PASADENA, California — "X-Men" star Hugh Jackman may soon have another franchise on his hands — one with teeth even sharper than Wolverine's claws.
"It's looking unbelievable," Jackman said of "Van Helsing," the flick he's been shooting in Prague since January. Taking a break from filming to promote next month's "X2: X-Men United," the 34-year-old Australian actor was all smiles at the mere mention of the film, in which he plays the classic 19th century vampire hunter from Bram Stoker's "Dracula."
"I'm just really happy with it," he proclaimed. "We're three months into shooting it. We've got a little bit to go. I've got to fly back into Prague next week and shoot [there], and then we come to L.A."
Headed up by writer/director Stephen Somers ("The Mummy"), "Van Helsing" reportedly begins with Jackman's character hot on the trail of Mr. Hyde — as in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is then called to Eastern Europe to do battle with Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster.
Kate Beckinsale ("Pearl Harbor"), who recently shot the more contemporary vampire/werewolf flick "Underworld" in Budapest (see "Kate Beckinsale's Next Film Mixes Vampires, Matrix, Leather Pants"), co-stars as Anna, heiress to a family who has made the destruction of Count Dracula their mission.
"I'll tell you, man, it is huge — the sets, the costumes," Jackman said. "I just saw a little trailer of it cut together. We showed it to the whole crew [and] everyone was so jazzed. It looks amazing."
Jackman, whose convincing turn as the beloved Marvel Comics hero Wolverine in 2000's "X-Men" led to starring roles in "Swordfish," "Someone Like You" and "Kate and Leopold," likens his Van Helsing role to another popular adventurer.
"I feel like I'm in 'Indiana Jones,' " he said. "That was my favorite movie as a kid, and I really feel like I've walked into one of those movies. [It's got] swashbuckling, but it's got a darkness to it, but it's still funny. And the look of it — I think it has a style to it that I've never really seen before. And I think the story is very intricate."
In addition to Jackman and the British-born Beckinsale, "Van Helsing" co-stars Richard Roxburgh ("Moulin Rouge") as Dracula, Shuler Hensley ("Someone Like You") as Frankenstein's Monster, Samuel West ("Notting Hill") as Dr. Frankenstein, Kevin J. O'Connor ("The Mummy") as Igor, and Will Kemp, who will also appear in the forthcoming LL Cool J flick "Mindhunters," as the Wolf Man.
"Van Helsing" is scheduled for release in May 2004.