Having just come off Antiviral, Enemy and Belle, Dracula Untold was a big one for Sarah Gadon. She was on the hunt for a love story and while that isn’t what one might expect from a Dracula film, that’s exactly what was at the heart of this one – the romance between Luke Evans’ Vlad and Gadon’s Mirena, and the lengths they go to to keep their family together.
While talking to Gadon on Dracula Untold’s Belfast, Ireland set, she explained how Mirena serves as a moral compass of sorts for Vlad, revealed how she avoided wearing corsets, discussed her connection with her on-screen son, Art Parkinson, talked about working with her “baby Spielberg” director, Gary Shore, and loads more. Hit the jump to check it all out.
Click here to check out the trailer for Dracula Untold.
Question: We’ve all been pooling our notes to find out what we could about your character and we’ve realized we know basically nothing, so could you tell us a little bit about the character you’re playing?
SARAH GADON: Yeah, sure. In broad strokes, she’s the matriarch of the film. She’s the princess, she’s Vlad’s wife. A lot of the film is centered around the family unit and I guess the major themes of the film are the sacrifices that we make for our families and keeping our families together and so a lot of the film centers around her relationship with Vlad and their relationship as a family, so that’s kind of her in broad strokes.
Do you know if she was based on a historical character?
GADON: No, I don’t. I don’t think she was, but I will say she does kind of act as the moral compass for the film and she does act as the moral compass for Vlad, so there’s that, too.
How does her relationship with Vlad change between the Vlad he was and the Vlad he becomes?
GADON: The way that I try and look at it is in very real terms. If you’ve ever had anyone in your life who has been struggling with something, struggling with addiction or struggling with anything, and it’s about the resilience of love and how much you’re willing to struggle with somebody to preserve your relationship and to try to preserve them as a person. And I think that’s really important, and I think that’s what I was so drawn to in regards to this script. I was really looking to do a love story and I wanted to tell a love story. This film is Dracula, but at its core really is this beautiful, romantic, classic, love story. And so I think that everything that Vlad and Mirena go through as a couple obviously culminates and reaches its climax at the end of the film, but it’s about the choices you make in a relationship to preserve it and to preserve yourself.
You said that your character is more or less the moral compass, but there must be a point in the film, probably not far from what we’re looking at now, where she starts to realize that he’s making moral choices that don’t involve her anymore.
GADON: Yeah, that would generally be the crux of a good story. Yes, there is that point. [Laughs] I can’t really reveal to you at what point in the plot that happens. That would ruin the story, but yeah, the stakes are high between the two of them.
You seem to have an affinity for genre storytelling working with Brandon and David Cronenberg on Antiviral and Cosmopolis. Is this coming from somewhere or did you just find what you said here, a love story that happened to be wrapped in this genre shell?
GADON: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say genre because I would say I have an affinity to working with auteur directors and I guess maybe that seems to be the best arena that they can fully express a singular vision is in a genre. I worked with Mary Harron; I don’t know if she’s considered a genre director?
GADON: Amma Asante recently, Denis Villeneuve and really more strong, I guess, auteur directors and that’s certainly what I’m drawn to when I look for a project. That’s pretty much number one on the list and that was certainly the case for this project. When I sat down for my meeting with Gary, I really didn’t know much about the script. I knew about the story in broad strokes, but I didn’t know a lot beyond that, and I sat down with him and he was just so passionate about his work and about the kind of film that he wanted to make and I was really drawn to that kind of energy, and so I thought, ‘Yeah, sure! I want to make this kid’s first movie, for sure!’ He’s like a baby Spielberg. He’s got all this kind of youthful zest and zeal for romance and love, and it’s like really kind of early Spielberg stuff and I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I like this.’ And it aligned with things that I’d been seeking to do, which was maybe a love story, so yeah, they kind of collided.
GADON: The kinds of films that I’m used to doing are independent films. They’re very small character driven pieces and there isn’t as much spectacle involved. And this is the first kind of film that I’ve done that has had big, grand spectacle so I guess for me, I don’t know if there’s a technique that he’s using, but I certainly think having to coordinate everything technically is something very different for me. Having to wait and be able to create all these intricate camera movements and then coincide that with all this elaborate choreography, all of that is very new and it’s a very different way for me to work. But then when I go behind the monitor and I look at what he’s actually shooting and it’s just beautiful, then it kind of brings me back and I realize what I’m doing.
Can you describe what the tone of this picture is? I’ve been trying to suss that out all day. Is it a romance? Is it more an adventure romance or does it skew horror?
GADON: I think what it’s being called is a monster film. That’s a really interesting thing because my perspective of the film would be so different from everybody else’s perspective. I spent a lot of time with Gary and Luke in rehearsals and we were just working on the one-on-one connection and love, but then sometimes when I see the other things happening I think, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a full on fight film and war film!’ [Laughs] I think it kind of has a balance of all of those things. At its core, I think it’s a family film. I think it’s a film that is accessible to families because it’s really, in my opinion, about strong family values, and I think that’s what Hollywood does so well. It’s really interesting to see. It’s so different for me. I’m kind of refreshed.
Was the Dracula mythology and legend behind it something that was attractive to you?
GADON: Not at all. No.
How do you feel about that then because when people see Dracula, they’re not initially going to be thinking this is a love story?
