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Published on June 19th, 2008 | by simeon

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Kevin Grevioux talks Underworld

GVK: How did you get into writing/producing and what
was your big break?
KG: Getting into writing is actually quite easy.
All it takes is for one to have the discipline to sit
down and actually put pen to paper and “viola”, you’re
a writer. So, I’ve been writing for a few years now.
Breaking into the Hollywood scene is another issue.
UNDERWORLD was my first produced piece of work. You
could say that began about ten years ago when I met a
guy named Len Wiseman, who did a phenomenal job
directing UNDERWORLD, on a movie called STARGATE. He
was a prop guy and I was an extra trying to learn the
business. He approached me about being in a small
independent film he was working on at the time and
liked my look for a character in a script he was going
to direct. Through our conversations he discovered
that I was trying to become a screenwriter and that we
both were genre nuts. We developed a friendship,
wrote a couple of scripts together and here we are
years later with UNDERWORLD. I’ve always had a
penchant for the fantastic, especially science
fiction. My entrance into it was actually comic books
that I’ve been reading since I was about eleven or
twelve.
GVK: What was the inspiration for the film and how
did you go about making your vision a reality?
KG: Well, the actual direct inspiration was my love
of the old Universal horror classics, THE HOUSE OF
FRANKENSTEIN and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. In
those films you had the monsters of legend going at it
toe-to-toe and as a kid I just ate it up!
However, thematically, the inspiration was a
little more real, and I have to say more tragic. And
that’s the experiences I’ve had with interracial
dating and different biracial children I had come in
contact with over the years. It’s amazing the hatred
that’s hurled at you because you may date someone from
another race. It’s almost as though man has learned
absolutely nothing about brotherhood in the past fifty
years.
Bringing the concept to film was no small task.
I remember it started out as a simple werewolf project
that Len was interested in developing, but even he
wasn’t sure if it was going to work. So, since I had
already written a script he liked and wanted to
direct, and he liked my ideas and ways of thinking, he
called me one day and asked me what I thought about
doing a werewolf movie. Well, my immediate reaction
was, “No.” The reason being is because there had only
been one or two decent werewolf movies to speak about
and the “cheese factor” is so high. But after kicking
the idea around a bit over the course of days I said,
“What if we do a love story, like Romeo and Juliet or
Westside Story? But instead of Montagues and Capulets
we have werewolves on one side and vampires on the
other.”
We put together a good working script and got a
lot of bites around town, but we were having trouble
with certain aspects of the script. That’s when this
genius of a writer, Danny McBride came along and
basically told us how to fix it.
GVK: How would you describe the film and what did you
setout to do in creating Underworld?
KG: UNDERWORLD at its core is about a race war
between two warring factions that are essentially the
same, and the relationship that occurs when a woman
from one side falls for a man on the other.
Furthermore, there is an edict that the races should
never “fraternize” in a sexual sense for fear of
creating what we call the “hybrid”. The hybrid is a
fiercely powerful progeny of the union between lycan
(werewolves) and vampires. We tore this aspect from
the pages of real life racial hatred and fear that
still exist in the world. In our film the fear is
that biracial hybrids will one day take over and the
races will cease to exist. It’s really funny, they’re
both monsters yet they can’t see that. It’s the
ultimate manifestation of “the pot calling the kettle
black.”
Two answer the second part of your question, this
material has the high potential to be corny or cheesy
if not done properly. Face it, how many good vampire
and werewolf movies have their been? What I wanted
was a sense of history with this story. I wanted to
go back in time and give an “origin” for these
creatures of legend. How they came to be and how the
war started. I have to tip the hat to Danny, because
he took part of that history and took it even further
and really made something special out of it.
GVK: How much research did you gather coming into the
film and what attracted you to the genre?
KG: A lot! I poured over many a dusty tomb about
folklore and legends looking for tidbits of
information and history. I wanted to be as
“authentic” in my research as I could be by going to
the source of these legends.
What attracted me to the genre was really just the
love of monster movies and the cool images I’ve been
seeing since I was a kid. And by the way, I’ve always
liked werewolves more than vampires!
GVK: There have been a number of vampire and
werewolve stories over the years, what have you set
out to do with Underworld that makes it different from
others in the genre?
KG: We’re all pulling from the same sources. We
didn’t create vampires and werewolves and neither did
anybody else who loves the genre. Still, you never
want to be cliché or derivative especially when
Hollywood craves whatever is new and fresh. Towards
this end it was important to Len Danny and I, to
create a world where vampires and werewolves could
realistically exist to separate us from the pack.
Now, by “realistically exist” I mean within the
fantastic cinematic realm of course.
I thought the best way to do that was to eschew all mention of
mysticism and base everything on science. I have a
degree in microbiology and I felt that this fictional
world we were creating would be much cooler if we
could put a new twist on an old concept. Make
vampirism and lycanthropy diseases based on a virus
rather than sorcery. I have a really hard time
getting my head around why a vampire can’t see himself
in a mirror. It just didn’t make sense to me.

