Vampires and werewolves battle starting today, Jan 23

Rhona Mitra (in photo) takes the reins from Kate Beckinsale in the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Rhona is cast as Sonja, the beautiful but willful daughter of the supremely powerful Vampire leader.

The war between immortal tribes of vampires and werewolves turns wilder and bloodier in Columbia Pictures' fantasy thriller Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy, reprise their roles as werewolf rebel and Vampire overlord, with Rhona Mitra joining the cast as the impetuous Vampire warrior, Sonja. She plays the beautiful but willful daughter of the supremely powerful Vampire leader, Viktor (Bill Nighy).

The filmmakers praise Mitra's ability to capture the contradictory elements of Sonja's personality. "It was very hard to find somebody with the toughness you need from a vampire, who also has a vulnerable side," says producer Len Wiseman. "I think it's a very difficult thing to pull off as deftly as Rhona has."

The character reminds director Patrick Tatopoulos of Selene in many ways. "Sonja is to me the archetype for Selene," he says. "Sonja is a warrior, but there's something very fragile in her as well. She's definitely a strong fighter, but emotionally she's very charged as well. And she can become quite sensitive."

With more eye-popping CGI and astounding creature effects than either of its predecessors, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans reveals some of the hit franchise's most compelling secrets.

When the first Underworld debuted in 2003, its richly imagined telling of a centuries-long war between two immortal races wowed audiences across the globe. Ruthless Vampires (called Death Dealers) and savage werewolves (known as Lycans) returned in its sequel Underworld: Evolution, and a worldwide audience devoured its elegant visual aesthetic, eerie characters and compelling action.

Now, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans takes fans back almost a millennium to the beginning of an epic conflict. Created by longtime friends Len Wiseman and Kevin Grevioux, the film reveals the secrets at the heart of the Underworld saga's eternal battle.

Wiseman, who directed the first two films, has taken on the duties of producer for this installment, while Grevioux returns for the third time in the role of Lycan enforcer Raze. "The history has always been a driving force for Underworld," says Wiseman. "In the past, we've had glimpses of how it all started. Now we're finally able to play it out with the Death Dealers and their armor and the horses and masses of werewolves."

Even before the first film was shot, the pair created a complex mythology for their Vampire and werewolf antiheroes. "Kevin and I always intended this to be a trilogy," says Wiseman, now a sought-after director of films including Live Free or Die Hard. "It was decided at the time to start with the middle story in the timeline, and it is pretty cool now to be doing the prequel that we talked about so long ago."

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans traces the origin of the age-old rivalry between the Lycans and the Vampires to its ancient beginnings in a forbidden relationship. Lucian (Sheen) is the first Lycan, a creature able to transform from werewolf to human and back again at will. Sonja (Mitra) is a Death Dealer and the daughter of Viktor (Nighy), a powerful Vampire Elder. "Their relationship actually leads directly to the Lycans' revolt against the Vampires," explains Grevioux. "Everything revolves around the fact that Sonja and Lucian are in love with each other. Even though Sonja is Viktor's daughter, there is an uncontrollable bond that grows between them. That already makes it a different kind of story from the first two stories."

Opening across the Philippines today, January 23, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.






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