WonderCon 2012: 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' Panel and Presentation

Sunday, 18 March 2012 13:31 Written by  Rocio Anica
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WonderCon 2012: 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' Panel and Presentation

Tim Burton is sick! No, he’s, like, literally sick. That’s the reason he missed being a speaker on the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which opened the Fox Films presentation at WonderCon 2012. Burton produced the film adaptation of the novel by the same name, which will be coming out in 3D on June, 22nd. For devotees of his brand and auteurship, he put together a brief but very apologetic clip, complete with a corpse (Burton’s temporary alter-ego, until he feels better), sexy nurses and a fat man in a black shirt and a long white beard (his doctor, of course!)

That’s the way the 20th Century Fox presentation for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter began, before moving forward with the panel’s moderator, Seth Grahame-Smith, who is the novelist presupposing that perhaps Abraham Lincoln saved the country in more ways than one. Grahame-Smith, who appeared all sorts of genuine and happy and amiable, opened the program by saying that it was really weird for him to be on the stage, because for the last ten years he was the one trying to get in on these panels and going and filling his swag bag; it was really emotional and a cool honor to be there. “It feels like this book came out a minute ago, and now we’re talking about a movie.”

Immediately thereafter, he invited director  Timor Bekmambetov (Wanted) and actor Benjamin Walker (Flags of our Fathers) out on to the stage, to sit and introduce an actual sequence from the movie, made ready for WonderCon attendees.

They rolled the footage, which was set on a train. The tungsten cold of a blue night set the tone, as creatures jumped aboard the roof of the speeding train. Abraham Lincoln’s weapon, a long axe, swung casually but gripped confidently as the lanky hero made his way to where the blood-thirsty creatures were trying to get in. Lincoln has a partner-in-heroism, Will Johnson (played by Anthony Mackie) who partakes in fending off the hordes of violent, enraged vampires. The sequence was filled with savvy slow-motion moments that just revel in the sophistication of 3D and Bekmambetov ’s eye for satisfying action. Heads roll. Gun barrels roll. All this, while the train hurls through the dark night toward a bridge on fire, but then the sequence ended and we were left wanting more.

The lights came and then it was time for audience questions. Grahame-Smith admitted that the cynical reason for conceiving an idea such as this one was that he amalgamated American history and fantasy because of something he saw while on book tour. While he was on book tour for "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," no matter where he was in the country, he was constantly seeing only two displays: Abraham Lincoln biographies (in honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday) next to tables full of the "Twilight" series. He said, “And I thought, well, if I can combine those two things, well, I’d really be onto something.”

He adds that upon doing research, he realized that Lincoln’s real-life story is a real superhero story. “All the darkness he had to overcome… to not only become the chief executive of the country but he also saved the country. He’s the only real American superhero that I can think of.”

Walker answered the next question which was about his approach to a historical and fantastical character. “We did a lot of research, ironically.” He read things that weren’t just about Lincoln’s policies, that pertained more to his inner life, which lent a more gothic take to the whole process. He added that Grahame-Smith’s novel is more historically accurate, strangely enough, than one might think. It played off the fact that Lincoln’s mother died under mysterious circumstances. “A period piece…that just happens to have vampires in it.”

The filmmakers next spoke about the visionary Burton. Bekmambetov said, “He was important It’s his world too.” Grahame-Smith added that Burton protected the initial idea to be straight-forward about the approach. Given that the movie could have been done tongue-in-cheek, winking, because the title is so absurd, that they decided to be serious about the action and vision. Grahame-Smith says they went with the “dedicated, muscular, not-going-to-blink” route, and Burton protected that vision from the beginning of the movie.

Some things about the movie that differ from the novel is that the filmmakers invented the main villain, Adam, chief of all vampires, played by Rufus Sewell (The Illusionists). They also added the character named Will Johnson who is “a badass”, according to Grahame-Smith. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have a kickass train sequence in the novel,” Grahame-Smith said. So, the script also amended that. Adding his thoughts, Bekmambetov said it was important to keep the tone of the book, despite these changes.

A fan asked the obvious question about other vampires in contemporary publishing. Grahame-Smith said, “I have nothing against Twilight. I admire anyone who can get that many people to pick up a book. I’m not a hater. But, that being said, our vampires don’t sparkle.”

Another thing that was revealed in the panel was that the movie is being released on the shortest night of the year, on summer solstice.

“In writing the book and also making the movie I wanted to pay respect to the vampires I grew up being afraid of a return to form in putting vampires back in their place”

A fan asked about the score, which was written by Henry Jackman, a composer who did X-Men: First Class.

The panel just wouldn’t have been the same if a fan didn’t ask the true question on everybody’s minds: “Would Obama be able to be a vampire hunter, and what would be his weapon?”

Everybody on the panel affirmed, with Grahame-Smith musing on the fact that Obama is tall and athletic.

About Obama’s potential weapon, Walker replied: “Diplomacy. Or email.”

The program ended with a showing of an extended trailer, which was pretty selling. The trailer’s voiceover (History prefers legends to man, prefers nobility to brutality remembers battles but forgets the blood….) over shots of pensive Lincoln, whips cracking at the 3D screen, Lincoln hacking a tree, shots of war, vampires throwing people up walls, and so much more.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens in 3D on June 22

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