‘Dracula Untold’: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Oct. 07, 2014 | 7:30 a.m.
la et dracula 02 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Luke Evans stars as Vlad in "Dracula Untold," the origin story of the man who became Dracula. (Jasin Boland/Universal)

la et dracula 03 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Luke Evans stars as Vlad in "Dracula Untold," the origin story of the man who became Dracula. (Universal)

la et dracula 04 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

The Master Vampire (Charles Dance) offers Vlad (Luke Evans) an impossible decision in "Dracula Untold," the origin story of the man who became Dracula. (Universal)

la et dracula 05 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Mirena (Sarah Gadon) attempts to reason with husband Vlad (Luke Evans) in "Dracula Untold." (Universal Pictures)

la et dracula 06 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Mirena (Sarah Gadon) with husband Vlad (Luke Evans) in "Dracula Untold." (Universal Pictures)

la et dracula 07 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Vlad (Luke Evans) warns his son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson) to run in "Dracula Untold." (Universal Pictures)

la ca 0908 luke evans 211 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Luke Evans attends the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

la ca 0908 luke evans 212 Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Luke Evans attends the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

la ca 0908 luke evans Dracula Untold: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

Luke Evans attends the Diesel Black Gold Flagship Store Cocktail Party during the London Collections: Men SS15 on June 16, 2014. (Darren Gerrish/WireImage)

Welsh actor Luke Evans has a penchant for larger-than-life characters. He’s twice played Greek gods — Apollo in “Clash of the Titans,” Zeus in “Immortals” — and he’s portrayed literary icons — Aramis in the most recent big-screen adaptation of “The Three Musketeers,” and the brave human Bard the Bowman in the second and upcoming “Hobbit” movies.

For his first real leading-man turn in a Hollywood epic, he’s revisiting legends and literature in a new way, tackling his biggest character yet. In “Dracula Untold,” he plays Vlad Tepes, the fearsome Eastern European warrior known for impaling his enemies.

The character famously served as a key inspiration for Bram Stoker’s aristocratic vampire, but the big-budget Universal Pictures film that arrives in theaters Friday transports Dracula from Victorian England to the 15th century and sets out to present a more complex portrait of the bloodthirsty prince.

Luke Evans attends the Diesel Black Gold Flagship Store Cocktail Party during the London Collections: Men SS15 on June 16, 2014. (Darren Gerrish/WireImage)

Luke Evans attends the Diesel Black Gold flagship store cocktail party in June . (Darren Gerrish/WireImage)

“We’re almost turning the monster on its head in a way and allowing people to see Dracula in a different light,” Evans said on the Belfast set of the film last year. “When you think of the word ‘Dracula,’ you think of this pale-faced, fanged man floating through an ancient house on top of a mountain. We are trying to slightly pull away from that and give it that punch of reality.”

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Gary Shore and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, “Dracula Untold” opens in 1462 Transylvania: Prince Vlad is a respected ruler, a doting husband and father to a young son. But the peace is threatened when the neighboring Turks, led by the sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), demand that Vlad surrender 1,000 boys to serve in their army.

After the Turks reject Vlad’s offer to fight in the place of the inexperienced children, he travels to Broken Tooth Mountain, a haunted site shrouded in red mist. What he encounters there robs him of his humanity, and he is forced to wrestle with new, dark urges while simultaneously protecting his people using surprising and unexpected powers.

“He has to keep it to himself for a majority of the film that he’s battling this awful sort of addiction, but he knows this addiction comes with a positive side — which is this power and strength that he’s able to [use to combat] the Turks’ invasion of his country,” Evans said.

Dracula, as a character, has captivated filmmakers since the dawn of cinema. Stoker’s book was first adapted by F.W. Murnau in 1922 as “Nosferatu,” and roughly two dozen movie actors have interpreted the role in various productions, though it’s typically Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman who are most associated with the immortal caped fiend. (Evans cites a particular fondness for Oldman’s performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 telling.)

For his Dracula, Evans was pleased to deviate from the usual script and dive into historical research about Vlad Tepes — and he was excited to bring more personality to a legendary figure remembered almost exclusively for sadism on the battlefield.

“There’s lots of contrasting stories about how dark he was, how vicious he was, how bloodthirsty he was,” Evans said. “But then in the same breath, you hear about how great a leader he was and how loved by his people he was and respected by his enemies. Even on his tombstone in Romania, it says he was respected by his enemies. …

“When you take those things into account, you think, ‘Well, as much as he’s remembered for impaling thousands of people on poles in a field, there was much more to the man.’ ”

His studious approach was born out of his work in the theater. Evans, 35, began acting professionally on the London stage and had worked successfully for about a decade before landing his first studio feature, the remake of “Clash of the Titans,” which in turn led to other outsized parts in subsequent Hollywood productions.

Luke Evans, left, and John Bell in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Luke Evans, left, and John Bell in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Director Peter Jackson said he cast Evans in “The Hobbit” films based not only on his previous performances but also in part on his winning personality: He described Evans as the kind of guy you could grab a drink with at a pub.

“No one else would step in and play Bard the way Luke has, which is terrific when an actor really owns a role like that,” Jackson said, speaking by phone from New Zealand.

“He’s a dream actor to work with,” added Shore. “He’s the most committed person I’ve ever worked with. He’s a brilliant team player, and he’s been a great comrade to me. He’s someone who can always collaborate.”

Although he never set out to forge a career based on action-packed blockbusters, Evans said he’s comfortable with the path he’s found himself traveling (though he did recently wrap Ben Wheatley’s indie thriller “High-Rise,” due out next year). It seems fantastic cinema affords far more unusual opportunities than kitchen-sink dramas ever could.

With “Dracula Untold,” for example, Evans shot transporting scenes not only on grandiose palace sets but also in such startling natural locations as Giant’s Causeway, a series of dramatic cliffs on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.

“When they say, ‘Action!’ I’m in 1483, and I love that idea — it’s like time travel for 10 minutes,” Evans said. “You can’t draw on anything that you have in your normal life. You can be on top of a mountain and kill 15 Turks and then jump on the back of a horse and gallop down a highway. That’s what I did a couple of weeks ago.”

— Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

RECENT AND RELATED

Luke Evans as Bard in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

(Warner Bros.)

‘The Hobbit’: 60 images from ‘Smaug’

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ joins $1 billion box-office club

Peter Jackson promises deeper characters for sequel

‘Hobbit’ sequel: Philippa Boyens talks Tauriel

Luke Evans talks ‘Smaug’: ‘It’s better than the first one’

‘Hobbit’: Ian McKellen talks ‘scruffy’ Gandalf

‘Hobbit’: Richard Armitage on Thorin’s madness

‘Hobbit’ premiere: Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans talk Smaug

Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

Comments


2 Responses to ‘Dracula Untold’: Luke Evans sinks teeth into Vlad Tepes for vampire epic

  1. Jill Barnard says:

    If you mean by impaled his "enemies" you also mean large numbers of his own people who were impaled through their anuses to slowly die and fester to frighten off the Turks, you are correct. This includes even tiny infants. Hard to put any sympathetic spin on the story of Vlad Tepes.

  2. Israel M says:

    Not to mention he impaled women too. However, he was a fierce warrior. He killed 5 of his bodyguards before being stuck down dead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis