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The Good Guys
To realize his vision of bringing these time-honored characters together into one believable, adventurous story, Sommers knew he needed a dynamic hero. "Initially, I wasn't very familiar with Van Helsing,” says Sommers, "but I loved the idea of his character—he was, in every respect, the original monster hunter.”

Trained by monks and mullahs from Istanbul to Tibet and equipped with an awesome arsenal of monster-killing weaponry, ("creep-stoppers,” as the director called them), Sommers fashioned a younger, hipper, cooler Van Helsing, feared by evil in all its forms, as well as by some of the innocent, who see only a brutal murderer.

Even before the script was written, Sommers was creating the character and story with only one actor in mind. "We were adamant about getting Hugh Jackman from the start,” says Sommers. "He's the only guy we ever wanted.” Sommers' Van Helsing had to be both tough and a romantic, "someone that women would love and guys would trust,” and Sommers and Ducsay felt that Jackman was the guy.

"And it doesn't hurt that Hugh's also six-foot-two and 210 pounds of solid steel,” adds Sommers.

About to begin production on X2: X-Men United and preparing to headline the Broadway musical The Boy From Oz (scheduled to begin when X2 production wrapped), Jackman received an early draft of the script from Sommers.

"It was a rare opportunity to be in a project like this. As soon as I read it, I could visualize it strongly and I thought I could really bring something to the role,” says Jackman. "I always wanted to do a big action movie like Errol Flynn and this project had that huge, epic, action-adventure quality to it. It's a boyhood dream of mine to be in a movie like this, with such scope.”

In sync with Sommers and Ducsay, Jackman saw the character as the classic outcast. "Van Helsing is a reluctant hero,” elaborates Jackman. "He's very much the outsider, carrying out solitary missions for a secret worldwide organization. When it comes to battling monsters, this is what he was born to do. He's got a great gift for it. When he's in a battle situation, everything just becomes calm and still—fear doesn't enter into the equation.

"In his quest to find Dracula, he's hoping to find a key to his past—hopefully put the jigsaw of his life together. Then,” continues Jackman, "he comes in contact with a woman who gets under his skin.”

Anna Valerious is a gypsy princess and monster hunter in her own right—one of the last living members of an ancient family committed to the pursuit and destruction of Dracula in order to lift a curse that's hung over her family for generations. "She's far from a damsel in distress,” says Sommers. "We needed a great actress with a tough inner strength, someone that had the rare ability to play period and, at the same time, be funny, sexy and strong.”

Ducsay agrees and adds, "Because a romance flourishes between Anna and Van Helsing, it was important that Anna wasn't simply a hard, bad-ass character. There needed to be a softer side to her.”

The filmmakers found everything they were they were looking for in actress Kate Beckinsale, who says, "I love action movies with girls. I think it's unusual to find a role in an action-adventure where the girl actually has something to do. My character, Anna, has a real vendetta with Dracula. There's a whole family curse that's been going on for hundreds of years—unless she kills Dracula, her family will remain in purgatory forever. So the stakes are, needless to say, quite high for her.”

The actress—who showed she could do more than hold her own in the recent action movie Underworld—continues, "Then along comes this character, Van Helsing, into her life and her world. Thanks to Stephen's writing, Anna doesn't suddenly become this dopey, heaving-bosom girl. She and Van Helsing remain equals right up t

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