I interviewed the vampire as we walked through Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans, ironically only a few blocks from the home of novelist Anne Rice. But this isn’t one of Rice’s vampires — this is the big guy himself. This is Dracula, alive and well and wreaking havoc in the 21st century. He walked sure-footed through this dark city of the dead as I stumbled behind trying to keep pace, as the movie lights were being turned off one by one, as the dark became darker still. A strange wind picked up, as lightening flashed brightly but silently across the sky. Where was he leading me?
Dashing Scottish actor Gerard Butler (ATTILA) is playing the title role in WES CRAVE PRESENTS DRACULA 2000, a modern-day retelling of the classic Bram Stoker story. He follows in the footsteps of screen legends like Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee to name but a few. “I didn’t want to base it on anything that had been done before,” said Butler with his heavy Scottish brogue.
So what about the accent? Is Dracula a Scotsman this time around? “I think because we don’t really want to give away where he comes from or what he’s all about, we used the most neutral accent, which was English. Not to say he’s from England, but it’s not to say he’s from anywhere,” Butler explained. “When I first went for the audition, I [showed] up with some weird European accent, and the director said, ‘You don’t have to worry about that,'” Butler added, with a laugh. :So you’re not gonna have a heavy Hungarian or Rumanian accent. Just English, but not my Scottish. Although it would have been great to play this guy with a heavy Glasgow brogue, you know?” He smiled, no fangs at the moment.
Just because this 19th-century villain happens to find himself thrust into the 21st century, you might think he’d be a stranger in a strange land. But Dracula adapts and makes this world his own. “I think his is completely a fish out of water, but it’s not really something that would cross his mind. It’s more to the power of this guy,” said Butler, who admits that most of the time Dracula isn’t around the general public. He interacts mostly with the other main characters in what Butler describes as “quite intense situations.
“Only a couple of times you really see him out and about,” he continued. “And it’s not really for him to adapt. I don’t think it would be something that would cross his mind.”
Butler admits that playing Dracula isn’t really a stretch for him. Talking to him, you get the impression that playing this role is as easy for him as walking in the dark amongst the tombs. “I am Dracula,”said Butler confidently. “I’m the guy wearing the clothes. I’m the guy wearing the makeup. Of course you have to go somewhere else to play this character, but I’m surprised what I found when I came to play this role. You remember why you were cast, what you did, how you read for the part, and that to me was incredibly instinctive. I just had a feeling of how this guy should be. And that’s what I did. And they liked that. They liked the intensity and the slightly crazy feel that there was a canvas that you could change at any time. And the sexiness of the character as well.”
In DRACULA 2000, Dracula continues his reputation as one of the most seductive characters in film and literature, if not the most seductive of them all. It seems that he has quite an effect on the female characters in the film. Butler thinks for a moment, then suas with a smile, “I do, don’t I?” Absolutely. I seduce all of them. Not always the same way. In different ways, to different extents. But yeah, I certainly use my powers on every single one of them.”
And like the character, Butler also likes to wear black. “I have a big, long jacket. I wear kind of a MATRIX deal [in the film], the image of that is a really powerful look. It makes him stand apart from anything else. But you wouldn’t be arrested for looking like that. So he could walk about.” Butler admits that it’s a bit uncomfortable wearing black in the hot New Orleans weather. Thankfully though, vampires only come out at night, when it’s cooler.
Butler praised the production team for creating the atmosphere that inspires performance. “When you come to play the part, suddenly you throw on your clothes, and you realize you have to so a lot less than you thought you were gonna have to do. When you’re backed up by an amazing special effects team, an amazing D.O.P. [director of photography], and a brilliant directory, suddenly you see, ‘Well, I don’t have to stand up and be the big bogeyman.’ Which worked for me, because I would much rather play this guy a lot more subtlety.”
We emerged from the cemetery to the comforting light and traffic of the street. The only things that had bitten me were some mosquitoes. Butler almost stumbled, distracted by a lovely lady loitering near the front gate of the graveyard. He can’t take his eyes off her for the moment, his head twists almost all the way around as he continues to walk. Then he regains his focus and considers with a laugh, “Sometimes I think, what am I doing that’s any different?”