herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

When the call came from dreamworks ... i vomited

RISING UP: Dracula Untold director Gary Shore tells Kirsty Blake Knox of his surreal journey to Hollywood's top table

Five years ago, Gary Shore had given up. He was broke, sleeping on a friend's sofa and had said goodbye to his dream of making it as a Hollywood film director.

Dejected, Shore had decided to start afresh and went back to college to get a Masters in Fine Art.

But the film industry works in weird and wonderful ways and, a week into his college course, some of the silver screen's biggest studios came calling.

A short trailer he had directed several years previously entitled, The Cup of Tears, had gone viral making it's way into the in-boxes of some of the industry's most powerful producers - and they liked what hey saw.

Suddenly Shore - from Artane in Dublin - was bombarded with phone calls and emails from Universal, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks.

TALENT

"It was surreal all these emails and calls came in," he told the Herald. "I remember getting a phone call from DreamWorks while I was in a lecture and going to the toilet and vomiting.

"I went back into the classroom and said, 'It's been nice knowing you all but I'm leaving'."

Shore flew over to LA and signed with Hollywood's top talent agency Creative Artists; the company that looks after Will Smith, Natalie Portman and James Cameron.

A few weeks later, Shore was on Universal books and at the age of 28 landed his first ever feature film; directing a €72m flick about the gothic monster Count Dracula.

Given his meteoric rise to the top of the LA film industry, the now 32-year-old is remarkably level-headed and modest when I meet him in Dublin's Merrion Hotel.

"I don't know what I'm doing really," he jokes. "It does feel a little surreal when you see the posters on buses and on billboards. Surreal, but great."

There are already a glut of vampire films out there; from the great [Nosferatu], to the comic [Dracula Dead and Loving it!] and sikly romantic [The Twilight saga] to the truly terrible [Vampire in Brooklyn].

So why did Shore decide to traverse such well-worn ground?

"Because it's a great story to tell," he says simply. "Plus it's a side of the story people won't have seen before."

Dracula Untold explores how the count became the bloodsucking demon; he began life as 15th century ruler Vlad the Impaler before making a faustian pact with a sorcerer and becoming the Lord of Darkness.

"I felt like I was making a film about Anakin Skywalker before he became Darth Vader and who wouldn't want to tell that story?," Shore says.

"I think everyone has their expectations of what and who Dracula is and I think this movie confounds those expectations."

The film was shot in Northern Ireland and stars The Hobbit's Luke Evans as Vlad, Dominic Cooper as a dastardly Turkish sultan and Canadian actress Sarah Gadon.

It's already hauled in more than $86m (€67m) since its release earlier this month, and is well on its way to making a profit.

While shooting the film was an incredible experience, Shore admits he had to make many personal sacrifices to get where he is today.

"I feel like I've been hidden away from my family for the last few years. Seeing the film in cinema makes all those sacrifices - the family events you couldn't attend or things you couldn't go to - worth it.

"Getting to the end of it feels like I've gotten my life back," he says.

The release of the movie is tinged with sadness.

A week before production began, Shore's biggest fan, his father Joseph, passed away from a brain tumour.

"My dad was a big cinephile, he loved his Westerns and he was a very artistic and sensitive man," he says.

"He was also the biggest supporter of my work. When I was doing my undergrad in film he would load all my equipment into his van and drive us around. He was my transport for a while."

Shore and his father had always planned on watching his directorial debut in the cinema together.

"Seeing the name on the screen would have meant a lot to him so it is bittersweet," Shore says.

"But he would have been proud."

In honour of his father, Shore held a charity premiere in Dublin's Savoy cinema with all proceeds from the night going to Saint Francis Hospice in Raheny where his father stayed.

"I thought it would be a good thing to do to honour him and his memory and do something for the hospice.

"Helping them in some way is very important to me so it was a very emotional and special night."

With Dracula Untold now playing in cinemas around the world, Shore is busy working away on his next big project - organising his wedding to fiancee Ciara Cullen.

"We've got the wedding coming up next year and I am also working on a few commercials," he says.

And what advice does Shore offer all those aspiring young auteurs dreaming of landing their own multi-million dollar contract?

"Think of it as a marathon," he says.

"It's not glamorous, it's hard work, a lot of people drop out along the way but if you keep going you'll get there eventually."

hnews@herald.ie

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