'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' star Anthony Mackie: Our movie will be educational
It was a bestselling book that's now a highly anticipated movie, but can "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," a story that has the 16th president exacting revenge on the vampires who killed members of his family, also be a teaching tool?
Anthony Mackie, who stars in next year's Fox film opposite Benjamin Walker, says the tale will contain plenty of nutritional value. "It's not so much fictional as it is a recontextualization of history," Mackie, who plays Lincoln valet and friend William Johnson, told 24 Frames. "There are actual moments and things that happened in the annals of time. Abraham Lincoln's friend William Johnson really was a freed man of color."
Like Seth Grahame-Smith's book, the movie -- which will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Tim Burton -- assumes the existence of vampires in the 19th century as the nation was on the brink of Civil War. As the story progresses, we learn that the creatures have a sinister investment in keeping slavery legal. Lincoln's personal animus toward the vampires for what they did to his family drives him to hunt them down, a crusade he continues even from the White House as he pursues an abolitionist agenda.
"This movie will tell us what pre-Emancipation Proclamation America was like," Mackie said. "It puts you in a position where you want to go back and read a book about 1860-1925 America." (More on the up-and-comer, who stars as an angel with a conscience in this weekend's "The Adjustment Bureau," coming shortly.)
Mackie said that despite the whimsical premise, "Vampire Hunter" doesn't take the liberties with history that skeptics might expect. "It's not like Abraham Lincoln is going to have a top hat and dreadlocks. No, he's going to look like Abraham ... Lincoln."
The actor added that there a lot of misconceptions about how much the book was inspired by true events. "It's interesting reading the blogs, saying 'Look at this token thing -- they're going to put Abraham Lincoln with a black guy.' No you dumb ... one of his best friends was a black dude."
Mackie is set to shoot the movie shortly in New Orleans opposite his Juilliard classmate Walker, who plays Lincoln. While the film was, of course, conceived as entertainment, Mackie says he feels a responsibility to turn it into something more.
"We as entertainers have to make this stuff interesting," he said. "We have to give kids in the next generation a reason to go and do the work. Otherwise they wouldn't want to."
Photos: Book jacket from "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." Credit: Grand Central Publishing. Anthony Mackie at the Vanity Fair Oscar party on Sunday. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images