President of the United States by day, and slayer of the undead by night. That's the job of the title character in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
It's not something they ever taught us in US history classes, but this new release, based on Seth Graham Smith's best-selling novel of the same name, does indeed present an alternative history of America's sixteenth president.
"It sounded like the kind of movie I wanted to see,” says Tim Burton, who serves as the film's executive producer. “It felt like it could have the crazy energy of the films of my youth, which had a lot of weird mash-ups of horror movies.”
Seems that ole Abe, who is also completely dedicated to wiping out slavery, has been hacking away at the undead for a loooong time. It all started when vampire and local businessman Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) drained his Mom of her lifeblood. Ever since that incident, Lincoln, with the help of his mentor Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), has been on a campaign of revenge against blood drinkers of all shapes and sizes.
When he isn't killing the seemingly endless stream of vampires, headed up by (Rufus Sewell), Lincoln is busy falling in love with his future wife Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
"The beginning of Abraham and Mary’s relationship is like a romantic comedy,” says Winstead. “They’re young and there’s a real connection between them. She’s attracted to his intelligence, integrity and humor.”
Graham Smith, the film's screenwriter, is also the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which incorporates the walking dead into Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice, and the recently released Unholy Night. In fact, the author first caught the idea for Lincoln's nightly activities during a special to promote Zombies.
“Many of the bookstores on my promotional tour had two displays: one featured books about Lincoln’s life; the other was a vampire-themed display, including the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse books [upon which the television show True Blood was based]. It led me to think about combining the two subjects.”
Meanwhile, the film's director, Russian born Timur Bekmambetov, who previously helmed the box office hit Wanted knows a thing or two about vampires – thanks to his vamp pics Night Watch and Day Watch, released in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
“I immediately reacted to the story because it was so clean, simple and powerful,” says the director.
Bekmambetov was to serve as the film’s producer, but Burton needed him in the director's chair. He simply wanted Bekmambetov’s version of the story and felt that the director’s Russian heritage would allow for a fresh perspective on the storyline.
When it came to casting Lincoln, meanwhile, Benjamin Walker, who played the title character in 2010’s Broadway play Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a rock musical version of the life of seventh US president Andrew Jackson, was the person of choice.
To become Lincoln, Walker 29 at the time of casting, donned multiple prosthetics to age another twenty-six years, shed thirty pounds to acheieve Lincoln’s leanness and underwent hundreds of hours in weapons training.
“What’s dangerous about playing an icon is not allowing the character to be human,” says the actor. “You must allow the character to be vulnerable or even silly. Luckily, Tim and Timur were open to making Abraham a flawed, funny and conflicted man.”
“The human side is always the most important thing,” Burton concurs. “And the character has to have a sense of humor because no one could survive as a vampire hunter without it.”
Studio:: Twentieth Century Fox
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Stars: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas and Erin Wasson.
Screenwriter: Seth Grahame-Smith (Based on his novel)
Producers: Tim Burton and Jim Lemley
Executive Producers: Simon Kinberg, Michele Wolkoff and John J. Kelly