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With the 2006 MTV Movie Awards on the horizon, we thought we'd bring back some of our favorite interviews and features from the past year to remind us why we got so excited about these films in the first place. So join us as we take a fond look back — and then get on over to the Movie Awards site and cast your votes.

— by Larry Carroll

VANCOUVER — "Can we get more blood on Mike's stomach, please?"

That is the odd request being made by Kate Beckinsale's husband as he surveys his surroundings. Massaging the shoulders of his wife of just under a year, Len Wiseman whispers softly while her hands rest on his waist. She smiles and giggles; he gives her one last peck on the cheek. The leather-clad beauty then strolls over to Mike, a disfigured man hideously transforming into a werewolf. She points a massive automatic weapon into his stomach and squeezes off a few rounds. Blood splatters all over the wall.

 Photos: "Underworld: Evolution"

 Photos: On The Set

Just another day of romance, revulsion and weaponry on the set of "Underworld: Evolution." It's mid-afternoon on day number 59 of a 71-day shoot. What's being witnessed is the final battle in this sequel to the 2003 shriek-fest "Underworld," a stylized account of the war between vampires and werewolves taking place behind the curtains of the world we know.

"Underworld," a relatively inexpensive film, opened atop the box office and scared enough genre fans to recoup its production costs and a bit more. When it landed on DVD, however, it pulled in a lot more. "It was quite shocking [that] the DVD sales had matched the box-office sales," writer/director Wiseman says, "and it definitely has been something that has grown."

Wiseman's words, it would seem, are as modest as his budgets. Surf around the Web and you'll uncover a slew of fan fiction, chat-room speculation and unapologetic worship concerning the "Underworld" universe. Sony/Screen Gems hopes massive DVD sales indicate a groundswell similar to those that pushed receipts for the "Austin Powers" and "The Matrix" sequels past their predecessors'; if the fan-to-film relationship carries half as much affection as that of the director and star, the studio should be quite pleased.

 "He's like, 'I definitely don't want to risk killing her this time' "
— Kate Beckinsale

"He's like, 'I definitely don't want to risk killing her this time,' " laughs Beckinsale, who looks back on the first film and remembers falling more in love with each subsequent day of the shoot. Now the newlyweds bounce ideas off each other at the dinner table.

"The first time," she says, "he had no real qualms about pushing me off a building or throwing me through a window, [but now] he's much more likely to say, 'I think we should have the stunt girl do this. What do you think, Kate?' That's one of the things that's been really nice, having been involved in the project right from the moment of it being conceived. The nice thing with Len and I is we've always had such a similar take on a lot of things."

Clad in her iconic black latex outfit, Beckinsale refers to the set as "kind of a team family effort" but admits that Wiseman sometimes enjoys taking out his marital aggressions on set. "I was up to my waist in cold water for about two weeks. I started feeling like 'Was is it something I did? Is it because I didn't cook?' "

The aforementioned Mike needs more blood on his belly because he is a cleaner, one of a group of mysterious characters who show up after each battle and assure that civilians never discover evidence of the war between the Lycans (werewolves) and the Death Dealers (vampires). "The cleaners, we haven't seen in the first film," says Wiseman. "The cleaners are a new addition to this, in which we find out who they're working for, what exactly they do. But that's exactly what they do: They clean in some fashion of the sense, like a cleaning crew."

Wiseman won't say whether they belong to either side of the battle, but it's clear that the SWAT-looking soldiers take on some heavy casualties in this particular battle. "The cleaners are a mystery, really. You will learn what they are when you watch the movie," Wiseman cryptically reports. He does, however, admit that the humans begin to catch on to the war this time around: "They start to get a hint of it in this one, for sure."

 "You get to see the relationship between Viktor and Marcus before we kick into the modern times" — Len Wiseman

At the end of the original film, Beckinsale's Selene and love interest Scott Speedman's half-Lycan/half-Dealer Michael saved the day only to unleash a greater threat as the blood of both armies poured into the grave of Marcus, a sleeping vampire whom fans expect to awaken as a hybrid. "Marcus is the big ... yeah," Wiseman says, acknowledging the villain of the sequel while trying not to give too much away. "You get to see what the relationship between [first-film villain] Viktor (Bill Nighy) and Marcus (Tony Curran) is, and what had gone on between them before we kick into the modern times of seeing Marcus again."

Although most of "Evolution" is set in the present day, the film will flash back to two important moments in the timeline: one, a medieval sequence, explains the relationship between the main baddies; the other reenacts the first-bite story that Selene recounted in the first film. "The medieval village, I'm actually not in at all," says Beckinsale. "That was all before I became a vampire. So that's sort of Bill Nighy and Tony Curran on horses and armor and all that stuff."

"It's like the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie," says Wiseman. "We've got quite a bit of going back and history with Selene as well as Viktor, Amelia (Zita Görög), the elders, and Marcus as well and seeing where he fits into the whole story. That's what the medieval sequence is all about."

It all builds to the scene now being shot, a final showdown in a dungeon with a murky pond in the middle, tattered rope bridges hanging overhead, and dead bodies strewn about. Today, Selene is shooting the cleaner and then turning around to blow away two bloodthirsty Lycans approaching from behind. After locking eyes with the hulking, blue-skinned Michael, the two embrace for a brief moment before something grabs him from behind and slams him into a staircase.

The camera rolls. Beckinsale slinks her way over to her co-star. Speedman, fists clenched and black contact lenses focused in her direction, reaches out his arms.

"I can't help it, there's nothing I want more," sings an off-camera voice. "Everything I do, I do it for you."

Cast and crew lose composure and turn their heads toward Wiseman, who has revealed his love for Bryan Adams with a well-timed button press on the iPod SoundDock that rests on his monitor. Many of the 40 or so people wandering around the soundstage worked on the first film as well, and they share a familial laugh while moving on to the next shot.

Speedman finds his way to a director's chair with his name on it, while Beckinsale parks herself in the one that has "My Sweetie" monogrammed on the back, surrounded by tiny hearts. After locating a moist towelette, she dabs at the blood on her latex.

"Underworld: Evolution," sure to be the most lovingly made movie ever to involve immortal bloodsuckers and the merciless beasts that oppose them, is due in theaters late this year.

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