NB: This interview contains mild spoilers for Dracula Untold and Fast & Furious 6. The spoiler for Dracula Untold is marked out, so you can avoid it if you want to.
Dracula Untold sees Luke Evans taking his well-deserved lead role in Universal’s big screen re-launch of the most infamous of all vampires, after building up a fine body of work over the course of several years that’s encompassed two of the biggest cinematic franchises to date in two thirds of The Hobbit trilogy and Fast & Furious 6.
In a relatively short time he’s already played two Greek gods, as both Apollo and Zeus in Clash Of The Titans and Immortals respectively, worked with Ridley Scott on Robin Hood, made a standout of his supporting role as Detective Fields in The Raven and appeared in not one, but two movies featuring Jason Statham – now that’s progress.
At this point in his career, Luke Evans is in the rather enviable position of being known for playing both the villainous Shaw in Fast 6 and the splendidly heroic Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit (roll on Christmas and the chance to see him take centre stage against a certain fire breathing foe), giving him the ability at this point to avoid typecasting. His role as Vlad the Impaler in Dracula Untold, is therefore the perfect progression for him, as it’s the perfect blend of good and evil.
As Vlad and then Dracula (I don’t think spoilers apply here, as it’s rather a ‘ship sinks’ revelation when the name is featured in the title) Evans makes for a commanding lead and is by far one of the film’s strongest assets. The force of his acting combined with his striking looks have meant that stardom was only a matter of time, so it’ll be fascinating to see where he goes next.
We caught up with Mr Evans in a rather lovely hotel room, which found him on fine form despite the interview taking place at the end of the day and after the worldwide press tour was well underway. I asked him how he was holding up and he replied “Yeah, it’s quite knackering this”. So without further ado…
I’ve been a fan of your work for some years now, but the last couple must really have been something else having gone from Fast & Furious, to The Hobbit and now starring as the lead in the re-launching of Dracula – has it been a bit of a whirlwind for you?
Yeah, I mean it’s been the fastest six years of my life. I sometimes stop – not very often – but sometimes stop and take stock of what I’ve actually achieved and I’m very proud of it and this moment in my career sort of feels like the icing on the cake to this point, to be helming my own film and to be playing the title role of a very famous character that’s been played by some fantastic actors throughout the generations. Yeah I feel very lucky to be doing it and it’s a bit of an honour actually to be now the new Dracula on the block!
And because, as you say, Dracula’s been played so many times over the years, but then is also such an icon for so many people, did that make your feel more or less pressure?
Well I obviously feel the pressure of taking on the role because it’s Dracula, you know? But because the story is the origin story, it’s the untold story of the most famous vampire, I felt like I had much more freedom and licence to put my own stamp on the story and I was playing Vlad basically, I’m playing the human more than the vampire at the beginning of the film. It’s more of the human struggle to deal with the fact he’s turning into a vampire, which hasn’t really been done. So that gave me a little bit of freedom and not to worry too much about the other performances because that’s four hundred years after my story ends!
One of the aspects of the film I liked the most was that every time it looked like it was going to step into a convention, it went the other way. So with your character being an anti-hero – for me anyway – what I loved was that he remained strong throughout, because you expect him to give in to weakness or anger and that would be a catalyst for events. Was his strength of character a draw for you?
Yeah, I think he is a very strong character, I mean you couldn’t really play Vlad any other way when you look at his backstory, his real backstory of who he was, this impaler who did this incredibly dark stuff in his past and he put that character to sleep and locked the armour away in a dungeon somewhere. But all of that stuff really helped me create a whole spectrum of emotions for that man – he was a father and a husband and a lawgiver, a very fair ruler as much as he was a ruthless ruler you know he had the respect and love of his people and history has allowed him to be infamous with his name, but there was much more to him than just the impaling and I think that’s what I learnt when I did all the research on him, there was so much to read and a lot to him that most people don’t know.
I was just talking to Sarah (Gadon, his co-star), who did a great job I thought…
She’s a revelation I think in this film. I think she’s really, really great and she’s one of the only females in the film, so I do feel like she’s doing it for the female audience, definitely.
I was talking to her about the fact that one of the film’s strengths is that it’s a romance and a drama and had the father-son dynamic woven through it above the horror and action elements. You go into a Dracula film with expectations from the genre, but it very neatly concentrated on the dramatic moments, which was refreshing as a viewer – did that side appeal to you?
