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The tradition of vampires and werewolves in Hollywood goes back to the beginning of film, but Underworld takes the myths deeper. Unbeknownst to the humanity around them, Vampires and Lycans (werewolves) have been engaged in a centuries-long battle for dominance in hidden sectors of the city. "This isn't drawn off a comic book or a novel," explains screenwriter Danny McBride. "This is from genre guys sitting together in a living room, wanting to create a universe, base it on science and bring vampires and werewolves into a new light."

One night while riding the subway, medical student Michael Corvin is caught in a fierce firefight between the two mysterious "gangs." He is spotted by a striking and sophisticated woman, the vampire warrior Selene.

Disobeying orders to let it go, she steals away from Kraven's estate to shadow Michael through the city. In spite of her centuries of paramilitary training, she finds herself becoming curiously interested in Michael – who, like all other humans, has no idea that Vampires or Lycans even exist. "Her personal crusade gets undermined when she meets Michael," says Beckinsale. "It's interesting to play a character who is off her feet a little bit, who suddenly has to think differently about things."

Scott Speedman, who recently starred in the film Dark Blue after a long-running role in the TV drama Felicity, stars as Michael Corvin. Speedman describes him as a loner who is new to the city. "Michael's a guy who has suffered a great tragedy in his life," says Speedman. "His girlfriend has been killed in an accident. He's decided to take off to a different world where nobody knows him."

When the Lycans attack again, Selene takes on their most skilled fighters, but is unable to stop Michael from being bitten by the ruthless Lycan leader, Lucian (Michael Sheen). Sheen notes that Lucian is an ancient being that should not be underestimated. "He's centuries old," says the actor. "He has a very long history and a whole mythology tied to his connection with the Vampires from many, many centuries before when werewolves were slaves to the Vampires. Lucian has a huge hatred of Viktor, the Vampire overlord, especially."

Selene believes that Lucian is organizing a werewolf army intent on revenge after years of persecution at the hands of the arrogant Vampires. In her desperation for an ally, Selene awakens the Vampire leader Viktor (Bill Nighy) from his five-hundred-years sleep. "He's reawakened a century too soon and is not too pleased about that," comments Bill Nighy. "He thought they'd cleared up the werewolf trouble hundreds of years ago by killing everybody. But, in fact, that wasn't the case, and now the werewolves have regrouped and are threatening the vampire world."

Nighy describes Viktor as "bigger, better, stronger, quicker, faster, more powerful than anyone else, so it should be a breeze. Selene awakens him because she believes he is not only all-powerful, but the force of good in the story."

But neither of the warring clans is fully prepared for the next revelation: Michael has not stumbled into their secret war by pure accident. He has a secret connection to both the Lycans and Vampires.

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