would ever have hoped,” he continued. “But there’s only so much you can do with a twelve foot werewolf and some of the shots that we want. So, sometimes I find it a saving grace. Even though it wasn’t the tone of what we wanted to do, it helps us sometimes, most definitely, and the CG is getting so much better nowadays. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
The heavier use of CGI has also inevitably cut down a bit on the amount of stunt work required for the werewolf suit performers, who fall under Martin’s jurisdiction.
“Sometimes I feel a bit limited as to what we can do [with the lycans], but once in a while we’re able to find some money to do some CG werewolves and we can actually do something that’s quite cool with them,” he said. “Unfortunately, the guys in the suits can only do so much.”
According to Martin the film contains three major action set pieces, the first of which takes place in the prologue and shows us a more uncompromising side of Selene than we’ve ever seen before.
“The opening battle that we did with Selene coming out before she gets jettisoned into the future was quite memorable,” he said. “There was a great battle scene where we see Selene at her finest. We get to see her take out humans which is the first time we’ve seen that. We really get to see the true nature of what she’s all about.“
Other than that…
“The second [action set piece] is The Coven, where we built this medieval underground set under a waterfall…where all the vampires live,” said Martin. “The werewolves have tracked them down now and found out where they live…not realizing that the werewolves are still alive, the vampires are getting invaded by the werewolves and they come down into this underground set, which is really quite cool.
“The last set piece is going to be down in Coal Harbor [in Vancouver] and is basically a parking structure of Antigen which is where we are right now,” he continued, referring to the current day’s shoot. “There’s another section where we’re supposed to be in the [Antigen] medical facility and there’s a big fight down in this very cool looking garage. Those are the big sets. The Coven is probably the biggest set piece we built, but because of budgetary purposes we could only build so much.”
The man responsible for Awakening‘s visual effects is James McQuaide, who also worked on the three previous Underworld entries. He discussed the difficulties of working both in the 3D format and also with a state-of-the-art camera that not only exposes virtually every flaw with respect to the human actors, but also every flaw in the special effects.
“There is no place to hide,” McQuaide lamented. “A lot of the tricks you could do in 2D you can’t get away with, and then you have a cam that sees absolutely everything. So there is no fudging. The creatures in this picture are either going to look spot-on photo real or they’re not. There’s no sort of relying on the softness of film to be your friend, which we all relied on for years.”
He also described to us a new brand of werewolf known as “tunnel lycans“, essentially regular lycans derived of nourishment after being forced into hiding by human hunters.
“[They] are very much like lycans, but haven’t had a meal in a decade, so they’re quite scrawny,” he said, before moving on to a discussion of the film’s aforementioned special effects centerpiece: “And then we have this uber-lycan, which is a little bit scary. It’s a twelve-foot creature, so you’re sort of getting into that ‘Hulk’ world, where, as we’ve seen before, things can go awry. It’s not big enough to be King Kong or truly something fantastical, it’s just a little bit bigger than what we’d normally see in your daily life.”
“Just as a reference, we did a big styrofoam head to scale,” he continued. “And it’s enormous. The head is like five feet across or something. And you start imagining a creature that size fighting Kate. No matter how badass Kate is, you have to figure out how to make it believable that she can take on something like that and not simply get squashed, So that’s gonna be an interesting challenge going into the post[-production] period.“
Though McQuaide admitted that the films have used progressively more CGI with each subsequent entry, the mandate is still to try and use practical methods whenever possible.
“Visual effects have gotten progressively better, so the opportunity to do more in CG is there, but for the most part philosophically you sort of stick to the old company line about ‘Let’s try to figure out how we can to these [werewolf] suits practically, and enhance them in CG if we need to’,” he said. “So that’s kind of what we’re gonna try to do here. Obviously, best intentions don’t always pay off. We have a very short schedule production-wise, so things don’t necessarily work first take. If we don’t have time to do a second take, we’re gonna have to go back in there and either completely re-create it in CG or fix up something that didn’t quite work practically.
“Obviously, creatures in all the ‘Underworld’ movies relied on suits to a large degree,” he continued. “[With] the ubers that’s not possible, at twelve feet high. The tunnel lycans aren’t possible [to do practically] because they’re supposed to be quite thin, so no matter who we hired to play the tunnel lycan, we’d be stuck with a human waist, and that just wasn’t gonna work with the design that [creature designer] Patrick Tatopolous came up with. So that’s gonna be full CG.”
McQuaide also brought up that little issue of the script not being completely written yet by the start of the principal photography, which obviously made his job (not to mention the jobs of everyone else on the production) that much more difficult.
“To put the cards on the table, the script came in late and we’ve been sort of making up stuff as we go along,“ he confessed. “I know what I have to do at this point, but…as you get to post on all these movies you suddenly realize ‘oh my god, we need X, Y and Z’, and that’s the big question mark now for me.”
Regardless of the numerous setbacks on the project, McQuaide admitted he was excited to be working on the film, arguably the largest-scale of any of the Underworld movies to date. He was particularly excited about having Kate back in the fold, which I’m sure had nothing at all to do with getting to see her run around in latex again.
“The last 45 minutes are one action sequence and it just goes on and on and on, which is going to be, I think, quite cool,“ he said. “And it’s great to have Kate back. ‘Underworld 3′ was fantastic, but Kate really in many ways defines this franchise. To have her back with us is quite brilliant – I think the fans will appreciate that. It’s just good to see ‘Underworld’ back alive.”
