Sunday, March 25, 2012


Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” was my favorite book of 2010. I read it because I thoroughly enjoyed author Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2009) immensely and will always be fascinated by period pieces and a well imagined vampire story.

Tim Burton is currently producing the film version of the book and thanks to friends at 20th Century Fox, I got to participate in a live “chat” last week (which was a bit like a 15 minute talk show) with director Timur Bekmambetov (Nightwatch, Daywatch, Wanted), author and screenplay writer Seth Grahame-Smith and actors Benjamin Walker and Rufus Sewell (Dark City, Knight’s Tale, The Tourist).

The film is treated straightforwardly like a “period piece with vampires,” as Grahame-Smith says he, Tim and Timur took the whole concept seriously, never winking and not making a joke out of it.

Grahame-Smith says while he had remained true to the sprit of the book, there were also things he had to let go of, “kill your darlings” so to speak. But the cast and director were ready to point out he had to “create new darlings” like Adam, the new vampire villain character to be played by English actor Sewell.

According to Sewell, “Adam is the first of the vampires…the vampire from which all other vampires came.” He is described as “formidable and ferocious,” yet also “a gentlemen, a great soldier for his cause…in a vampire election, you would vote for him, he’d make a great president for the vampires.”

Grahame-Smith goes further by adding, “We had this image of him in the script—we had him descending the stairs like Rhett Butler,” and describing him as “classic, elegant, but vicious.”

Sewell also says he gives “a nod to the great vampires of the past…when I grew up, it was Christopher Lee.”

For research, Benjamin Walker did a lot of reading—most especially work by Pulitzer Prize winner biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and a book called Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk, which he found very “helpful” as it talked about “his (Lincoln’s) depressive nature, how he dealt with death, his gothic side…it lends itself nicely to the story we’re telling.”

Timur Bekmambetov on the other hand, read work by a Russian man named Bushkov, which contains “civil war secrets Americans don’t want to talk about.”

Regarding physical preparations for the role, Walker says he had to lose weight as Lincoln was a tall but gaunt figure; he did a lot of Wushu, stretching and “hitting people with rubber axes.” Rufus Sewell, on the other hand, says Adam is “high up on the blood chain,” and basically just sends his minions “so I did a lot of training sitting comfortably in a big chair” with his fight scenes happening in the “final reel of the film” in a new climactic sequence written for the film.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is set for US release on June 22nd. In the meantime, you’ll find Grahame-Smiths’ handiwork in another Tim Burton project, “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp and set for release on the 11th of May.

Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

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