Timur Bekmambetov: High Style
Russian powerhouse producer and filmmaker, Timur Bekmambetov, goes right to the very heart of Americana itself with the historical horror fantasy of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’.
Don't call him typecast, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn't Timur Bekmambetov's first walk in the park with blood suckers. Best known for his popular vampire double shot, Night Watch and Day Watch, the Russian-Kazakh director competed with the master of gothic weird himself, Tim Burton (Dark Shadows, Edward Scissorhands), for the peculiar honour of sinking his fangs into this big budget adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's bestselling novel. "These vampires are different to any that we've seen before, because this time the vampires are real historical figures," says Bekmambetov of this unique premise, which melds real history with fantasy.
As per the novel, the film rewrites key historical events, redefining President Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery as a plot to deny vampires the easy purchase of cheap supplies of blood. It's a fantastical plot that saw author, Seth Grahame-Smith, pore through the history books. He took every absence during Lincoln's presidency and explained it away as his being off on a mission to kill vampires after learning of their plans to take over the US, thus making him history's greatest hunter of the undead. "It's a very good book," says Bekmambetov. "I like to read genre stories, and this is a very smart, and very emotional, mix of two genres - biopic and fantasy."
Growing up in a former Soviet republic, fifty-year-old Bekmambetov was starved of US pop culture references, which is possibly one of the reasons why he can cast a fresh eye on an oversaturated vampire genre that has practically had the last drop of blood drained from its celluloid jugular. "We didn't have genre movies in the Soviet Union," Bekmambetov explains. "There were no vampire movies, not even one. I never thought that they would ever make vampire movies. It's why for me it's real. It's not genre. I really believe in it," explains the director.
Having first worked as a producing trio with Hollywood heavy hitters, Tim Burton and Jim Lemley, on the 2009 post-apocalyptic animated movie, 9, the threesome plunged into Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with no definite ideas about who would direct. "We financed it ourselves, acquired the book rights, and hired Seth to write the screenplay," Lemley explains. "The only people involved in the decision-making were the three of us. So we developed a script, and along the way, Tim and Timur both fell in love with it. It's great being a producer with two directors who could make the movie! We eventually did a straw-pull, and realised that Timur's version of the movie was the one that we all wanted to see."
"Tim is like the godfather," laughs Bekmambetov when FilmInk visits him on the New Orleans set of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. "I actually haven't seen him for many weeks. He was here in the beginning of the production. He was helpful because he gives us the confidence that we can do whatever we want. He was involved in the writing process, when we first discussed the project. For me, it has been a real adventure; I have been allowed to enter a new world that I had never entered before. I really wanted to explore this world. I wanted to meet these unbelievable characters: Abraham Lincoln; his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; his enemies; and his friends. And I wanted to go with him through this journey."
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is released on August 2. This is an excerpt from out Director Feature included in the current issue of FilmInk, which is on sale now and a digital version can be downloaded here. For those who prefer something a little more interactive, the story's also featured in our bi-monthly iPad edition which is available here.