Interview: Underworld: Awakening directors


Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, directors of Underworld: Awakening. We discussed a nice range of topics, including 3D filmmaking, Kate Beckensale’s outfit, and what it’s like to come in as freshmen on such an established franchise.

Björn and Måns are lovely guys, and I had a great time talking to them. A big thanks to them for taking time out of their day to speak with me. Check out the full interview after the break.

Q: Why do you think Underworld is such a successful series?

Mans: Timing. It came at a time when vampires…it came at a time when there was a gap of no vampire movies. The timing was good, and there was also a very good mix of a cool new world we haven’t seen before.

Bjorn: Werewolves and vampires are timeless archetypes. They haven’t been created solely for the cinema, they’ve been around for hundreds of years. They’re part of our subconscious, so they’ll always be popular, but you have to find new roles for them, which I think Underworld did.

Q: Did you want to move back more to the series’ roots or go in a new direction?

Mans: We wanted to pick up where part two ended, but not do things everyone’s seen before. There’s a balance act of “Let’s not be boring and bleak, but let’s not do something crazy that doesn’t feel like Underworld at all.” We had long talks with Len [Wiseman; series creator] about this. And seeing the result now, I think it worked out.

Bjorn: We have this very aggressive opening where man discovers vampires are real, so right off the bat we are evoking a completely different tone from the earlier movies. Since this is part four, we can’t be like Friday the 13th. It was natural to do the changes we brought in with this one.

Q: How important is it to have Kate Beckinsale back?

Bjorn: Kate is what people think of when they think “Underworld”, besides vampires vs. werewolves of course. They think of Kate in that costume… She means the world for the series, and she’s great to work with.

Mans: I concur.

Q: This is one of the first movies to ever be shot on a RED EPIC 3D camera system. What were the pros and cons of working in such a new format?

Mans: We were fortunate to get this camera, it was so new at the time that it wasn’t really out there. It was us and Spiderman that were the first to use it. Now, I think, Prometheus and some other films have it as well. We received eight cameras for the shoot. We’ve been shooting film our entire lives, and we’ve seen some digital footage that looked pretty good but just not of the same quality as film. But then we saw the RED system and thought “Wow, this is a game changer for us.” We don’t have to worry about developing rolls of film, or getting scratches on the negative. Of course, other things can happen with digital, but thankfully none of it happened to us. If it hasn’t been cartoons, 3D has looked like a muddy old VHS. When you shoot 3D, your resolution is cut in half, but shooting RED 3D was different. By shooting at such high resolutions, and bringing it back to normal projection standards, we were given a crisp and clear image with no artifacts. It’s not annoying, it looks like how it should be. The only downside is that, while the camera itself is small, the complete rig is huge. And changing lenses can take anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour.

Bjorn: That’s not a RED problem though, that’s a 3D problem.

Mans: Yes. And you have to make sure everything is in sync. Plus, a lot of people aren’t as experienced working on a 3D set, and aren’t familiar as to what goes in to it. So those are the downsides to shooting this type of 3D.

Q: What’s it like jumping to the big screen for a massive franchise as your first truly major release (“Storm” and “Shelter”)?

Bjorn: We’ve always been coming from left field. Our agent represents the writer of this movie, and he said to us that there were five people on the list to direct, but none of them were really working out. So we came in with our pitch. It was a bit like roulette; we put everything on the one concept and went with it. Shelter is different, but Storm has this kinship with the Underworld series. It’s moody, it’s dark, it takes itself quite seriously, and they’re both kind of “cool” movies. Len felt safe with us, and he knew we weren’t going to make a tongue-in-cheek “sexy girl with guns” movie. It is that, but there’s also a seriousness to it that he understood we got. After meeting with him, we met with the studio and we got the job. Five days later we were on a plane to Vancouver to start scouting. It was a dream scenario.

Mans: But there is this tightrope you walk because this is a sequel. A lot of the producers have done this, but we haven’t. Our duty was to bring something new to the table as the new guys on the block. We wanted to create a tour de force, and I think we succeeded in that.

Q: Where do you see the franchise going?

Bjorn: There’s a way to continue this story. It hasn’t been written yet, but there are so many ways to go. I can’t really give a good answer, because we have to see where this one goes.

Mans: The movie is kind of made for a sequel. There are some cool new characters, and they don’t die. Some of these new characters I’d love to explore.

Q: Will you be coming back to do more? Will there be more?

Mans: Yeah! I mean, of course. But they’d have to ask us first.