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Rhona Mitra makes the fur fly in ‘Underworld: Rise of Lycans’



Published: Thu, January 22, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Roger Moore

She’s in the small sorority of tough-guy actresses.

“When you’re a woman, roles don’t come along every day that let you be a horsewoman, a swordswoman, a dealer of death in a sexy love story,” says the British actress and B-movie sex symbol Rhona Mitra. “I mean, you don’t turn that down.”

Mitra, 32, has had her recurring roles on such hit TV series as “Boston Legal” and “Nip/Tuck.” But she has walked away from each of them and never looked back. Whatever limits the movies have placed on her career thus far, it’s not every leading lady who can kick posteriors and take names.

In taking roles in low-rent horror (“Skinwalkers”) and B-actioners (“Doomsday”), “the ever-watchable Mitra gets to follow in the footsteps of fellow Brit Kate Beckinsale or Milla Jovovich and franchise this testosterone-driven femme fighting machine,” says Box Office magazine critic Pete Hammond.

Besides, says Mitra, “I really got into acting for the travel. Staying in one place, playing the same part over and over again ... can get into your head. You become a puppet.”

Thus, her decision to tackle the prequel to the series that first put Beckinsale in leather — “Underworld.” In “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” Mitra is a half-woman/half-wolf, the fierce and dangerous love interest of Michael Sheen (”Frost/Nixon”), daughter of Bill Nighy. After all the attention vampires have gotten on screen in recent years, this “Underworld” tips the scales toward the fur.

Vampires, Mitra says, “are like rock gods. They’re like Keith Richards or Mick Jagger — long-lived, timeless, sexy nocturnal beings who seem immortal and very cavalier about it. I can see why young girls would get all caught up in ’Twilight.’ They’re sexy.

“Werewolves don’t command the same sort of obsession, I’m afraid. They’re furry little things. They’re not as sexy. Vampires dress better, too. You’d think that John Galliano had dressed them. I tend to go for werewolves, myself, in my life. None of these blood-suckers for me. Keep your fangs to yourself.”

Mitra laughs. She says she was leery of taking on “just another ’Underworld’ movie,” but realized it could be something special, being a 12th-century period piece and co-starring the estimable Nighy and Sheen.

“And we’d film in New Zealand. I loved traveling to New Zealand.”

So much so that she shot another film there, the romantic drama “The Truth About Men.” No swordplay or horsemanship in that one, “though the movie parts I get do tend to be broader, more physical, more play-acting, than the TV ones.” Mitra plays a cellist. And wouldn’t you know it, she’s connected with the sexy side of that instrument.

“It’s a sexy, seductive instrument, Mitra purrs. “Playing it, you feel you need nothing else in life. It has this warm melancholy about it that is very seductive. The sound reflects a feeling inside all of us that we don’t have words for, this connective, deep, comforting warmth. It’s like a quiet bass line, a hum that’s always in us.”


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