The Big Picture
- Underworld was born out of a generic desire from Dimension to start a werewolf franchise.
- Wiseman and his team realized that “vampires vs. werewolves” was an untapped approach in mainstream cinema at the time, so they developed the story further, adding a Romeo and Juliet twist.
- Despite initial disinterest from Dimension, Wiseman persevered by continually developing the story and creating artwork to gain traction, resulting in Underworld becoming a successful franchise with four sequels.
Even though Underworld is today a well-established action-horror franchise, getting the vampire vs. lycans story off the ground was no easy feat. This month, as the first movie celebrates its 20th anniversary, Collider’s Carly Lane spoke to franchise director Len Wiseman (Total Recall) to celebrate and go over behind-the-scenes details of the franchise. The story centered around Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire who is trying to understand why the centuries-old war with the lycans was put in place after coming in contact with a hybrid from both species named Michael (Scott Speedman).
One of the most shocking bits of information that Wiseman revealed to Lane was that Underworld was born out of a generic desire — Production company Dimension wanted to start a werewolf franchise, but that was pretty much all they gave to the director. Wiseman, who had only directed music videos at the time, was to come up with the whole concept and then pitch it to them. He explained:
“I didn’t know what to do with that. I wasn’t necessarily even a fan of werewolves in general. But I really wanted to make a movie at the same time, and so it was an opportunity. So it started to just develop as an interesting take on a werewolf movie, trying to find something new in that. What’s a new type of opponent for a werewolf? We’ve seen the sheriff, we’ve seen the local town, and it just evolved into us all talking about, ‘What if the opponent was the vampire?’”
Even Though Studios Liked The Story, ‘Underworld’ Still Might Have Not Happened
Wiseman went on to say that he and co-creators Kevin Grievoux and Danny McBride ended up realizing that vampires vs. werewolves was an approach that mainstream cinema just wasn’t tackling back then. In order to give it a little more conflict, they came up with the idea of making it like a Romeo and Juliet tale. Then they put the pitch together, took it to Dimension, and got a quick response: “They were not interested.”
After that, the way to get Underworld made was basically not giving up on the idea. After an agent called Underworld “a really clever idea,” Wiseman kept developing the story over the course of six months and came up with artwork so production companies would better visualize his ideas until it finally started to gain some traction. Underworld ended up not only proving itself as a powerful title, but it also spawned four sequels that further expanded the vampire and werewolf saga.
Don’t miss the rest of our chat with Wiseman for the 20th anniversary of Underworld.