As the title character in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," Benjamin Walker is getting something of a crash course in the publicity side of show business. The Juilliard-trained, Broadway-seasoned actor dons the stovepipe hat — and grabs an axe — to show a different side to America's 16th president. And he's loving every minute of it.
You don't have a lot of experience with press tours and conventions just yet, do you?
No, this is intense. I'm learning. Frankly, this is my full-time job. It's so strange because making the movie I thought would be a full-time job. Selling the movie is a full-time job. Talking about it.
How have the questions been?
They've been good. I think people are genuinely curious. They don't have to manufacture curiosity about this project because it's kind of out there.
It's all in the title, really.
Exactly. But I don't think people believe we're really taking it seriously. They're like, "So it's a comedy?" I'm like, "No, it's a period movie about Lincoln." When the first trailer came out, it kind of changed perceptions. We're not playing around.
You did your fair share for this film, between training and makeup.
Yeah, they kicked my ass, man. The makeup was six hours a day. And then you go to work. Then there's your 18-hour work day.
Are you allowed to sleep in the makeup chair?
I can't, because it's so uncomfortable. But what we did do was we rigged up a little flat-screen TV and watched three movies a sitting. And I got to watch all the movies I should've seen. Like we worked our way through Kurosawa. It was kind of amazing. And naturally the makeup guys were really into fantasy and special effects, and they showed me a bunch of great special effects movies. I got the history of special effects. And we also watch all the vampire movies ever made.
I was sorry to hear about "Paradise Lost" being called off.
Yeah, me too. I really wanted to work with Alex [Proyas] and Bradley [Cooper], but we'll find something else. That movie was going to be so big that if they didn't have the proper in order in terms of budget and technology, don't even start.
How was working with Timur Bekmambetov, your director on this film?
He's just a straight-shooter, man. "This is what it is, this is what we're making, buckle up." He's remarkable. He's like a professional 6-year-old who has these fantastical ideas just out of nowhere. You never knew what you were going to be shooting on the day, and I love that. It was really kind of guerilla imagination work. You had the structure of Lincoln's life — we're really not playing with the events of his life. And Timur's so visually good. We'd do something 30 or 50 takes and I'm going, "What the f--- is the problem?" And then he'd show me the dailies and it'd be, "Oh, that's why you did it? Do another 100. Do it until you get it." It's one thing to have a cool shot, but he has cool shots that are augmenting the story, that give you a perspective on what's happening that you did not have, and to me that's the goal.