For acclaimed actors Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell, the new horror thriller "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" was a film that each just had to have, well, a stake in. After all, how often do you get a chance to work on a film that chronicles, in a fantastical way of course, the secret history of one of the greatest political figures in U.S. history?
Opening in 2D and 3D in theaters Friday, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" stars Benjamin Walker as the title character, who, while a politician by day, by night seeks retribution against the bloodsuckers who were responsible for murdering his mother while he was a boy.
Cooper plays Henry Sturgess, the vampire hunter who trains Lincoln, while Sewell plays Adam, the commander-in-chief, if you will, of the vampire legion.
Cooper, who played Howard Stark in "Captain America: The First Avenger" last summer, said there are parallels to Henry in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in that he's pivotal in the development of men who will both effectively become superheroes.
"Even though I'm from England, I know Lincoln is a heroic figure, and I think it's a complete joy to bring him to the screen and make him an action hero. I think its genius," Cooper told me in a recent interview. "The imagery of a superhero is there -- the hat and his very distinctive silhouette. It just seems right."
Oddly enough, the 34-year-old Cooper -- whose roles extend from period pieces ("The Duchess") and musicals ("Mamma Mia!"), to dramas ("My Week With Marilyn") and now horror with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" -- is a strong believer in pushing himself much in the way his characters build up others on the big-screen
"It's amazing what people can do once you decide who you are and what you're capable of," Cooper said. "The more you push yourself and try out different things, the wider the horizons become, really. That for me is what makes it exciting."
Although the film's title is crystal clear in its description, Sewell, 44, said "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is far from being about anything silly. He said book author/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, producer Tim Burton and director Timur Bekmambetov are far too smart to unleash the story down a moronic path.
"What they've done and very surprising I think is how they've rooted it in historical accuracy to give it a firm base before springing off into the flights of fancy," Sewell told me in a separate interview. "Actually, there's lots of stuff that you'll learn about Abraham Lincoln from this. As an English person, there's a lot I certainly didn't know. "
Naturally, the vampires stuff isn't true, Sewell added with a laugh.
"Where possible, it's fiendishly accurate and other parts it's fiendishly inaccurate, deliberately," Sewell enthused. "Which I still think is quite clever."
Adam is a unique character in the film adaptation of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in that he was not a character in the book. But one peek of the script assured Sewell that the character was going to be properly fleshed-out as a new, vibrant entity for the big screen.
"Adam's not just a function in the film, he's given a purpose," Sewell said. "There's an engine that drives him and he's quite playable because he's a character that's so pragmatic. He sees himself and see Abe as an equal, and he thinks there's a potential for the future. So when he gets to sit down for a fireside chat with him -- albeit, Abe's pinned down by a chair -- he thinks that he's speaking to someone who understands some of his well-earned wisdom."
Sewell and Cooper were thrilled to work with Bekmambetov ("Wanted") and Burton, who previously teamed together on the animated fantasy "9."
"Having Tim involved gave the film an immediate stamp of approval in terms of the film having a very distinctive imagination -- but he was always very careful not to involve himself too much. It's Timur's piece of work," Cooper said. "He's the director at the helm of the ship and Tim is far too experience to get in the way of that. The conversations Tim had with Timur prior to the actual making of it definitely had an influence on the production, and Timur would have been a fool to avoid that."
Furthermore, both actors were impressed in Bekmambetov's and Burton's resolved to honor Lincoln. And Sewell said while the plotline in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is extraordinary, it doesn't do anything to diminish the contributions of the 16th president of the United States.
"I think there's a bit of reverence about the film that I really enjoy. It's not about disrespect," Sewell said. "In fact, the film is very respectful. He's being honored, but in way that's really kick-ass."