Seth Grahame-Smith’s historical and mythical fruition Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter adapted into film by acclaimed filmmakers Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton introduces Honest Abe (played by Benjamin Walker), America’s 16th president as a vampire slayer who is pitted against Rufus Sewell’s Adam, the movie’s main vampire antagonist.
Adam’s character didn’t appear in the original book but, in the writing of the screenplay, evolved out of a need to create a key focus forLincoln’s fight. Adam, played by Rufus Sewell, is a creature of almost limitless power. “I see him as a kind of president of the vampires, “adds Sewell.
Author-screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who created the character especially for the film, as its central villain, was attracted to the idea of someone who has existed for untold millennia. “I wondered what it would be like to live for hundreds of thousands of years – to have been around since the building of the pyramids,” says Grahame-Smith. “What kind of personality would emerge from that eternal existence?”
Grahame-Smith’s vampires were polar opposites to the romantic figures captured in recent memory, his creatures of the undead pay proper reverence to the classic tradition of vampires in the movies. “The vampires in our movie aren’t romantic or funny, and they certainly don’t sparkle,” he notes. “Our vampires are bloodthirsty and cunning – and most frightening of all, they’ve become a part of the fabric of everyday life, working as blacksmiths, pharmacists, and bankers.”
Adam is a warrior, leader, politician and pragmatist. With his aristocratic bearing and Southern plantation home, Adam is like a malevolent Rhett Butler – a mix of elegance and menace. His goals, says Tim Burton, are in some ways quite relatable. “If you cast off your moral assumptions, then all Adam wants is a place where he and those like him can call home. He wants freedom for his kind, but of course that comes at a horrible cost for so many.”
Adam hopes that Abraham will become a formidable ally, instead of a deadly foe. “Adam, with all his abilities, is a politician and pragmatist, much like Abraham himself,” notes Sewell. “And the wonderful thing is, he gets a chance to meet withLincoln, warrior-to-warrior, and in a way, president-to-president, because Adam sees himself as the leader of a kind of vampire nation. Adam doesn’t use force againstLincoln, not at first, because he’d much rather have Lincoln on his side.”
Abraham absolutely rejects Adam’s overtures for an alliance, and so must face the vampire’s full fury. “Adam can transition from an erudite, sophisticated and cultured ‘man’ to a creature capable of tearing your head off and sucking your lungs out through a hole in your throat,” says Sewell.
“There's been a spate of aesthetically-pleasing vampires in the past few years that it's not unthinkable for a teenage girl to have the hots for one,” teases Sewell. “But these vampires are not glittery: they're nasty. They're not good people.”
He adds: “It's not a pretty look – the eyes are something to behold. A lot of the time my character looks relatively presentable, but when he vamps out it's quite a change in terms of the skin and the veins and the eyes.”
Most recently seen in The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, Sewell first gained attention with his television debut in 1994 as Will Ladislaw in the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch.
He garnered further acclaim in Christopher Hampton's feature film Carrington, as well as in John Schlesinger's Cold Comfort Farm. His other notable film works include The Legend of Zorro, Tristan + Isolde, A Knight’s Tale, Dark City and Hamlet.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will open July 4 in cinemas (2D and 3D) nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.