Dominic Cooper Talks Playing the Villain, Vlad & Mehmet’s Rivalry, Their Shared Darkness, Heavy Armor and More on the Set of DRACULA UNTOLD

     July 15, 2014


Dominic Cooper’s Mehmet has some serious sibling rivalry issues in Dracula Untold.  As inspired by the real history of Mehmet II and Vlad III (Luke Evans), also known as Vlad the Impaler, Mehmet becomes enrage when his father takes Vlad in, raises, trains and then favors Vlad over him.  Even when Vlad heads off to lead the people of Transylvania and attempt to leave his violent past with the Turks behind, Mehmet is still hell-bent on punishing Vlad, so hits him where it’ll hurt most; if Vlad wants to keep the peace between the Transylvanians and the Turks, he’ll have to give up 1,000 boys to Mehmet’s army, including his very own son (Art Parkinson).

It’s harsh stuff, but while on the film’s Belfast, Ireland set, Cooper admitted, it’s quite fun to play the villain, especially when the villain is so well written.  Hit the jump for the details on Mehmet’s resentment, how Cooper mixed the historical facts with his own take on the character, what will make this a standout Dracula film and loads more.

dracula-untold-dominic-cooperClick here to check out the trailer for Dracula Untold.

Question: We hear you’re doing a really big stunt today.

DOMINIC COOPER: There’s a big one I’m training to do.  In fact, I just tired all my armor on.  I’m training to do a big stunt towards the end.  I call it a stunt, but it’s a fight.  [Laughs] It’s a big, big, big fight between Vlad and myself.  You do these things and this always happens and I never learn when you’re doing an action based film is that, you spend weeks learning these fights and then you try on this armor and you realize you can’t move in it, so then the whole thing probably has to be changed.  But it’s an incredible costume.  It’s a very over-the-top, but beautiful piece of golden armor.  It’s all frilly gold and it’s got the Battle of Constantinople on the front of it and on the arms.  It’s incredible, but it’s so heavy I can’t move.

What’s the evolution of the relationship between you and Vlad?  What’s the arc of the relationship

COOPER: Well, they have a history as kids and my take on it is that he’s always been terribly envious of this boy who is pulled into his father’s palace.  I think I like the relationship to be based in envy, jealously, and resentment, and I think that he saw Vlad as being a better fighter, stronger of mind and physically, and I think his dad always was aware of this.  So this is something that is sort of ongoing and is punctuated in the story itself, and that comes to a head.  We’ve kind of put these extra ideas in that, on my father’s deathbed, it was Vlad who he chose to speak to because I think he trusted him more as a warrior and as a future leader.  It’s a clever bit of writing they came up with very close to the beginning of shooting, and I loved it actually when I read it.  It was about him desperately trying to understand or find out what it was that the father shared with Vlad and not himself, and he can tell he’s being lied to when Vlad comes out with these elaborate, over-the-top, kind words that he knows are not true.  As revenge, I do to him really in a way what my father did, which is to ask and insist upon taking his son into battle.  And I only do that for one reason, which is to anger him and upset him.  And that’s the basis of where the beginning of the story unfolds and the big battle begins.

dracula-untold-mehmetSo is your character the villain of the piece or, if we look at it from his point of view, it makes perfect sense in terms of his motivations?

COOPER: Yes, exactly.  It makes perfect sense for him as any villain, you know?  It has to for a well-written villain.  It can’t just be villainous for villain’s sake.  Absolutely it comes from a place of jealousy and resentment, not that as an audience member you would care.  He’s evil and he does things not for the good of his country or his people, but to seek revenge, in my opinion, but it comes from a very, very real place.  He’s an incredible warrior, but this particular part of the story, he ruins himself because of letting this jealously eat himself up, and he makes all the wrong decisions.  Everything that he chooses to do from this point ruins him.  It would all be fine.  He could continue to take on Europe and take over the rest of the world, but he decides that this one thing that has been killing him since he was a child, he decides to pursue.  So that’s his downfall.

So if not for your character, Dracula wouldn’t exist?

COOPER: Yeah, exactly.

Is it fun to play a villain?

COOPER: It’s always fun.  They’re great.  If they’re well written and like you said, as long as there’s a real place that you can relate to – not relate to, but that you understand where their hatred comes from and it’s not just an out-and-out villain, and that they’re believable and that this person existed.  The clever thing within this is that from his childhood, what [Vlad] was capable of and what he did, he is a villain in a way, and he’s trying to cover up a past. I mean, the impaling of people, that’s very poignant in one of the scenes that I try and unveil to others what he is capable of and actually how evil he is because I know the true him that he is trying to cover up.  And yes, he’s become a good man and yes, he loves his people and he cares for his family, but he watched him survive what my father put him through.  He was a killer, a volatile, dangerous, awful, evil, killer, and I think that’s quite a clever confrontation between the two of them.  You don’t have one good guy; they’re quite dark.

dracula-untold-hand-of-batsVlad goes out on this journey and encounters Caligula and stuff like that.  The air of the supernatural is all around.  For your character, are people aware of the supernatural in this land or is this something that they don’t believe in?  Is there a belief system in the supernatural?

COOPER: No, there’s not, but we become more and more – actually, we’re like the audience, I suppose in that we see these rather strange things happening and we have to take note of them, but we’re of the real world and we have belief this could possibly be true, but by the end of the film, we’re starting to go, ‘Do you believe this guy has supernatural powers?’  But no, it’s not a world in which we exist where it’s the norm if that’s what you mean.

