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Story Notes for Underworld

Weeknights during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies! Below is the online version of the Story Notes for Underworld.

Anthology Notes
Beckinsale and Scott Speedman team up again in Underworld: Evolution (2006).

Beckinsale plays Selene a third time in Underworld: Awakening (2012).

Although this movie inspired novel and comic book adaptations, it is a completely original story.

There is a prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009).

It started a franchise that includes movie sequels, comics, novels, toys, and a video game.

Vampires brand Lycans like cattle. That is why Lucian has a V on his arm (for Viktor).

Automotive Note
The Maserati featured in the film is a 3200 GT. It cost about $100,000 in 2003.

Bio Notes
Cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts has shot a lot of period movies, which earned him this job. He did A Room with a View (1985) and Remains of the Day (1993).

Director Len Wiseman made En Vogue music videos before Underworld. This was his first movie.

Wiseman took on another action movie franchise in 2007 with Live Free or Die Hard.

Kate Beckinsale and Bill Nighy also work together in Total Recall (2012), directed by Len Wiseman.

Kate Beckinsale hunted both werewolves and vampires in her next movie, Van Helsing (2003).

Production designer Bruton Jones also worked on the vampire movie Blade (1998).

Scott Speedman was an Olympic-level swimmer before a shoulder injury ended his career.

Sophia Myles plays Lucy in Dracula (2006), a TV movie of the 1897 Bram Stoker novel.

Sophia Myles knows British intrigue from TV shows MI-5 (in 2010) and Doctor Who (in 2006).

Stunt coordinator Brad Martin was Angel’s stunt double on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003).

Kate Beckinsale was dating Michael Sheen (Lucian) when this movie was shot. They have one daughter. It was Beckinsale who convinced director Len Wiseman to audition Sheen.

Co-writer Kevin Grevioux (Raze) got his start in Hollywood as an actor. He is the three-eyed alien in Men in Black II (2002).

Casting Notes
Erwin Leder is an Austrian actor who is the chief mechanic in Das Boot (1981).

Kate Beckinsale took the part of Selene to shed her nice-girl image in Hollywood.

Kate Beckinsale was coming off lighter roles in Serendipity and Pearl Harbor (both 2001).

Robbie Gee is in 2000’s Snatch. He also plays a vampire on Young Dracula (2011-2012).

Shane Brolly is an Irish actor best known for this role in Underworld.

Sheen plays British Prime Minister Blair three times, most notably in The Queen (2006).

Sophia Myles stars opposite James Franco in Tristan + Isolde (2006).

Bill Nighy plays Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Wentworth Miller is Michael on Prison Break (2005-2009).

Co-writer Danny McBride is a former stuntman who worked on U.S. Marshals (1998).

Zita Görög is a Hungarian model. She plays Amelia again in Underworld: Evolution (2006).

Finance Notes
Underworld was the No. 1 movie in the U.S. when it opened September 19, 2003.

The Underworld series makes up four of the ten top-grossing werewolf movies of all time.

Underworld made back its $22 million budget in its opening weekend.

Health Notes
Beckinsale got pneumonia during production, stopping production for a while.

Lycanthropy is an illness where a person thinks he or she is a wolf. It was first identified in the seventh century.

Stuntman Mike Gunther got a concussion from a stunt.

History Notes
During the Middle Ages, 30,000 people were condemned as werewolves.

In the late 1400s, Pope Innocent XIII released a treatise recognizing shape-shifters and vampires.

The first known stories about vampires come from England around 1190.

Location Note
The filmmakers shot in Budapest, Hungary for its “Old World” architecture. Director Len Wiseman said: “You’ve got a really Gothic city, but all the modern gadgets are present.”

Love Note
Kate Beckinsale married director Len Wisemen after meeting on the movie.

Music Notes
Underworld features the song “Coward” by Wes Borland and Danny Lohner, 2003.

Composer Paul Haslinger said he wanted to bring the attitude of heavy metal to a “cinematic landscape.”

Composer Paul Haslinger wrote the scores for Crank (2006), Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), and Death Race (2008).

Pop-culture Notes
A silver bullet became the standard way of killing werewolves with The Wolf Man (1941). But silver has been linked to killing supernatural creatures in mythology for centuries.

Beckinsale modeled Selene after Ripley in the Alien movies and Sarah Connor in the Terminator series.

A stunt from the film was featured on an episode of MythBusters in 2006. It was “busted.”

The idea that sunlight destroys vampires comes from F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu (1922).

The idea that vampires need to rest in crypts comes from Dracula (1931), starring Bela Lugosi.

Underworld came out two years before the first Twilight book (also about a werewolf-vampire feud).

Press Notes

The Hollywood Reporter
said Kate Beckinsale had a “no-nonsense combination of toughness and grace that would give a certain tomb raider a run for her money.”

