I have to admit, when I heard that a remake was being done of the 1985 horror classic Fright Night, I was skeptical. But then, I saw the film and not only really enjoyed the performances and new twists, but also the nods to the original and the roller coaster ride of scares and humor. What stood out most of all for me was David Tennant’s absolutely brilliant, layered performance of popular Las Vegas illusionist and self-proclaimed vampire expert, Peter Vincent. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to speak with the intriguing actor for this exclusive phone interview with Collider.
During our chat, David Tennant (much-loved for his turn as the 10th Doctor in the popular Doctor Who television series) talked about how delighted and thrilled he was to take on such a juicy character, how he felt it was time again for a vampire story where the vampire is an unquestionable monster, that he did each scene a variety of ways to find the right tone of horror and humor, what fun he had with co-star Anton Yelchin, and how much he enjoyed the film himself, even though he’s in it. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: How did Fright Night come about for you? Since you haven’t done a lot of work in the States, was it something you had been looking to do?:
DAVID TENNANT: I don’t know how it came about. You’d have to ask the guys at DreamWorks, really. I just got a script and was asked to read it, and then went over and met the director (Craig Gillespie), and it all happened from there. I don’t know what their thought process was, but I was delighted to be asked. I was just thrilled because it’s such a juicy character, in this movie. I’m still a bit mystified as to quite why they thought of me, above a lot of other people, but I’m thrilled that they did.
When you first read the script, what struck you most about the story and the character of Peter Vincent?
TENNANT: I was attracted by just how much scope there was in there. To get to play someone who has this preposterous showmanship and public life, but who is hiding this bitter, disenfranchised, slightly grubby private life, and who is shut away in this absurd penthouse, from an acting point of view, that’s just delicious. And then, I think it was time for a vampire story where the vampire is just a big old monster again, ready to rip your head off. Vampires and unrequited love is all good and well, but the time had come for an old school vampire. Colin [Farrell] is properly chilling. He was great.
Were you reluctant at all to get involved with a remake, or were you unfamiliar with the original?
TENNANT: I wasn’t massively familiar with it, to be honest. I became more familiar, once I knew the movie was happening. It’s always that tricky thing with a remake, especially when it’s something that’s well loved. You’re coming to something that has a built-in fascination, but with that comes people ready to feel disgruntled that it’s being remade at all. I absolutely understand that, but I think it was re-imagined, which is always the key to these things. You take the things that made the original movie good and you see how they can work for a modern audience. It’s not a slavish remake, but it has the flare of the original film.
How much fun were you able to have with this character? Was the look and feel of him a collaborative process, or is he how he was described in the script?
TENNANT: It was collaborative. It starts with the script, and it was Marti Noxon who put Peter Vincent as this Las Vegas illusionist that had all these dark problems in his private life. That was all there, on the page. Beyond that, in discussions with Craig [Gillespie], the director, and even bouncing off the rest of the cast, it was a collaborative process.
Was it a challenge to find the right balance with this guy, so that you didn’t go so over-the-top that it distracted from the other performances?
TENNANT: I guess so. We did each scene a variety of different ways. I remember, at one point, experimenting with how drunk he should be. You don’t want to overcook it so much that it becomes preposterous, but I think that was always going to be the trick with this film – finding the right tone between the comic and the horror, so that neither one of those are under-served or over-pushed. That’s what Craig Gillespie has managed really brilliantly well. That was the biggest challenge with this. And, you never really know until you see the finished product, so I was delighted when I finally saw the movie. I think he absolutely nailed that balance.
Peter Vincent really gets to show his arrogance, his vulnerability and his humanity, especially in the relationship he has with Charley Brewster. What was it like to work with Anton Yelchin and develop that between your characters?
TENNANT: He’s great. He’s so open, up for anything, and full of energy and wit. I really enjoyed working with him and playing off him. Craig would leave the camera running sometimes, at the end of the scene, and just see where it went and, with someone like Anton, you felt very safe to try stuff out. You knew that you would be able to throw something at him and that he would come back with something inspiring. That was great fun. He’s a proper leading man. He really leads by example. He’s fantastic.
Having become so well-loved as the 10th Doctor on Doctor Who, have you made a conscious effort to do very different roles since leaving the show, or is that something you just do for yourself, as an actor?
TENNANT: Nothing is that conscious with me, really. I just bumble from one thing to the next and hope things will make sense. I respond to whatever comes in that feels new or different or exciting. I think I’ve been lucky in that that’s provided a variety of different opportunities, which is all one can really hope for, I suppose.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to be doing next?
TENNANT: I think I know what I’m doing next, but it’s not quite confirmed yet, so I better not say. But, there’s a romantic comedy that I’ve done, The Decoy Bride, which is due out. And, I’ve been doing a voice recording for an animation movie, called The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which comes out in the New Year.
With audiences normally opposed to remakes, especially for one of a film with such a following as Fright Night, are you surprised with the overwhelmingly positive response for this?
TENNANT: I’m not surprised, having seen the film, actually. You’re right, there’s always going to be a resistance to a remake, especially of a very loved, classic movie. But when I saw the film, I thought, “Oh, this is going to work really well.” I was really pleased with it. So, I’m not surprised that people are enjoying it because I enjoyed it and I’m in it, and it’s quite hard to enjoy watching yourself. I can’t wait for it to get released and for everyone to enjoy it.