As Detective Fields in The Raven, Luke Evans plays the straight man to John Cusack’s Edgar Allan Poe. The film is, in many ways, structured like a buddy cop movie – albeit with a historical figure in a period setting and lots and lots of blood. Nevertheless, two leads from opposite walks of life are forced to team up to solve a series of crimes. It’s not the easiest job to maintain the screen with a more flamboyant presence, but Evans rises to the occasion.
I hopped on the phone with Evans late last week to discuss his role, balancing fiction with reality and staying true to the gruesomely beautiful spirit of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing.
From V for Vendetta director James McTeigue , “The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life – and death – in this stylish, gothic thriller starring John Cusack as the infamous author. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe’s darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe’s brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe’s love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target.”
Head inside for the interview. The Raven is in theaters this Friday, April 27.
The film is actually quite a bit different from the trailer that was initially released last year. Initially it indicated that the film might be tonally like Sherlock Holmes, but it’s not. It’s much darker.
Yes. There’s no bubblegum about this movie. We don’t veer away from an accurate portrayal of Poe’s works. They were bloody and very violent. And we had to honor his work by having as many macabre and bloody death scenes as we could.
What were some of the things you focussed on in terms of conveying your arc?
It was very clear from the outset that the dynamic between Poe and Fields was very important. You have Poe who is in quite a state in the movie. He’s an alcoholic, he’s dealing with the kidnapping of his lover and the fact that some insane kidnapper is taking the deaths from his books. As the film goes on you can see him losing the plot more and more.
Fields is a young detective who gained the bank of detective at a very early age in Baltimore. And there were a lot of people around him who did want to see him fail. And he had never failed a case before, so when he meets Poe it’s a challenge. At first, it’s a challenge to tolerate Poe at all. They come from opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of personalities and I don’t think he has any respect for Poe at the beginning of the film. But they have to work out a way of communicating and respecting each other. So there’s a nice arc when it comes to their journey.
Fields is very stoic and methodical. He doesn’t drink, his work means everything to him. He just wants to get the job done. And now he’s working with this very volatile character that he doesn’t know how to communicate with. That was an enjoyable dynamic to play against.
There’s quite a bit of action in the movie and your character goes through a lot. What was it like preparing physically?
There was plenty of horse siding so there was a lot of galloping about. I sort of came straight off the back of The Three Musketeers and Immortals so I was kind of fully fledged in the stunt department. I was ready for anything by the time I got to Budapest.
This project had been in development for quite a long time. When you first got involved was the script still in flux? Or was it pretty much the same as it is onscreen?
The same thing, more or less. It was pretty much the same. They had taken the time and done their re-writes and gotten everything in line. By the time it got to production the script was in a really good place.
This film deals with a real person. But you’re playing a fictional character. What was the atmosphere like on set trying to create that balance, making a fun romp and while honoring this real figure?
I think John [Cusack] did a fantastic job in playing Poe. He put so much work intro researching Poe’s history and his life. The people who were in his life and how he dealt with them. He really worked very, very hard. And being on set actually performing against John playing Poe was very, very fun. You feel like this man was literally living in the skin of Edgar Allan Poe and it was quite brilliant for that reason.
In terms of respecting Poe as inhuman being, I think John did a great job. But at the end of the day this was a fictional film. This was a gothic thriller. It’s all fictional, and if you’d ever read any of Poe’s books – they’re very explicit and very gory. And Poe never veered away from any of that blood and gore. And we don’t stray from that in the film.
The great thing about this movie is that you don’t need to know anything about Poe’s work to see it. It’s a fictional thriller that will hopefully make people want to read Poe, maybe they’ll discover that he was the godfather of the murder mystery, science fiction and all those things. It’s quite impressive really.
Which Poe piece is your favorite?
“The Pit And The Pendulum” is a favorite. They’re very hard to read, in that poetic beautiful writing. You sort of have to turn the lights down and just read it. Once you get into the flow of Poe’s writing it’s just beautiful. And of course “The Raven”, it’s just so incredibly well known and so beautifully written.
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