Selene is the vampire protagonist in the first two Underworld films.
Although it is never explicitly stated, various factors within the Underworld franchise suggest that Selene was born in Hungary in 1383. In Underworld: Evolution, it was revealed that was the daughter of an architect,
who had previously been employed by vampire leader Viktor to design an elaborate prison to hold the powerful werewolf, William Corvinus. Given the importance to keep William’s whereabouts a secret, Viktor had Selene’s father killed upon completion of the prison, along with the rest of her family, though successfully pinned the blame on rogue Lycans. Selene herself would have perished on that night had she not been spared death due to possessing a physical resemblance to Viktor’s own daughter, Sonja, who had previously been killed.
As an extension of his interest in her, Viktor turned Selene into a vampire that very night. From then on, she counted him as one of her most powerful allies, believing him to have saved her from being killed by Lycans. In response to her loss, she became a death dealer, a highly trained assassin, intent on exacting revenge on the Lycans for their supposed murder of her family.
When devising the idea of the film’s female lead, the writers took into account many aspects that would later help comprise the entire character. It was decided that she would be named Selene, which, in Greek mythology, was the name given to the Moon. Not only did this tie into the dark gothic styling of the film as a whole, but also saw the film’s poster display a large moon behind the gun-toting heroine as a reflection of the name choice. According to writer, Kevin Grevioux, other sources of influence include the Black Queen psychic vampire Selene, who was featured in a number of X-Men comic books. On the poster of Underworld, the figure also adopts a similar pose to that of the Marvel character, further highlighting their similarities.
Writers Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman have claimed that since the character‘s inception, they had decided they wished to cast Kate Beckinsale in the role of Selene. Other rumoured possible casting choices included Halle Berry and Milla Jovovich. However Beckinsale wasn’t initially drawn to it, but became sufficiently interested after examining the script further:
“I wasn't in a big rush to read it because I had a feeling it was going to be a B-movie, kind of schlocky horror thing when I heard it was werewolves and vampires. And I didn't fancy running about in a white nightgown, screaming and all that. But it happened to be that the director had done all these drawings that he'd sort of put inside the script. So, I saw those and said, "Oh! OK, that looks kind of like what I'd like seeing." “
Eager to portray an action heroine, initially, she wanted to model the character on Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, though Wiseman advised her use Russell Crowe’s performance in L.A. Confidential for suitable inspiration. Beckinsale’s own daughter, Lily Mo Sheen, also landed a part in the film, playing a young Selene in the multiple flashback scenes.
In 2009, rumours about Beckinsale’s return to the franchise (having not appeared in Rise of the Lycans) began circulating, with Bloody Disgusting reporting that she had signed on to appear in Underworld 4. Shortly after this, Beckinsale moved to deny that these rumours were true stating:
“I don’t know anything about a 4th Underworld. I don’t know anything about that at this point…I think if they came up with an amazing script I wouldn’t be adverse to it. But it’s not planned or anything. I don’t think my daughter needs to see my bottom in rubber for another ten years. But I don’t know, I’ve heard they’re talking about a 4th one, but I don’t know if that’s officially happening or that it’s a rumour. As far as I’m concerned it’s just a rumour.”
However, in September 2010, it was confirmed that she would return to appear in Underworld: Awakening. Beckinsale revealed that initially she was somewhat apprehensive returning to the character, and in particular the catsuit, for the first time in 5 years, but admitted that she quickly felt at home:
“It is a bit like trying on your school uniform or your wedding dress again. You think ‘Can I still fit in it?’ But it was great. It looks more uncomfortable than it was. By the end of the day it wasn’t quite so great but on the whole it was fine.”
While fulfilling an assignment of eliminating a target, Selene crosses paths with Raze, a powerful Lycan who after a brief gunfight, unintentionally leads her to a lair of his fellow werewolves, led by Lucian. After escaping, she informs high ranking vampire Kraven of what she has discovered, but her claims are quickly rejected. Undeterred by being ignored, she discusses the matter further with her close friend, Erika,
before eventually discovering on the CCTV footage that Raze was following a human when the attack occurred. After investigation, Selene manages to identify the man as Michael Corvin and discover his location. Although she is successful in finding him, they are attacked by several Lycans, including Lucian, who bites Michael, before Selene manages to escape with him.
Despite the risk Michael now poses, Selene brings him back to the vampire manor, Ordoghaz. Upon discovering her actions, Kraven turns on her, threatening both her and the life of the human if she didn’t remove him from the premises. Although shaken by the verbal rollicking she received, Selene becomes suspicious of Kraven’s behaviour, and after investigating him further discovers that he appears to be involved with Lucian - the Lycan he was supposed to have killed some years previously.
Now aware of Kraven’s betrayal, Selene awakens Viktor from his hibernation state, believing him to be the only one with enough power to restore order. Before she can explain the circumstances, Viktor orders her to be kept in isolation for breaking his sleep cycle prematurely. Realising the danger they all face, Selene escapes the manor and is reunited with Michael. At this time, she also captures Singe, a Lycan scientist, who reveals their plans to combine the two bloodlines into one species.
With this information, she returns to Ordoghaz and is declared innocent by Viktor and the council. However, in order for her to complete her atonement, he also demands that she kill Michael to prevent the possibility of the Lycans becoming more powerful.
Realising that she has developed feelings for Michael, she disobeys the orders and instead attempts to assist Michael in escaping from the vampire assassins. Jealous of her affections for the human, Kraven tracks them down and shoots Michael with a silver nitrate bullet - the sole material capable of killing him. In a desperate attempt to save him, Selene allows Michael to drink her own blood and in doing so, creates a vampire-Lycan hybrid.
