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Tim Burton & Timur Bekmambetov Talk The "Superhero Origin Story" Of 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' & Why They Went 3D

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist June 20, 2012 at 3:19PM

When Seth Grahame-Smith began to write the “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” he didn’t let the epiphany of a wacky title affect his dead-serious alternate universe story -- our 16th President, leader of the people by day, and slayer of the undead at night. Though he couldn’t have expected that the premise to catch the fancy of A-List filmmaker Tim Burton, who heard the title and experienced a brief flashback.
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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Benjamin Walker

Not to say Walker didn’t have any help in the makeup and prosthetics department. Walker had to apply different amounts of makeup daily as the project shot non-chronologically. “We would do old age on Tuesday and young on Wednesday,” he says, noting the amount of time spent in the makeup chair. As far as what had to be added to Walker‘s features, he reveals, “Young Lincoln, it's a nose, partial brow and two ears, because he had very large ears. Later on in his life, it's fifteen pieces, it's an entire face, wig and contacts. It takes about six hours to apply.”

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is the latest big budget effort to shoot in 3D, and both Burton and Bekmambetov agreed early in the process that this would be a creative decision, the best possible way for them to realize their shared vision. "From the moment we read this book, we understood it would be a 3D movie because it's a unique journey to be there,” Bekmambetov says. Though Bekmambetov was also using history itself as a motivation to employ the format.

"Timur showed me some pictures from the Civil War that actually were in 3D,” claims Burton. “It was almost the first use of 3D photography.” Bekmambetov confirms, “Three years after the photography was invented, they created the Second Eye and produced 3D photos. And all the famous photos [of the war] are in 3D.”

Beyond the technology, the actors remained focused on living up to their real-life inspirations, a process that was fraught with emotional demands. Walker, who credits the book "Lincoln’s Melancholy" as a key bit of research, says of Lincoln, “You can see the effect the Civil War even had on his frame. He had a miserable life, consumed with death and disease and fraught with conflict.”

But this was a process that placed a level of importance on the many facets of Lincoln as a younger and older man. His approach was to avoid being worshipful, as he says with that approach, “you potentially rob him of his complexity and his humanity, you make him larger than life, more than human. And you remove what truly made him heroic, which was that he was human, and he was complicated and conflicted about his decisions. And when people treat him as something sacred, that's when they really start messing with him.” He states that 'Vampire Hunter' is a film that gets the man right, with or without embellishments. “What we're doing is taking a fresh look, being as thorough with the history as we possibly can, and being respectful of the man. I think Lincoln would get a kick out of our movie.”

This article is related to: Interviews, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie, Seth Grahame-Smith, Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov


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