Richard Roeper: “[I’d] been waiting a long time to see a Shakespearean werewolf-vampire movie and here it is. I think it’s a lot of fun.”

The Chicago Tribune called Underworld “a sleek action thriller that reaches for the operatic.”

Prop Note
The same kind of gun was used by Wesley Snipes to hunt vampires with in Blade II and Blade: Trinity.

Quote Notes
Kate Beckinsale: “If you find [Selene] sexy, it’s not essential, and it’s not really on purpose. I really am proud… that I’ve gotten to play this kind of rather iconic, empowered, empowering woman.”

Beckinsale: “[It’s like] Romeo and Juliet set against the backdrop of vampires and werewolves.”

Beckinsale: “There hadn’t really been a kind of really big vampire movie since Blade [five years earlier].”

Beckinsale said Underworld is “like Interview with the Vampire meets The Matrix.”

Bill Nighy: “I’ve always enjoyed vampire movies. They make your hair stand up.”

Director Len Wiseman: “I didn’t know the geography of the Underworld when we were shooting.”

Director Len Wiseman said he wanted it to look like “a living, breathing comic book.”

Kate Beckinsale: “It’s been an incredibly passionate experience making the film. It’s been my favorite job I’ve ever done.”

Kate Beckinsale on Bill Nighy: “He was like the visiting rock star… I still have [his] whole speech memorized.”

Michael Sheen: “I don’t smile as much [when playing] Lucian as I do as Tony Blair.”

Production designer Bruton Jones: “The Lycans had to become… survivalists, more mercenary-like.”

Script Notes
The idea of UV bullets came from co-writer Kevin Grevioux. He used to work in a lab where they used UV light to sterilize equipment.

“Corvinus” comes from King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, the man who imprisoned Vlad the Impaler. Vlad was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.

Co-writer Kevin Grevioux was inspired by 1940s movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).

In an early version of the script, Kraven’s name was Kami, which means “perfect” in Arabic.

Notice how long some fangs are. Each vampire has two sizes in this movie: regular and “battle-ready.”

The name Selene comes from an X-Men villain who’s a leather-clad, psychic vampire.

Set Notes
Director Len Wiseman combines old and modern elements. The high-tech vampire shooting range uses Victorian porcelain busts for targets.

When Kate Beckinsale was first given the script, she wasn’t interested in doing a monster movie. It was the character drawings director Len Wiseman included in the script that convinced her.

Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos worked on Stargate (1994) and Independence Day (1996). He met director Len Wiseman on the sets of those movies when Wiseman was a props assistant.

Scott Speedman’s acting in one scene was so convincing that director Len Wiseman got worried. Wiseman: “I would call cut before I was done because I would think the guy needed a break.”

The actors playing Lycans walked on carbon-fiber stilts. Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos improved on designs he first used in Godzilla (1998).

Bill Nighy’s makeup took six hours to apply and two hours to remove.

Director Len Wiseman doesn’t think of Underworld as a horror movie.

For the effect of the Lycans on the walls, the stuntmen were on wires and the hallway was built upside-down.

Kate Beckinsale didn’t know how to drive before this movie. She learned on set.

Neither Bill Nighy nor Scott Speedman had any fight experience before training for this movie.

Production designer Bruton Jones used a lot of Celtic symbols to give the vampires a sense of history.

The shot of the car flipping was done with a miniature.

The Lycan lair was designed to look like a cross between a weapons factory and a church.

The Lycans had video monitors in their masks to allow them to see.

The contact lenses Michael Sheen is wearing made seeing completely impossible.

They used cranberry juice for blood because the actors had to put it in their mouths.

Tech Notes
Digital effects were used to darken the mansion. Director Len Wiseman: “I don’t love color all that much.”

It took four operators with remote controls to work the facial movements in the Lycan masks.

Visual effects were done by Luma Pictures. They went on to do The Avengers and Prometheus in 2012.

Trivia Notes
A year after Underworld, Bill Nighy went from vampires to zombies in popular horror comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). He played Simon Pegg’s stepfather.

David Bowie almost played one of the vampires, but the scheduling didn’t work out.

Lycan comes from the Greek myth of King Lycan, who was turned into a wolf for angering Zeus.

The idea of vampirism as a disease was popularized with Richard Matheson’s 1954 book I Am Legend.

The number 510 is director Len Wiseman’s hometown area code. He grew up in Fremont, CA.

Wardrobe Notes
Costumes were designed by Wendy Partridge, who also did Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), and Silent Hill (2006).

Kate Beckinsale says her costume wasn’t comfortable: “It’s latex. It’s like a condom with sleeves.”

Some Story Notes movies give you a chance to win $500 via the Golden Note sweepstakes. Go to the Story Notes homepage for a full schedule of relevant films.

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