Last Halloween, we got to go somewhere very cool and wholly appropriate – on the set during the shooting of action epic Dracula Untold!
We were on set on Thursday the 31st of October for the film, which tells the story of Vlad Tepes III – a real dude who gets a little extra fictional story-telling which turns him into the creature of legend. It's the feature debut of Irish lad Gary Shore and stars Luke Evans in his first ever lead role as well as Sarah Gadon and the great Charles Dance.
Here’s the trailer.
Just a few minutes from central Belfast, we came upon a sea of trailers in a field. And just beyond that a castle like structure rose, clad in stone and held up by scaffolding. We got the chance to chat to leading man Luke Evans, who apologised right off that he might be covered in pumpkin because he had just been carving one for the Halloween celebrations.
Here’s what happened next.
Luke Evans: Sorry I have pumpkin on me because I’ve just been carving a pumpkin!
LE: Yea! [to his assistant] Go and get my pumpkin! I’ve just had my first break in I can’t remember how long. So I thought I’d carve a pumpkin!
CLICK: So you’re sorted for your Halloween costume this year?
LE: I am! I’m actually hosting a fancy dress party at my house here.
CLICK: In your Vlad costume?
LE: No! I wear that every day and have done for 75 days so I don’t think I want to wear it to a costume party! [then the pumpkin arrives] Yea look at this! Isn’t that great [and it kind of is, all evil eyes and slopey mouths]. It looks good with the light in it.
CLICK: How long did that take?
LE:About an hour! It’s wicked isn’t it?! Anyway!
CLICK: How’s the shoot been going?
CLICK: This version of Dracula is part fiction and part fact. How did you research the role?
LE: There’s lots to do in terms of research, because Vlad Tepes lived a long time ago. Obviously people know him as Vlad the Impaler, but there’s a lot more to the man than just the fact that he had this harsh way of killing people; his background is quite interesting. I read a few biographies on him; there’s lots of different opinions and contrasting stories on him, and what he did, how bad he was and how good he was. He was actually loved by his people and he was a very successful leader, and that’s where you meet him in the film. At the beginning of the film he is this successful king of his country, he has led a country through 10 years of prosperity and peace.
CLICK: How long did you film in Northern Ireland for?
LE: I was in Northern Ireland from July to October. It was my first time and I loved it. When I first arrived I just didn’t stop; I was training and I was doing stunt rehearsals and I was rehearsing, then we started shooting. I was in every single day; I didn’t get one day off on this movie, so there was a lot to do. I didn’t really get a huge amount of time in the first couple of months, but as things calmed down a bit I had more time. I have done most of the great restaurants. I’ve done all the touristy things, and I had loads of family come over, and friends… It’s nice to be really close to London and Wales, so it’s not so far for them to come over. I really loved seeing the Giant’s Causeway; that was beautiful. We had a gorgeous day – it can be quite bleak up there – it was stunning day; in between takes we were just lying out in the sunshine on the rocks! [laughs] We’ve been in Tullymore forest and a few quarries and today we’re in [looks around] somewhere else! I arrive in the dark, I leave in the dark! I don’t really know where I am.
CLICK: You’ve been a bit of a tourist then?
LE: Yea! Absolutely, its been nice to have friends over as well to show them the sights, the Titanic Exhibition. It’s a good thing when you’ve got people coming in all the time.
CLICK: And is your party tonight?
LE: No not tonight so we’re having a delayed Halloween party on Saturday. It’s a big fancy dress. It’s probably the biggest mistake of my life – I’ve got the whole of the first unit coming to my party.
CLICK: Did filming in Northern Ireland remind you of your time on The Hobbit at all?
LE: Not really, if I’m honest! [laughs] It reminds me more of Wales. New Zealand is very unique in that everything is condensed into these two small islands but there is so much going on. There are huge mountains that I used to describe as ‘Wales on Steroids’! Everything was just much bigger. What’s lovely about Belfast is that it’s surrounded by countryside; you’ve got the coastline and within an hour you are up in the Giant’s Causeway. It’s really accessible, you can see why filmmakers want to shoot here, and I really have settled in. I’ve made a lot of really good friends and I love the place.
CLICK: What was it like to work with Gary Shore?
LE: It’s been great. He’s a first time director and this is my first leading role in a movie, so we are both sort of stepping into new positions in the business. We have got each other’s backs, we have supported each other, and we’ve had a really enjoyable time. He’s incredibly creative and committed to making this story enjoyable and entertaining and rewarding. We work together very well; we have been talking about this film for almost ten months, so it was actually quite nice to get the camera rolling on the first day and put all that yabbering into physical business.
CLICK: Was it stressful taking on your first leading man role?
LE: No it’s not stressful… It’s exhausting, I would say. My average day I get picked up at about 5am, then have two and a half hours in the make-up chair. Depending on what costume I am wearing [that day] it could take from about 10 minutes to 40 minutes to get into costume. Then we’re on set for about 10-12 hours per day and then the de-rig takes another half an hour after that. I get picked up at 5am, and I don’t get home until about 7.30-8pm. So… tiring. You just have to keep really well. If I’m ill, it’s a big problem! [laughs] If I can’t turn up to work it’s a big deal – it’s not like theatre where you have an understudy – everything stops. That’s the only bit of pressure and stress that I deal with on the film; there’s a huge responsibility when you are playing the title role, and you are in almost every scene. You have got a lot that you are responsible for. You’ve got to look after yourself, so there have not been many late nights for me, unfortunately. Not til recently anyway. It had been a really enjoyable job, but it’s probably the hardest thing I have done so far. Physically its been insane, I have six humungous fight sequences – one that I start tomorrow which is called ‘Vlad vs a Thousand’
CLICK: No pressure!
LE: It says it all in the title! So its constant until the final day, I won’t be able to really rest on my laurels, there’s still a lot to do. There always is on a movie and actually it gets even crazier towards the end. But that’s what it takes to shoot a movie of this size.
CLICK: Do you think the fact that you are both stepping into new roles brings a new dynamic to the film?
LE: I think it’s more exciting. We know we are both doing something that everyone is going to be looking at, and seeing how well we do. Whether I can carry a leading role in a studio movie, and whether he can direct! [laughs] I hope we have done that. We have definitely enjoyed the process; we have had a great time. He’s a great guy, we are pals off set. He’s an Irish bloke, and I’m a Welsh lad, and we immediately found an affinity the second we met. There is a lot going on on a film set; there are a lot of people, there’s a lot of opinions, there’s a lot of everything going on… You have got to try and enjoy the process, and not let everything get too much on top of you. I think Gary and I have made sure that we have kept the enjoyment there on a daily basis. Sometimes it hard because there’s a lot of pressure to get all the scenes done and I’ve had to do some really awful things on this film but you try to keep really positive and enjoy it. We have been on the same page from day one, and I think that’s a good thing.
CLICK: Thanks for your time!
LE: No worries, have a lovely day! Come on pumpkin!
Dracula Untold is released in Irish cinemas on October 3rd 2014
Read our on set interview with director Gary Shore here.