Benjamin Walker of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’assures us that it’s all quite serious
Playing a president always piques the public’s attention, and actor Benjamin Walker has not one executive role, but two under his belt.
In “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” the Juilliard-trained actor plays the instrumental leader himself from the age of 19 to his death at 55.
So you played Andrew Jackson in the Broadway musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and now you’re playing Abraham Lincoln.
Yeah, I got the market cornered on weird presidents.
Which one did you enjoy portraying more?
That’s tough. As Americans we’re fascinated by our leaders, but I think Lincoln, people are more familiar with his legacy so there’s a bit more expected of you when you play Lincoln. The Andrew Jackson that we did was a very absurd interpretation.
Which president would you like to play next?
I think Woodrow Wilson would be fascinating.
What did you honestly think when they gave you the script to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”?
I wanted to know who’s directing it. That would tell me what kind of project it would be. When they told me it was Timur [Bekmambetov], it kind of put my mind at ease.
How did you prepare for the role?
I read three or four books. The most helpful one was called “Lincoln’s Melancholy,” because it’s about his childhood and how he dealt with death and misery and the more gothic side of who he is. That certainly lends itself more nicely to the story we’re telling.
I guess you come from a long line of vampire hunters in cinema history. There’s Buffy, Blade, and so on.
We’ve been killing them for a long time.
Did you read up about vampires?
Yeah. We referenced Nosferatu, kind of the return to the truly evil vampires. You got guys like Rufus Sewell playing vampires — it’s pretty believable when they’re jumping at you with sharp teeth. There’s very little acting involved when you’re fighting for your life.
What movies did you personally reference to get yourself in the vampire hunting mood?
I’ve always been a fan of “Lost Boys.”
This film straddles the line between historical fiction and horror. Were you happy with the decision to make this a horror action film rather than a drama?
My biggest concern was that it was not campy, that the joke was in the title and that’s where it ends. That we’re not making fun of it, that we’re not being disrespectful to Lincoln, that we’re trying to make a period piece that had some vampires in it.
Which stunts did you do?
I did most of it, particularly the ax fighting. Timur was very hesitant to shoot it where you see my face, then you cut to the back of some stunt guy’s head. He wanted these long shots where we see the motion and we see Lincoln. So they tried to get me to do as much as I could.
Was this the first time you picked up an ax?
No. What’s ironic is I spent the summer before that working cutting down trees. With a chainsaw mind you, but yeah, I know how to use an ax!
What most surprised you about Lincoln?
Probably the most helpful fact that came to light was that he was an ordinary guy that came from very humble beginnings. That’s what makes him extraordinary: He did extraordinary things in spite of it.