Casters (Beautiful Creatures), Souls (The Host), and Shadowhunters (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) didn’t really work out, so why not give vampires another go? The young adult book-to-film adaptation of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is due in theaters on February 14, 2014, and in an effort to build some hype and satiate the series’ devout fan base, the Weinstein Company brought the project to New York Comic Con.
The film focuses on two primary characters, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). Both girls attend St. Vladimir’s Academy, but Lissa is a Moroi and Rose is a Dhampir, and that means Lissa is there to learn about honing her skills as a vampire while Rose trains to become her protector. Moroi are benevolent vampires, but the problem is, they can choose to trade their morality for immortality and turn Strigoi. Whereas Moroi feed from willing human donors, Strigoi go after Moroi blood because it gives them more power, making Rose essential to Lissa’s survival.
Earlier today, Deutch, Fry, Sami Gayle, Dominic Sherwood, director Mark Waters and writer Daniel Waters hit room 1A06 at the Javits Center to discuss the material, field some audience questions, and unveil a brand new trailer for the film. But before the gang took the stage, Mead chimed in via a pre-recorded video to usher in the team:
“When we first started the series seven years ago, it was just kind of a side project for me and I’m so thrilled to see the life it’s taken on around the world. The people you’re about to meet have been instrumental in bringing ‘Vampire Academy’ to the next stage, the big screen. They have been working very hard to bring the characters and the story to life and I couldn’t be more thrilled with what they’re doing.”
To kick things off in the flesh, Mark Waters offered a brief update on the status of the film. “We’re deep in post-production.” He added, “We actually started to preview it.”
Daniel Waters highlighted one particular preview screening experience involving producer Don Murphy’s niece, Nicole. “She read the books a long time ago… She’s the one who convinced Don to take it on and then Don convinced me to do it on.” Waters continued, “She’s watching this movie and we’ve got thrills in the movie, she doesn’t move. We got romance in the movie, she’s not moving. We got comedy. Give me a laugh, girl! She’s not laughing. I’m like, I’m gonna strangle this girl… And then, the movie finally ends, she turns around and there’s one bead of sweat coming down her face and she says, ‘Amazing.’”
Considering the Vampire Academy narrative and emotional core is rooted in Rose and Lissa’s relationship, casting those two roles was a make or break decision and, fortunately, the filmmakers opted to slip in just one last candidate before proceeding with chemistry reads. Fry recalled, “I went and did the first audition. I felt so connected to it, but it wasn’t filmed. I got great feedback in the room, but I didn’t hear anything back, and I wasn’t ready to give up because I loved the character so much, so I sent in a self tape.” Mark Waters continued, “We wanted to mix and match actors with each other and so we had a few Roses and a few Lissas, and to my casting director’s credit, she said, ‘I know we’ve already made all our test deals, I know we have it all set, but I just want you to look at this one last self tape that just came in,’ and we all looked at it and we were just like, ‘Okay. Bring her, too!’”
Even though there were still multiple actresses in play for both roles at that point, Deutch already started playing the part of Fry’s guardian. Deutch recalled, “I actually drove Lucy home from the audition … Lucy, if you know LA, the beautiful Lucy Fry with blonde hair, blue eyes, sweet, loving, funny, she was gonna either walk or take a bus that she didn’t know the route … and I was like, ‘I don’t think so.’”
Giving Fry a ride home is one thing; making an audience believe you possess the physical strength and ability to protect a Moroi from a Strigoi is another story. “I did gym training, fight training, and stunt choreography.” Deutch further explained, “In terms of gym training it was a lot of building muscle and drinking these repulsive protein shakes, which I really don’t recommend having four a day.”
While Rose does become a very capable protector from a physical standpoint, it’s her bold, brash, and deeply dedicated nature that makes her both a dependable guardian and a unique leading lady. Daniel Waters pointed out, “It’s more of a mercenary kind of thing that I’m so bored of men, of male leads because we’re not that complicated. We’re noT that complex. Shakespeare has figured it out already and, to me, you do anything with a female in the lead, it changes everything.”
Further amplifying Rose’s exceptional, engaging and highly entertaining personality is Deutch herself. Daniel Waters explained, “I think Zoey and I, in real life and when we go out for jobs, we have to edit ourselves a little bit because we’re a little out there and I think with Rose, finally here was a character I didn’t have to hold back on.” He continued, “No one’s gonna accuse me of making the character too outrageous, too harsh, too funny, too tough … Finally I get to write a role where I can go crazy because that’s Rose.”
But of course, Waters is writing a script based on a previous piece of work, and a particularly beloved piece of work at that. Respecting the source material was a must and Mark Waters assured the audience, “For the most part, all the big important scenes are there. There’s not a single major moment that has gone missing.” However, text and film are two completely different mediums and some changes were necessary. Daniel Waters noted, “There came a point in the book where the rabbit dies and Lissa’s like, ‘Aw, that bunny.’ I’m like, come on! How many animals do we got here?” He also pointed out, “And, you know, I’ll announce it right now, I’ll say it; when you have a male writer adapt a female author’s book, some things are gonna get lost. And I’ll say it; I can’t have Dimitri buy lip gloss.”
The loss of the lip gloss moment will likely disappoint some, but perhaps an understanding of how they handle the shadow kissed effect will ease some concerns. Waters explained:
“Immediately distinctive about the book when I started to read it that I thought I’d never really seen done in a movie before was this idea of her, as Danny calls it, ‘Lissa-vision,’ which is when Rose is in Lissa’s head, and that was something that we had a lot of fun with. We did a lot of things with steadicam POV shots and things like getting scenes from Lissa’s point of view as well as from other angles, as well as what happens to Rose. We did something really interesting and distinctive with what happens to Rose, it happens to her eyes as she goes into Lissa-vision mode.”
Mark Waters also touched on his plans for the film’s score. “Well, on one level I’m working with my composer Rolfe Kent, is doing the score for it, which is exciting.” He added, “As far as the songs are concerned, it’s [in the] very early stages. We’re actually getting some artists to do some songs particularly for this movie, one of them is a cover, one of them is gonna be original, as well as just kind of trying out things and seeing what we like.”
Should the song selection for the feature have the same effect as the music choice for the new trailer, it’ll undoubtedly be a winning arrangement. You got a small taste of the tone, situation, and world of Vampire Academy in the teaser trailer, but now they’ve got a full promo on the way and it’s got an infectious appeal and stellar momentum that will absolutely solidify the film as a standout.
The piece opens up with a scene from the first teaser – Rose feeding Lissa. Then, to the tune of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” we move into some fresh footage. There’s a scene of Rose and Lissa getting ready, presumably to go out for the night, and another sequence of Rose training with Dimitri, the combat looking visceral and intense.
The next significant chunk of footage features Mia asking Rose, “Why are you in the hospital? You pregnant? Herpes?” There’s also a steamy scene between Deutch and Ashley Charles who plays Jesse as well as the apex of the trailer, Rose punching Mia straight in the face.
You’ve definitely got a strong promo to look forward to, one that is sure to draw in newcomers and satiate fans. Snappy editing paired with some tonally appropriate title cards gives the piece a charming Mean Girls-esque sass. That text runs with the green and pink color scheme featured in the new poster and spells out, “Get ready / for a killer year / at Vampire Academy. / Best friends, / tasty guys, / evil teachers, / and backstabbing bitches / out for blood. / This Valentine’s Day / They suck at school.”
Vampire Academy is due in theaters on February 14, 2014.