Yeah I liked the way the story used the love for his family and his son as a catalyst for him trying to find power from somewhere and not having many options, I liked that. Because I think if that dynamic between Vlad and Mirena and Ingeras his son – if that’s not pure and believable and heartfelt then you wonder why he would have done it in the first place. The fact that it does come over incredibly real, even for me watching it knowing I’m in it and watching that relationship, it did feel very raw and believable and it is a very poignant moment when you realise it’s them that’s made him do what he does. It’s all their fault basically! [laughs]
And you really do get that sense of understanding, as the more spectacular and fantastical elements are sold because of the…
I think it’s the human story and just the primal human instinct and emotion that Vlad presents you throughout the film, even when he’s struggling to come to terms with this addiction for blood which he’s fighting, he’s still human, he’s still feverish and trying to contain it and holding this physical burn of a ring in his hand, this constant reminder of pain, just to realise that without this pain he might just bite his wife and kill her – that’s how close he is to ruining the whole scenario. And I just felt like you can relate to him, whether you agree with him or understand why he’s doing it you can almost feel those human emotions and that physical pain and torment that he must be under.
And talking of the physicality of the role, you seem to be ticking off every discipline – Fast 6 was driving and fighting, then you’re obviously playing the Bowman in The Hobbit and in Dracula Untold the action is more sword based – are you just picking up one skill after another?
Yeah, I guess I am yeah! What’s next? [laughs] I’d like to learn how to fly a plane, that’d be quite cool… yeah I’d like to do that! Who knows! [laughs]
And of course in Dracula Untold you have a fight versus one thousand men…
Which was epic and it was a huge undertaking. I mean it was incredibly technical, the most technical fight sequence I’ve ever done. You often have a few moments in a film like when you’re doing a fight sequence and you do the first five hits and then the rest is just like faking it, whereas this film was not like that – that fight sequence with Vlad versus a thousand… I think I fought 60 men in order, so that’s 60 different choreographic moves and each move would have had five, or six points of contact, it was incredible.
And the cameras were all around, they were on tracks, they were above, they were in the middle, they were on steadicams, they were behind me, under me, in front of me, to the side of me – they were everywhere and I did that for maybe two days.
And you were just running straight through them…
Well not just running [at this point he started talking very quickly and enthusiastically!] I was stopping and fighting and then running a bit more and then catching a flag and then using their swords and slicing them and throwing them and impaling people. It was intense and that took weeks to learn because I was also shooting at the same time, so I would have to on weekends then go to the stunt hangar and we would rehearse the same bit – there was no let up for me at all in this film, not one day off!
I guess it was lucky you’d at least had some physical prep from your previous movies!
Yeah, so I wasn’t turning up completely wet behind the ears.
[Mild Dracula Untold spoiler starts here.]
And how was the final one to one face off against Dominic Cooper comparatively?
Well that was a huge scene, apart from the fact that we were in that humungous armour which inhibited our movements, we had to ignore the fact we couldn’t move properly in it and just have to go for it every single take and then we were standing on all these coins, which became a little bit like a duck on ice, because two pieces of metal on top of each other like to slide! So you’re slipping around and trying to look cool and hit your marks and all that stuff, it was full on. I cut my eye during that scene though and had to take the afternoon off, because I was concussed! [laughs]
[Mild Dracula Untold spoiler ends.]
And do you know, as I’ve heard that with the Universal branding being tied in to the history of the classic horror monsters and icons…
Very much so, yeah.
And now there’s talk of them bringing The Mummy back [via a reboot] they could start to world build, are you tied to another Dracula if this one’s a hit?
If this one’s a success, I think the options are there. What will happen is up to Universal, but it has been spoken about.
I did wonder, as it suddenly occurred to me that the way Dracula Untold ends [which I won’t reveal here] and with another Mummy film being worked on, it meant they could very much do a crossover…
Now Bard the Bowman is my favourite character from The Hobbit book, so I was thrilled when you were cast in the role…
How did the audition process go originally? Was it something you had a good feeling about?
Well it was very disjointed, because Peter wanted me to fly to New Zealand to audition for it and I wasn’t available to go because I was just about to get on a plane to New Orleans to shoot a movie there, so I had to do a taped audition, a final audition and this was a year after I hadn’t heard a single thing from my first audition remember, so it was a very odd scenario. But then I went on tape with the casting director in London and she sent it overnight to New Zealand, they watched it, I woke up to an offer – that was it.
Now we have a running interview theme on the site, which is to ask people what their favourite Jason Statham question is, which is handy for you as you’ve worked with him [on Blitz] and now of course he’s your successor… well he’s…
He’s my brother! [laughs] My older brother, yeah, picking up all the pieces of my disastrous efforts…
After you were unceremoniously…
Sucked out the back of an Antonov, yeah!
So what’s your favourite Jason Statham film and how do you feel about him playing your brother?
I think my favourite is Transporter, I love that film.
It’s an awesome film and he’s fantastic in it. I mean I do like Jason Statham as a person and as an actor, I think he’s a great performer and he delivers every time. And I felt very happy that he was my big brother in the Fast 7, I think it was the perfect casting! [laughs]
Luke Evans, thank you very much!
Dracula Untold is out in UK cinemas tomorrow.
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