[Interview] ‘I, Frankenstein’ Director Stuart Beattie On The Challenges Of Resurrecting Mary Shelley’s Monster

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Stuart Beattie, who wrote films like Collateral and 30 Days Of Night makes his second directorial effort with I, Frankenstein, which will be released through Lionsgate this Friday, January 24, 2014.

In the film, The 200-year-old Adam is played by Aaron Eckhart. Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy and Miranda Otto also star.”200 years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein’s creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind.

I recently caught up with Beattie to talk about his approach to creating the film’s world as well as the challenges of shooting such a large scale film independently. Check it out below!

How did you get involved? I know the comic was around but you wrote the final draft of this script.

Yeah, basically it had been around for a couple of years and they weren’t happy with what they had and they came to me and said they wanted to do a modern day action movie centered around Frankenstein’s monster and call it I, Frankenstein and that was it. Those were the entire parameters. I didn’t read Kevin’s script or anything, it was just a concept and a title and I loved both. I thought it was a chance to do a very character driven action movie. So I kind of went away and came up with a story and populated it with characters. The one thing they wanted was for him to be defending mankind from a dark evil.

The obvious question is, “why?” Why would he do that? Mankind has been horrible to him, starting with his own father and going through every village he’s ever been run out of. Why would that guy ever give a sh*t? To me the “why” of what someone does is always more interesting than “what” they do. So the idea was to build a whole movie around the idea of “why.” At the beginning he says “no.” Then there’s the whole journey through the rest of the film.

You’ve got a great ensemble in this, how was it pulling all of that together?

After Aaron [Eckhart], Bill Nighy was the first person I went after. If you want a villain in a horror fantasy film, you beg, plead and do whatever you can to get Bill Nighy. Getting him was an absolute coup and we were just thrilled. He brings such class to everything, he’s just one of those gentleman actors who can do these kinds of films and do them convincingly. That’s the question in a fantasy film, “can you say this stuff believably?” Miranda Otto is one of those actors who can do that, she’s got this grace and dignity. Yvonne [Strahovski] sells all of the science stuff. Her parents were scientists and she knew how to speak that language.

The scope of the film is huge, did you ever worry about running up against the budget as you were writing it?

Not at the time! I didn’t know. I finished and they were like, “by the way the budget is 36 Million.” That’s when all of the worry starts. “How do you physically achieve this?” A lot of planning and a lot of ways of figuring out all of the ways to skin that cat. We had nine weeks to shoot the film and we couldn’t go a day or a dollar over. We were not a big studio film, it wasn’t funded through Lionsgate it was a Lakeshore film. We didn’t have a studio paying if we went a day over, we had to be on time and on budget. It was a lot of work, we managed 33 setups a day. We were flying.