About The Production
Fantasy author Richelle Mead was first inspired to write about vampires while
flipping through books of old Romanian stories about different races of vampires
roaming the world: the Moroi, who were described as living and good, the Strigoi,
who were portrayed as the stereotypical bloodsucking vampires of nightmares, and
the Dhampirs, half-human, half-vampire warriors. After studying these at length,
Meade took the idea of these different sub-sets and decided to build a society
out of them. "What would it look like in the modern world if you had these races
at war?" she asked herself. Eventually she decided that placing them in the
context of high school seemed the perfect present-day battleground. Vampire
Academy, the first installment in what would become Mead's six-part bestselling
series, was published in 2007 and became an instant fan sensation. Together, the
books have gone on to sell over 8 million copies in 34 countries and secured an
avid young adult audience. "The books touch on a lot of themes that are
important to adolescents," notes Meade. "The friendships between the characters
are deep and sacrificing. It's what's moved a lot of readers."
It didn't take long before fans of the book series all over the world began
to create buzz on the social media front about bringing Mead's characters to the
big screen. "This spontaneous viral event exploded all across the internet,"
says producer Michael Preger (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED.) "Finding an epic story
like this for adaptation is one thing, but to then discover this mass market
audience was growing exponentially and eagerly awaiting - even demanding - a
film be produced, was something very compelling." In July of 2010, Preger
Entertainment bought the film rights to the series, with Don Murphy
(TRANSFORMERS) and Susan Montford (REAL STEEL) of Angry Films, along with Deepak
Nayar (PARANOIA) of Kintop/Reliance, coming on board to also produce. Stuart
Ford at IM Global signed on to executive produce the project, and next the team
began to throw themselves into a search for the perfect filmmakers and cast.
The first task was finding a scribe who could take Mead's beloved story and
craft it into a script that matched her vision. Given his success with both teen
comedies like HEATHERS and action films like BATMAN RETURNS, screenwriter Daniel
Waters proved to be the perfect man for the job. "I can promise the fans of
Richelle's books that I will give them all the plot elements, characters and
thematics they expect, but maybe in a different order," says Waters. "I put it
all in a blender and added my special touch. I know Richelle is happy with how
it turned out." Meade agreed that the vision she had in her books was honored
perfectly in Waters' script. "Daniel just really got what I was trying to do -
when I read his script, I just felt that everything I'd done was in there. The
humor was there. He wrote lines way funnier than mine. At the same time, it's
definitely not irreverent or a comedy. There's still deep emotional content in
there and the action is happening non-stop."
None other than Daniel's brother Mark Waters, the filmmaker behind such teen
sensations as MEAN GIRLS and FREAKY FRIDAY, was brought on board to helm the
project. Going behind the camera for VAMPIRE ACADEMY was no small challenge.
Given the book series' enthusiastic fan base, Waters had to walk a fine line
between keeping that
audience happy and crafting the movie in such a way as to bring in new
audiences. He inspired confidence in the producers immediately, however.
Remembers producer Nayar: "Mark's take was that he'd grown up with John Hughes
movies like THE BREAKFAST CLUB that were all about high school kids and the
problems they have. To him, this was also a film about high school kids and the
problems they have, albeit different kinds. When he said that, it made the movie
easy to see from that perspective to everyone involved. That's what makes it
uniquely different to other vampire films, where they come out in the nighttime
and there is always somebody lurking around the corner. In VAMPIRE ACADEMY they
come out at night to study and it changes the dynamics of the genre." Working
together for the first time was a dream opportunity for Daniel and Mark. "I keep
teasing my brother that this movie is a lot like both HEATHERS and MEAN GIRLS,"
jokes the screenwriter. "We're just eliminating all the middle men this time."
Casting for the film required the production team to go on a hunt for fresh
young faces that were a mix of breakouts and well-known talent. First up were
the film's lead roles of Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir. "One of the things we
looked for was people who would not just act a role, but whose personalities
naturally fit the characters," explains producer Preger. "We went against the
grain. We cast three unknown leads as one of my thoughts was the idea that we
needed actors the audience could own, supported by good supporting cast to give
it gravitas." Because of his incredible track record with teen comedies,
director Waters was also heavily involved in the case of discovering the ideal
actor for each part. Australian actress Lucy Fry, best known for portraying Zoey
in LIGHTNING POINT and Lyla, one of the three mermaids in MAKO: ISLAND OF
SECRETS, was the ideal fit for the role of Moroi royal princess Lissa Dragomir.
