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New Fall Films Hope for Big Box Office Draw - 2003-09-26

Hollywood's fall season is in full swing with an assortment of new films opening at theaters across North America. Alan Silverman has a look at three of this week's debuts: the latest comic take on romance from writer/director Woody Allen, a heartwarming coming-of-age story featuring a pair of Oscar-winners, and an updated drama of vampires and werewolves.

She is a vampire named Selena; her sworn enemies are the 'lycans' or werewolves . . . until she meets one who is part mortal and falls in love with him.

Kate Beckinsale slips into a skin-hugging black body suit to play the vampire warrior; but the English actress admits she was reluctant even to look at the Underworld script at first.

"I didn't want to read the script. I heard it was about vampires and werewolves and thought it would just be a schlocky 'B' movie horror thing and I would be in a white nightgown covered in blood screaming with my neck bleeding," she says. " I didn't fancy it; but I love action movies and so when I opened up the script and there were all these drawings the director had done of the character and the concept of the movie, I was really interested. I loved the script and that was that."

Underworld is co-written and directed by Len Wiseman. He says it does follow some conventions of the genre for instance, moonlight transforms the werewolves and sunlight kills the vampires but instead of relying on supernatural fantasy, he gives a biological reason.

"I prefer that even though, at the end of the day, it is vampires and werewolves so you're always going to have that fantastic element; but it's easier for me to tell a story where you're dealing with creatures that are developed off of a rare blood disease. That kind of stuff I can get my head around," he says.

Underworld also features Scott Speedman and it was filmed on location in Budapest.

Woody Allen sends up love at first sight in his new comedy Anything Else co-starring young actors Jason Biggs of American Pie fame and Christina Ricci.

Ricci plays a somewhat vapid and flighty aspiring actress.

"She's a very typical Woody Allen girl: very neurotic, very insecure, very self-absorbed, almost infantile in her emotions," she says.

Biggs plays the sort of unlucky-in-love character Allen himself has often portrayed; but he says it is n-o-t an impersonation:

"There are obvious similarities in terms of vocal cadence and even mannerisms at times. I didn't feel like I was ever so lost in his world that I wasn't able to create my own character. I feel like there is an obvious separation, but without question there's a similarity; and let's be honest, it's a younger version of him. It's a very 'Woody-esque' character. Maybe I shouldn't say a younger version of him, but a younger version of characters that he has played throughout his career.

Anything Else also features Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing and writer/director Woody Allen in a very untypical role.

Haley Joel Osment plays a shy 14-year-old who comes out of his shell and learns some important lessons about growing up during a summer-long stay with two cantankerous old uncles played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall in Secondhand Lions.

Young Osment says working with the two Oscar-winners parallels his character's experiences in the movie:

"Oh yes, there's so much to learn from those guys," he says. " Every day on the set was a learning experience, whether they were trying to teach you anything or n-o-t. They were wise enough n-o-t to feel the need to have to tell you anything. They pretty much did what they did on the set, you watched and learned from how professional they were."

The heartwarming story is full of humor, but Caine says they never felt they were making a comedy.

"The way the three of us played it is we were never funny. What is amusing is us being real. These people are funny if they are real," says Caine. " If you try to be funny, you've had it; and that really goes for movie acting in general."

Secondhand Lions also features Kyra Sedgewick and is written and directed by Tim McCanlies, who set it in his native Texas.