We also wanted to jettison the vampires reliance
on needing to constantly feed on humans. Fans of the
old mythos’ may have a problem with what we’ve done,
but I feel that we’ve just “bent” the myths not
completely broken them. Being photosensitive,
sunlight is still the bane of all vampires. And
silver is still poisonous to werewolves.
GVK: How long was the shoot and what locations were
involved?
KG: Let’s see. We started on September 2 and our
last day was like, right before Thanksgiving. So
about three months.
We shot the film in and around Budapest, Hungary
which is a beautiful city. And also, the country
where a lot of the old werewolf and vampire legends
began. That’s not where we originally thinking about
when we wrote the script it just ended up that way.
GVK: How did you go about selecting your lead(s) for
the film and what made them the perfect choices for
the role?
KG: Kate Beckinsale was a no-brainer. Selene was a
classical warrior who lived for battle. Think of a
female Siegfried or Achilles. She fiercely attractive
and a great actress. Kate fit the bill like she was
born for the role. She’s deceptive in a way because
she’s very petite and has a posh British accent, but
it’s a ruse. She’s as tough as they come. In fact,
if there was a “winner takes all” battle between
Kate’s character Selene, Lara Croft and Trinity from
the Matrix, my money’s on Selene hands down!
Scott Speedman, who plays Michael, needed to be a
ruggedly handsome caring guy who can react well when
confronted with a fantastic truth about the war
between vampires and werewolves. Scott did a
phenomenal job and was a true pleasure to work with.
Michael Sheen, who plays Lucian, is a prodigious
actor. We were looking for someone who was a bit
taller and more visually feral, but believe me when I
say his presence casts a long shadow. He was amazing!
As for my character, Raze, we were looking for a big
black guy with a deep voice; I wrote the
part for myself! 🙂
GVK: Taking something on the grand scale of
Underworld would seem to be an overwhelming task for
many, did you ever have days where you thought, “How
am I going to do this” and if so how did you attack
the problems that arose?
KG: That’s really more of a Len question given he
was the director. I was just happy we got the script
sold and were going to make a movie. It’s been a long
haul for all of us.
GVK: Looking back, if you could make any changes to
the final version, what would they be?
KG: Maybe just a few more werewolf/vampire battles.
The kid in me always likes the “versus” aspects of
these things. But, you can’t sacrifice story just to
have senseless battles either. And we have a GREAT
story.
How do you blend character development in an
action setting and not get lost amongst all the FX?
KG: By having strong characters and a strong story
through line. You serve the story FIRST by weaving in
strong characters then build your action around it.
Danny is a true story master. He was like a drill
sergeant and it’s because of him we got the movie
made.
GVK: Whats next on your schedule and what can we look
forward to seeing from you soon?
KG: Right now, I’m just finishing rewrites on two
scripts, a children’s adventure and action-adventure,
and a brand new science fiction military piece which
is going out next month.
I’m also working with a couple of great guys
Scott Sava and Mike Kunkel of the Astonish Factory
producing all-ages comic books and animated projects.
I feel blessed that some doors are being opened and
Lord willing, this will be the start of some cool things!


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