The Big Picture
- Kate Beckinsale’s casting as the lead in the first Underworld film was unexpected and gave the franchise a fresh and exciting perspective.
- Despite initial comparisons to The Matrix, Underworld‘s unique worldbuilding and script set it apart and allowed it to stand the test of time.
- The movie’s 20th anniversary is a testament to its enduring legacy and the loyal fanbase it continues to cultivate.
The first entry in the Underworld franchise was a series of firsts for many people involved. While production companies trusted Len Wiseman (Total Recall), who was a first-time director then, to bring an ambitious supernatural story to life, the director did the same with his lead star. Up until that point, Kate Beckinsale (The Widow) wasn’t known as an action star, much less as a franchise lead.
In an interview with Collider, Wiseman told Carly Lane that ultimately he decided that he could make Beckinsale’s status as a first-timer a strength since the public would be caught off guard by her skills. The result is in Underworld’s legacy: You just can’t dissociate the franchise from Beckinsale. And Wiseman never thought she’d like the script, either:
“That’s also what really hit at that time. It was very new for her. She hadn’t done anything like that before. It created a different kind of film, because you don’t associate her with [being] an action star, and so that was new and exciting. She brought so much to that character, and it was a pretty quick process. I remember being surprised that she liked the script because it was not at all something that she had done before, and it just all kind of worked together at the same time. I think she was looking to branch out and do something in that space, and we were looking for somebody new, and it just came together fairly fast.”
Kate Beckinsale Will Forever Be Selene for ‘Underworld’ Fans
The first Underworld movie is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. Even though the debut installment was initially shrugged off as a Matrix ripoff — you can easily recognize the guns, slow-motion, and vinyl aesthetic of 2003 — you only needed to watch it to understand that Wiseman’s script (along with Kevin Grevioux and Danny McBride) did an excellent job of worldbuilding and setting up future installments. And, of course, the ultimate testament to the movie’s legacy is that it survived the test of time and still cultivates a loyal fanbase to this day.
Aside from Beckinsale, the cast of Underworld also features Scott Speedman (Grey’s Anatomy), Michael Sheen (Good Omens), Shane Brolly (Spread), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), Wentworth Miller (Legends of Tomorrow) and Sophia Myles (A Very British Scandal).
Be sure to check out the rest of our chat with Wiseman to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Underworld.