A New Vision of Underworld
With Underworld Awakening bringing Vampires and Lycans into the cold light of the human world, the filmmakers strove to differentiate the Old World fantasy-based Underworld from the modern urbanity in which Selene finds herself. Shooting in Vancouver B.C., they found much they could take advantage of: the city’s modern skyline, the outlying wilderness and the moody atmosphere. “Vancouver is one of the great filmmaking cities,” says Coatsworth. “We embraced both the contemporary and the older aspects of the city to try to create an extension of our European city, while subtly bringing it into the future.”
The damp, overcast streets of Vancouver provided the dark, wet mood the filmmakers sought for their dystopian future, while the modernist architecture provided inspiration for the vast unnamed city.” Underworld is not our world,” says Marlind. “You can’t say it’s Moscow or New York or Rome. It’s Underworld. This was what was very attractive to us, because we were able to explore new ideas.
“If you look around, you will see very hard concrete architectural types,” he continues. “It is very unlike the Gothic style of a place like Budapest, but it has a very cool feel that has been extremely fun to explore.”
The filmmakers gave the fictional city a skyline inspired by the buildings of Soviet-era Eastern Europe. “We went with a very specific look, the architectural style known as brutalism,” says production designer Claude Pare. “Brutalism was the predominant style of the Communist era. It is functional, unadorned and rectilinear. Typically it’s built from stark, grey slabs of poured concrete in bold symmetrical forms. In Vancouver, there are many buildings designed by the architect Arthur Erickson that fit the profile and we were fortunate to be able use of some of these buildings, including Simon Fraser University, which we made our key location, the headquarters of Antigen.”
With a laser technology called LIDAR, the filmmakers were able to reshape the Vancouver skyline based on the specifications of the directors, in essence building an entirely new city for Underworld Awakening’s human world. James McQuaide, the film’s executive producer and visual effects supervisor used LIDAR’s ability to capture the geometry of volume to custom build a completely original skyline for a modern city that isn’t geographically recognizable, because it doesn’t really exist.
“We scanned different buildings from all over Vancouver, then brought those images together to create a kind of composite photo,” says McQuaide. “The buildings may be recognizable, if you know Vancouver well, but they are not situated next to each other except in our cityscape. Once we captured the actual geometry of the space, we recreated what was there practically. Because it’s data, we’re not married to any particular angle, so the camera can move freely in the virtual space.”
Production designer Pare also created a cave-like home for the Vampire coven. Hunted to near extinction, a small group has taken refuge in an underground lair beneath a giant hydroelectric dam. “There just happened to be fantastic hydroelectric dam about a half an hour north of Vancouver,” says Wright.
The lair is a monument to earlier times, filled with relics of formerly luxurious lives. “Everything is dripping and very moldy,” says Pare. “It’s done in tones of ochre, brown, dark green and there’s lots of black.”
It contrasts sharply with the hard geometry of the city, says Marlind. “We wanted the Vampire world to be old and sensual and round,” he explains. “It has a feeling of the womb to it, because that is a theme in the film for Selene.”
Both the coven and the Antigen interiors had to be custom built for the shoot. “Vancouver has a number of sound stage facilities that allowed us to spread out and build all of these sets,” says Wright. “Vancouver also has very, very highly skilled set construction people, which came in handy. We were creating a medieval crypt-like coven and then we were doing very high-tech concrete and glass interiors for Antigen and those are two completely different finishes.”
Selene’s iconic costume had to be recreated down to the last detail by Academy Award-nominated costume designer Monique Prudhomme. “The first time I saw her in the costume, I thought, she’s back!” Prudhomme says. “The challenge was to find a fabric that would give the same feel and comfort. The costume is very simple, but it was critical to get it right. The latex suit has absolutely no hanger appeal, but because Kate is so beautiful and athletic, she fills it out and makes it look fantastic. The detail in her costume comes from the leather corset that is boned and embroidered. It’s like her armor.”
Giving the actress added panache is her oversized death dealer coat. “It’s a leather coat that is elaborately embroidered on the shoulders, in the front and on the sleeves,” says the designer. “That coat gives her a big ‘swoosh’ of movement, and also brings the Vampire tradition to her look.”
Putting on the costume the first time was like coming home, says Beckinsale. “Just the sound it makes is very specific. I was very intimidated by the costume in the beginning, but I trust it now. It actually gives me a help, if anything.”
Special-effects makeup designer Todd Masters was entrusted with the task of creating an original visual concept for Eve, the first Vampire-Lycan hybrid. “It was a really great honor to be handed this mantle,” says Masters. “The technology and artistic technique have developed so quickly that the bar is very high. The Eve hybrid went through quite a few developments. It was important to be able to see India inside, so she isn’t just a monster when she goes through this dynamic transformation. We wanted to see a lot of performance. We made some really cool teeth for her, as well as contact lenses and amazing ruby nails.”
Eisley says the elaborate makeup completed the character for her. “I just loved it. I got the Lycan fangs which are very big and gnarly and just very, very intense, plus blood red, very long claws. The contact lenses are a unique mix of black and ice blue, because Eve’s not full Lycan or full Vampire. The contact lenses were very comfortable, but the claws were very painful. They were glued onto my fingers and it felt like they were going to rip my nails off, so it wasn’t too pleasant. But it looks great!”
In addition to introducing new characters and a new setting, Underworld Awakening reaches a new level of action for the franchise. “For the first movie, we had no real budget at all,” says Wright. What made it work was the atmospherics and story points and acting. This is the most wirework I’ve ever done on any film. You’ll see Selene jumping over fences and making impossible leaps. The bar has been raised so high and I think we have elevated the game.”
Brad Martin, who began as a stunt coordinator on Underworld, served as second unit director as well this time out. “Brad knows the Underworld franchise as well as anybody, so we had tremendous good fortune in getting him to play a directorial role in the second unit action sequences of the film,” says Lucchesi. “He’s also a great friend of Kate’s, so he had her confidence in terms of asking her to perform some pretty impressive moves. Kate did a lot of her own stunts because Brad made her feel comfortable.”
Related Link: Read Full Production Notes for Underworld: Awakening >>