The pair return to face Viktor and take revenge for murdering her family. After a series of failed attacks, Michael appears to be on the verge of being killed, only to be saved by Selene, who manages to bisect Viktor’s head with his own sword.
Following the events of Underworld, Selene and Michael were forced to flee from both vampire and Lycan habitations, being in significant danger from both sides. Despite the threat, she realises she must return to the manor in order to protect the hibernating vampire elder, Marcus Corvinus, believing Kraven intended on killing him. However, upon their arrival, they discover that Marcus has already awoken and murdered Kraven, and has since become a hybrid (due to absorbing Singe’s blood). Aware of Selene’s defiance, Marcus attempts to kill her, but Michael successfully leads them both to safety in an abandoned warehouse.
While here, the pair enjoy a brief moment of respite and have sex in the manner one would expect of a vampire and hybrid. After doing the dirty, Selene begins to get dressed once more and while doing so, discovers that her father’s pendant might hold greater significance than she first thought. Curious, she travels to meet up with Marcus’ father, Alexander Corvinus. He proceeds to reveal the true extent of his sons’ powers, much to the anger of Selene. However, before she could discover more information, they come under attack from Marcus, who impales Michael, stabs his father and drinks Selene’s blood - obtaining her memory of his brother William’s prison - before leaving to free him. Before Alexander dies, he persuades her drink of his blood, resulting in her becoming more powerful.
Selene then gathers a group of highly skilled vampires and begin to launch an assault on the prison in order to prevent William from being freed.
However, their arrival is too late and instead they are forced to take on both brothers. Although initially successful in leading the attack, Selene’s support soon dwindles rapidly and is instead faced with even more enemies after William turned many of the soldiers into Lycans. However, before all is lost, a now fully recovered Michael returns to the fold to partake in the fight. After a series of brawls, Selene manages to force Marcus’ head into the spinning blades of a nearby helicopter, instantly killing him.
Afterwards, Selene rejoins Michael in an embrace, unaffected by the sunlight, having seemingly become near invincible as a result of drinking Alexander’s blood.
As it serves as a prequel to the two films released previously, Selene does not feature heavily in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Instead, it acted as a back story for the franchise, expanding on the plot involving Viktor and Sonja. Although no new scenes involving Selene were shot, the film finishes with the introduction of the opening of Underworld, with the character delivering a brief monolog.
Underworld 4 is set to take place 15 years after the conclusion of Underworld: Evolution. Selene awakes from a coma to discover that she has a hybrid daughter and that they must combine their forces together to prevent BioCom from creating genetically superior Lycans.
Selene has made minor appearances in several other film and television projects.
In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, episode 84 entitled 2-and-a-Half-Star Wars Out of Five, Shake reveals himself to be a huge fan of the franchise. In one particular scene, he is shown to be wearing Selene’s trademark leather catsuit.
In Mythbusters’ Mega Movie Myths, clips of Selene are featured extensively as the team attempt to re-create the iconic scene in which she shoots her way through the floor to reach the lower level. After testing, they discovered that such an action was not possible to replicate in realistic conditions.
Although abilities common to all vampires are not specified in the franchise, Selene routinely demonstrates superhuman skills,
across the films. At the beginning of Underworld, she jumps from the top of a building, several stories up and lands to no harm. In Underworld: Evolution, she shows her ability to fly in a relatively small 360 degree circle, allowing her disarm enemies with ease.
Other biological characteristics that she appears to share with other vampires in the films includes health regeneration. However, they do appear to be susceptible to bullets containing UV rounds as well as exposure to sunlight.
After drinking Alexander Corvinus’ blood, Selene appears to have become even stronger. From this point on, she developed a new physical strength, allowing her to take on Marcus and was significantly more resistant to attacks. Previously, when engaging in combat, her eyes would ordinarily turn blue (not dissimilar to others within the species). However, after gaining the new set of powers, her eyes briefly turned completely white. At the end of Underworld: Evolution, she was able to walk in direct sunlight, experiencing none of the adverse effects she had faced previously.
In addition to her natural physical strengths, Selene is assisted by the various items she is equipped with. Perhaps the most notable of these is her iconic cat suit. Although the cat suit itself offers little in the way of protection, Selene wears a reinforced corset, capable of taking a shotgun round without being penetrated. Alongside these are her multiple holsters, which house her Walther P99s - one of many weaponry which she employs in combat.
Both Underworld and Underworld: Evolution received mixed to negative reviews, though appraisals of Kate Beckinsale's individual turn fared slightly better amongst critics. Some were quick to praise her portrayal as Selene, commenting on the unexpected presence she brought to a type of role that was new to her, having primarily appeared in dramas and romantic comedies previously. Variety's Joe Leydon remarked:
" Beckinsale proves to be a formidable action anti-heroine, even as she increases the va-va-voom quotient with a steamy scene to demonstrate that, as great as she looks in the leather catsuit, she looks even better out of it."
Tom Meek of the Boston Phoenix was quick to recognize Beckinsale's talent, but felt that she lacked the bite necessary pull off being a leading action star
" Unfortunately, Beckinsale, a wonderful actress who looks game in her painted-on leather garb, is too soft and demure to convince as the vengeful vixen."
Other critics felt that the source material was sufficiently poor that it prevented Beckinsale and her fellow cast members from really sinking their teeth into their respective roles. Roger Ebert was quick to criticize the lack of Selene's character development, which in turn damaged the overall quality of the film, claiming that it was 'impossible to care' about her fate.