herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

'This is not just another bloody vampire movie'

Gore: Dracula Untold is a film that deserves some respect, Welsh actor Luke Evans tells Susan Griffin

He might not be a fan of the genre, but Luke Evans couldn't resist an opportunity to put his stamp on one of the world's most famous monsters.

"I liked the fact I wasn't playing the Dracula everyone knows," explains the actor. "That's why we called it Dracula Untold, because it really is the untold origin story of the most famous vampire.

"We're dealing with the historical figure, a man (Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler due to his favoured method of meting out torture) who walked this earth."

The movie is set in 1462. Transylvania has enjoyed a prolonged period of peace under the rule of the battle-weary Vlad and his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon).

When the Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) demands 1,000 of Vlad's boys, including his own son, to become child soldiers, he enters into a bargain with the Master Vampire (played by Charles Dance) - in return for being bestowed with the strength to crush his enemies, Vlad's inflicted with an insatiable thirst for human blood.

"You're watching a man make decisions for the love of his wife and child, and the responsibility he has to his people and his kingdom," says Evans.

"It's quite a tragic story, so to call it simply a vampire movie would be disrespectful in a way, because it's a much bigger spectrum of emotion."

Version

The film's producer, Michael De Luca, has admitted casting was tricky, given that - much like Spider-Man or James Bond - everyone has their predetermined version of Dracula.

The team was after someone who was capable of embodying such an iconic character, but who didn't come with audience preconceptions. They found that in Evans.

"I've worked very hard and haven't really stopped [filming] for five years. I've just been going at it and slowly making my way up this ladder, and I'm enjoying every minute of it," says the actor, whose first films were Tamara Drewe, Robin Hood and Clash Of The Titans in 2010.

Evans is a refreshing departure from the pretty boy vampires who've dominated in recent years. He's handsome in a rugged way, or as the director, Dubliner Gary Shore puts it: "He just has this incredible face that can tell a story."

So the perfect look for an anti-hero, or villain for that matter. "I loved my baddie in Fast 6," he says, referring to his appearance in the muscle car franchise headed up by Vin Diesel.

"It was brilliant to be an absolute b*****d of a human being!" he adds, laughing. It was shortly after the film's release in 2012, he recalls, that he first spoke to Shore about Dracula Untold.

Plenty of time to prepare for the part then?

"It's probably the most physically demanding role I've done, just the stamina needed to carry the film from start to finish.

"I mean, wearing that armour and doing the fight sequences was virtually impossible."

Pressure

Not that the pressure was off when the armour was removed.

"It was intense, because you have to train after work and all that crap, but when you know your body's going to be seen by a lot of people and up on a screen 50ft high, you feel the pressure to keep the body fat low!

"So you work damn hard, eat damn clean, don't drink alcohol, and sleep as much as you can."

It's not his idea of a good time, though, so he eases off in between projects.

Not to the point of chowing down pizza, mind - he's always on relatively good behaviour when it comes to looking after himself.

"It saves me having to really cane it when I do the next job," notes Evans, who recently wrapped on High-Rise, an "incredibly dark story" based on the JG Ballard novel and co-starring Sienna Miller and Tom Hiddleston.

He's now planning on returning home to Wales for a few days, before he begins promoting the third and final instalment of The Hobbit series, in which he plays Bard the Bowman.

Depending on how Dracula Untold does at the box office, he could soon return to his dark ways.

"I didn't take on Dracula just to leave him there, so if there's a story to be told, I'd be very happy to play him again," says Evans, hinting that a return to his own origins is a possibility too.

"I'd love to do a musical film.

"I was a singer longer than I've been an actor, so it'd be great to combine the two."

hnews@herald.ie

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