With Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (review) in theatres now, we recently had a chance to sit down with a few of the film’s stars, and so we’ll start up this series with the flick’s big bad, Rufus Sewell!
Q: You’ve done your share of period pieces over the course of your career, but never something as revisionist as this and as entrenched in American history. As an English actor, was it fun to go into the project as somewhat of an outsider?
Well, I did “John Adams” and played Alexander Hamilton, so this is a nice alternative. It was very fun for me, and I hadn’t done anything like this before and had never played a vampire. I mean, I’ve certainly done my share of period films, I’ve done my share of bad guys. But for me, the mix and the fact that is was a vampire, which was a first for me, made me feel like I was almost being versatile.
Q: You have actually been approached to play a vampire before, though, right?
No, I’d approached people and they turned away. I was soliciting for vampire roles unwanted.
Q; So, when you first heard the title, what did you think? Did you just assume it was silly and ridiculous?
No, I didn’t. Listen, I’m familiar with deliberately goofy titles. I mean, Hobo With a Shotgun? I’m your man. I hear that and it sounds fucking awesome. And then the script either lives up to that potential or not, be it that kind of deliberately bad thing or whatever the particular angle is. I liked the idea of it, especially with the names connected. And then it’s a matter of looking at the script, and does it do what I want it to or not. The fact that, you know, like with the book, it took things relatively seriously, which I quite liked. I was certainly aware that you can do something that’s really funny for about fifteen minutes, but in terms of a long film it’s quite difficult to do.
Q: Was the idea of a secret society that’s pulling the strings from behind the curtain attempting to change history appealing to you? That’s one of the main aspects of the film I liked a lot.
Yeah, I liked the political struggles, and I liked the fact that he was a very, very, very old dude who had seen it all come and go and that he had ends he wanted to meet. He had a very clear objective, and if you were on his side, he wasn’t such a bad guy, and if you were in the war and were on the vampire’s side, this is the guy you would want looking after your interests.
Q: How much of the action were you actually in? It was hard to tell what was an effect and what was actually you.
I don’t know. I know that all those moves I made my attempts at, but I do also know that they didn’t look anything like that! So I don’t know how much was actually me.
Q: Yeah, that high kick was pretty impressive.
Oh, that was totally me. Totally me. (laughs) No, I think they’re very clever with it. You do as much as you can, and then the stuntman takes over and it’s a mixture of all of them. I’m appreciative of the digital and human help that my character got in some situations. From what I’ve seen, the action scenes are pretty awe-inspiring.
Q: It’s definitely a unique look. The film was just screened on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Were you bummed that you weren’t able to attend?
Yeah, a little bit. Well, they were there for a quite a long time. It looked like quite an involved trip, but yeah I was jealous as fuck. That would’ve been so cool, and I’ve heard that everybody loved it. Every time a vampire was killed they’d shout, “Get some!”.
Q What was the makeup process like for you throughout the shoot?
Well, we all had it better than [Benjamin Walker], who was in makeup as Lincoln for five hours. I was relatively fortunate because my character was pretty much together. He was the one that scrubbed up the best since he was kind of the friendly face of the vampires. Unless I was fully vamped out, as they put it in the script, I didn’t have the full…it was a little pale and a little this and that, but only when I turned did the eyes come into play and the veins and everything.
Q: So, what was the most fun thing to shoot? The fight scenes or maybe the ball?
Yeah, the ball was interesting for me. The fight scenes can go on for days and days and days, and you’re never quite sure of exactly what you’re doing. You do in terms of story, but in terms of the logistics and the physical demands of it, it would be very easy to lose the scene and just get caught up in the grunt work. That’s more exciting to watch because you’re blown and finally see what it is. But out of the scenes that were the most fun for me to do, the ballroom scene was quite nice for me. I got a chance to actually speak man to man, President to President, with Abe, because I consider him to be somewhat of an equal. That’s where this idea of the cigar room chat with a vampire came about. And that was one of the rare scenes where you have a sense of how it went at the end of the day.
Q: Are you looking forward to seeing how the film is going to do? It’s pretty original for the most part.
Yeah, it’s not an easy sell. There’s a group of people that kind of get the idea, and there’s a group of people that are still curious.
Q: The idea of combining genre with historical or literary fiction has been a trend that people responded to, and it has to feel good to be the first film out of the gate that blends the two in this particular way.
There’s no genre that I don’t want to be involved in if it’s good examples of. There’s no medium I don’t want to work in. I’m happy to do a bit of everything because to take the long view, I want my career to reflect that. I’ve always wanted to be in a film like this and to play a vampire, but that doesn’t mean I want to just play vampires.
Q: Genre films used to seem more set in their ways. You were were either in a hard science fiction film or a formulaic horror movie. Now it looks like there are a lot of mash-ups that are happening and you get to do a number of things in one role.
I think the difference is financial. They did exist, but it was more of the B and C movie strata. Tim Burton says that this sounds like the kind of movie he used to go see double features of in Times Square. They made them for like twenty-five bucks. They didn’t make them as tentpole movies. That’s the difference.
Q: I was actually surprised how epic the movie felt in scope at times.
That’s the trick it has up its sleeve.
Q: I mean, for better or worse, this film goes for it!
It does, completely unapologetically. This is this, and that’s it!
The Tim Burton-produced, Timur Bekmambetov-directed horror adventure Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter stars Benjamin Walker, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk, and Robin McLeavy. Look for it in theatres now!
The film explores the secret life of our greatest president, and the untold history that shaped our nation. As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln witnesses the shocking death of his mother, leading him on a path to an ongoing war – and ultimately to the presidency – he chronicles in a hidden diary. The journal reveals the incredible story of a clandestine warrior who never stopped fighting for the country he led and the people he loved.
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