'Underworld' stakes prequel


Betting on the success of the first two "Underworld" films, Sony's Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment are teaming for a third installment in the series with the prequel "Underworld 3: The Rise of the Lycans."

Patrick Tatopoulos, who created the creature effects for the first two "Underworld" films, will make his directorial debut with this one, which starts production in January in Auckland, New Zealand.

"Underworld" creator Len Wiseman, who directed the first two films, will produce with Lakeshore's Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Skip Williamson. Scott Strauss is overseeing for Screen Gems.

Screen Gems will distribute in North America, with Sony Pictures and Lakeshore distributing worldwide.

Danny McBride, who co-wrote the first two "Underworld" screenplays with Wiseman, penned the third script.

The prequel is set in the Dark Ages and traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires and their one-time werewolf slaves, the Lycans.

Michael Sheen will reprise his role of Lycan master Lucian. Bill Nighy also will return as vampire elder Viktor. Rhona Mitra ("The Number 23") is joining the cast as Viktor's daughter and secret lover to Lucian.

Kate Beckinsale, who starred in the first two films, will not be in the prequel.

"For the first time, we will experience the Underworld universe through the eyes of the Lycans," Wiseman said. "Patrick has always played such an essential part in helping to create 'Underworld' from the start. We have a terrific working relationship and a shared vision of the world and its characters, so I feel it is both exciting and fitting that Patrick now takes the helm on 'Rise of the Lycans.' "

Wiseman and Tatopoulos also collaborated on "Live Free or Die Hard." Tatopoulos' credits include "The Chronicles of Riddick," "Van Helsing" and "Resident Evil: Extinction."

The first two "Underworld" films grossed more than $200 million combined worldwide.

"We are delighted to continue our creative collaboration with Len on this highly original story," said Rosenberg, who added that Screen Gems and production president Clint Culpepper are an "integral" part of the franchise's success.

Lakeshore and Screen Gems also partnered for "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "The Mothman Prophecies" and "Untraceable," starring Diane Lane, Colin Hanks and Joseph Cross and set for release in January.

ICM represents Sheen, Tatopoulos and Wiseman.

Mitra and Nighy are represented by CAA.