Benjamin Walker Interview For ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’
With ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ visionary filmmakers Timur Bekmambetov (director) and Tim Burton (producer) present an original take on the United States’ 16th president and bring a fresh voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire. When Abraham Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, it fuels his passion to avenge her death. Statesmen by day, hunter by night, President Lincoln sets out to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers. The screenplay for the film is by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on his own novel ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.’ The film stars Benjamin Walker as the titular Abraham Lincoln, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ is released in cinemas June 20th.
Portraying Abraham Lincoln, yet in a more supernatural/fantastical world, how did you approach that?
Benjamin Walker: Talking about genre, as an actor I try not to work in that world. If I, playing Abraham Lincoln, allow myself to think like that, or think in terms of genre, or start creeping out into the abstract, I’m not doing a service to the man. The joke is in the title and then the movie is the commitment to it. Down to the buttons on the jacket I wore, the amount of work that went into making it real was meticulous and thorough – it was mind-boggling to me. For me it’s a drama, it’s Lincoln’s struggle with himself and the evil’s around him. Building his life, his legacy, and his family. Also, when we were shooting the scene when Lincoln was going to the theatre, one of our armourers, one of the men who’s job it is, is to make the weapons in the movie, he made me an exact recreation of the knife that Abraham Lincoln had in his pocket – the pocket knife that he had on the night that he died. You don’t see it in the movie, it’s in my pocket, there’s no need for it. But that attention to detail, the reality of who Lincoln was and how he lived, it’s very present in the movie.
What was the preparation process like for you? What was the approach of adapting Abraham Lincoln’s life into this fictional world?
Benjamin Walker: I really just approached it as an actor would any, I did my research, I wrote in my journal. There was no thought in my mind that this was anything other than we were making a live-action Lincoln….who happens to have an axe (laughs). We did a lot of Lincoln research, with Timur at the helm. We were in a very grounded reality that we created, it’s just happenstance that there’s vampires. It’s really a movie about Abraham Lincoln, the one that we know and love. I love history, and some of Americas greatest heroes have been our president’s, so they’re ripe for storytelling. This is a new perspective on someone we already know to be a hero, now we get to see him as an action hero. With preperation, I read a number of books, ‘Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin. There’s a really great book about the melancholy of Lincoln that lends itself nicely to the story we’re telling, to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ about his love affairs before Mary Todd, his suicidal tendencies, his journaling, his depression. He took mercury pills for years. Imagine what that does to your psyche? I mean, it’s truly astounding.
How was it working with Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton? Both are known for unique visuals and a macabre sense of humour…..
Benjamin Walker: They’re great. Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov really bring their unique styles and feel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.’ They’re both highly intelligent, funny, macabre, visual geniuses. What’s fun is putting trust in that and realising what they’re going for is gonna be something you couldn’t possibly imagine. It takes trust and a lot of work and dedication. They bring a sense of the visuals that are rarely seen in film today, and also this unique macabre humour that is charming and exciting. Timur always wants to do what has not been done. He wants to create an image that hasn’t been seen. He wants to kill someone in a way they’ve never been killed – and that’s very exciting, because then your not just hitting people with an axe, you’re doing something very specific. The more specific something is, the more fun it is for an actor. Both of their imaginations are astounding!
When people are leaving the cinema, what do you hope is their reaction to ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’?
Benjamin Walker: I hope they have a great time, a lot of fun. I hope they go home and Google “Lincoln,” because so much of his actual life is in the movie. ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ is kind of a greatest hits of the events of his life, though, we’re obviously taking liberties adding vampires (laughs), we’re not in other aspects. So I hope they go home and Google “Lincoln”, re-evaluate who he was, and as an American, re-evaluate who we are. The more I learned about Lincoln, the more I learnt about how multi-faceted he was, he’s fascinating. There seemed to be different versions of Lincoln, the political Lincoln, the Lincoln that he shared with his wife, the Lincoln that he kind of left when his mother died.
Look out for a more in-depth interview with Benjamin Walker and the rest of the cast closer to the films release date.
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