I was fortunate enough to escape the warmth of the Southern States in January to visit the folks shooting both The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Underworld: Evolution in Vancouver, BC. It was a great trip, one which yielded some really nice scenes being shot as well as the always lovely ability to spend in that totally terrific town. The Emily Rose stuff ran HERE and HERE, and now it’s time to share the skinny on the sequel to the surprise hit film about vampires and werewolves and Kate Beckinsale jumping from great heights.
We (a handful of genre press, some really cool folks and some who ought to get slapped in the jowls) had a chance to do a press conference with the stars and director of the film in a really cool, really BLOODY set after walking around and meeting with some of the other folks on the production.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film, but this one looks mighty nice, and I’m now a total fan of Patrick Tatopoulos after speaking with him, seeing his designs, and how comprehensive his scope is. This is going to have some terrific stuff.
Here’s part one of our discussion with the principals:
Question: Was there anything that you particularly enjoyed about the first movie that made you say yes to this?
Kate Beckinsale: No. It was a very big change of direction for me. I had never done a film where I’d actually been sort of tough and active. I’m a very un-athletic sort of rather wet, frightened person in life and so it was quite a challenge for me to play an action heroine and pull off all that training when I can’t catch a ball if it’s coming my way and that kind of thing. So that was really interesting. I mean it does seem to have slightly spiraled out of control now.
Question: You’ve done more now.
Kate Beckinsale: I’ve done quite a few more and it’s still extraordinary to me that anybody will actually buy that, which is absolutely credit to Len and to the stunt team and to everybody else. But it was really fun. It was such a fun movie. We all had such a lovely time. I had never done an action movie and Scott hadn’t either. And Len had never done a movie, and the writer had never written a movie so everybody was really very excited to be making this thing for not very much money and make the best thing that we could do. And I think we really pulled it off. So it’s unusual in this business. You are such gypsies that you don’t often get to work with the same gang. You may get the odd one person every ten years that you’ve come across before, but it was such a lovely group and the sequel idea is a cool idea too. So it was a nice story to tell.
Question: What is your character’s major role in the sequel?
Scott Speedman: Oh crap, I don’t know. Jeez, I don’t know. What would you say? I don’t know.
Kate Beckinsale: What are we allowed to say?
Len Wiseman: No, some things we don’t want to give away.
Scott Speedman: Yeah.
Len Wiseman: But it’s a bit of…. he’s one of the puzzle pieces I guess would best put it I think.
Scott Speedman: Yeah, I really don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t really, sorry.
Kate Beckinsale: He provides most of the nipples in the movie.
Scott Speedman: I’m naked a lot, which is good.
Question: The first movie came in under the radar. Nobody was expecting it to do what it did. Now you have a franchise that’s hanging over your head. How did you approach the second film with that in your mind?
Len Wiseman: First, thank you for that. It’s really strange because the first one was something that was just developed in my living room. Nobody was peeking through the windows and all that so we were kind of left alone. And now…
Kate Beckinsale: The second one was also developed in the…
Len Wiseman: Yes, it was. And now everybody on the sites and everything there’s a lot of interest there and just a lot of also speculation about what the movie’s going to be, which is really strange for me because I’m used just to be working on a project that so many people have an opinion about and hopes for and speculation and different things. So it’s odd. It’s a weird experience for me.
Question: What can you tell me about the physical aspect of this film, like the fighting relative to the first Underworld?
Len Wiseman: Fighting in general is, I mean the action and the scenes and such are much bigger. There’s a lot more going on. It’s just scale-wise it’s a much bigger movie. Uh, fighting I think there’s not a lot more fighting. There’s a lot more…
Kate Beckinsale: I think there is. There is for me. There is more.
Len Wiseman: There is actually more for you. Actually I’m lying. There’s more for you as well. There’s less fighting for me.
Question: Can you go into more specifics than that?
Len Wiseman: The end sequence there’s a lot more transformations with things going on with a bigger battle for Selene. We’ve got this intense helicopter action. We’ve got people jumping out of helicopters. A big scene with that.
Kate Beckinsale: A whole medieval sequence.
Len Wiseman: Yeah, the opening, we go into this medieval sequence and we get to see Viktor and his team of death dealers and there’s quite a big opening battle that takes place. So we’ve got all the all the guys and the vampires in full armor and…
Kate Beckinsale: Horses.
Len Wiseman: Horses. So we’ve got a little of the werewolf versus the vampire action in medieval times.
Question: What did you learn from making the first movie that you want to do differently on this one? What did you learn from Van Helsing? As far as working with a huge overblown budget?
Len Wiseman: I’m not suffering with that problem in terms of what I’ve learned, I mean Underworld was my first film so there’s a lot of things I had never experienced before, so I’m finding this one about seventy percent less stressful and it was shot in Budapest as well and I had about maybe fifteen people that spoke English. I’m exaggerating a bit, but most of the crew did not speak English. So it was just a tough experience for me to battle through all that being the first film. So there’s a lot that I learned from, from that one. I mean I could go on and on about what you learn from a first film. And budget-wise we’re, it helps to have a bit more to do a bit more. And so we can scale it up.
Kate Beckinsale: It’s still not an enormous budget. It’s still fairly modest for the kind of movie, isn’t it?
