British actor Dominic Cooper Strives for Believability in 'Abraham Lincoln:
British actor Dominic Cooper was last seen by genre
fans in 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" as Howard Stark,
the weapons inventor (and future father of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man) who aids in
the U.S. military's secret fight against the evil Hydra organization during
World War II -- a battle going on beneath the surface of the rest of the global
conflict. In other words, that film gave us a bit of a secret history (albeit a
fanciful one) of the U.S. Now Cooper finds himself in another fantastical
revision of the nation's past in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
"I think it's really clever because people are always searching for answers
for what could have been or what could be going on," says Cooper, on the line
from New York, when asked about the public's fascination with the idea of secret
histories. "There are few people that have that wonderful, almost child-like
imagination to be able to write in such depth about an alternate reality, and I
think Seth (Grahame-Smith, author of the "Abraham Lincoln" novel and screenplay)
is incredible at doing that. And you love it. You like joining the dots together
and trying to make sense of it, and having answers. So I think that that's what
it does. It did it for me."
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" weaves an ongoing underground war with
vampires throughout 45 years of Lincoln's life, from his humble beginnings to
his ascension to the highest office in the land. The vampire war provides
background and a rationale for some of the decisions and events of Lincoln's
life, including the Civil War itself. Mentoring Lincoln in his early
transformation from vengeance-driven youth (who wants to avenge the
vampire-inflicted death of his mother) to skilled slaughterer of the undead is
Cooper's character, Henry Sturges, who trains his young protégé and then locates
new bloodsuckers for him to root out and destroy.
Cooper says that he relied on the book and director Timur Bekmambetov to help
him find the right tone for Sturges, who has a mysterious past and dark secret
of his own (one which readers of the book know, but which we'll leave unspoiled
for others). "I think it was such a gift, really," says Cooper. "Because you
have the book and you have a real proper character, someone with a huge amount
of conflict in their life and someone who is struggling. But I think I misjudged
the tone initially, in honesty, so that's why it's such a relief to have such a
gifted director, because he steered me as we were all trying to find our feet
with what the tone of this piece would eventually be. I think I first gave a
much more theatrical, possibly flamboyant and slightly lighter take on who this
man was, but that got considerably darker and more grounded and, I hope, more
Although Benjamin Walker's Abraham Lincoln is the focal point of much of the
film's bloody action, decapitating and skewering vampires left and right with
his high-tech (for the time) ax, Cooper gets his share of action scenes in the
film as well -- which meant training.
"Yeah, I did loads of training, and the guys who worked with us were
incredible," he recalls. "We created very elaborate, long sequences, which Timur
was very specific with because he really knows what he wants in terms of the
action." Cooper admits he had a little trouble getting up to speed for those
sequences. "Ben was already wonderful with the work he had done, and I was sort
of slightly behind him. I did find it tough catching up. But I hope I managed to
sort of achieve something with some believability. You can always go back and
say, 'Let's get the stunt doubles to do this,' but you really want to do as many
stunts as possible, and it's hard and it's tiring."
Perhaps even harder, however, was creating some sort of spin on vampires
themselves that has not been seen in the recent deluge of films and TV shows
featuring the legendary monsters. "I think we wanted to make them frightening
again," says Cooper. "I think it's good to be terrified by them again. When I
was growing up, 'Lost Boys' was very influential in terms of my wanting to get
involved in the film industry and I loved that take on it. They seemed to me
mysterious and cool, but at the same time pretty frightening." Cooper adds, "I
think you rarely see them in this time period. So I think in the elaborate
costumes and with these fight sequences -- which are really brutal and dangerous
-- I don't think we've seen them in this light before."
Cooper has a number of upcoming films on his slate, but tells us before we
sign off that he would love to return to another period piece: the world of
"Captain America." Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has hinted in the press that
"Captain America 2," while set in the present, could flash back to Cap's World
War II days, which could mean the return of Howard Stark. "That's a good thing
to hear," says Cooper, who admits he has not heard anything about the film. "I'd
love to be a part of it again. Marvel is so imaginative and creative with what
they put together and it's such a joy to work with that excitement.
Unfortunately, my character does exist in the past, but maybe there is an
opportunity to see him again in flashbacks. I hope so, anyway."
MSN Movies is on the scene at the Warner bros studio with the cast of the film as they discuss the importance of costume design, the power behind the Superman suit, and staying true to the original roots.