Q: So you're directing a Dracula movie in Romania, the place of Dracula's historic fact and also of vampire lore. Was there anything that creeped you out while you were there? How do you think it was for the Romanian crew working on the movie?
Romania is a fascinating and beautiful country. Especially Transylvania where we shot most of the exteriors of DRACULA 3. The country's all too recent history under the Ceausescu regime is actually far more frightening than any of the lore about 'things that go bump in the night.' We shot in a house for DRACULA 2 (which we shot simultaneously to 3), supposedly a prince's summer home that the Ceausescu's secret police used for torturing the locals. The basement has a room with white tile running up the walls so it would be easier to hose the blood off. Joel Soisson, the co-writer/producer of DRACULA 3 used that basement for scene that depicted what it was in PROPHECY: UPRISING.
Beyond that the scary things are the cultural differences which you get used to. There was one night we were all out to dinner in Bucharest with the cast and there's this old Romanian gypsy woman with one milky eye (no shit, I'm not kidding) outside the window of the restaurant. She's waving her arms and hexing us, her lips clacking with rage, spittle hitting the glass. That was creepy. I also broke my hand while in Bucharest and had to go to a Romanian hospital. Now that was scary. You go down this blindingly white hall, past the little old ladies in black looking like Robert DeNiro when he's mopping up the blood in ANGEL HEART, then enter the most advanced X-Ray room I've ever seen. Then to the room where they set your hand. The 'doctor' is smoking, flicking ash on the floor and into the plaster mix for the cast. He grabs some burly orderly from the hall who yanks one way on my hand while the doctor pulls the other. They slap on the ash-filled plaster yelling at me in Romanian to 'relax.' Ah... good times.
For the crew I don't think it made any difference shooting a Dracula movie. They shoot a lot of them there and they certainly know the routine and the difficulties in trying to show people impaled or shooting down the street from where Vlad himself was supposedly born. The crew were wonderfully enthusiastic and were a real pleasure to work with.
Q: In the first movie, DRACULA 2000, the big surprise is that Dracula is really Judas, cursed by God to never die. But at one point in LEGACY, one of the characters explains that "Dracula" has infiltrated every religion on the planet to some degree, which would therefore make him far older than two-thousand years when Judas was killed. So, are you saying that Judas was just another one of the forms/guises he took?
Ah... I think you're the only one who has caught that. That's actually the seed to a bigger story should we ever make 'what happens next.' Dracula, this Dracula, began with Judas in our version, and has influenced several religions and cultures as he's wandered the earth sowing the seeds of his corruption. Uffizi's speech is summed up by saying it doesn't matter who Dracula is, or was, but how he ends. What Joel and I wanted was to set up the feeling that Uffizi's no longer on a vendetta to kill the 'betrayer' for the church, but rather a personal vendetta for himself. The church has absolved Uffizi of this task but Uffizi hasn't absolved himself from it. He's now going after Dracula because he can't NOT go after him.
Q: Was Rutger Hauer your first choice to portray Dracula? It works well because he's like a cross between Gerard Butler and Stephen Billington, the actors who portrayed Drac in the previous two movies. Also, did Rutger do this before or after he did the SALEM'S LOT movie?
Rutger was indeed our first choice for Dracula in this story. When we pitched the concept of Drac 3 to Andrew Rona and Nick Phillips at Dimension Films we pitched them this Kurtzian Dracula in the guise of Rutger. That first take on the role really stuck with them and they made sure we got him. It was our hope that Rutger would embody traits from both Gerry and Stephen and Rutger's a guy who does his homework. He came very prepared, watched Stephen work and knew what Gerry had done. Coming in with that preparation allowed him to really play off what had been done before and build of the two previous performances with his own. Rutger shot our film back in December of 2001 (holy crap that's a long time ago) and SALEM'S LOT much after that.
Q: The character that Jason Scott Lee portrays, Uffizi, is an odd character. Where did he come from (his basis, your influence... )? Where did his name come from? At one point Luke tells him that "You don't look like an Uffizi, how did you get a name like that?"
Uffizi was created by Joel Soisson and myself and named by Joel. He was originally the Vatican 'accountant' or 'cleaner.' The guy they send in to mop up when there's an unholy fuck up. If you read through the original treatment of DRACULA 2000 included on the DRACULA 3 DVD you can see how he first appeared. Ultimately his character was written out of the first film but he was a real favorite of Andrew Rona's. When it came time to make the sequels the only mandatory instruction we had was: Uffizi. It was great to dust him off and flesh him. The concept, quite simply, was the 'gunslinger for God', an iconic hunter in the vein of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and MAD MAX. Joel named him after the museum in Florence where I believe Michelangelo's DAVID is kept. Uffizi: it has a cool sound to it and looks good on the page. When casting we auditioned every kind of actor with a variety of ethnic backgrounds. During that process we came up with the idea of Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee. Unanimously down the line we all agreed he'd be perfect. Jason is the most amazing actor to work with and frankly there's no way we could've made the film without him. However, Jason certainly doesn't look Italian. We did create a whole back-story for him, how he was found by Cardinal Siqueros (Roy Scheider) in Tibet and brought into the fold of Vatican 'accounting.' As we shot that story never found a toe-hold into the script so we added this little dialogue scene with Luke and Uffizi by way of justification. Uffizi's not his real name. It just came with the job.
