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VAN HELSING

The Other Guys
Everyone knows a great arch villain needs a great henchman and, in finding yet another way to interweave the characters' stories, Sommers writes the classic Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's original lab assistant, with a dual allegiance—his real master is Count Dracula.

Kevin J. O'Connor, a regular fixture in Sommers' films and horror genre devotee, says he had several inspirations that helped him piece together his own version of the familiar toadie. "Ironically, I'd done a lot of my own research through the years just as a hobby. I was a huge fan of the old Universal monster movies. I was also inspired by ‘70s illustrated magazines like Eerie and Creepy—they had these incredibly beautiful covers that showed the twisted stances of the monsters I remembered. And I watched Lon Chaney, Sr., the silent movie actor, and loved the sort of twisted physicality he brought to his characters.”

All of this research helped O'Connor play Igor as if he'd had his neck broken, something the actor and director decided upon. They also decided that his back story was rather shady and sketchy—apart from the known fact that he was a grave robber. O'Connor continues, "Being around monsters and corpses for so long has sort of crept into Igor's brain—he's not all there.”

Just as every villain needs a good henchman, every hero needs a faithful sidekick. In Van Helsing, that job falls to a newly-created character named Carl (named after Carl Laemmle, founder of what became Universal Studios, by Sommers), a young friar trained in the ways of monster hunting and expert at creating effective weaponry against them; he's also charged with assisting Van Helsing and assuring his safe return.

As Sommers explains, "Carl is a key character in our movie. He's more than a walking depository of monster lore. He's ‘us' in the movie. He's our eyes and ears and the means for exposition. He has to be capable and, at the same time, bring some humor to it.”

Sommers cast another Australian in the role—actor David Wenham, a veteran of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. "David Wenham is considered one of the sexiest men in Australia. When I got his audition tape, not only was his performance great, but his look was perfect—definitely not the ‘sexiest man' look.” The actor had hunched up his neck, taped his ears to make them protrude and given himself an incredibly bad haircut. "He just really looked the part,” laughs Sommers.

Of his character, Wenham offers, "Carl's an inventor, a modern thinker—at least within the constraints of the 19th century and the abbey where he lives. He's not the outdoors type, but he's forced into a situation where he has to go along on this dangerous journey. Van Helsing and Anna have been out there in the world fighting monsters for quite some time, but Carl hasn't—so everything's a new experience for him. He's objective and genuinely scared and fearful of situations. But he's also willing to tackle things head-on because he realizes he's helping Van Helsing in his mission to vanquish evil from the world.”

Wenham says the obvious attraction to Van Helsing for him was Sommers' script. "It's a lot of fun…a wonderful action-adventure with a little bit of comedy thrown in. Playing Carl, I not only got to work with Stephen Sommers, but I also got to play with amazing props on huge, impressive sets that are straight out of a fantasy land.”

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