‘Underworld’ prequel rises

Tatopoulos will direct 'Rise of the Lycans'

Lakeshore Entertainment and Screen Gems are teaming to bring a third installment of the “Underworld” franchise to the bigscreen.

F/x maven Patrick Tatopoulos, who developed the creatures for the first two films in the franchise, will helm “Underworld 3: The Rise of the Lycans,” with Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy and Rhona Mitra aboard to star. “Underworld” creator Len Wiseman will produce alongside Lakeshore’s Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Skip Williamson.

Prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.

Danny McBride penned the screenplay.

“For the first time we will experience the ‘Underworld’ universe through the eyes of the Lycans,” Wiseman said. “Patrick has always played such an essential part in helping to create ‘Underworld’ from the start. … So I feel it is both exciting and fitting that (he) now takes the helm.”

Sony’s Screen Gems will distribute the film in North America, with Sony and Lakeshore distributing worldwide. Shooting will begin in January in Auckland, New Zealand.

In addition to teaming on the first two films in the “Underworld” franchise, Lakeshore and Screen Gems also partnered on “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Mothman Prophecies” and the upcoming Diane Lane starrer “Untraceable.”

Film marks Tatopoulos’ feature directorial debut. He is a frequent collaborator with Wiseman and Roland Emmerich, with whom he worked on “10,000 B.C.,” “Independence Day” and “Godzilla.”

Sheen’s credits include “The Queen,” “Blood Diamond” and the upcoming “Frost/Nixon.”

Nighy recently wrapped “Valkyrie.” He also appeared in “Notes on a Scandal” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

Mitra’s credits include TV series “The Practice” and “Boston Legal”  and the films “The Number 23” and “Shooter.”