open the pages, read the words, savor the magic

Q&A with Seth Grahame-Smith (Total Film Indonesia)


No. 8: The Writer: The brain behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 

Seth Grahame-Smith

Exclusive interview with the writer of that crazy vamp flick.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride And Prejudice And Zombies author calls Total Film Indonesia to share his crazy ideas and his Tim Burton collaborations…

So where did the idea come to write about Abraham Lincoln and vampire hunting in the same book?
It was actually… strangely it happened because of my other book, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. I was touring around, going to bookstores, and doing appearances all over the US for that book. It was in 2009. And I noticed that everywhere I went in the country, no matter what bookstore I was in, they always had the same two displays at the front. They had Abraham Lincoln biographies and then they had Twilight and True Blood books. So it was funny… no matter where I was going, I would see the same two things. I would see vampires and Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, vampires. I guess it just began to affect my subconscious and I couldn’t stop thinking about putting those two things together.

In the L.A. Times blog, I read that you had described the 4-month writing process of the book as “a very Red Bull-fueled intensive time in my life”. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, you know, at the same time I was writing the book, I was also writing a television show. My days were spent in a room with other writers, you know, writing this TV show, and then I would go home after a full day of work – maybe at 7 o’clock at night – and I would start to, you know, drink a lot of caffeine and I would work on Lincoln until 2 or 3 in the morning. And so you know, it was like coffee and energy drinks that kind of got me through those four months of my life when I was writing almost around the clock.

Did it affect your health?
Yeah, it did. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, to stay up that late for that long.

And how did you get involved in the movie project?
I guess Tim Burton had heard about Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and he wanted to know what else I had, what else I was writing. And he found out about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and he bought the rights to it.

How different was the process between writing the book and writing the screenplay?
It was a very intense process but it was very, very different. When you write the book, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, and you’re in charge. When you write the movie, the director is the king. I really had to sort of put my trust in Timur [Bekmambetov; director], trust that he had the movie that he wanted to make in his head, and my job was to get the script as I could possibly get to that. You know, people should know that the book and the movie are very different. They are both about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires but there’s a lot of stuff that we had to invent for the movie, like action sequences and things like that that were never in the book, and even some characters. So it’s still the same kind of story and it still follows the same beef of the story but there’s a lot of new stuff in the movie that’s not in the book.

You wrote new characters for the movie. Who are they?
Vadoma is sort of a sexy vampire assassin. Will Johnson is Lincoln’s best friend and fights vampires with him, played by Anthony Mackie. You mentioned Adam… we realized while we were making the movie, getting the script ready, we really needed a villain to tie everything together so we created the character Adam.

How did it feel to see all of your characters – especially your version of Abraham Lincoln – come to live through Benjamin Walker?
Absolutely. Ben did such an amazing job playing Lincoln. He really is extraordinary, he really makes you believe – he makes  you forget how crazy the movie is and how ridiculous the idea is. He really acts as if he’s in a regular drama. It’s extraordinary. His performance is so much better than the usual action movie performances that we’re used to. So that was one of the best things about seeing the movie for me for the first time.

Have you seen the whole movie?
I’ve seen the whole movie now. I think it’s great. I think people should expect  it to be a big, crazy action movie. Remember that it’s from the director of Wanted and that  it’s based on a crazy concept, it’s original and it’s so much fun, and it’s so entertaining and satisfying and I think it will leave people cheering.

This next question might have been asked to you before, but is there going to be a sequel for the movie or the book?
I hope there is. I really do. I mean, you know, the reality is, if the movie is a big hit, there will probably be a sequel. If it’s not a big hit, there probably won’t be. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it does.

Do you have ideas, though, for a second book?
Yeah, definitely. I will try to write a second book.

What’s next for you? I hear you’re writing another script…
I just wrote an animated movie for Tim Burton. And then I have a new book in the States called Unholy Night. And I’m writing that script right now. I’m trying to make that into a movie right now. So far the producer is David Heyman, who produced all of the Harry Potter movies. So there’s a producer right now but that’s it so far.

How about Pride And Prejudice And Zombies? We’ve been waiting for it for so long!
I’m waiting for it too. I can’t wait for that movie. I just hope that they make it. There have been a couple of directors come and go and I think we just need the right director and the right star and then we’ll be ready to go.

Is there a next book for you?
I’m thinking a lot about the next book. I’m going to write the next book in the new year. The rest of the year, I’m doing film writing projects, and then the new book is going to be next year. There are a lot of competing ideas right now that are interesting to me but nothing 100% yet.


Background: This Q&A article is an extended version of the same article that was published in Total Film Indonesia issue 32, July 2012 edition (The Amazing Spider-Man cover), Agenda section. The article is tied to the 8-page Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter feature in the same issue. Text in this color indicates the part of the interview that was not published in the magazine.

Copyright: This article is copyrighted by Total Film Indonesia. Please do not copy and/or use without permission.


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