Do you have characters around you?  Maybe a family or a right hand man?

COOPER: Yes.  I have one that I confide in, one that I kill.  [Laughs] So there are, but he’s not particularly pleasant to them and they’re all, again, another way to highlight the terror he spreads among people is that those people that are close to you are very much fearful of you in the way that they behave around you, in the way they mollycoddle you, in the way they treat you is another representation of how dangerous [he is].  And that really helps me as an actor.  We had a huge scene the other day where I have all my people around me and he comes into the tent.  It’s a very long scene.  It’s very rare to get a scene, it was five or six pages long, of good really well written clever dialogue.  It’s wonderful cause all of my people are around me although they’re very timid and threatened and worried about seeing this situation unfold.  And it’s when I reveal to them that this person who enters the tent, I know very well, or who is one of my closest, oldest and dearest friends from childhood, which is the way in which he begins it, but it’s very unsettling the way in which everyone is behaving around me.  It’s so fun to play off that energy because you’re immediately in that position of power and you don’t have to do anything aggressive or dangerous.  In fact, the more you play against that and the kinder you are, and the softer you are, the more, I think, terrifying it is.

dracula-untold-mehmet-campCan you talk about how your character learns about the supernatural elements or does he learn a little too late?

COOPER: He learns too late and he thinks he can overpower him.  Well though, no, he does use it to his advantage when he finally believes in it.  He uses tricks that he knows will affect and weaken, but it takes him a long time to be convinced.

When we were on set yesterday we were talking to everyone else about, not like the negative stigma, but that people could be skeptical about another vampire film or a different take on Dracula.  What was it for you that attracted you to the project and also what would you tell people who might say, ‘Oh, it’s just another Dracula film?’

COOPER: I keep forgetting.  I keep having to be reminded that it’s actually a Dracula film.  For me, it was very much a film about history and Vlad the Impaler and where that story came from.  It’s a very different take on it and a really clever twist on the story.  It’s going to look completely epic and beautiful.  They’re shooting it on film and there were some very distinctive characterizations within it, and I think it’s unlike any other Dracula.  I find it amazing that they’re actually calling it that, I mean, that’s my opinion, because for me, it felt like something very, very different.  I like the idea that they’ve chosen where he comes from and who he was and why he came from that world and why he was part of the Turks’ world, and then what he became.  I think it’s a really clever take on it.  Within that story, I’m the one who, I suppose, gives all the exposition of why that’s taking place.

Coming into this film were you able to offer any useful vampire advice to your costar, like dealing with fangs?

COOPER: It’s quite funny.  No, but yeah, there are things that I overhear that are the same problems that I’ve dealt with.  I don’t have them this time, but I’ve had to do the prosthetics and the teeth and the biting and how that looks good and how painful it can be if you get it wrong, and you can take chunks of people’s face out if you’re not careful.  But I kept quite.  I quite like to see those things happen.  I tell them afterwards, ‘You know, I could have told you about that.’  [Laughs]

dracula-untold-vladWhat’s one thing you’re really excited for people to see in this movie?

COOPER: I’ve shot a few scenes.  I haven’t been around for the entire thing.  I think from reading it and from seeing what I have seen, I think the dynamic of the relationships.  Action is one thing and if you love that then great; this is gonna have plenty of it, really big, brutal, dangerous, great set pieces and fights.  They’re gonna all look amazing.  But I think more than that, if that tires you or if that’s not just enough, then at the heart of it, I think there’s actually a brotherly relationship that comes about and that breaks down at the center, and a beautiful love story and a story about a family and a man who tries to defend his family.  And then you have the mystical world and actually, the prosthetics and the way they made those characters look is extraordinary.  There’s a combination of lots of things, but essentially, and the reason I’m always drawn to anything is there has to be an intriguing story at the middle of it, and it can’t just be about explosions or car races or whatever it is.  There has to be a story for me because that’s what I like and I think that that’s what people will be drawn to.

Is there a chance for an ongoing rivalry between your character and Vlad if there are future films or is this a definitive end to your character?

COOPER: I’ve heard before it’s a definitive end and then I find myself, a few years down the line, there again.  [Laughs] So, I don’t know.  I think there’s lots of possibilities with that as there always is now, you know?  People never know where they’re going to take a story, which makes it terribly exciting – unless you’re dead dead, but in a film with this title, you’re never dead dead, are you?  Who knows?  We’ll see.

mehmet-II-dominic-cooperDid you a lot of research into the history of your character, the actual man?

COOPER: Yeah, I mean, I did.  It’s kind of endless and fascinating and admittedly, I knew very, very little.  And all that stuff is great and you’re learning so much; how helpful it is, I’m never really quite sure because you’re developing or creating something that needs to function within what you’re making.  Of course, it’s good to have this wealth of information to understand where he comes from and how powerful he was and how determined he was.  I mean, he threw his dad off the thrown, he demanded that his dad stand down and took over and was a much more military capable man than his father.  All that stuff is helpful, but actually you have to create something that works within the framework of the story.  Now when you play people or do something biographical, you can watch stuff of them and you know that you’re getting quite close, you know that you sound like them or something.  With this, I just have no idea, you know?  Absolutely none, which is comforting in a way because you start from scratch and you can make him whoever you really want to be most effective.  Maybe he was outwardly just chilling and horrible and nasty, and actually we’re giving him an element, hopefully, of sort of charm or kindness in the beginning so then, was he really like that? Probably not, but you can do what you like, really.

For more from my Dracula Untold set visit:


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