Though this new installment clearly has a few franchise veterans on board, one major newcomer we spoke with was actor Michael Ealy, who plays the role of Detective Sebastian, a human who gets caught up in the action after investigating a murder that appears to have been committed by a lycan. Given that the lycans are supposed to be extinct, this understandably raises a few eyebrows.
“I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this body and I’m recognizing what really happened here,” the handsome Ealy said of his character, who initially comes to blows with Selene before teaming up with her later in the film. “And [I] just try to investigate it kind of on my own. Because of my own interaction with vampires and lycans…I end up spawning my own investigation…and that’s how I get involved with Kate, really. Kate’s character, Selene, it’s more of…it’s kind of by default. We both end up being on the same side slowly but surely.”
As for working with Beckinsale…
“Listen, she’s gorgeous. She’s gorgeous,“ admitted Ealy after some light-hearted prodding from a few of the other journalists. “[But] the thing I noticed about Kate first off was she’s like so cool off-camera. And she’s so into this character that literally she could be talking about golf, and then they say ‘action’, and the switch is like schizophrenic. It’s like crazy. She just – BOOM – she’s Selene.
“And she gives you just as much on-camera as she does off-camera,” he continued. “So when she’s on-camera, she’s giving you Selene full-[on], there’s no holding back or anything like that. She’s a total professional. And as an actor who’s doing this kind of movie for the first time, I appreciate that, truly. Because she could easily be like ‘eh, I don’t really wanna do it full-on.’”
While one of Detective Sebastian’s main roles in the film is to provide the “human element” that was largely absent from the three previous installments, Ealy admitted he would relish the chance to play either a lycan or a vampire in a later sequel if the opportunity arose.
“Um, [Detective Sebastian] drive[s] a Volvo,” he said. “But you know…after this I’m sure I’ll do something else where I can put on a long leather trenchcoat or something and some boots and fly, or something like that.”
In the Underworld franchise, of course, your best chance of appearing in subsequent entries is for your character to become a member of the “undead”.
“I’ve just been telling people, ‘let me get bit’,“ Ealy joked. “That way you can keep going. I mean, once you get bit there’s no stopping you really.”
Detective Sebastian (who allegedly experienced a traumatic event involving vampires earlier in his life, resulting in his initial distrust of Selene) was the centerpiece of the second scene we saw being filmed that day, which was set in an outdoor courtyard at the center of campus (and at the bottom of the long set of stairs leading up to the aforementioned “Antigen headquarters” building).
The bit involved the detective, dressed in a crisp suit and tie, exiting a car with a large weapon and aiming it toward the stairs as he made a cautious approach. From what I can recall, he then set off some sort of s smokescreen to conceal his movements and proceeded to radio for backup at the foot of a large statue. The smoke created from this eventually filled up nearly the entire courtyard, giving the area a slightly disorienting feel.
Compared to the previous bit of filming we’d witnessed the scene was positively action-packed, though still not exactly anything to write home about. I deduced it was probably the best we were going to get on this particular visit.
But will there even be another Underworld sequel after this?
“Once you’re doing #4, you can’t stop yourself from thinking there will be a #5,“ admitted Wright, who also teased that Scott Speedman’s character Michael Corvin (from Underworlds 1 & 2) “plays a rolep” in this new installment (presumably one not requiring Speedman to appear, given his absence from the official cast list) and that he will quite possibly be back if another sequel ends up materializing.
“As of now #5 has not been greenlit, there’s no script, there’s no approved story,” he continued. “I think if we were to do it, we’d have a pretty good idea of who the characters will be, and what the basic timeline would be. I think it would take place after #4, but there would have to be a lot of different variables that would have to be worked out. Kate would have to agree to come back… she would have to agree to do a fifth one.“
Back during our chat with Beckinsale, someone mentioned Wright’s assertion that another sequel would be contingent upon her return.
“They said it us up to me?” she puzzled. “That is called passing the buck.”
And yet she wouldn’t go so far as to rule out the possibility. After all, the franchise represents one of her greatest career successes to date – not to mention one she seems to hold quite a bit of regard for.
“I think one of the things that I am really proud [of] about ‘Underworld’, and obviously [something that] Len is more proud of since it has more to do with [him], is that in this era we have it is very difficult to get a movie made that isn’t a board game, a sequel, or a comic book,” she said. “Even if it is an obscure comic book, it just seems easier to get that made if it already exists.
“‘Underworld’ really was something that was hatched up on Len’s apartment couch,“ she went on. “They definitely worked really hard to create a real sense of history and a mythology that was very personal to this movie. There wasn’t garlic or crucifixes. It was a new take on it and it did appear to precede this sudden massive explosive of vampires. I feel like I am the grandma of vampires now. At the time, there hadn’t been vampires and werewolves in the same movie. Remember when that was a new concept?“
In other words, it’s a good thing Wiseman came up with the idea when he did.
“I don’t know if the first ‘Underworld’ would actually get off the ground now,“ Beckinsale confessed. “I do think the marketplace has changed a lot in terms of that. So it was nice to have squeaked in there. The people who really responded to that have been really loyal, quite vocal, and passionate about it. We love that. I think that’s what was so great. It was to have done it and go, ‘Wow. It worked. That is so cool.’”
“Underworld: Awakening” is scheduled for release on January 20th.