*Finally! A vampire movie you can sink your teeth into.
After pop culture has reinvented the original vampire with day walkers, baby making vampires and vampires who have no fear of the cross and garlic, the first vampire, Dracula, arrives in theaters this weekend.
Luke Evans (“Fast & Furious 6,” “The Hobbit” series) is Dracula, aka “Vlad, The Impaler,” in “Dracula Untold.”
The Film Strip caught up with Evans this week at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City and asked him if it’s possible to be a monster and a hero? “That’s an interesting question,” he tells me.
“I think what we’ve done with this story is make you question that. He has a very interesting line in the film when he’s speaking to the Master Vampire (Charles Dance) where he says, ‘Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero. Sometimes it needs a monster.’ And he’s trying to get onto the right side of this creature, this sinister creature, and I sort of get why he says it, but I don’t know whether you can be a monster and a hero in the real world.
“But in 1467 or the time that we place this film—somewhere in the 1460s—the world is a very different place, and Vlad’s take on how to rule a country was that by putting one village to the stake, he saved 10 more. I mean it’s not how we live our lives now. Well, actually, there are places in the world where this sort of stuff is going on—darkness, very dark stuff—but it doesn’t relate to this film. I think heroes are the people that go into houses when they’re on fire and save people. That’s a hero, not the monsters.
What was your first encounter with Dracula?
Sesame Street. It was ‘Sesame Street’ and then Count Duckula, who was a vampire duck. And then it was a Saturday matinee as well, on TV—Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And then in my teenage years Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1974) by Francis Ford Coppola. And then I stopped. No more.
Luke, looking at your bio, you’re appeared in a number of mythic period pieces. Are you the go-to-guy for this genre?
I don’t know. Maybe I’m an old soul. Maybe I’ve lived before. And I guess maybe directors see a face that seems to have been lived in. I know that my face has been lived in, yeah. I guess I’ve got a certain look about me, and I think once I’m in a costume or I’ve got a certain period look, I seem to fit it quite well. I don’t know why that is. I’m quite happy that’s the case, because it’s actually quite fun to jump into a world that doesn’t exist anymore or didn’t exist ever. But it’s exciting because it’s an incredibly immersive job, as an actor, to disappear into a world that doesn’t exist or tell a story about a character that lived a long time ago.
Can you talk about your fighting gear?
Costume is a massive thing. I think costume makes you stand differently. And in this film, quite clearly—in the billboards, you see this incredible, elaborate armor. This chest breastplate with the dragon on it and it makes you stand differently, and it turns heads. It turned the cleaners’ heads, it turned the caterers’ heads, it turned makeup’s heads, everybody. I remember walking out of my trailer the first day on set when I put that armor on for the first time, and only I and my assistant and my dresser had seen the costume. And then I walked out for the first time and we were up in a quarry and it was cold, and Mother Nature had allowed us this great atmosphere so there were no fog machines. It was all-natural and I walked out through this mist, and everybody was just like, ‘Holy shit! He’s here. Bad Vlad’s arrived.’ It was a really good moment. But it makes you walk differently, you carry yourself differently, you fight differently. So it’s a tool.
Sarah Gadon (“Cosmopolis,” “Maps to the Stars”) plays Vlad’s wife, Mirena. And although her character lived in the 1400’s and she loves her role, Gadon is definitely a modern woman—in more ways than one. For starters, do not say, “Vlad’s wife” to her. “It’s so interesting, people always say, ‘You’re Vlad’s wife,’ but nobody ever says to Vlad, ‘You’re Mirena’s husband,’ she admonished. “And I think I’d probably start there. I definitely didn’t think of her as a secondary woman in the film, and for me it was always really important to convey to director Gary Shore that I was interested in playing a woman that contemporary audiences can access and not really feel alienated by this idea of a ‘princess in a tower.’
“And I think that kind of dynamic is what I also brought to my relationship with Luke. For me, what I loved about their story is that she wasn’t a woman in a vampire film that’s suppressing her sexuality, or a forbidden love story. She had this pure, unlimiting love for her family, and that was really beautiful. And that’s something that you don’t always get to see, is somebody that’s just in love, and it’s okay. And I think it’s that love that really motivates all the action of the film.”
With a slew of vampire movies having been made, Gadon sees “Dracula Untold” as, indeed, an untold story. “I was really excited to be a part of this film because there have been so many cinematic incarnations of the film, and for me each film speaks to a point in film history that it was made,” she explained. “So it was a cool thing to think of us putting a contemporary Hollywood stamp on Dracula and all that it encompasses in terms of the visual effects. Even just how we tell the story is indicative of how we are making movies right now, so that was really exciting for me.”
Dominic Cooper and Diarmand Murtagh also star in the Gary Shore directed “Dracula Untold.”
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]