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PRIEST

The Casting
The character of Priest fits an archetype familiar to enthusiasts of classic novels and films. He is a loner, a man of few words called back into action to rectify an injustice. When his niece, Lucy, is kidnapped by vampires, he breaks off all ties with the Church that trained him in order to find her and seek revenge.

Tossed aside by society and haunted the memories of men he left behind, Priest has lost his faith. Stewart says, "There's a part of Priest that is almost glad this has happened. He hasn't really found his place in the world. Facing off against vampires is all he does well.”

To play this reluctant hero, director Scott Stewart chose acclaimed British actor Paul Bettany, whose diverse credits include acclaimed performances in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code as well as Jon Amiel's Creation. He also recently starred as the archangel Michael in Stewart's directorial debut, the apocalyptic horror-action film Legion. Bettany's performance in that film convinced the filmmakers that he has what it takes to be a major action star. "He is such a great actor, and he's so much fun to watch in these kinds of roles,” says Stewart. "We decided to double down, and even do it in an even bigger way.”

While both are unconventional action heroes, the butt-kicking archangel and the warrior priest are motivated by very different forces, observes the actor. "Legion was about forgiveness,” explains Bettany. "Priest is about revenge and fury. The story is classic. It's like a Greek tragedy.

Bettany adds that after Priest's niece is kidnapped by a band of vampires, he knows he has to do what's right, even if it means that the Clergy won't approve. "Priest has to do what is in his heart,” says Bettany. "He knows the Clergy is corrupt. There is an imminent threat and they deny it. He asks their permission, and they refuse it. But he is going anyway. He is also driven to save somebody he loves. The war has changed him to such a degree that he is unable to do anything else for Lucy, but he can kill people to save her.”

Priest learns of Lucy's abduction from Hicks, the sharpshooting lawman of the tiny wasteland town of Augustine, played by Cam Gigandet. Gigandet first gained fame for for his role as Kevin Volchok on the FOX television series, "The O.C.” and went on to attract an army of admirers as the predatory vampire James in the blockbuster Twilight.

A young man with a chip on his shoulder, Hicks is eager to prove himself worthy of his badge. "Hicks has had responsibility thrust upon him early in life,” says Michael De Luca. "It's tough to walk the line of justice in the wasteland. But his father and his grandfather held the job before him. It's his duty.”

Priest travels to Outpost 10, where his brother's family lived, to see the aftermath of the attack for himself. There, he and Hicks meet again and team up to find Lucy. "Hicks is a trigger-finger hothead,” says Stewart. "But he's very talented with guns and knives. And he knows the wastelands really well. At the beginning, he lacks confidence; he's all emotion and Priest is all focus. But over the course of the story, he grows up and finds his focus. At the same time, Priest finds his emotion.”

Hicks' involvement in the search goes beyond his professional responsibilities. He and Lucy were planning to be married. "Augustine is a small town in the middle of nowhere,” says Gigandet. "It's not protected like the cities, so his responsibilities are even greater. It's all about what needs to be done to survive. When he met Lucy, she opened his eyes to the idea of doing something because you want to. They were going to start a new life. But he gets drawn into another world and ultimately learns that the vampire wars are far from over.”

As Stewart point outs, it all goes back to idea of sacrifice. "He may have had other ideas about what he wanted to do with his life,” says Stewart. "As Hicks says, ‘What one wants and what others need, those are two very different things.' That creates a bond between Hicks and Priest.”

Bettany says Gigandet brought lightness to their scenes together. "Cam was so fantastic to work with,” says Bettany. "Priest is stoic, so he doesn't really have an opportunity for humor. That all fell to Cam to provide. They have a grumpy father and son type of relationship.”

When Priest defies the orders of the Clergy by leaving the city in pursuit of Lucy, the Council of Monsignors dispatches a team of warrior priests to bring him back. For the role of Priestess, the group's leader, the filmmakers chose Maggie Q, a Hawaiian-born actress who brought martial arts skills honed in in several Hong Kong action films. No stranger to Hollywood action roles, she's starred in Mission: Impossible III, alongside Tom Cruise, and Live Free or Die Hard, with Bruce Willis.

Maggie was excited to work with the director of Priest. "Scott Stewart is a bit of a throwback,” she says. "Scott has created a world that feels like a classic adventure, but you don't know what year it is, what's happened before or what's going to happen next. It's kind of undefinable and definitely original.”

Priest and Priestess have a long and conflicted history, having fought together during the Vampire Wars. They have deep feelings for each other that they have never been allowed to act on. "Priestess remembers him very fondly from when they fought in the war,” Stewart says. "He was their leader, so he provided some sense of order and security for her. Maggie and I talked a lot about what had happened in the preceding years, and how that evolved into what in her mind is love.”

Q says Priest is a world apart from her previous action films. "It's a wild ride for sure,” she says. "But not only have we created an action genre film that people are going to enjoy, there is totally authentic emotional experience behind this movie. We have great actors and a great storyline that dovetails nicely with all the action.”

Priest's nemesis, the towering villain Black Hat, is played by New Zealand native Karl Urban, best known to moviegoers for his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones” McCoy in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, as well as in The Bourne Supremacy and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. "Black Hat can do just about anything Black Hat wants,” says Glenn S. Gainor. "He can destroy a town in broad daylight, he can survive the hot sun, and he can live among the familiars and vampires at night. His strength and discipline rival that of a priest, which makes him a formidable adversary. But what he really wants is to get Priest to join the forces with him. Karl Urban has the kind of charisma needed to pull off this character.”

Black Hat has amassed an army of vampires and familiars to help him take down the Clergy and reveal what he sees as the hypocrisy of the church and all it stands for, especially the sacrifice it requires from its followers. "Black Hat had what he thinks of as an epiphany,” says Bettany. "He makes it tempting for Priest to join the other side.”

Internationally acclaimed film, television and theater actor Christopher Plummer, whose decades-spanning, award-winning career in films includes The Sound of Music and Michael Mann's Oscar®-nominated The Insider, as well as arthouse hit The Last Station, is commanding as Monsignor Orelas, a ruthless despot who holds the cities in an iron grip. Plummer admits that being a fan of horror stories was part of his reason for accepting the role. "Priest has a unique style,” he says. "It isn't just Gothic, it's also futuristic. It has an Orwellian feel about it, as well as a little bit of H.G. Wells.

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