Interview: Director Patrick Lussier discusses his upcoming Dracula 3: Legacy
By Patrick Luce Jun 29, 2005, 18:40 GMT
In an interview with Monsters and Critics, Lussier discussed how the series of films, Dracula 2000, Dracula 2: Ascension and Dracula 3: Legacy, evolved into a trilogy and why he thought it was important to bring the greatest of the vampires back into the myth and shadow of his homeland.
When Lussier was approached about writing and directing Dracula 2000 (also known as Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000, and due to release dates as Dracula 2001 in the UK), the creator said he didn’t think that he would be in store for a fully fledged trilogy of movies based on one of the most popular horror characters in the history of the genre.
Dracula 2000, which starred a relatively unknown Gerard Butler, was a kind of “re-vamp” of the character taking him out of Europe and bringing Dracula to New Orleans. It also re-imagined some of Dracula’s origin tying him to the Judas of the Bible that betrays Jesus Christ.
“With any established character and especially one with such a rich legacy as Dracula, it can be very daunting to add original elements. In each of the three movies we strove to weave new threads into the characters already rich mythology,” Lussier said. “In Dracula 2000 we established Dracula as the ‘patient zero’, cursed by God for the ultimate Christian crime, the betraying of Christ. Now that’s not particularly new. Stoker himself describes Dracula at one point as looking on Harker with a ‘smile befitting Judas in hell’ (the director said that quote was not dead on but it’s something like that). In vampiric lore there’s supposed a cult of red-haired vampires that are all the “children of Judas.”
Dracula 3: Legacy takes the vampire back to his European roots
The film’s sequel saw Dracula returning again, but this time the creature’s blood was being sought by a researcher to reverse the effects of a crippling disease. The film also introduced a new character in the form of a vampire slaying priest Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee).
“When D2K opened there was an incredibly mixed reaction to the Judas revelation. It seemed, for the most part, that non-genre fans supported and liked the idea while hardcore fans felt we had betrayed the mythos. Funnily enough, religious circles, which we fully expected to offend, were the ones most intrigued by this element” the director explained. “In Dracula 2 we never even mentioned the name Dracula. Uffizi was only sent after ‘the betrayer.’ The group in the swimming pool didn’t care who Dracula was, only what he was. We liked the idea of Dracula suffering such indignity, this immortal figure that is chained by these lowly students, poked and prodded like a rat, as his captors have no appreciation of what they’ve captured. By the end of course, everything’s different.”<!--page-->
After Dracula 2000’s initial successes, Dimension asked Lussier about the possibility of a sequel, and Lussier, who has served as editor on many of Craven’s films, felt he had a concept that would not only work for a sequel, but also for a third film – even if they were a bit different in style from the first.
“After the initial success of D2K, Dimension approached (co-writer) Joel Soisson and I about doing one sequel based on our original concept… the clinical swimming pool experiment and the Uffizi character,” the director said. “Once Joel and I started down that road we saw a great opportunity to continue the adventures of Uffizi and Luke (played by Jason London), resulting in Dracula 3: Legacy … So it kind of evolved. In doing the third and final version, we really saw a uniquely different film than the previous two. The buddy road-movie meets Heart of Darkness.”
With this concept in place, Lussier said he and Soisson let the story set its pace and style, driven primarily by the journey of Uffizi and Luke. On their quest to cure Uffizi, who is infected with the vampire curse, they attempt to burn it out of him every morning so he can function “normally,” and for Luke to find Elizabeth - the girl Dracula took from him in the second film.
Along the way, the two vampire slayers are forced to deal with a number of life and death situations, and Lussier said the level of action in the film became a concern from both a story and budget standpoint.
“The action in Dracula 3 basically evolved out of the story we wanted to tell. Initially, because I did the first pass through the screenplay, there was a lot more action, huge set pieces involving the circus, shootouts with vampires and rebels, very grandiose and well outside our budget,” he said. “Joel would write behind me, tighten everything up, make everything cost effective and shootable in the time allotted. We’d swing back on forth trimming and adding action beats trying to max out our quarters. What you see is where the pendulum stopped.”
The director said he wasn’t concerned that the film, which is a straight to DVD release, would end up being too violent, but that he didn’t want it to be violent just for an R-rating or because it was a “vampire” flick. Lussier wanted to make sure that the film’s violence and rating reflected the story that he was trying to tell and not just a marketing tool to sell the movie.
