Abraham Lincoln repaired the Union, facilitated the end of slavery and wrote the Gettysburg Address, but none of those remarkable feats count as the 16th President's greatest feat, according to "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
The cinematic adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's mashup novel frames Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) as, above all, a prolific slayer of the undead. Concurrent with his political rise and stewardship of the fractured nation during the Civil War, the president fought a shadow war against vampire villain Adam (Rufus Sewell).
amNY spoke with director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") about the movie, which hits theaters Friday.
As a native of Kazakhstan, what spoke to you about Seth's treatment of U.S. history? I've lived in the United States for seven years. I have a lot of friends, a lot of business connections, relationships, and I never had a chance to understand and connect to this world. For me, it was kind of the tricky way, but how I could connect to the soul of this country.
What makes Lincoln, in particular, an ideal vampire hunter? First of all, his biography is the perfect example of the superhero origin story. He had the same dramatic life. He was a young boy who lost his parents. In the book, he met a mentor. He was trying for revenge ... He lives two different lives. He has his real life and his secret life. He has a girlfriend. He has to make a choice. It's exactly the "Spider-Man" or "Batman" story. And it's why I think he's the first real superhero.
Star Benjamin Walker played a memorably dark Andrew Jackson in "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" on the stage, including on its Broadway run. Did that influence you? My first vision of Abraham Lincoln was a little bit closer to [the show's] Andrew Jackson ... I have people around me, partners, and I saw their faces when I was trying to make him edgier and I understood that I cannot do this. It's just not right.
How important was it to weave in the real history? It was very important. First of all, it's a genre movie. But, I really believe for genre movies, fantasy and vampire movies, you must be grounded, you must be relatable. Otherwise, it's not scary.
Why is relatability important? Make vampires as ordinary as possible. As relatable as possible. And then it will be very scary, because they look like you, they are next to you, but they're not us. They are different. \[In\] "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" it's not just an ordinary man, it's an extraordinary man, a person who lives in everybody's heart.