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Monday, September 15, 2003

COMICS CONTINUUM INTERVIEW: UNDERWORLD'S KEVIN GREVIOUX

Underworld technicially isn't a comic-book movie. It isn't based on a comic book.

But, like The Matrix franchise, the movie very much has a comics feel and should attract comics readers to theaters when it opens this Friday. The film, starring Kate Beckinsale, is also being adapted into a comic by IDW Publishing.

Furthering the connection is Kevin Grevioux, a co-writer, producer and actor, who has a long affinity for comics. The Continuum caught up with Grevioux over the weekend and he discussed the movie, his favorite comics and IDW Publishing's adaptation.

Following is a question-and-answer:

THE CONTINUUM: How did you come up with the idea for the film?

GREVIOUX: I remember a good friend of mine, the director, Len Wiseman, was thinking about developing a werewolf movie for Miramax as his first film. He liked a script I had written before, since we were both genre guys, and wanted to know what I thought about werewolves. I wasn't too thrilled at first because it's hard to do something different that wasn't chessy or B-movie grade. But after mulling over it for a couple of days I said, "What if we do a Romeo and Juliet story? But instead of Montagues and Capulets we have werewolves on one side and vampires on the other." I knew the idea was a sound one and extremely high-concept.

I always liked old classic horror movies. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, in particular. Just thinking of that one sheet where the two monsters are locked in mortal combat was more than I could handle as a kid! There was even The House of Frankenstein where you had Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Dracula mixing it up. That was cool! And ever since then I was hooked!

A little bit closer to home was some of the interracial dating I've done over the years. It always seems to bring out the evil in some people who seemingly just want to keep the hatred between the races going. And it happens on both sides both white and black. It's ridiculous really. It's like they're saying, "If interracial relationships become the norm that spells the end for our race and we can't let that happen." That's were this character we created called the Hybrid, comes in. He's a perfect synthesis of werewolf and vampire, the ultimate biracial child that everyone's afraid of.

THE CONTINUUM: How did comics influence you?

GREVIOUX: I'd have to say their sense of wonder and the fact that they can take what most would think are corny concepts and make them great literary works that anyone would want to read. And I think that's important whenever you're pitching a fantasy or sci-fi concept to producers. Most of them don't get it. I just thank God that producers like Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi of Lakeshore and Clint Culpepper over at Screen Gems "got it."

One of the things that Stan Lee did is that he took fantastic comic characters told their stories with a straight face. Everything he did, Not Brand Echh! aside, he took seriously. And because he took it seriously, his audience took it seriously. Nobody had ever done that before. That man, along with Kirby and Ditko of course, almost single-handedly created an empire. A veritable mountain of creative work that we are still mining today and will be for some years to come. I'm just glad he's getting the credit for it.

Underworld, although high-concept, has a bit of a B-movie sound to it. But I talked to Len seriously about how it could work and he took me seriously. Two years later, we open on September 19th.

THE CONTINUUM: What are your favorite comics?

GREVIOUX: Well, I'm a Marvel guy. Superman was my favorite at first when I was a young kid. But even as a kid, after seeing him lift a planet one issue, race around the world in a half a second the next, then get beat by the Toy Man the issue after that, I decided his powers were too magical, inconsistent and almost childish even for comic books. So I graduated to Marvel. They were for older kids and adults anyway.

As far as my favorite books, I'm a Hulk fan from way back. My earliest issue is Hulk #2 where he fights the Toad Men for the first time. The Avengers are always a favorite of mine and the Fantastic Four.

Currently I think The Ultimates, Daredevil and Supreme Power are some of the best books on the shelf. I'm looking forward to Iron Man with Jorge Lucas as well. I also liked the Black Panther before it was canceled. I think Christopher Priest is a vastly underrated writer and deserves the highest accolades around for what he did with the character.

And not to dis DC, I think what Jim Lee is doing with Batman is some of the best work of his career. I can't wait for his Superman. Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright is nothing short of amazing. Although I have to say that revamping Superman every 15 years is getting a bit tiresome, he's doing a great job with tweaking the mythos. Leinil Francis Yu's art almost MOVES, it's so good. But, I'm still kind of partial to John Byrne's Superman though.

THE CONTINUUM:Were you involved with IDW's adaptation? Have you seen it?

GREVIOUX: No I wasn't. The other writer, Danny McBride, worked with IDW and they really came out with a cool product. The guys at IDW are consummate professionals. I think the style of the book and the art work are amazing. I felt like I was actually in the movie again!

THE CONTINUUM: Can you talk about Kate Beckinsale's performance?

GREVIOUX: What can I say? She is the quintessential vampire warrior and her onscreen presence is palpable. The way she plays the character sheĠd toast Blade and Buffy with butter and jam on both sides! She's a beautiful woman both inside and out was really cool to work with!

THE CONTINUUM:Can you talk about your character?

GREVIOUX: I play "Raze." It's a part I wrote for myself given the dearth of good roles out there for struggling actors. He's Lucian's second in command and by far the baddest lycan this side of Lon Chaney, Jr and Jack Russell! Basically, if Lucian needs some down and dirty work done, he calls Raze.

I think everyone's going the like the opening scene. When I smell a vampire in the vicinity I yell, "Bloods!" and the fun begins!

THE CONTINUUM: Are you setting this up as a franchise, i.e. a sequel?

GREVIOUX: You know it! I mean, of course you have to wait until all the numbers are in, but the film is tracking very high. Whenever you write a story or come up with a concept for a movie it's prudent that you think sequel as well as multi-media platforms. It's just the nature of commerce in Hollywood and comics these days. I think we'll do very well the opening weekend and, Lord willing, a sequel should be forthcoming in a soon.


Underworld SC Novel Underworld SC Novel

Deadly rivals for centuries, destiny will bring them together. Vampires and werewolves. Sworn enemies for over nine-hundred years, they have fought a secret war in the darkest shadows of the mortal world, pitting undead strength and cunning against feral rage and savagery. Now, in the hip Gothic streets of modern-day Budapest, the ancient conflict takes an unexpected new twist. Selene is a Death Dealer, a vampire warrior dedicated to the destruction of the hated lycans. Michael is a werewolf, an innocent America newly infected with the lupin curse. Against all reason and history, they find themselves drawn together even as the grisly inhuman war rushes toward its nightmarish climax. They have no idea of the power their unlikely union can unleash - and of the terrifying secrets that will be revealed in the unearthly realm of... Underworld.




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