Since starting his acting career proper in 2003, Luke Evans has seemed to spend more time in period attire than in any other clothing: from “Clash of the Titans” to “Robin Hood” to “The Three Musketeers,” he’s repeatedly transformed himself into a muscular, mustachioed monolith of a man who is more comfortable in animal pelts than leather jackets. But even with several other projects in the pipeline which require him to start sentences with “ye olde…,” including “Immortals,” “The Raven,” and two “Hobbit” prequels, Evans insists that it’s just the scripts, and not the buckling swashes, that draw him to this series of anachronistic projects.
“I’ve dabbled in period films in my career and I’ve enjoyed each one,” Evans told The Playlist last Friday during a telephone interview for “The Raven.” “But basically it’s not been by sort of ‘I have to do a period film.’ I look at the script, and then if I like the story, that’s really what draws me in to do these films.”
On Friday, Relativity Media released the first theatrical trailer for “The Raven,” not coincidentally on the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s death. Evans explained that in the film, which is set in 1849, he plays a fictional character named Emmet Fields, who enlists Poe to help him solve a string of murders whose crime scenes are inspired by the author’s most famous works. “You’re introduced to the character when he comes to the crime scene of the first murder, which he figures out is the first murder in a string of murders by a serial killer inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe. He brings in [Poe] as primarily a suspect to the police station. He soon realizes that he isn’t the suspect, but the writer of this crime. The story unfolds and the serial killer leaves clues, and my character has to use Poe and Poe has to work with my character, two unlikely characters who would never speak in life.”
Evans explained that the film’s combination of fact and fiction gave him a great foundation of real information to draw upon, even if ultimately the story was purely fictionalized. “What’s interesting about doing period when it’s about a factual character like this one is, even though my character is fictional, and we do fictionalize the last five days of Poe’s life when he sort of disappeared and then appeared again on the day that he died, is that you can do an incredible amount of research. I used all of the information I found on Poe and on Baltimore and the time and the period of 1849, and I used that to inform my character. And that’s a really interesting thing to do when you do period, and I think that’s probably one of the great gifts of doing period, especially when it’s backed up with such a great script, as this one was.”
In 2009, Warner Brothers found success when they took a character from around the same time period, "Sherlock Holmes," and reinvented him for modern audiences. Although “The Raven” will feature a duo of detectives at the center of its story, Evans insists that their film isn’t piggybacking on its predecessor. “Even though you might think it’s like Watson and Sherlock Holmes, in our movie they spend a lot of time fighting against each other because one doesn’t respect the other,” he revealed. “But they’re forced to work together. So the journey is completely different, really. They have to find a common ground where they can speak civilly to each other, so even though it might look like the Holmes-and-Watson relationship, it’s very, very different.”
Although the trailer only hints at the violence that may be depicted in the film, Evans said that he liked how his director, James McTeigue, fully explored the gruesome details of Poe’s works. “It doesn’t shy away from how gory and detailed [of] the murder stories that Poe wrote 160-something years ago, and how topical they are even today and how shocking they are today,” Evans observed. “James, I think, wanted to make a movie that didn’t shy away from that, and it’s a proper suspense mystery thriller which has all of those murder scenes and crime scenes in it, which gives it a very sort of scary edge. There were a lot of real effects, and plenty of prosthetics and lots of blood.”
Ultimately, Evans said that he’s excited to see the finished film because it combines the visceral and intellectual, and most of all, the emotional. “There is horror in it, and a very strong narrative, and some quite complex relationships going on with the main characters as well, which I think is important,” he said. “It’s not just about the gory murders, even though they are in there, and they are quite dramatically vivid. There is a very strong narrative that’s important to the characters’ journeys.”
"The Raven" hits theaters on March 9th.