Director Gary Shore likens the Dracula myth to a game of Chinese Whispers. Also known as Telephone or Pass It On, this is an age-old game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, and the words are then passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. The story from first to last is often drastically changed.
Having said that, Shore’s version of Dracula is actually quite traditional.
In the movie Prince Vlad Dracul (Luke Evans) is forced to choose between losing as a mortal or becoming invincible as an immortal. Some choice, eh? Of course, it is a dilemma because as a vampire Vlad is not only cursed with an insatiable lust for blood, he risks losing the two people he loves most: his wife and young son.
Read on to see what Shore has to say about being far down in a long line of Chinese whisperers (by way of Dublin) and how he strove to make his film a standout.
Dread Central: I’ve gotta say your lead, Luke Evans, has this old world look that’s very believable. He’s not a pretty boy, which is what the studios usually want, so, how did he come on board?
Gary Shore: Luke had worked at the studio, Universal, on Fast and Furious 6, and he had already done a ton of research on Dracula. And he just came with a lot of ideas. He was the first, last, and only person that I spoke to; and I was blessed to have him. And you’re right: He does have a very old world look, like one of those 1960s leading men. He is a man’s man. He does give it a bit of character and history.
DC: Can you talk a little bit about how you came to the project? Was it already set in stone, like the script and everything, or did you help develop it?
GS: The script development was in flux when I came on to the project two and a half years ago; it was probably about 70% of what it is now. There is more of the film, and we shot a lot more than what ends up in the final film. There were a couple characters that were there, that we had to unfortunately cut out, but other than that, it’s always just a process. And then I’ll have a particular version that I’ll work on with producers and then the studio, and then once you get the actors, a lot of that is sort of moved around. It’s like what Harrison Ford once said to George Lucas, he said, “George, you can type this shit, but you sure as hell can’t say it.”
DC: That’s true. Dialogue has to flow. So does the imagery. Where’d you shoot? And it looks like there’s a lot of CGI, but it seems organic to the whole dark fantasy look of the film.
GS: We shot it in Northern Ireland around Belfast. I would say that maybe 60% of the film was shot interior. We had some really beautiful locations to give you more forest and the mountains. We shot it on film because we wanted to take the opportunity while it is still being used… and may finish up being used in the next couple of years or five years. But I wanted to take that opportunity and use it, and so it was all trying to make things grounded and be real, but it was also shot in a very kind of classical way. And when we needed to have fun with the camera, we would wait for the appropriate times, but for the most part it’s done in quite a classical way. The effects that are there and the effects that we tried to use were trying to complement the scene.
DC: Are you an aficionado of the Dracula legend, or did the more grounded aspects of the story draw you in?
GS: I think I was more fascinated with the real life of Vlad the Third of Romania. I just have an interest in history… I had been reading up about him, and when I got the script, I had this great opportunity to try and take some of that history up. You can’t go into it all, but take some of those seeds of history and combine it or bridge it to the task. Regarding previous Dracula movies, there has been so much mythology that has been made up through those different films. There’s all these different kinds of bonkers versions — at one time I remember seeing one Dracula film where he was playing in a snooker championship!
Dracula Untold (review) stars Luke Evans as the titular bloodsucker alongside Charles Dance, Sarah Gadon, Samantha Barks, Thor Kristjansson, Art Parkinson, Zach McGowan, and Dominic Cooper.
Universal’s dramatic horror movie tells the origin story of the most famous of vampires. Michael De Luca is producing the project, and commercials helmer Gary Shore is making his directorial debut.
Luke Evans is starring as the most famous of vampires in an origin story that sees a Transylvanian prince risk eternal damnation in order to save his wife and son from a Turkish horde. Barks plays a figure in Eastern European folk tales known as a baba yaga, a beautiful young woman who turns into a savage witch. Kristjansson is Bright Eyes, an Eastern European taken as a slave as a young boy and now a vicious assassin in the Ottoman Army. Parkinson portrays Dracula’s son, named Ingeras.