IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Luke Evans Talks 'The Raven' and 'The Hobbit' Films

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 07:20 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Luke Evans Talks 'The Raven' and 'The Hobbit' Films

Actor Luke Evans has recently gained attention worldwide for his work in a string of period films including Clash of the Titans, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers and director Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. Not to mention that he will soon be seen playing Bard the Bowman in director Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. But first, Evans will be starring in another period movie entitled The Raven, which opens in theaters on April 27th and features a fictional account of the final days of acclaimed author Edgar Allan Poe’s life.

In the film, Evans plays Detective Emmett Fields, a 19th century Baltimore policeman who makes a shocking discovery: the crime he is investigating resembles a fictional murder described in detail as part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack). Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe’s writings as inspiration for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author’s help in stopping the attacks. However, when it appears as if the murderer’s next victim is someone Poe cares about, the stakes become even higher and now the inventor of modern detective stories must call on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before its too late. The Raven was directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), and in addition to Cusack and Evans, also stars Alice Eve (ATM), Brendan Gleeson (The Guard), and Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).

I recently had a chance to speak with actor Luke Evans about his work on The Raven, as well as the upcoming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Evans discussed his new film, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, his initial reaction to the script and its fictional story, what he learned from working with John Cusack, the film’s locations, his character, director James McTiegue’s vision for the project, shooting The Hobbit films, living in New Zealand, Peter Jackson’s infectious passion, and being a part of the incredible cinematic Lord of the Rings universe.

Here is what the talented actor had to say:

IAR: To start with, before beginning this project did you know a lot about Poe’s life and were you familiar with his work?

Luke Evans: Well obviously I knew who he was. I knew how much of a contribution he’s made to American literature and the genres that he founded. I can’t say that I’ve read a huge amount of his work but after getting the job, like any job, you start doing research. With someone like Poe who lived such a long time ago there is so much information on him, biographies, and obviously his work, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

You mentioned reading some biographies, but since you are playing a fictional character in a fictional story, why did you feel that was important to do? Did you just want to get a sense of the man and his work, in order to understand the tone of the film?

Evans: Yes exactly, but also to understand the time he lived in, and where he lived, and the places he frequented. As much as I was playing a fictional character I had to understand Baltimore and what it was like in those days. So yeah, all of that information informed me as much as anything else.

What was your initial reaction to the script and the idea of doing a fictional story where Poe has to find a killer inspired by his work, rather than a biopic or a film based on one of his books or poems?

Evans: I thought it was genius. I thought what a clever idea. I mean people have always wondered what happened to him in those last days of his life. Nobody really knows for sure. I thought it was a very clever way of fictionalizing those five days and creating this gothic, suspense thriller. But also it is a great way to get Poe back into the minds of people and letting them know who he was. We owe a lot to his work and what he created. So I thought it was a very clever way of using historical character and his work to create a very dark gothic thriller.

The movie is almost “meta” in the sense that it places Poe in the type of story that he could have written himself. Do you agree with that?

Evans: Absolutely, that’s exactly how it feels. You can actually imagine a human being in this movie. It’s very macabre and lurid.

What do you think Poe would think about this movie and being a fictional character in this type of story?

Evans: I think he’d be very proud of the fact that John Cusack is playing him in the movie.

What was it like working with Cusack and watching him become Edgar Allan Poe in front of your eyes?

Evans: Yeah, he really did. I didn’t have to think too much about John being Poe he was just Poe. I mean when he was on set and the director said, “action” he was there. He was that tormented, lost crazy soul that was Poe. It was very easy for me to play off that. John is fantastic and he’s had such a great career. He’s dealt with so many different genres, comedy, drama, and thrillers. He’s so great to work against as an actor. I haven’t been doing this long so for me to have a chance to work against someone who is so experienced and a veteran of film as John is, he just takes it by the horns and you learn as you go and watch the master at work.

What did you learn about the craft from working with John Cusack that you may be able to apply to your work on your next project?

Evans: When you watch somebody doing acting on film, I’ve noticed this a lot but I noticed it especially with John, is that he changes small things in each take. By his little changes they had a huge impact on how I responded to him. He knows what he is doing. He is very, very clever. I think that comes with experience and time. That’s one of the very important things I think with acting on film, you know film sees so much so quickly, the camera doesn’t miss anything so you can be really subtle and it comes off very large on screen. So I think subtly is something I noticed with John and changing things around and giving you something to work off of, which just shows his generosity as an actor.

What can you tell me about your role as Detective Fields? What was your interpretation of the character and how did you approach playing the part in the film?

