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Before actor Benjamin Walker takes center stage as Abraham in the upcoming movie-adaptation of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, we meet the character as a child. His journey begins when his mother Nancy is stricken with a disease of unknown origin – but recognizable to young Abraham as resulting from a vampire’s bite. Nancy was a woman of intelligence and heart, imparting on her son the notion that, “until everyone is free, we are all slaves.” Abraham never forgot those words, which came to define his views toward slavery. Nor would he ever forget the eternal evil responsible for his mother’s death: a vampire (and local businessman) named Jack Barts, portrayed by Marton Csokas, against whom Abraham swears revenge.
But his first attack against Barts fails, and Abraham narrowly escapes with his life. He is rescued by the charismatic Henry, a high-living and refined ladies’ man. Henry, portrayed by British actor Dominic Cooper, is not interested in Abraham’s simple quest for revenge. Instead, he instructs Abraham to control his rage, become stronger, and fight for the greater good of mankind. “It’s a choice,” Henry tells Abraham, “between doing something extraordinary or being satisfied with simple vengeance.”
“Henry finds the young man’s thirst for revenge to be uninteresting,” says Cooper. “But he sees Abraham of being capable of so much more, and thinks he can help him rise above a selfish quest.”
Henry instructs Abraham – physically and intellectually – on the fine art of vampire hunting, for a purpose far greater than revenge. But the teacher is far from being a righteous figure. “Henry is at the top of his game at being a vampire hunter, but he’s also very flamboyant,” says Cooper. “He enjoys life to its fullest and often goes to extremes in doing so.”
But certain revelations lead Abraham to question Henry’s true purpose. Is he a dedicated hunter of unspeakable evil, or an evil manipulator with dark intent?
A figure in Abraham’s life beyond reproach is his friend and bodyguard, Will, portrayed by Anthony Mackie. The character, which did not exist in the book, becomes a catalyst in Abraham’s life.
Mackie says he was drawn to the project by the chance to work with Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton, both of whose films he had long admired. “I loved ‘Wanted,’ and I loved that ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ is a historical movie that turns history upside-down,” says the actor. “And Tim Burton brings a magical aspect to everything he does, and this time he’s presenting a kind of underworld you’ve never seen before.”
The only person closer to Abraham is his wife Mary, portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Their first meeting at a Springfield, Illinois general store is full of sparks, potential, and sweetness, providing a stark contrast to Abraham’s dark and secret life as a vampire hunter.
“The beginning of Abraham and Mary’s relationship is like a romantic comedy,” says Winstead. “They’re young and there’s a real connection between them. She’s attracted to his intelligence, integrity and humor.” Their feelings for one another escalate during a memorable picnic for two, during which Abraham confesses to Mary about his other life. But the bright sunshine, pastoral and romantic setting, Abraham’s halting delivery, and the sheer outlandishness of his claims, lead Mary to think it all a huge joke, and they both break out laughing.
Of course, there’s little that’s humorous about Abraham’s deadly secrets. After his picnic “confessional,” he decides it’s best to keep Mary out of his life as a vampire hunter. “Mary and Abraham’s relationship complicates his journey because he has to decide what’s more important – his marriage or his vow to slay the undead,” says Walker. “As we all know, Abraham is an honest man, so he must ask himself, at what point can he be completely honest with Mary?”
“It’s interesting because that’s something all couples deal with, in the 19th century as well as today,” Walker continues. “How do you reconcile a relationship with your life’s passion?” Only with Abraham, that “passion” is killing vampires. These secrets lead to an unspoken rift in their marriage. “Mary is not involved in this part of his life, which causes tension,” says Winstead. “She knows Abraham is hiding something from her, but she cannot ask what it is.”