Werewolves. Vampires. Their centuries-old war. Rob Zombie’s new movie? Nope, it’s Kate Beckinsale’s.
Set to begin shooting in Budapest next month, “Underworld” will star the classy English actress as Selene, a vampire warrior and werewolf killer who falls in love with a furry enemy played by Scott Speedman (“Felicity”).
“It sounds terrible,” admitted Beckinsale, whose most recent credits include “Serendipity” and “Pearl Harbor.” “This is not the kind of movie that I’m remotely interested in normally, but the script is amazing and the director is amazing.”
“Underworld” is being headed up by Len Wiseman, the music video director responsible for Megadeth’s “Crush ’Em” and Quarashi’s “Stick ’Em Up.” It’s his first feature film, a long-developed labor of love that Beckinsale describes as “fun and exciting and cool.”
“It’s a very cool ’Romeo and Juliet’ set against the backdrop of vampires and werewolves,” she explained. “I didn’t want to read it when I was told about it. I really don’t go for vampire movies. But it’s more kind of like ’Interview With the Vampire’ meets ’The Matrix.’ Lots of leather pants in it.”
Like “The Matrix,” “Underworld” will incorporate elaborate stunts using wires.
“I don’t know if it’s [in the] ’Matrix’ style as such,” she clarified, “but we certainly have some of the boys from the team training us. It’s very cutting-edge what they’re having everybody do. They’re having us do as much as they can safely have us do. ’Cause obviously it looks better when it’s the actual person other than a stunt double.”
One thing Kate won’t be seen doing in “Underworld” is turning into a bat.
“We’re not doing any of that stuff,” she said. “That’s old-school! There’s no biting, even. We have cloned blood for that. It’s very slick.”
With “Underworld” apparently eschewing many of the traditional vampiric conventions, Beckinsale has spent the last month training in more conventional forms of movie violence: fighting, boxing and firearms.
“I think the stunt guys said I’m going to fire more guns in this movie than any woman has ever fired in a movie,” she said. In other words, her character isn’t all that grounded in real-life.
“She’s part of a group of vampires who are called the Death Dealers, who are basically extremely well trained in killing werewolves,” Beckinsale explained. “And that’s pretty much what they do. They don’t really have any interaction with humans at all. There’s been this centuries-old feud between the Lycans [werewolves] and the vampires. And she’s got sort of a personal vendetta, because they butchered her whole family. So she’s a tough cookie.”
Speedman, who’ll be playing one such Lycan, is best known for his four-season long role as Ben on TV’s “Felicity,” the recently canceled college kid drama that also helped launch “Alias” star Jennifer Garner. Speedman was a favorite among the show’s fans with a particularly devoted following of young girls consistently rooting for fictitious Felicity Porter to “choose Ben” as the show’s convoluted love triangle drew to a close. Beckinsale wasn’t one of them.
“I haven’t met [Scott] yet, so I don’t know anything about him at all,” she said good-naturedly. “I’m from England. I don’t know anything about American television.”
One thing she does know is that despite its “vampire vs. werewolf” premise, “Underworld” will stand apart from the slew of “vs.” movies on the horizon, from “Freddy vs. Jason” (see “Sequel Mania — The Other Attack Of The Clones” ) to “Aliens vs. Predator” and the recently announced “Batman vs. Superman” (see ” ’Batman Vs. Superman’ Director Hints At What To Expect From Superhero Struggle” ).
“I think they’re all so different,” she said. “This is not based on any existing comic book. This is an original story in itself. It’s just extremely cool. I really like the way the director’s vision is for how it’s gonna look.
“I don’t have to wear my underpants outside of my tights or anything like that,” she added. ” I’m glad. And I don’t have a cape.”
Before moviegoers get a glimpse at Beckinsale as the leather-panted, capeless vampire warrior in “Underworld,” they’ll be able to see her in a couple of other projects.
First up there’s “Laurel Canyon,” which also stars Frances McDormand (“Almost Famous”), Christian Bale (“Reign of Fire”) and members of the band Folk Implosion. And in the recently wrapped indie flick “Tiptoes,” Beckinsale stars opposite Matthew McConaughey (“Reign of Fire”) and Gary Oldman (“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”), who plays a midget without the use of computer generated effects.
“He was on his knees,” Beckinsale explained. “He was basically on his knees with a prosthetic part of his head and face and a hump and different kinds of harnesses to strap his arms back to make them short, and special clothes. They had various different effects, like if he was sitting in a chair, his legs would actually be inside the chair and he’d have these little fake legs sticking out on top. It was amazing what they did with him.”