Len Wiseman: Oh yeah. No, I mean in terms of like Van Helsing size. I mean, yeah.
Kate Beckinsale: We decided not to have an enormous red cartoon monster in this one, so we saved…
Len Wiseman: That does help. Yeah. We went with the rubber version.
Kate Beckinsale: We usually go with the rubber version with anything. So…
Question: You’ve done a lot to modernize and change the traditional vampires and werewolves, but what are your favorite parts of the old myths about these creatures that drew you to them in the first place?
Len Wiseman: This, this is, this is where I go down in flames. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the older films and the older legends. I actually approached Underworld as doing horror characters in more of an action film, and actually changing it up. I mean the whole thing about just modernizing it, I wanted to see something different so it was my attempt to kind of approach it as a straightforward action film that happens to have these horror characters in it.
Question: What did you not like about them, then?
Len Wiseman: What did I not like about them? I’m not into the I guess what I would call the religious vampires that you can hold up a cross and they cower. The reflections in the glass and a lot of the things that I get reamed now for talking about this stuff, but I see that there’s a category of “fantasy” vampires and then there’s “reality” vampires in my world and ours is more based in science. It’s about a rare blood disease and more, treated more like a plague than anything that’s too fantastic. So those things I guess would the cross stuff, the not seeing your reflection in the mirror, it’s just a bit too out there for me.
Question:The film wasn’t as big a success in the theater as it was later on on DVD. Were you disappointed at first by that? Were you surprised later at the fanbase it gained after the fact?
Len Wiseman: I was.
Kate Beckinsale: We were thrilled, weren’t we?
Len Wiseman: Oh, completely thrilled.
Kate Beckinsale: It made all its money back in one weekend. So we were just like wow.
Len Wiseman: Yeah, and in terms of it being a success, it was great to, I mean making our budget in our first weekend was great for me. I don’t know what everybody else thought the movie was going to be. I’m making a fairly small film with Underworld, and for it to become what it has become and the success that it was, I was quite impressed. The DVD sales completely shocked me. And actually it excited me because it made me realize that Underworld was not, it’s– Underworld is not a comic book. It’s not a game. So there was no name recognition. So the fact that it was just word-of-mouth, that after it had already gone through the theater. I read so much stuff or I had been sent stuff where people said “Oh, I, you know, I never checked out Underworld in the theater, but my girlfriend was telling me oh you gotta check out this film. You gotta check out this film. So I watched it and, and I was, you know, I was so pissed off that I didn’t see it in the theater.” I read a lot of stuff like that it’s actually quite exciting because now there’s… I’m hoping is a bigger fanbase than we really thought in the beginning.
Question: At what point did you know that you could do a sequel? Had you already given up on the thought after the theatrical numbers?
Len Wiseman: No. Because the theatrical numbers were impressive to the studio. Everybody, we made a hundred million worldwide. So for a nineteen/twenty million dollar film that’s quite a huge success. So once that happened I got calls from the studio. I mean they wanted a sequel right away and so we started developing from that point. And then just the DVD sales was another spike. I got the call that it was something eighty… Do you know the figures? I don’t know. But anyhow it was, it did over what the box office did which rarely happens. It happened, like I think we were told five times in the span of the last X amount of years. Whatever, it was impressive to them and a big deal and so it just kind of fueled the fire for it.
Question: You guys had spent some time developing your characters in the first film. How do you approach the characters in the second film for it to be an interesting process for you?
Scott Speedman: I don’t know. For this one it’s more fun for me this time. It’s a lot more dynamic and I feel a lot more like less watching the action going on around me and reacting and being kind of a pedestrian in all the action, but a lot more dynamic of a character. So it’s a lot more fun that way. I mean I didn’t really develop anything.
Len Wiseman: Yeah, you got kind of pulled around a lot in the first one.
Scott Speedman: Yeah, which was cool, was fun, but this is a lot more part of the story it feels like. So that, that’s it.
Kate Beckinsale: I was in a slightly different position than I’ve ever been in before because obviously I’ve not been married to the director. So I started being involved in the process just in terms of hearing about the development very early on which was a great treat. It doesn’t usually happen. And not that I had any kind of Yoko Ono sort of input at that point. But, I think we were one of the reasons that we did end up running off and getting married was that we do kind of have a very similar take on things and I think we both felt at the end of Underworld that it would be quite nice to, much as we liked that it was not a sort of slapstick laugh up your sleeve kind of a movie, that we could possibly inject a little bit more fun into this one and to slightly kind of change the energy so that it didn’t just stay [serious] the whole way through. We thought we could kind of rock it up a little bit and I really think we have. Selene’s incredibly cool and obviously isn’t smiling very much or having highlights or anything in this movie. I think because our relationship is progressing as well she’s got much more of a foil with Scott’s character and there’s a little bit more opportunity for some different colors in the character, which I thought was great. So…
Question: This question is for Len. In designing this film have you built into the story any elements which would enable you to go to a third sequel? Did you have that in mind?
Len Wiseman: Yeah, I mean there’s a lot there. Yes, there’s a sequel as well as prequel ideas. I mean nothing, you know, we’re we’re still…
Kate Beckinsale: What!?!?
Len Wiseman: Yeah.
Len Wiseman: I’m still seeing how this one goes and there’s no set plan in terms of ideas for either.
Look for part two of this chat on Monday.