Helmers Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein talk Underworld: Awakening.
It’s not always easy being the new kids, but that’s precisely the position Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, a pair of Swedish film directors, found themselves in when they signed on to direct Underworld: Awakening. Sure, they were the guys in charge, but they were coming into a franchise that was already successful. There were additional challenges to face, beyond the fact that the “Underworld” mogul, Len Wiseman, was married to their leading lady, Kate Beckinsale. The fourth film also marks the first one to be shot in 3-D, which was a new experience for everyone involved. .At Comic-Con,, the two directors sat down with journalists to discuss the experience of joining the franchise, as well as working with both Wiseman and Beckinsale, and their unique approach to directing.
Prior to our final interview with the directors of a film once titled Underworld: New Dawn, we spoke to star Kate Beckinsalewho returns as Selena, Theo James about his role as David as well as Michael Ealy as Detective Sebastian and producerLen Wiseman contributed as well.
– Interview by Peter Dimako, Editor. Transcribing and intro by Anders Wright.
Have you guys always used this tag-team approach to directing? We’ve been told if it’s not your day to direct, and someone approaches you on set, you remain mute.
Måns Mårlind: The thing is, we’ve been working as a team for 10 years, professionally. We’re friends since we were kids, like 10 years old. And we worked as directors on our own before we started up as a team. But we got a script, like, ten years ago. I got it, it was a really cool script, it was called “Disco Kung-Fu,” it was a gay kung-fu story set in the suburbs of Stockholm with American disco music, and they [the characters] were all Arabs. And I was like, ‘I want to do this.’ And I called Björn, and I was like, ‘I got this great script.’ And he says, ‘I got something similar’ In Stockholm, you don’t get similar scripts.
Björn Stein: Those kinds of scripts don’t circulate anywhere, actually.
Måns Mårlind: So we said, fuck, let’s do this one together. That was the first one. The thing was, then, was how we gonna do it, right? ‘Cause most directing couples are focusing on one taking the actors, the other guy takes the technique, the camera and stuff. But we liked everything, so that’s why we decided to do it every second day.
I don’t know how you came to the film, exactly, but Len is the overlord of the franchise. Did he bring you in? Was it the gay disco movie that got you the job?
Måns Mårlind: No, that one—
Björn Stein: That almost got us fired [laughs].
Måns Mårlind: We did a film five years ago called “Storm” which has a lot of similarities to “Underworld,” in a way. It’s a completely different story and so on, but it has the same sensibilities, I think. It’s set in a totally different world and it takes itself seriously without becoming pretentious. And there’s a lot of action in it. That’s the one, I think.
Björn Stein: That got his attention, yeah.
How do you try to appeal to the same fan base who have been watching Len direct these movies with a similar look for years?
Björn Stein: For one, we have Kate, which is a look, just that. She is Kate, and she’s in latex. So that’s one thing. And then we said, ‘well, this one is in 3-D,’ and that presents a lot of changes. So we tried to use a lot of the building blocks we had from the other ones, with the blueish kind of look. Keep that, but this brings something else to it. So it had to be lit different, and also the world representing is something different. Man has found out about it, so we take the step out into man, which is the surroundings of old town, where they’ve been before. So we had to come up with a concept of how does this world look that doesn’t just feel like Pittsburgh or, or…
Måns Mårlind: Chicago.
Björn Stein: Or New York or whatever. But at the same time, feels like a relative to the world it’s been. So that was the challenge, to create that. New, but not too new.
Måns Mårlind: But also, shooting with 3-D, suddenly you get depth and people poking things at you. So we said, ‘let’s do it right.’ The other Underworlds is a lot of handheld, a lot of gritty stuff, like that. We like to shoot like that, that’s how we shot a lot of our movies, but to get really good 3-D you compose in different ways. It’s a totally different camera language, much more like a Riefenstahl kind of style. It’s very dogmatic. So we thought, ‘let’s use this.’ It’s like what Björn said, to apply this to the new look. I think the 3-D helped us create a new vibe to the camera language.
What was it like coming into this franchise? Len’s the producer–
Måns Mårlind: Yeah, he’s married to the star!
Björn Stein: I’ll just call Len and see what he thinks about it!
Is it a little intimidating to come into a franchise where there’s already a guy who has shepherded it along, and a star?
Måns Mårlind: Yes and no. It could be, but Len’s a really, really nice guy. He’s not an asshole. It’s never been a problem. Same goes for Kate. But to reply, yes, we are the new kids in this family. Everybody’s done the other films, the producers and everything. So when we want something, we want to change something, we have to sell it. In the beginning, it was like this—
Björn Stein: It has been working before.
Måns Mårlind: Exactly. So we had to gain a lot of respect.