GADON: Yeah, exactly, and I think that’s what it was. I think I was, if anything, kind of deterred by that vampire element of it or the Dracula element of it, but then speaking with Gary and especially just going back to even our initial meeting, we met in this place in LA and we sat down beside Francis Ford Coppola in our meeting, which was so weird. We were kind of just like, ‘Nice to meet you. [Whispering] That’s Francis Ford Coppola!’ And yeah, he showed me, he had a lot of visual imagery with him and he showed me that he really wanted to make a timeless love story and that, to me, was refreshing because Dracula and vampire stories are always about sexual repression and female sexuality and a lot of things and it seemed to me at the time like such a different take on the material. That part was really refreshing.
How much fighting does Mirena see in this movie? Are you more passive in that sense?
GADON: No, she’s certainly not passive. I’m not a warrior, so there’s not that element, but I certainly stand up for what I believe in and I get to, you know, muscle around a little.
GADON: It’s tough to say. When I read the script, I was really drawn to all the Caligula stuff. I don’t know if you’ve read the script. Probably not, but all of the Caligula stuff is really interesting because it’s very blatant about identity and choice, and that kind of stuff was very interesting to me. My favorite stuff that we’ve shot is – I don’t know if I can say all of this. Okay, I know that my favorite stuff that we shot we did on Divis Mountain, which if you’re not familiar with Ireland is this big mountain in Ireland, and it’s quite a dramatic scene involving myself and Ingeras and Vlad. We did all this coverage. We shot over three days and then at the very end, Gary did this crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy, wide, wide, wide shot and we were like this big in the frame, it was totally <silhouetted, the sky was incredible, we were on this fricking mountain and it was like some weird Visconti, Gone with the Wind meets Hollywood film. It was just so cool, and when I saw that, it was on the third day of shooting, I was like, phew! [Laughs] I did one of those. So that was pretty cool.
Is there anything coming up that you think will top that for you? Any scenes that are coming up with you in it that you’re really looking forward to it?
GADON: Yeah, my final scenes in the film are very emotionally charged and it’s supposed to be set on a tower, but we’ve built it on a soundstage. The lighting in this film is just standout. It’s just amazing. And there’s going to be a lot of play between light and dark and the shadows, and Vlad being able to go into the sun and then not, and it’s gonna be a very interesting play with light and I’m really excited about that because it read beautifully on the page and then after seeing [cinematographer] John [Schwartzman]’s work, I know it’s gonna be stunning.
GADON: No, he hasn’t! It’s weird because I really feel like we look alike. I feel like we look related and so it’s weird to look at something that you feel looks like you. It’s kind of a bizarre feeling that I assume parents would probably have when they look at a human and they realize that they created that human. When I look at him, sometimes I feel like there’s such a strong resemblance, I kind of go with that and play off of that feeling and that amazement because the connection between the three of us is so crucial to the film, so that has been great. And then, I like working with children. I think they have a very interesting energy. They’re so solid, they’re very present, they’re very up in their eyes, they’re very aware and they remind you to stay playful and to stay present.
Are the costumes kind of simple? What you’re wearing now is much simpler than I was anticipating. You get a movie like this and usually someone’s decked out with crazy jewels and things.
GADON: You should have been here yesterday. [Laughs] It’s interesting because when I started doing the film, I had just done a period film in London called Belle and we were in corsets for the entire time. There’s this funny thing in British equity called “continuous days” where you shoot without lunch, but your day is an hour shorter, but you’re still shooting constantly and you don’t get a break to eat and it’s bananas. They don’t have that in North America. And so we did this film and we were in corsets shooting continuous days so when I started this, I was just like, ‘Listen, I don’t want to be in a corset. We’re not historically grounded here. Let’s be real. I don’t need to wear a corset.’ And so Ngila [Dickson] who’s amazing and designed these dresses around that idea and it’s been fantastic. You can breathe and move and eat, but other than that, her silhouettes are very simple. Her fabric choices are very interesting. They read very different in person than they do on camera. All the costumes are very different, so what you’re seeing this is what we call a ‘day glam,’ day glam casual in the castle, but there are other costumes that are very, very intricate and in fact, I was wearing this crown yesterday made of all pearls and it looks like lace on my head, and it kind of comes down like this. It’s so delicate, but sharp and it kind of started to cut my head a little bit if you can see.
GADON: Yeah, my character definitely has to. I think Mirena, Vlad and Ingeras all have their own choices to make and it’s really interesting because, the way I like to think about it is, when you are young, you form all of your ideas about the world and you have all these kind of principles and then you grow up and those principles are tested and you have to decide whether or not you can actually realistically live your life by them. And that’s what I think the film touches on and plays with. That’s the kind of really interesting gray area that is the very cool thing about this film. Anyway, so my character yeah, definitely has to make a tough choice.
For more from my Dracula Untold set visit:
- Over 50 Things to Know About Luke Evans’ Take on Dracula from our DRACULA UNTOLD Set Visit
- Luke Evans Talks Vampire Powers, Dracula’s Fangs, His Own Fangs, Vlad the Impaler, Months of Prep, Intense Training and More on the Set of DRACULA UNTOLD
- Dominic Cooper Talks Playing the Villain, Vlad & Mehmet’s Rivalry, Their Shared Darkness, Heavy Armor and More on the Set of DRACULA UNTOLD
- 4 New DRACULA UNTOLD Images Featuring Luke Evans as Vlad/Dracula