By Tara Bennett
This past week LIFF hosted the American premiere of director Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein, arguably (I’ll argue it, anyway) one of the best incarnations of the classic tale yet. Though cinema may be oversaturated with retellings of classic literature, Rose’s film approaches Mary Shelley’s story with a very modern and unique approach—using a 3D bio-printer to create the titular monster. It is not your run-of-the-mill horror fare, rather being established as a film with depth, intelligence, and drama.
Rose and actor Xavier Samuel (who played Riley Biers in Twilight) sat down with DIG in the LIFF filmmakers lounge to talk about the film, playing as the Creature, and the science behind Frankenstein’s creation.
DIG: In your film is there an overlapping message that society is the real monster?
Bernard Rose: I mean I guess so, but I don’t think it’s that simple, really. I think it’s more his experience of the world, and what happened to him… He’s other, so they on some primal level don’t like him and he brutalizes them. He only learns what he’s taught. I think one of the things that’s saddest in the book is that he’s a very sensitive, receptive spirit who is taught violence and is then appalled by it.
DIG: Where did the idea to use the 3-D printer come from?
BR: It was one of those things that you think about ‘How would you create a person nowadays?’ They are bio-printing body parts, so it’s not a stretch, so why not a whole person? It’s not a huge leap, really. In the movies made in the ‘30s, [Frankenstein] reanimates dead bodies, which is not what Mary Shelley wrote. What Mary Shelley wrote was that he created life. I think that’s a different story, somebody who can bring back the dead, and that’s not the story of Frankenstein. Frankenstein creates life, he doesn’t reanimate the dead. People have gotten confused by that because he very explicitly digs up corpses and reanimates them in the 1930s movie, which is not the case in the book.
DIG: I have to ask, how was it having all that makeup on?
Xavier Samuel: It’s such an integral part to the character. He gets treated the way that he does because of it primarily. It was three hours every morning, sometimes less, sometimes more. When he’s in full makeup, we did an eight hour session. The makeup is done by Randy Westgate, and he’s just a great artist and he did such an amazing job. It was a real collaboration just trying to make this Creature as grotesque as possible.
DIG: Do you like the character of the Creature?
XS: I try not to make too many judgments on the characters I play, but I think he’s a reflection of his experiences, so if he is monstrous it’s because of the experiences he’s had have been monstrous. He’s kind of searching, and I like that about him. I like that drive.
DIG: How does it feel to play a vampire, and now another horror icon?
XS: I don’t really look at it in those terms, ticking off boxes of the horror heroes. It’s always been about working with interesting filmmakers and exotic stories. I don’t have any prerequisites in terms of the work that I do except for the fact that the people are passionate and talented, and that was very much the case with Bernard and his film.
DIG: Is there anything you’d like to add?
BR: I do want to mention Tony Todd, who plays the blind beggar, and of course he was Candyman in my 1992 film. I just think Tony brings something very special within the genre, not just as an actor. There’s something about him, he has a very unique presence.