Eighteen year-old Zoey Deutch, known for her roles on such hit shows as RINGER
and SWITCHED AT BIRTH, was chosen for the role of Rose Hathaway, Lissa's
guardian and best friend at school. Comments Fry: "Zoey and I are pretty much
Rose and Lissa. She's hilariously funny, energetic, and has so much life. I'm a
lot like Lissa in that I'm calm and peaceful. Our personalities just so
perfectly fit our characters." Amongst the others cast were Russian actor Danila
Kozlovsky (DUKHLESS) in the role of Dimitri Belikov; Gabriel Byrne (VIKINGS) as
Prince Victor Dashov, the Academy elder; Olga Kurylenko (OBLIVION) as
Headmistress Ellen Kirova; Joely Richardson (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as
Queen Tatiana; Sarah Hyland (MODERN FAMILY) as Victor's daughter Natalie; Claire
Foy (WHITE HEAT) as Ms Karp; Cameron Monaghan (SHAMELESS) as Rose's friend
Mason; Dominic Sherwood (NOT FADE AWAY) as Christian, the love interest of Lissa;
Sami Gayle (BLUE BLOODS) as Lissa's nemesis Mia, and Ashley Charles (ALL IS BY
MY SIDE) as Jesse.
On February 10, 2013, The Weinstein Company picked up U.S. distribution
rights to the film. The sale was one of the biggest U.S. deals ever to emerge
from the European Film Market in Berlin, which runs in conjunction with the
Berlin International Film Festival. IM Global sold the film to many key foreign
territories as well, including to eOne in the UK, Universum in Germany,
Metropolitan in France, West in CIS, Hoyts in Australia and New Zealand, eOne in
Canada and Intercontinental in Hong Kong. Production financing was provided by
Reliance Entertainment and Union Bank.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY filmed in the UK for eight weeks in 2013 from late May
through to mid-July. The majority of shoot took place on location, five weeks of
which were nightshoots, in order to create the nighttime world of vampires. The
UK, with its historical buildings and landscapes, provided the perfect setting
to create the unique but traditional world of VAMPIRE ACADEMY. On set, Mark
Waters' creative collaborators included director of photography Tony Pierce-
Roberts, production designer Frank Walsh, costume designer Ruth Myers, and hair
and make-up designer Pamela Haddock. Because of the large amount of
choreographed action scene in the film, stunt coordinator James O'Connell proved
to be one of the most important contributors to the production, however.
Performing in fight scenes was uncharted territory for much of the cast,
including Deutch, who notes: "When I got cast back in Los Angeles, I trained for
a couple of months, both gym and fight training. Then I went out to London and
had two weeks to do intense stunt training. Those two weeks were the most vital
in terms of my preparation." Recalls O'Donnell: "Mark Waters and I were keen to
develop a style of fighting that was something fresh and new, which is always
difficult. I had to sit down and think, what would the philosophy of vampire
fighting be?" O'Donnell looked at practices like Aikido, Jiu-jitsu, Krav Maga,
and a few other 'kicking' arts, plus sword arts. He and the stunt team came up
with basic stake patterns, empty hand patterns, and multiple attacks for dealing
with Strigoi, who they compared to moving elephants in terms of fighting style.
"We have very basic stances where we're guarding the neck - very much a Strigoi
first response. Guard your neck and find a way out. It's a bit like if you see
Agent Smith in the Matrix. Don't fight him. Get out of it...unless there are three
of you. All of our techniques have a function and a philosophy. We tied in as
much as we could from the books into that style. It's been really exciting and
I've loved working on it."
VAMPIRE ACADEMY will hit theaters on February 7, 2014. Before audiences have
a chance to check the film out, Mead has given her seal of approval. "Seeing the
book come to life in a movie is like taking what I visualized in my head and
making it even bigger and better," she says. "Book writing and filmmaking are
two different mediums. I specialize in book writing, and I feel pretty good
about doing that. But to put something on a big screen and make it larger than
life is a whole different art form. It blows me away to see what Mark and Dan
Waters and the rest of the team working on the movie can do. It's just
incredible to have people who specialize in this kind of art form, with those
visual talents, bringing this to life."
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