Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the Timur Bekmambetov-directed and Seth Grahame-Smith scripted revisionist take on the life of the 16th President of the United States opens on June 22nd.
Dominic Cooper plays a supporting role in the film as Henry Sturgess, a highly conflicted confidant and trainer to Abraham Lincoln. I recently hopped on the phone with Cooper and we talked about the challenges of playing the role as well as Bekmambetov’s unique take on filming action scenes.
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. His journal reveals the incredible story of a clandestine warrior who never stopped fighting for the country he led and the people he loved.”
Benjamin Walker stars as “Honest Abe”, with Anthony Mackie, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Robin McLeavy, Robin McLeavy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson and Alan Tudyk.
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How are you?
Good. How are you? Germany 1, Denmark 1.
I don’t understand.
The European Championships! The biggest football event in Europe, come on!
Oh I’m an American and I don’t even watch American sports.
I’m just kidding.
How did you find your way into this role? You’re playing Lincoln’s mentor but you have a lot of secrets. What was your access point?
I was attracted to the idea and concept of what this very different film was trying to be. You know that Timur is directing it and that Tim Burton is producing it and you can make sense of what it is kind of. And then you read it and go, “oh wow. This character is unbelievably in-depth and multi-layered and has a lot going on.” It’s exactly as you said, how do you find your way playing amongst this action stuff. And I actually enjoyed in many respects seeing it change and evolve and watching Timur try to figure out the tone of the film. And in fact I think I misjudged the character quite a bit at the beginning. I made him flamboyant and theatrical, but he is dark and has a dark side to him and has a very selfish agenda.
Are you talking about the beginning of your process of finding the character or in the film itself? I think that reads in the film.
I hope so. It was about finding how that works. And it’s always a relief when it happens and it works.
What’s filming those set pieces like? Does Timur use a lot of green screen or is there practical stuff to interact with onset?
There is lots of green screen. It’s extraordinarily time consuming but it takes a lot of work to even get to that point in terms of the action. It’s not something I enjoy at the time but the rewards of seeing it put together are fantastic. You’re doing tiny little sections of it bit by bit and it can be frustrating, but it’s a great part of the film. I love watching action in films if its done well and Timur is one of the most creative directors with it.
You can tell when it’s a Timur action scene for sure. You know it’s him.
It’s a very distinctive style. And he’s very careful with his placement and use of 3D.
Did you guys shoot in 3D?
No, but we always knew it was going to be converted so we shot for it. From what I gather it’s very time consuming to shoot that way.
Was this something where the script was changing a lot on set? Seth mentioned that this almost felt like a sequel to the novel. Was the material in flux a bit?
As soon as you start adding things or taking things away it can start to unravel. All of the different rules with different vampires, and you don’t want to mess with it. But actually in this case it was always being shifted and changed, only for the better.
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