Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview: Walker, Grahame-Smith Talk "Abraham Lincoln"

Flicks and Bits posted this interview with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter writer Seth Grahame-Smith and star Benjamin Walker:

Portraying Abraham Lincoln, yet in a more supernatural/fantastical world, how did you approach that?

Benjamin Walker: Talking about genre, as an actor I try not to work in that world. If I, playing Abraham Lincoln, allow myself to think like that, or think in terms of genre, or start creeping out into the abstract, I’m not doing a service to the man. The joke is in the title and then the movie is the commitment to it. Down to the buttons on the jacket I wore, the amount of work that went into making it real meticulous and thorough was mind-boggling to me. For me it’s a drama, it’s Lincoln’s struggle with himself and the evil’s around him. Building his life, his legacy, and his family.

When we were shooting the scene when Lincoln was going to the theatre, one of our armourers, one of the men who’s job it is, is to make the weapons in the movie, he made me an exact recreation of the knife that Abraham Lincoln had in his pocket – the pocket knife that he had on the night that he died. You don’t see it in the movie, it’s in my pocket, there’s no need for it. But that attention to detail, the reality of who Lincoln was and how he lived, it’s very present in the movie.

Seth Grahame-Smith: That’s something I think will set it apart for people when they watch it. In that when they watch Benjamin’s performance, it’s like an otherworldly performance, it’s surprisingly honest, surprisingly touching, and grounded. That’s why we get away with the bigness of the gags and everything, because always at the core of it is this emotional story, this real story that you have this rooting interest in, through Ben’s performance.

What was the preparation process like for you?

Benjamin Walker: I really just approached it as an actor would any, I did my research, I wrote in my journal. There was no thought in my mind that this was anything other than we were making a live-action Lincoln….who happens to have an axe (laughs). We did a lot of Lincoln research, with Timur at the helm. We were in a very grounded reality that we created, it’s just happenstance that there’s vampires. It’s really a movie about Abraham Lincoln, the one that we know and love.

What was the approach of adapting Abraham Lincoln’s life into this fictional world?

Seth Grahame-Smith:
I always thought of it, even in terms of the book, as a superhero origins story. I see Abraham Lincoln as the first and only true American superhero. And so what we’ve done in a very big genre way, is taking that concept and making it into the action movie of that concept. We’re literally doing a superhero origins story in the 19th century.

Benjamin Walker: I love history, and some of America's greatest heroes have been our president’s, so they’re ripe for storytelling. This is a new perspective on a someone we already know to be a hero, now we get to see him as an action hero.

What do think people can expect from this movie adaptation of your novel ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’?

Seth Grahame-Smith: You wouldn’t expect, necessarily, that this big, 3D, genre, action, summer tentpole movie, would mesh with the life and the real ideals, and the love and the loss, and the values of Abraham Lincoln. But somehow, through the power of us collaborating, and through Timur’s leadership, it has all come together in an extraordinarily fun way. I think audiences are going to be surprised. It’s a big summer tentpole movie that’s not a remake, not a sequel, not based on a video game, not based on a toy, it has no robots in it (laughs), and yet it has all the bigness of a 3D action epic.

We talked a lot about, in the process of creating the script, we talked a lot about three worlds; there’s the historical world, the Lincoln world. Secondly there’s the genre world, the fantasy world, and then there’s our world, the world we’re living in now. It’s a combination of the three. That’s one of the things that makes the movie unique, it’s an action movie, but then there’s this historical movie in there, and this emotional movie in there.

What do you think Timur Bekmambetov has brought to the story as director?

Seth Grahame-Smith: What Timur brought to this was a very sort of unexpected, unconventional approach to a period movie. In most period movies we’re used to seeing a certain type of filmmaking. I think one of the great surprises about ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ is the fact that you have Timur bringing his incredible style to an unexpected time and place. He’s great.

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