BIG READ: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING at Simon Fraser University

Published March 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

I am happy to confirm the Kate Beckinsale catsuit is back and in 3D for the fourth film in the Underworld series. I didn’t get to see Kate Beckinsale in it but her Selene stunt double wore it when she jumped off the top floor of the Simon Fraser University Library last Friday night onto a moving truck — twice.

Underworld Awakening marks a return to the story of vampire Selene who, according to a leaked plot synopsis, finds out she has a teenage “vampire/Lycan hybrid daughter” and together they must stop bio-tech company Antigen from “creating super Lycans that will kill them all”. For those who missed the earlier Selene films and the gory Underworld: Return of the Lycans, a Lycan is an evolved werewolf who can shift between wolf and human form. In other words, Underworld is a movie franchise about vampires and werewolves that predates the Twilight craze and films partly in Vancouver.

Students at Simon Fraser University spotted WORLD production signs late last week. One fortunate enough to be enrolled in a librarian program there had a prime seat to watch an Underworld 4 stunt woman do some camera test jumps off the library’s top floor a week ago. Although the stunt crew had planned to do three jumps last Thursday, a roll of thunder claps delayed the third one, the stunt woman told me. Then a sudden snow squall on Burnaby Mountain forced the crew to pack up entirely to return the next day for the last camera test. At nightfall Friday, Underworld 4 lit up the east side of the grey concrete library with klieg lights and the blonde stuntwoman put on Selena’s black cat suit and a black wig to do two jumps for the camera, one after the other, to a burst of applause from the crew and a few bystanders.

Despite rumours, Kate Beckinsale herself did not appear at SFU. She had left Vancouver to celebrate her director husband Les Wiseman (who is producing but not directing the fourth film)’s birthday. That didn’t stop two male students from yelling “Kate” at the film crew to see if anyone would turn around.

And when Underworld 4 returned to film at SFU this past Monday, crew had to shovel leftover snow off Convocation Mall (Convo Mall) to dress it as nefarious bio-tech company Antigen for scenes with secondary cast Sandrine Holt (a scientist) and Michael Ealy. They had already built a large grey corporate reception area on the dais and fake Antigen elevator doors at the top of the stairs leading to the Academic Quadrangle — adding big floating balloon lights dotting Convo Mall for the two night shoots.  One production assistant joked that he’d like to borrow one for a party in his backyard.

On Tuesday night, Underworld 4 moved to the west end of Convo Mall where they had installed rain machines on the roof. “It’s so sad they had to make rain at SFU,” quipped one student about a rare dry night on the notoriously wet campus. I watched them film scenes on the steps below from a rotunda commons room to the sound of groups playing Dungeon & Dragons and occasionally asking if there was anything worth seeing. One male student pronounced Sandrine Holt an Olivia-Wilde-lookalike (the gold standard for that age group).

My attention focused on the Swedish director duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein below watching the stunning scene unfolding on their monitors. I am waiting for an update of the SFU shoot on their “Video Diary from Underworld 4” at marlindstein.blogspot.com. They promise “100% uncensored material”, something to look forward to when Underworld 4 returns to SFU for a scheduled four-day shoot in May.

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