Playing the part of Dracula is both a wonderful opportunity and a potentially intimidating prospect considering the many legendary actors who have donned the cape and fangs. However, any should agree that Luke Evans’ performance in Dracula Untold makes it look easy. Perhaps it’s his history with playing period and fantasy characters before in films as varied as Robin Hood, The Raven, and The Hobbit Trilogy, or perhaps it’s just his own affinity for the character as he enters the superhero era of his pop culture image, but Evans works in the role.
He discussed that and more when we sat down with him at the Dracula Untold press conference last week.
What was your first experience with Dracula growing up? Was it a film?
Sesame Street. It was Sesame Street, yeah. And then Count Duckula, who was a vampire duck. And then it was a Saturday matinee as well, on TV; it was Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And then in my teenage years it would have been Bram Stoker’s Dracula  by Francis Ford Coppola. And then I stopped. No more.
Do you agree that your Dracula resembles, more than other ones, superhero characters?
Superheroes. Well, I think the superhero [angle] is very interesting, because he’s able to fly and he can do all these very superhuman things. But what you have to remember is that with all these powers that he has in this movie—it’s not something that we’ve created because we’re doing a Hollywood blockbuster. They come from folklore; they come from Eastern European folklore.
Vampires were always able to transform into creatures of the night. The dark creatures like bats have always been associated with vampires and using the darkness to their own advantage. So, we just embellished those powers and we just brought them into the 21st century and [were] able to use this amazing CGI technology that we have now and bring them into this storyline. But, really, we owe that to Eastern European folklore, which goes back centuries, before any of the superheroes we now know of even existed.
Can you be a monster and be a superhero?
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? I think what we’ve done with this story is make you question that. He has a very interesting line in the film when he’s speaking to the Master Vampire [Charles Dance] where he says, “Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero. Sometimes it needs a monster.” And he’s trying to get onto the right side of this creature, this sinister creature, and I sort of get why he says it, but I don’t know whether you can be a monster and a hero in the real world. But in 1467 or whenever it is that we place this film, somewhere in the 1460s, the world is a very different place, and Vlad’s take on how to rule a country was that by putting one village to the stake, he saved 10 more. I mean it’s not how we live our lives now.
Well, actually, there are places in the world where this sort of stuff is going on — darkness, very dark stuff — but it doesn’t relate to this film. I think heroes are the people that go into houses when they’re on fire and save people in hospitals. That’s a hero, not the monsters.
One of the things I’ve noticed in looking at your history is that you have a lot of experience with mythic periods, between The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Robin Hood.
I’ve done ‘em all.
So, what is it about you that makes people say, “That’s the man to go to for mythic periods?”
I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe I’m an old soul. Maybe I’ve lived before. And I guess maybe directors see a face that seems to have been lived in. I know that my face has been lived in, yeah. I guess I’ve got a certain look about me, and I think once I’m in a costume or I’ve got a certain period look, I seem to fit it quite well. I don’t know why that is. I’m quite happy that’s the case, because it’s actually quite fun to jump into a world that doesn’t exist anymore or didn’t exist ever — it’s a fantasia world or whatever. But it’s exciting because it’s an incredibly immersive job, as an actor, to disappear into a world that doesn’t exist or tell a story about a character that lived a long time ago.
Costume is a massive thing. I think costume makes you stand differently. And in this film, quite clearly, in the billboards you see this incredible, elaborate armor — this chest breastplate with the dragon on it — and it makes you stand differently, and it turns heads. It turned the cleaners’ heads, it turned the caterers’ heads, it turned makeup’s heads, everybody.
I remember walking out of my trailer the first day on set when I put that armor on for the first time, and only I and my assistant, and my dresser had seen the costume. And then I walked out for the first time, and we were up in a quarry and it was cold, and Mother Nature had allowed us this great atmosphere so there were no fog machines — it was all natural — and I walked out through this mist, and everybody was just like: “Holy shit! He’s here! Bad Vlad’s arrived.” It was a really good moment. But it makes you walk differently, you carry yourself differently, you fight differently; so it’s a fun tool.
Being always cast in this universe of kingdoms and swords and fantastic sci-fi movies, is it something that concerns you when it comes to your career and the path you plan to follow from now on? Also, how does it feel to star as Dracula in your first lead role in a big-budget movie?
It’s a question. The first question is very interesting because you’re right, as an actor you have to be very careful that you don’t get typecast into a certain category. It’s very easy to do, and … somebody told me a couple years ago, “So, you’re like the period action go-to guy?” And I was like, “I don’t know, am I? Okay, that’s a title I haven’t got before.” I get it; that’s fine.
But that’s why I’ve chosen to jump out of that and do things like Fast & Furious 6, where I played a very contemporary, dark, dark, villain — British, shaved head. I mixed that up. And then I’ve just finished a movie based in the ‘70s with a new director from the UK [Ben Wheatley] called High-Rise, which is going to be a very, very extraordinary film.
So, I’m mixing it up; it’s just that this film, you haven’t seen yet. So, when it comes out, you’ll see I’m still challenging the path I’m walking, and I’m taking a side step every now and again and sometimes a back step, and I jump a couple of times. And it’s all about choosing those roles and challenging yourself and challenging the audience and making sure they don’t get bored of what they see.
Regarding other challenges, what was your approach to being romantic in those scenes as a vampire?
Yeah! What I like about this story is you start with the human, you start with a very relatable character. You have to understand, he’s Vlad the Impaler and he had a very dark past, but we meet him in a very peaceful period of his reign; he’s a loving father and a husband. Sarah Gadon [Mirena] and I and director Gary Shore really wanted to make sure that that relationship felt absolutely pure and that there was a real love there, because it triggers a lot of the things that he does after that.
He fights for his son, his only son, and it’s quite a beautiful thing. And I quite like that, because it draws other emotions you wouldn’t necessarily think would come into a man-turning-into-the-biggest-vampire-on-the-planet storyline. But it works; it makes you question him and whether you like him, and whether you want to follow him, if you’re behind him when he does what he does.
Can you talk about the sword that you received as a gift?
Well, the sword that I have in the movie is the most beautiful weapon I’ve ever used in a movie, and the handle is a bronze dragon. It’s a dragon standing on his hind feet, and his tail wraps around the hilt of the sword, and his eyes are rubies. It’s beautiful, it’s perfectly weighted, it’s quite heavy; but it was quite difficult to work with. And another thing: my wrists increased! I had to change my watch from the wrists getting bigger from fighting, because [of] the amount of pressure on the wrists, which are a very weird thing — “I’ve got really big wrists!” — to increase the size of.
But I have it, and I was given it on my final day, and it was inscribed by the Universal family. It was a beautiful thing and I feel very lucky to have it, but God help any burglar that tries to enter my house, that’s for sure. I’ve got three, so there. They’re all on my wall! [Laguhs]
In the initial sequences when Vlad is facing the Master Vampire, where did you take your references from to look scared and to express the complex feelings that Vlad was experiencing during that moment of violence?
Well, if you stand that close to Charles Dance covered in prosthetics and teeth, and he’s dribbling all over you, and he’s got these sharp nails poking in your cheek, it’s enough to make you feel scared, let me tell you. He’s quite a statuesque human being. He’s very tall and carries himself in a very grand way, and he was barefoot in that scene — I had shoes with a heel, and he was still taller than me. He has an amazing presence, and I think that’s why he’s still the top of his game and delivers such brilliant performances in whatever he does.
But in this film, it was just great. I very rarely act against actors who are that much taller than me, so for me to feel intimidated by another actor was a really good thing. And it needed to happen because he’s a real threat, he’s a threat that will last through the ages. He’s not somebody that I can just kill off, and that’s what’s exciting about his character, and if we’re lucky enough to make another one, he’s going to be a real threat.
Following up about the sequel you just mentioned, is anything complete?
No, only that we’ve allowed it to have a perfect gateway to, he can go anywhere. Dracula’s immortal, and at the point where the movie finishes, we’re already touching on 500 years. So we’re dealing with a man who’s spent a long time walking, searching in a very lonely existence throughout time. Who knows what’s been through and who knows what he’s going to go to. The options are endless, and I think that’s where we want it to be.