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The upcoming movie ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ explores the secret life of America’s 16th president, and the untold story that shaped the nation. Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of ‘Wanted’) bring a fresh voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.
Abraham Lincoln. Vampire Hunter. The very words evoke a juxtaposition that is unexpected, if not downright bizarre. Yet it’s an idea to which the filmmakers have fully committed. Their work is a portrait of the man and leader we’ve all studied and the seminal events that defined him and our nation – interwoven with the immersive, visceral action of a vampire story.
At the same time, ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ presents the Great Emancipator as the country’s first superhero. Notes producer Tim Burton: “Lincoln’s entire life mirrors the classic comic book superhero mythology. It’s a duality: during the day he’s the president of the United States; at night, a vampire hunter.”
That dichotomy is at the core of the Lincoln we meet in the film. “He was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time,” says director Timur Bekmambetov. Adds screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted his best-selling novel of the same name: “Lincoln’s life story is an archetypal superhero origin story. He’s as close to an actual superhero as this country’s ever seen. Forget about vampires. Lincoln had neither family name nor money. His mother died when he was a youngster. In fact, everybody he loved had died. With no education, and armed with just his mind, he became president and saved the nation.”
These themes grabbed the attention of Burton, his fellow producer Jim Lemley, and Timur Bekmambetov. Even before Grahame-Smith had completed the novel, Burton heard the title and his mind kicked into gear. “It sounded like the kind of movie I wanted to see,” Burton claims. “It felt like it could have the crazy energy of the films of my youth, which had a lot of weird mash-ups of horror movies.”
Lemley, who had produced with Burton and Bekmambetov the animated film ‘9’, says that Burton’s sensibilities were a perfect match for this material. “What Tim does so brilliantly is to take conventional imagery and stories and turn them on their head, and examine them from an unexpected perspective.”
‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ also fits squarely within Bekmambetov’s creative and aesthetic wheelhouse. The Russian filmmaker had previously helmed the box-office smash ‘Wanted’ and before that, ‘Night Watch’ and ‘Day Watch’, both offering compelling portraits of vampires in a world both familiar and fantastic.
Like Burton, Bekmambetov paints on a huge canvas, presenting visually stunning imagery. It was the project’s central idea and cleverness that attracted the Russian filmmaker, claiming, “I immediately reacted to the story because it was so clean, simple and powerful.”