Q: I thought it was cool that you gave your makeup effects guy, Gary Tunnicliffe a small part in the movie. Did he bug the crap out of you and just wore you down or did you write the part specifically for him?
Gary's fantastic and you simply can't ask to work with anyone better. He's so incredibly talented and always there with solutions. Joel routinely calls him the MVP on any crew and he truly is. When Joel and I wrote Drac 3 we wrote the role of Tommy specifically for Gary. He was the first one cast which gave him time to prepare a grand death for himself. It was a real joy working with Gary as an actor on set.
Q: What is it about dogs eating dead people in Romania? I've seen this in a few recent movies-PROPHECY: UPRISING and also in HELLRAISER: DEADER. And in LEGACY a dog is eating the face off a dead guy in that village that's been attacked by vampires. Are man-eating dogs a regular occurrence in Romania or something? Do they not like dogs? LOL.
Romania is over-run by dogs. They are everywhere. When Ceausescu flattened large parts of the city to make way for his palace (the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon), he displaced a large part of Bucharest's population putting them in apartments where they couldn't keep their dogs. The dogs were let loose into the streets. The animals bred and bred and bred. And they are everywhere. Dogs in Romania can be scary. A few of our crew were bitten by them as they wander around in packs looking for food. The reason they appear in these Dimension movies is because each takes place in Romania and the canine population, if it continues to grow, will soon be taking over.
Q: This is somewhat off the track but what is it with "Wes Craven presents" being at the beginning of the movies... it always seems kind of goofy to me, like "John Carpenter's VAMPIRES",(even though that vampire movie was based on a book by John Steakley called VAMPIRE$--and even though the two sequels to that were directed by someone else.)
Yeah... I know what you mean. Mr. Craven was an executive producer on the original Dracula 2000 and was very much part of the process of making that film. Given that the studio wanted to keep the 'visual continuity of the presentation' for the sequels. I'm sure the same goes for the Carpenter VAMPIRES movies. It's part of the package. Steakley's book VAMPIRE$ by the way is fantastic. What a great story. I highly recommend it.
Q: Speaking of Wes, you've edited all three SCREAM movies, NEW NIGHTMARE, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, CURSED and most recently RED-EYE. Do you find that it's easier for you to edit someone else's work or for you to edit your own?
It can be easier to edit somebody else's work, certainly. You're less attached to the trials of shooting it and far more interested in how to make each piece work best as a movie. Sometimes, when directing, you can't let go of shots or elements that were so hard to get but in the end don't actually work in the movie as a whole. An editor is there to help the director make those tough decisions.
Q: From my understanding, CURSED was basically made twice and the original boyfriend character was portrayed by Skeet Ulrich-were you the editor throughout the entire project and how did the movies differ? There seems to be shots in the preview for CURSED that's not in the released film at all (such as the werewolves crawling on the ceiling in the hallway).
I came on the film a couple of weeks before shooting on the Skeet Ulrich version was suspended, I think after about eight or nine weeks of shooting, I'm not sure anymore. The shots in the preview of Cursed, in the TV trailer, were actually shot after the movie was finished specifically for the trailer.
Q: If you wanted to, you could continue with at least another sequel of DRACULA. Was this in the back of your mind when you were writing the LEGACY script?
It wasn't so much in our minds when writing the LEGACY script but it was definitely in our minds when we saw what we had. There's a real opportunity to see where the story goes and how it hooks out of what is was. The final set up wasn't designed to be 'SEQUEL' but it does have potential to continue in a whole new direction. Joel and I have talked about and I believe both Jason Scott Lee and Jason London would be game for it. It would be a far darker story so we'll have to see. Since the Dimension/Miramax and Disney split, the rights for our Dracula movies and the Uffizi character have landed back at Disney. It'll be up to them if they want to order more.
Q: What are you working on now? Tell us about it...
Now... I just finished editing RED-EYE for Wes which turned out great. It opens nationwide this week. I'm attached to direct a film for the producers of THE COOLER, a great script with strong horrific elements and I'm writing a script now with Todd Farmer. There's other things out there, lurking in the shadows. It's just a matter of seeing which one leaps out next.