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VAN HELSING

The Bad Guys
And nothing brings two people together like a common goal—or in this case, a common foe. For Van Helsing and Anna, they find themselves bound together in their shared pursuit to overthrow Dracula. And the classic vampire would prove a challenge of a creative sort for Sommers. "I have to admit, it was kind of scary,” he explains. "I mean, the character of Dracula has been done nearly to obsolescence. I put a lot of effort into providing new dimensions to this character and then I happened to get lucky—I got Richard Roxburgh.”

The Australian star, who had received worldwide recognition for his role as the scheming Duke in Moulin Rouge!, seemed to Sommers as the perfect actor to bring a refreshing spin on a familiar villain. Sommers explains, "The movie takes place in the 1800s and Richard plays Dracula like a kind of privileged rock star—in a really good way. There's something sexy, twisted and cool about the way Richard inhabits the role. There's just something that Richard does that just sucks you in.”

Says Jackman, "It's such a treat for me to work with Richard because he's a fellow Australian. I first saw him onstage doing a play called Burn This when I was 21. I remember his performance so vividly. People used to ask who I look up to as an actor, and I'd say, ‘Richard Roxburgh and Geoffrey Rush.' When I told Steve this, he said, ‘Perfect, because you guys are enemies and I want there to be that feeling of awe as well as competition between the two of you.'”

Roxburgh took the challenge of tackling the oft-interpreted character in stride and offers, "In film, actors are always called upon to do roles that have been replicated. It's not a lot different than having to go onstage and claim those lines again—lines that everybody is familiar with—especially if it's Shakespeare or Chekhov or, in this case, Stoker's Dracula. What interested me was trying to play the character with humanity. After all, he lived. He was a man and actually, kind of a great man, a warrior, at one point in his life. Those are still elements that remain in his character…that and a sort of wonderful malevolence.”

Turning to revitalize another filmic legend—Frankenstein's Monster—Sommers and his team decided to acknowledge the iconographic look of the creature while trying to add sensible new elements as well. Sommers offers, "Everyone thinks of him as this lumbering, menacing giant, but then you say, ‘Wait a minute—there's something behind that.' He's really the Elephant Man, or the character of Lenny from Of Mice and Men—a misunderstood creature that, because of his appearance, makes people assume the worst. In the original story, he was this child/man who didn't mean to kill anyone. At the end of the day, you felt sympathy for him—that's the thing you forget if you haven't seen the movie in a long time: how tragic and sad he is.”

As with his other characters, Sommers found creative inspiration in the classic look memorialized in the early Universal films when building a 21st century take on the monster. "We wanted to keep the flat head and the bolts and the massive shoes, but wanted to enhance it all, take it further. Our Frankenstein also has a tracheotomy. At one point in the movie, his head splits into pieces. He also has a belt made of ball bearings and we find out he doesn't have a spine—he can just pivot on his ball bearings.” And, like Mary Shelley's original monster, this Frankenstein can communicate intelligently.

The actor that rises from Sommers' laboratory table in the role is critically acclaimed actor Shuler Hensley, who received the Tony Award for his portrayal of another dark, misunderstood character—Jud Fry from Oklahoma! (a role he also performed opposite Hugh Jackman in the original London revival). Sommers and Ducsay went to see the Broadway production; two days later, Hensley came in to read for the role

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