Shock Till You Drop was lucky enough to visit the set of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter last year and we can finally share the details with you. We hit the set in New Orleans where we got to watch some filming, chat with the cast and crew and get a tiny peek at the vampires. Director Timur Bekmambetov really strove for historical accuracy from his crew. He wanted this rooted in reality. If you recall, the first image released wasn’t from an action scene. It was a speech from the president.
Producer Jim Lemly said, “We’re making a movie, not a historical record and…art’s a metaphor. I think any way you can explore metaphor to make it relevant or expose it to a bigger audience or tell a story in a way it hasn’t been told — I think that’s the what we’re attempting to do. We feel we remain very truthful to the essence of Abraham Lincoln, because it’s very important to us. He’s doing these ridiculous, insane things, but his character is the Abraham Lincoln that you know. He’s a moral man who represents the best of humanity. I think what is a noble ideal for all people, to try and obtain and achieve.”
Bekmambetov told us, “I think the most important technique is to ground everything, to make the fantasy world grounded and relatable. Just great characters you will follow, you will understand, you will fall in love with. To move them through the action scenes, through the adventures and to develop, to open with them with the new world with new rules, with new ideas and it’s what we do. To find the character, to fall in love with and to go with him through this adventure, it’s like in any movie.”
That said, the vampires are not your run-of-the-mill, shiny pretty people. These guys are mean. We accidentally saw someone in vampire makeup as we were leaving the building after the interviews. We won’t spoil the look for you, but these guys look mean. Bekmambatov says, “Vampires in our movie they are very violent. They are mean and violent, but as human beings, because we are not good either, they represent us. It’s not different—it’s not a creature. They have human qualities. They have tragic back stories. Vampirism is just a physical manifestation of our problems or our class.”
Dominic Cooper, who plays Henry Strugess, the vampire who helps out Lincoln loved the design. “I got this cool ridiculous what looks like an ’80 pop star hairstyle, he says. “And I love The Lost Boys so I wanted this much influence in my costumes as I could. Plus my guy needs to be timeless, he never died, he’s been around for hundreds of years, he needs to be very worldly.”
Deep. The film has a message. Bekmambetov said, “This movie is about freedom and Lincoln gave us freedom. He held us to be free and the vampires, they have their own understanding what freedom is because they just live much longer and they feel they are a superior race and they have their own understanding—who has the power of course has to rule the world.”
Benjamin Walker who stars as Lincoln started out in theater. He received rave reviews for his work in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” This seemed like the perfect fit, though he wasn’t the first choice for the role. He laughed, “They’d already kind of offered it to somebody else – a big-name movie star. And the fact that they were courting me just seemed like a long shot in my mind. So there wasn’t much pressure. I was mostly fascinated to meet Timur. I had loved his movies. Night Watch and Day Watch had kind of blown my mind. So I was excited to meet him and hoped he’d liked my work. But, eh, fear is for pansies.”
As you can see from the photos, Walker is completely transformed by the makeup team. “What’s great about this project is we’re working with [special effect makeup artists] Greg Cannom and Will Huff,” he says. “For example, this isn’t my nose. I’m wearing a rubber nose already.” (For the record, we were all stunned when he said that.) “And we’ve built a progression of Lincoln from boyhood through his later life based off his death masks and actual masks and casts of the actual man. So that’s worth the price of admission right there — to watch Lincoln grow old in front of your eyes in a film context. In terms of vocally, there is a lot of research in that there wasn’t anything flattering about his voice in particular. It was kind of a shrill, raspy, unpalatable, annoying voice. But in our movie he’s a superhero, so we’re trying to marry the two. And, also, we get to enjoy seeing him…we already know, in our context, he’s a hero. So we get to enjoy seeing him come to be that. As a young man he goes through all the things that a young man goes through, which is fear and his voice cracking and growing into his own lanky form, and how that becomes the hero that we know today.”
New Orleans is the place to be for filming these days, but even more so in this case. Production designer Fancois Audouy told us, “You can find a 150 year old mansion in the Garden District. The Old Governors Mansion is still in terrific shape. We found these terrific streets called Joliet St., in downtown, and we turned them into Springfield, Illinois, which is very important to the Abraham Lincoln mythology. He met his future wife there. He had his first job. He learned how to become an attorney there.”
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens in theaters on June 22nd.