Evans: He’s sort of the stoic straight man in this movie. He’s also very young to be where he is. He was the young detective on the Baltimore police force. He was much younger than you usually would be but he had been very ambitious and by getting to that place he had a lot of people waiting for him to fall inside the police force as well as Poe. When Poe meets him Poe immediately uses his intelligence and his age against detective Fields. That was something I really wanted to use with the character. That juxtaposition against Poe who as the film goes on looses his mind more and becomes more incensed by the situation. He begins drinking more heavily, and my character doesn’t drink. He’s very methodical, he’s never lost a case, he’s always solved them all but this one seems to be one that might actually crack him. So that was the challenge I think for me is that I had this character who was incredibly strong, very stoic, and we had to find a way for him to work with this person that he had very little respect for. They wouldn’t ordinarily be friends in life and they were forced into this thing where they had to find some equal ground and converse and work as a team to find this killer.

It also seems that Detective Fields grows to respect Poe as the film goes on and feels a great deal of loss when the writer meets his inevitable end. Is that how you interpreted their relationship?

Evans: Yeah, absolutely, I think there is a journey between these two characters. It’s about two people learning about the respect that they have for each other even though they might come from completely different walks of life. They did find a way to converse and work with each other. There is respect between the two of them at the end of the film because in a way you see my character understanding Poe at the end. It’s a great arc for two characters to go on.

James McTeigue is a great director and really has a good eye for action and suspense. Can you talk about his vision for the film and what it was like for you working with him on the set?

Evans: Well James is fantastic. He’s such a lovely man to work with. His research and work has him creating the backdrop of Baltimore. Where we shot shows you that he took some real time to get it right and the look of it and feel of 19th century Baltimore.  He never really lost that, he was always on it, and he was very generous with his direction. He let us get on with her scenes and then when we needed a little bit of tweaking he’d come in and give us some advice and he’s a great man. He’s very subtle in his work and I like that. He’s not in your face the whole time. He lets you do your scenes and then he comes in with his notes. He’s a great man, and his previous work speaks for its self, he’s fantastic.

You mentioned the film’s setting in 19th century Baltimore and obviously it doesn’t look that way now so instead you shot in Budapest. Can you talk about how the movie’s location helped you get into the mood and the tone of the film?

Evans: Budapest has so many cobble streets, imposing buildings with high tenants that are made of stone and quite cozy. Because it’s in Baltimore, the architecture of the 1800’s burned done in the 1905 fire so there was none of that period left. So we had to find something else. James discovered Budapest and it was the perfect backdrop. There was so much there that would look like Baltimore of 1849 so that was great. There is nothing like hearing horses in carts pulling up cobble streets to out you in mood of the period.

Finally, while I still have you for a few minutes, obviously everyone is excited for the upcoming The Hobbit movies, have you completed your filming yet and what was it like for you to work on those projects?

Evans: Well I’m still here. I’m in New Zealand and its 11:00AM in the morning and I’m off to horse back ridding once shooting starts. I’ve had the best time. I’ve been here since last year, the end of July beginning of August. I’m here till July this year so its been a year of my life and its been fantastic. It’s been the best job ever.

Is it difficult signing on to project when you know that it will take you away from your home shooting in New Zealand for over a year? Is it daunting as an actor to sign on to a long project like that?

Evans: Maybe if not for the fact that it was The Hobbit and it was Peter Jackson but it was The Hobbit and it was Peter Jackson so …

…So a year in New Zealand is a good trade off, right?

Evans: It is, you’re right. It’s an amazing country. The people are fantastic and I’m working on a job that I will never forget. It’s huge! I’m also working with someone who loves what he does. Peter LOVES what he does! So to be around somebody like that on a daily basis is fantastic and the cast is just a wonderful bunch from all around the word and we’re all here together. We’ve made this our home and it’s really been one of those jobs that you really feel very lucky to have been a part of.

Is Mr. Jackson’s love and enthusiasm for this material really infectious on set?

Evans: Yeah absolutely, he knows his craft so well and really enjoys what he does. He’s got energy, and I’ve never seen a man with so much energy. I don’t know when he sleeps because he works so hard, but he’s having the best time, these are his babies. I’m glad that he got to direct it and it’s going to be part of his legacy.

Has that really sunk in for you yet, the fact that you are now a part of the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit cinematic world?

Evans: Yes, I think so. It’s sunk in and I think I’ve had almost a year for it to sink in. What is going to be weird is leaving this place and going back to my normal life in London. That’s going to be weird, not playing Bard the Bowman anymore. That will be strange. But I’m thoroughly happy and thrilled that I’m in this movie and going to be part of something really special. 

The Raven opens in theaters on April 27th.

To watch RMN's exclusive conversation between director James McTeigue and John Cusack about The Raven, please click here.

To watch our exclusive video interview with John Cusack about The Raven, please click here

To watch our exclusive video interview with Alice Eve about The Raven, please click here.

Full Disclosure: The Raven was produced by Relativity Media, iamROGUE's parent company. 

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