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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Timor Bekmambetov

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' director: U.S. films losing voice

April 25, 2012 | 11:40 am

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"  director Timur Bekmambetov, CinemaCon's International Filmmaker of the Year, talks about his new film and the globalization of Hollywood
Over the last decade, Russia has become one of the leading international film markets. Just look at "Titanic 3-D": In 1998, the original film played in only 32 theaters in the country, compared with roughly 1,000 showing the new version of the movie this year. 

But as a result of such globalization, Kazakhstan-born director Timur Bekmambetov said he fears American movies "are losing their voice."

"The American film industry isn't American anymore -- it's global," said the "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" director, who was in Las Vegas this week to accept CinemaCon's International Filmmaker of the Year award. "Nobody makes movies for American audiences anymore. To be understandable everywhere, you have to deal with basic ideas -- very relatable for everybody."

He's even unsure about how his upcoming 3-D horror film, which presents the 16th president of the United States as -- well, a vampire hunter -- will play with moviegoers in some parts of the country.

"I don't know how people in Lousiana or Alabama will accept the idea that Confederates were supported by vampires," he said with a chuckle.

Despite its American themes, Bekmambetov said he thinks that "Vampire Hunter" has the potential to play well overseas, describing it as a superhero movie at its core -- a genre to which international audiences tend to gravitate. 

The filmmaker said that in Russia, at least, he has witnessed the significant impact Hollywood films have had on local audiences.

"Hollywood films destroyed the Soviet Union in the '80s," he said. "The whole revolution -- perestroika -- happened because of American movies, I feel. When the first VHS players appeared, everyone had one in their house and could copy and distribute movies. People thought, 'Oh my God, there is a great life somewhere else.'"


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Photo: Benjamin Walker and director Timur Bekmambetov on the set of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." Credit: Stephen Vaughan 

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' trailer: Honest Abe gets his vamp

February 13, 2012 |  2:58 pm

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Talk about historical fiction. Fox has released the first atmospheric, action-packed trailer for its "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," a 3-D summer spectacle film starring relative newcomer Benjamin Walker as a very different incarnation of our venerable 16th president. The trademark beard and stovepipe hat are there, sure, but where in the history books did it say that young Lincoln was a strapping, ax-wielding action hero chopping down vampires with gusto?

The idea for this hodgepodge of history and horror sprang from the mind of Seth Grahame-Smith, a struggling screenwriter turned novelist whose 2009 book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” sparked the trend of draping genre trappings over classic literature (“Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” “Android Karenina,” et al.). For his follow-up, Grahame-Smith reimagined the life of Lincoln through a B-movie lens, penning the manuscript for “Vampire Hunter” in just four months.

The book recounts roughly 45 years of Lincoln’s life, from about 1820 to 1865, tracing his evolution from a poor young man devastated by the loss of his mother, up through his burgeoning interest in politics, his presidency and his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. While the tale is rooted in factual history, it also posits the fantastic conceit that Lincoln’s secret crusade to drive blood-drinking monsters into extinction influenced nearly every important decision in his life.

In his quest, he finds an unlikely ally and companion in a mysterious man named Henry Sturges (portrayed on screen by Dominic Cooper), who helps him defeat the supernatural foes who seek to uphold the institution of slavery for their own despicable ends.

The film is directed by "Wanted" filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, and another fantastically minded soul, Tim Burton, is one of the movie's producers. Burton told The Times last year that he immediately sparked to the idea for the film as soon as he heard about the premise.

“Something hit me inside that said I just wanted to see that movie,” Burton said. “I don’t know why. I grew up on weird, perverse movies, and it just seemed like one of those kind of movies that just tapped into my subconscious. I remember going to the Cornell Theater in Burbank, where they’d do like three movies for 50 cents, and that would have been the kind of movie I would have seen there.”

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" opens June 22.


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Photo: Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) makes a historic speech in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."  Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Fox

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' star Anthony Mackie: Our movie will be educational

March 2, 2011 |  4:35 pm


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.)

Mack 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."


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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

Wanted by studios, Timur considers hitting the 'Asphalt'

April 7, 2010 |  1:37 pm

EXCLUSIVE: "What would Timur do" sounds like a guiding principle for those who worship at the altar of genre movies. But it's not an idle notion  or a cocktail-party game -- it's a pressing question for those awaiting the next move from the Russian-Kazakh (last name: Bekmambetov) auteur.

The director-producer  -- he most famously helmed "Wanted" and also directed the Russian-language fantasy pictures "Day Watch" and "Night Watch"  -- has been flirting with several new films since "Wanted 2" hit the skids about six weeks ago. Studios really want him; it's just a question of what he wants to do next.

Timur got tongues wagging when he recently attached himself to a movie called "The Witch Hunter," about the last of a breed that tracks down the spell-casting in their covens. And he's long been attached to direct an update of  "Moby Dick" (!).  He's also involved as a producer on a slew of movies, including an alien-invasion thriller called "The Darkest Hour" and the supernatural historical film called "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." But no commitments yet.

One previously unreported directing project, however, is emerging as a strong candidate.

According to sources, Lionsgate last year quietly acquired a pitch titled "Red Asphalt" and brought Timur on to direct. A writer named Andrew Baldwin, who, a quick scan of the 2008 Black List shows, wrote a Depression-era drama titled "The West Is Dead," is writing the script.

"Asphalt" is described by insiders as an edgy 3-D thriller. Its larger plot details are murky (though knowing Timur's work, a simple logline wouldn't accurately describe the final product anyway). But Timur, who's also attached to produce, is keen on the film, and the project has momentum at Lionsgate.

Anyone who's worked with Timur -- or, for that matter, seen his movies -- knows he's a stubborn visionary, with outlandish ideas germinating in his head and then taking equally outrageous shape on the screen. Love him or hate him, Timur has had, after the success of "Wanted," the clout to make the movie he wants to make in the way that he wants to make it. With 3-D ridiculously in vogue, don't be surprised if the rubber hits the road for "Asphalt."

--Steven Zeitchik

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Photo: Timur Bekmambetov. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times


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