News / 08 August 2023

Filmmaker André Øvredal Talks DRACULA: VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER

STUDIOCANAL unleash DRACULA: VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER in Australian Cinemas this Thursday and we caught up with director André Øvredal (THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK) to discuss how he came aboard the project right through to his favourite vampire films.

Before we touch on your latest feature DRACULA: VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER, I wanted to ask when your passion for genre cinema first begin?

Oh, very early. I was sneaking viewing horror movies that I was way too young to see from very early age. You know like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE EXORCIST and tons of B-movies that I don’t know if even exist on a digital format anymore. That was definitely part of my movie upbringing.

And at what point did you decide that you wanted to move from being a viewing to directing film?

When I was a teenager I started shooting films with my friends after being obsessed with movies. Then I realized I should try to do this and it was all horror. Well mainly all horror and some action. But I made a feature film when I was like 16 about a guy who got possessed by a Ouija board. I also made a werewolf short, you know not great stuff to put it mildly but definitely part of the obsession.

Do you think we’ll ever see any of these films, possibly as a Special Feature on an anniversary edition of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE or another of your films?

[LAUGHS] You’ll never see them.

Nikolai Nikolaeff as Petrosfky in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, directed by André Øvredal.
Flashing forward, how did you come aboard of DRACULA: VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER?

It was just over three years ago, before the pandemic and I had been recommended by other filmmakers. I was working with Brad Fischer on another movie, who was one of the producers and the lead producer on this. We started chatting about DRACULA: VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER and Amblin then suddenly I became part of the dialogue. And I have great agents who were able to position me in relation to everyone. It was an amazing little journey, I’ve got to say, looking back on it now.

And in terms of working with Amblin, they have a rich history of cinema, particularly fantasy film. How did it feel to be part of an Amblin production?

It’s kind of amazing to have made a movie for that company, of course through Spielberg’s personal work but also the movies he’s produced. Although he didn’t produce this one, the movies he did produce for Amblin are amazing. I couldn’t even dream up the opportunity to do that.


With this film, given that it’s period-set, what sort of challenges did that present to you in making it as opposed to your prior work?

You have to surround yourself with people who really know their stuff. Starting with the actors, they really went at it with coaches and finding the right type of accents. The script was  extremely well written, the type a dialogue that felt very natural for the time. Then the production designer, the costume designer, even how the makeup is done, like teeth that were made had to look like they belonged in that period. You really just have to all the right people who can make this come alive. And the ship was done really in excruciating detail by the German and Maltese crews to make sure that it really felt like the right thing from the right time, down to the nitty-gritty detail. Nothing could be from beyond the period of our journey.

On that note, in terms of scale, this is by far the largest film you’ve helmed to date. There’s some genuinely awe-inspiring set pieces and I was curious what challenges you faced? Particularly since it seems you not only shot in a water tank but on location, out on the ocean.

Well the challenges are similar, I don’t really notice much difference. The scale is definitely bigger than SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, which was my previous record holder. But you just have more crew, more resources in the end. The movies by nature are budgeted to the script and then that money is spent on crew and on elements that is kind of out of your control in a way, because you have to build a ship, you have to get the materials and the crew need build it into the ship. All this stuff is kind of just comes by the nature of what you’re actually doing. In the end, what you end up doing is you’re standing next to the camera and you have a few actors right in front of it, you have a camera and you have the camera operator and a DOP and it’s the same, whether it’s a $3 million movie or a big one like this. It’s the same process. You have to get the performances, you have to get the story right and that’s all going on right in front of the camera. You mentioned shooting on the ocean, well we were never out to sea.

(from left) Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and Anna (Aisling Franciosi) in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, directed by André Øvredal.
Really? That’s incredible. I absolutely bought into much of it being shot on location, in a WATERWORLD kind of affair.

Yeah, no, the VFX team did an amazing job recreating a world out at sea. We had water tanks, cannons shooting water in on us. We had rain towers, we had the boat rocking. We had waves in the ocean, you know we had a bunch of stuff. so that really helps. And then the final piece is the augmentation by CGI to create the waves. In fact most of the water you’re seeing in the movie is CGI.

Incredible, state of the art, you had me hook, line and sinker. 

Were there any cinematic influences behind the film? As while staying true to Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, there is a Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and John Carpenter’s THE THING feel about the film, with the motley crew confined, trapped and distrusting of one another.

Of course ALIEN always becomes a talking point and yes, THE THING as well, but definitely more ALIEN, as it’s a blueprint for how a movie like this could be done and should be done. So you always have to be aware of it. But we never really reference it much on a practical level. I admire Scott’s amazing direction in that movie and the script itself is just so much fun. But we had our own world to create on a ship. And we don’t have metal, we don’t have screens, we don’t have these kind of worlds that he was working with or they were working with on that movie. So it becomes its own animal regardless.

With regards to casting, you’ve got a returning actor that you worked with on SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, Javier Botet playing the role as this genuinely monstrous incarnation of Dracula. What was it like to collaborate once more with him on this film?

Javier is a star, obviously. He’s one of the very few people who really could perform this character and be both alive as an actor and as a creature performer, and suffer through these long days of just being in this hot wet suit. This latex thing. Then there’s these 40 degrees celsius shooting days in Malta, it was insane. He’s such a trooper and was really able to still give us everything we needed throughout a very grueling shoot.

In terms of the incredible ensemble of actors, how much of a hand did you have in casting the film?

I was so lucky to have both the producers and Amblin be very open to let me cast the right people. They let us cast the people we believe were right for the part and we didn’t need wait for some superstar. We don’t need to if we get the right actors. And of course we got very lucky to get Corey Hawkins, who is a star and a real fantastic actor. And we had David Dastmalchian, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Aisling Franciosi and of course Liam Cunningham, all of them, they’re just wonderful.
A great ensemble with fantastic performances that elevate the source further. If there were to be sequel, would you return to continue the story?

Yeah, of course. If there were a demand for a sequel, that would be great. I don’t know what it would be though. We’ll have to figure that out if the time comes.

In terms of vampire cinema, what are some of your favorite vampire films?

God, that’s a question that I should have clear answers to.

VAMPIRE’S KISS with Nicolas Cage perhaps?

I mean, in some ways it’s definitely a fun one. NOSFERATU for sure and I’ve always loved MARTIN by George Romero.

A modern vampire tale. I love it too.

Yeah. Very grounded and different, and I’m sure there are others but I’ll have think on it before I do more press.

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