In the world of filmmaking, action movies typically come with hefty price tags. But when you think of a film like 2003’s ‘Underworld,’ it’s easy to assume it had a budget of $50-$60 million, right? Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. On the 20th anniversary of the film, director Len Wiseman revealed to Collider’s Carly Lane how he managed to make ‘Underworld’ look like a big-budget blockbuster despite limited funds.
Securing a green light with just a $16 million budget wasn’t the only hurdle for Wiseman. It was his directorial debut, and many key crew members were also new to the world of feature films. They had to learn the ropes of a movie set on the fly. Wiseman explained the challenges they faced in bringing his vision to life.
“I had done music videos and commercials before — especially working on props, you’re much more aware of an insert unit [that] will come in and do the real detail work of the bullets that are being picked up or inserts of a gun. We didn’t have that, so I was trying to make it through my day doing the action sequences. But then also, we needed a close-up of the camera on the ground that Selene picks up or just a bullet that hits the ground and bounces off. So I started taking a camera operator or somebody, [and] said, “You’re now doing the insert stuff.” There’s a lot of upping the jobs and the titles as we’re going.”
Supernatural Creatures and Enchantment Within Financial Constraints
As interest from production companies grew, Wiseman had hoped for a more generous budget. He pointed to the Wachowskis, who secured a $60 million budget from Warner Bros. after their first film, ‘The Matrix.’ However, Wiseman acknowledged the uncertainty of the era, saying, “You don’t know where you’re gonna fall.” With a small budget and a relatively inexperienced team, he made the most of what he had, and it paid off.
Today, ‘Underworld’ boasts a loyal fanbase and a franchise with four sequels. The film’s impact on pop culture intertwined vampires and werewolves and catapulted Kate Beckinsale into action stardom. Len Wiseman went on to direct Underworld: Evolution and produce subsequent entries in the franchise. Source