“It’s 80 miles from here to Gettysburg. Eighty miles will decide if this nation belongs to the living or the dead.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
With these words starting the clip from “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” at WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif. today, you would think that this is not going to be the President Lincoln that we learned about in history class, but according to the screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith that would be erroneous to assume. He even noted that the film is a kickass action movie with strangely accurate history in it.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” due out in theater on June 22, is based on the novel of the same name written by the man who became the film’s screenwriter, Grahame-Smith.
The origins of how the book came to be started when Grahame-Smith was on a book tour in 2009 for his first mashup novel, the New York Times best seller, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” During that time it was the bicentennial birthday celebration of Lincoln. Every book store he walked into during the tour had two displays in the front – “Twilight” and “Abraham Lincoln,” which inspired the combination of vampires with the 16th President of the United States.
As committed as Grahame-Smith was to capture Jane Austen’s voice with “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” he felt he needed to take the same care with Lincoln. He did a lot of research on Lincoln before he began writing the book, including reading many of Lincoln’s letters to get the language right. He saw Lincoln’s story as a superhero origin story of a person who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and had to save the country during The Civil War.
Benjamin Walker, who plays the title character, stated that he also did a lot of research by reading many books on Lincoln. He said that his character is a badass and that he is strong and can cut some heads off. He called the film a period movie that happens to have vampires in it.
When it came to transitioning the book to a screenplay, Grahame-Smith had to “murder” some of the things he loved in the book to write the screenplay. He said that there were some things he added like a central villain, which the book lacked. The villain is Adam (Rufus Sewell), chief of all vampires, who has been around as long as the pyramids. He also added William Johnson (Anthony Mackie) who was an actual aid to Lincoln.
We saw both Adam and William Johnson in action during a clip from the film where a super ax wielding Lincoln, along with Johnson, kick vampire butt on top of a speeding train. They battle multiple vampires as the train hurtles toward a burning bridge, hoping to make it across before it collapses. When Adam shows up, he does a number on both, and it seems our heroes may be faltering as the clip fades away.
While I enjoyed the super ax attack by Lincoln, I must admit I rolled my eyes at yet another battle on a train after last year’s train fights in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Priest” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” I could be a little bit more forgiving if this was written into the novel, but Grahame-Smith noted that this scene was written just for the movie.
When asked about working with Tim Burton as a producer, Graham-Smith said that the title is so absurd that they had to make the movie in a straightforward way with no winks at the audience and Burton supported that. With the movie, Graham-Smith wanted to pay respect to the vampires he was scared of as a child. He feels the movie is for vampire lovers, action movie lovers, and he was quick to point out that it will be the only movie this summer with a president killing vampires.
Based on the trailer and the clip, even with it being another train battle, I am intrigued by this story of how the Lincoln, known in legends for chopping down a cherry tree and not telling a lie, turns into a vampire assassin with an ax and our country’s president. I’m looking forward to this history lesson combined with blood suckers.
Here’s a few fun tidbits we learned about “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter:”
– A Disneyland cast member who works at “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” at Disneyland Park, let the writer know that they have a copy of the book on the shelf at the attraction.
– Henry Jackson who wrote the score for “X-Men: First Class” and “Kick Ass” composed the score for this movie.
– Both Seth Grahame-Smith and Benjamin Walker agree that President Obama’s weapon of choice would be diplomacy.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” opens, as the film makers noted, on the shortest night of the year, summer solstice, midnight on June 22nd . It stars Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Dominic Cooper and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The book is available in paperback and digital/ebook form.