Jason Scott Lee is forced to hunt Dracula while dealing with the vampire’s curse
“I believe there is definitely a certain level of action and violence that the audience expects, especially from DVD release titles given the fact that sensor restrictions seem less stringent. But yeah, for a good Dracula movie, it only seems natural to have a lot of violence and mayhem,” he said. “That being said, we never set out to put scenes in specifically with that in mind (except maybe the Blood Den). We were, perhaps a little more cavalier about blood, nudity and violence when we were shooting those scenes, knowing a hard R was exactly what we’d get.”
With the pace and action established for the film, Lussier also wanted to set it apart from the style of the first two movies. Although Dracula, the main villain of the series, is the central character in the first films, Lussier wanted to change the way he used the character for Legacy.<!--page-->
This change involved putting the character back into the shadows, and saving his first appearance until well into the movie. This technique was used to help the audience start to realize just how much Uffizi and Luke are truly outmatched in this game of life and death.
“We wanted to save seeing Dracula the way Kurtz is saved in Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now. Dracula becomes mythic. The battles Uffizi and Luke have on the road, the signposts Dracula and his minions leave for them, all build our expectations of what we’ll find when we find HIM,” Lussier explained. “As our heroes cross Romania we see them entering more and more deadly territory where even a stronghold of rebel soldiers is no match for the night hordes coming down from the Borgo Pass. We can tell that Uffizi and Luke are clearly outmatched, out-fanged, and only manage to survive because of their shear will to complete the mission they’ve set for themselves.”
Returning Dracula to the mythic shadows also meant finding a new actor that could take the role and bring it back to its legendary status.
The director explained that to him Dracula is unique in that his enigmatic past allows the audience to construct a lot of their own details of whom and what he is. The character has been around so long, no movie or story can possible detail everything he’s done.
“He’s the perfect iconic representation of sex, death, violence, vengeance, glamour, beauty, seduction, and he answers to no one,” Lussier said. “This makes him not only an amazing villain but a figure that will endlessly draw followers, who will surrender everything regardless of what Dracula’s true ambitions are.”
Lussier, a fan of several actors that have filled Dracula’s shoes including Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi, wanted to make his creature a hybrid of what had come before and saw actor Rutger Hauer as the perfect actor to play the part.
Lee’s Uffizi character faces his greatest fear and challenge in Dracula
“Rutger was how we pitched the whole concept of the film: Rutger Hauer as the Kurtzian version of Dracula. While we discussed alternates for the role, in case we couldn’t get Rutger, he was our first and best choice. Dimension latched onto the idea of him and we were thrilled when he accepted the offer,” Lussier said. “Rutger is a truly gifted actor and it was an honor to work with him. He brought so much to the role, capturing the ennui and insanity of the character, transforming Dracula from this corrupt and ancient figure into the youthful, vital warrior he once was.”<!--page-->
Dracula 3 morphs into a road movie about two vampire hunters
“Lugosi really created the roots of every portrayal to follow. The piercing eyes, the calculated seduction, each performance of the character has at least those elements. Langella’s intelligence in the role is very intriguing. Gary Oldman’s performance is huge and tragic and fascinating to watch,” Lussier said. “In our trilogy Gerry Butler is the ultimate seducer wallowing in his own torment while Stephen Billington (who played the character in the second Dracula film) displayed such a cunning and delicious indifference, like a spider waiting to feed. And Rutger Hauer, as mentioned before, really captures Dracula in the final savage moments, the third act of his life where he lies in wait for an adversary who is finally worthy.”
As for the popularity of the Dracula character, Lussier said he thinks the vampire will continue to be something that fascinates people and that Dracula’s story will continue to be retold with each telling adding something new to the legend.
“That timeless arrogance and calculating desire to get whatever he wants is what I believe appeals to the audience. He can give you everything your heart desires, but he’ll make you squirm on the hook for it until you beg,” the director joked.
With Dracula 3: Legacy, Lussier closes out his contribution to Dracula’s history, but the director did hint that there might be more to come from other characters within the film. He admits that the film’s ending is open for further stories, and that it isn’t an idea he is totally against.
“The ending, which Joel wrote, was the perfect and fitting ending to Uffizi and Luke’s journey. But the continuing adventures of the survivors could hardly be out the question. I’d be lying if I said that Joel and I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about what happens next.”
Dracula 3: Legacy is available for pre-order at Amazon and will be released July 12, as of yet there has been no UK date given.
You can read more about the DVD in our database.