Kate Beckinsale slips back into black leather for ‘Underworld: Awakening’

VANCOUVER, B.C. – After taking a break for “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (although she provided that film’s narration), leather-garbed starlet Kate Beckinsale is back in the lycans-vs-vampires fold with the series’ fourth film, the upcoming “Underworld: Awakening.”

She discussed her role in the film during a recent visit of the film’s location shoot at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Read a full description on the set here.

Floating into the interview room and immediately charming the group of (all male) journalists with her posh British accent and impeccable diction, Beckinsale took questions about the new film’s plot details, her return to the series, playing with guns and what it’s like to wear tight black leather and rubber all day.

The new film takes place 12 years after the conclusion of the second film, “Underworld Evolution” (If you’ll recall, “Rise of the Lycans” was a prequel that took place 1,000 years or so before the events of the first film). Superpowered vampire Selene (Beckinsale) awakens from a coma, to find herself in a brave new world: The existence of Lycans (werewolves) and vampires is not only common knowledge amongst humankind, but both species are nearly extinct after being hunted for the last decade-and-a-half. Not only that, but Selene appears to have a teenage daughter (India Eisley). Selene soon finds herself at odds with a faceless corporation called Antigen, who may be breeding mutant hybrids, including a giant beast known as the “uber-lycan” (does Nietzsche know about this possible copyright infringement?).

Never straying too far from the franchise, which helped establish her stardom, Beckinsale has an intimate connection with the “Underworld” films — she’s married to the series creator Len Wiseman, who directed the first two films and is serving as producer on the latest. But it still took some convincing to get the star back.

“I really wasn”t intending to do another,” confessed Beckinsale. “I just kind of always heard that it was a trilogy and that was that. I think I didn”t like the idea of kind of rehashing the same old thing too much. And Len”s a really great husband and has learned to just sort of ignore his wife going ‘no,’ you know, and just kind of quietly write a script for a couple of years. And then (he’ll) say, ‘actually I”ve had this really good idea.’ So the fact that it (the script) really opened up the world a lot and had it kind of come into the real world and also the whole presence of the daughter was such a different take, you know, that I was, ‘oh okay. That”s interesting.’ And it”s nice. It”s like our family business too.”

Although under an embargo, Beckinsale elaborated a bit on the film’s plot and themes, “I think what”s interesting during the movie is that the circumstances in which Selene has a child are such that she”s not aware of having been changed by it at all for quite the long time. She”s not really even aware it”s happened. And so we kind of go on that journey with her of somebody who”s not necessarily, you know, your most maternal type finding that not only has she got a child, it”s relatively quite a big child.”

Sliding back into the tighter-than-tight leather/rubber/PVC costume was both a blessing and a curse for the actress. “It was a weird moment putting the costume on the first time at the first costume fitting — I”d forgotten that special screaming rubber noise. It was so familiar. It was interesting because the first movie that I did of this, I was so completely out of my comfort zone and uncomfortable and had to go through the training just because I was terrible at everything and couldn”t run properly or anything. So doing this one now having already kind of passed through that barrier is really nice. But I still expect myself to mess it up every time.”

One of the main selling points of the franchise has been to have such a daintily attractive woman in the sort of macho leading role normally associated with muscle-bound males. For Beckinsale, the transition from dramatic actress to gun-wielding brawler was a bumpy one. “Certainly after the first one I think being taken through fight training with a lot of really good stunt guys who, when you throw a punch, fall on the floor, and you do for a split second think, ‘holy shit I”m the bad-ass now.’ I”m just as much of a wuss as I ever was I think. But I definitely feel much more comfortable in my body. When I first had to throw a punch, the first week of training on the first movie, I had my thumb in my hand and I don”t do that anymore.”

While running and fist-fighting may have initially made her feel silly, firearms felt like a more natural fit. “Guns I took to immediately,” she offered. “It was a weird thing on the first movie. I”d really never thought about it,” she admitted. “I was so relieved when I got hold of a gun and I suddenly was like I found my thing. I think it”s only because I”ve got enormous hands. I can”t play the piano but it turns out it”s quite useful for guns.”

Watching the 3D playback of Beckinsale on set (in which she fights off a number of Antigen thugs and takes a few bullets in her near-impervious back) — not to mention in the new teaser posted below — proved that she was more-than-ready for the film’s increasingly big action scenes. They’ll culminate in the climactic battle between Selene and the film’s key baddie — the 12 ft. “uber-lycan.”

Although it’s too early to foresee any plans for a fifth installment, Beckinsale seems pleased with the series. “I think one of the things that I really am proud of about ‘Underworld,’ and I always say that Len is more proud of because it”s more to do with him, is that in this era we have where it”s very difficult to get a movie made that isn”t a board game or a sequel or a book or a comic book, it just seems to be easier to get that made if it already exists. And that ‘Underworld’ really was just something that was sort of hatched up on Len”s apartment couch. And you know they definitely really kind of worked hard to create a real sense of history and a mythology that was very personal to this movie. So there wasn”t the garlic and the crucifixes and it was just kind of like a new take on it. And it did appear to proceed the sudden kind of like massive explosion of vampire films. I feel like I”m the grandma of vampires now.”

“I don”t know if the first ‘Underworld’ would actually get off the ground now,” Beckinsale continued. “I do think that the marketplace has changed a lot in terms of that. And so it was nice to have squeaked in there and that the people who really responded to that have been really loyal and quite vocal and passionate about it. And we love that. I think that was what was so great about having done it was to go, ‘wow it worked.’ It was so cool.”  

“Underworld: Awakening” opens nationwide in 3D and 2D on January 20, 2012.

Read more from the “Underworld: Awakening” set visit here.

Watch the new teaser here: