DRACULA UNTOLD’s Luke Evans On Taking On The Origins Story


Luke Evans isn’t the first actor to portray the most famous bloodsucker, but the Welsh actor is the first to play Vlad the Impaler before he was Dracula. CineMovie joined the NYC press event to talk about his new movie and why Sesame Street taught him all about Dracula.  

Q: What was your first experience with Dracula growing up? Was it a film?

A: Sesame Street. It was “Sesame Street,” yeah. And then Count Dracula, 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 (1974) by Francis Ford Coppola. And then I stopped. No more.

Q: Do you agree that Dracula resembles, more than other ones, superhero characters?

A: Somebody’s calling. Deacon. He wants Facetime. I don’t know who that is, but somebody’s phone is ringing. Should I Facetime with him? (Answers the call) Hey, dude. We’re just doing a press conference. This is Luke Evans, doing “Dracula Untold.” Is that all right? We’ll call you back later, is that all right?

Superheroes. Well … I think the superhero 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 all these powers that he has in this movie are not something that we’ve created because we’re doing a Hollywood blockbuster. But 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.

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Q: Can you be a monster and be a superhero?

A: 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.

Q: 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 (2013) and Robin Hood (2010).  

A: I’ve done ‘em all.

Q: So what is it about you that makes people say, “That’s the man to go to for mythic periods,” and what have you learned from that experience that you were able to apply to the next experience? Something about swagger, the way people carry themselves — or to run counter to it, even?

A: 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.

Q: Were there things that you learned from doing “The Hobbit” or “Robin Hood” or The Three Musketeers (2011) that you were able to apply to something else?

A: When it comes to the fighting and stuff like that — all that physicality of the roles — then definitely everything has informed the next job and has helped me progress quicker through choreography and learn new tricks. 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.

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Q: Being always cast in this universe of kingdoms and swords and fantastic sci-fi movies, it is 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?

A: It’s a question. The first question is very interesting because you’re right, as an actor you have to be very careful 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 (2013), 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 (2015), 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. And I feel like even with Dracula and Bard the Bowman, two very, very different people — two hugely different characters on very different journeys. But yeah, it’s all about finding the role that challenges you and doesn’t make people get bored of you.

Q: You were talking before about the costumes and how it was really annoying to film. What was the most annoying scene that you had to film?

A: I feel terrible talking about the costume and saying it was annoying because a lot of work and talent from a lot of people was involved in creating and designing what I wore. So I don’t want to extinguish their fire because they did a lot of amazing work on this film, and I look incredible. What was hard — and what was slightly annoying sometimes — was having to move in the armor and fight in the armor. One of the biggest battle sequences I had to do with Dominic Cooper (Mehmed) in that armor, I wasn’t able to sit down. I couldn’t sit down in that armor. So whenever I was in the armor, I would spend 12 hours standing or leaning or propped up against something; I couldn’t sit down; I couldn’t pee. It would take 20 minutes to get the armor off so I could pee. You know, that was difficult, but it looked good. You suffer your art, right? This is what you do, and it looked great, so “job done,” even if it did have some very scary moments when I didn’t get to the toilet quick enough, ha ha.

Q: Regarding other challenges, what was your approach to being romantic in those scenes as a vampire?

A: 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.  

Q: How did your background in theater enhance your experience doing this film? And as a human being, how did you shake off this role physically?

A: I’ve always said that theater was where I began, so everything I do now has a bit of my theater background in it. It was my training. This film, I guess you could say, is slightly theatrical; the whole thing is a huge spectacle of a journey for one man. It was fun. I had to shout to a huge crowd of warriors on quite a few days enough to command that audience, and there were moments when I did feel like I was on a stage. And commanding an audience when you’re onstage is quite a feat, and if you can do it and you have them in the palm of your hand — which doesn’t happen all the time — you feel like you’re king of the world. There were certain scenes in the film where I was having to gain the respect or the fear of who I was performing to in the scene, and I guess maybe my theater training helped there. Definitely.

There was a bit more than shaking it off, I tell you that for nothing. It was exhausting. I was training for two months before we started shooting the principal photography. I was in New Zealand doing the pickups for the final “Hobbit.” I had my trainer there, and we were training in the evenings and on the weekends for “Dracula” and I put on 11 kilos of weight so that when I got to Belfast, my trainer changed, and then we would start to shred and change my diet so that we would get this physique that honored the warrior prince that Vlad Țepeș was. I mean, he was a ruthless, ruthless man. And the scars on his back which you see in the movie, they came from some very vicious moments in his life. And so I wanted to honor that physically and make sure that he looked the right shape. And it was also about the stamina. The training wasn’t just about me looking good when I took my clothes off; it was also about me having the strength and the core strength to do those fight sequences because they’re me, and they took days to shoot. And take after take after take when you’ve got swords … they may not have been sharp, but they were heavy and metal and could cause damage. So it’s about accuracy, and that’s about strength. There was a lot that went into it. It was very rewarding, but so exhausting — so exhausting.


Q: Is it true that Dracula can stand in sunlight, or is it not true? And lastly, can you talk a little bit about the Samurai sword?

A: He has to avoid direct sunlight. So he can be in shade, but he can’t be in direct sunlight.

Are you on about the sword that I 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.

Q: 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?

A: 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 to be a real threat.

Q: Following up about the sequel you just mentioned, is anything complete?

A: 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.

DRACULA UNTOLD is in movie theaters October 17.

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