Interview: Stuart Beattie, Director of "I, Frankenstein"

Interview: Stuart Beattie, Director of I, Frankenstein

Film director Stuart Beattie chats with Glam Adelaide about his modern gothic action tale “I, Frankenstein”.

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495 x 280 I FrankensteinAcclaimed for his work on the films Collateral and Tomorrow, When The War Began, Stuart Beattie’s latest screenplay is the modern gothic action tale I, Frankenstein.

When you consider Beattie has evolved a screen story originally penned by Kevin Grevioux (from the Underworld series), it’s no surprise this film is action packed and blends science fiction with biblical and superstitious lore.

Played by Aaron Eckart (The Dark Knight), the reluctant hero is Frankenstein’s monster Adam. Beattie explains that I, Frankenstein follows the monster’s “journey to finding his humanity and earning his soul.”

“We knew we wanted to have the Frankenstein monster protect mankind form the forces of darkness, but why would he want this when his own father tried to kill him and all mankind has ever done is run him out of villages and treat him like a monster?”

For Beattie, these questions had potential for exploration.

“It is a worthy story because it taps into our humanity. It is a reminder you are only a monster if you behave like one and that you can commit to a cause higher than yourself. Those kinds of questions form the basis of the best stories.”

It’s a refreshing change from the ordinary good vs evil plot you might expect of the genre. In fact, Hollywood “passed on it twice, but the third time, they picked it up,” says Beattie. “I had to convince them that action movies can have character journeys and there is no reason why they can’t. I’m proud that it’s a transformative story and that it’s character driven.”

Making a slightly different film was always Beattie’s intention with I, Frankenstein. It took Beattie three years to adapt Grevioux’s graphic novel into a screenplay, a process of “building a mythology and then making that world real through a lot of writing, to create a world that people can relate to. It’s not about making something brand new; when you do, it gets really hard. Once you have that, it’s about trying to make the action different.”

The action is spectacular, with each character differentiated through their unique fighting style and weapon of choice. Beattie explains, “I had a rule there would be no car chases, no shoot outs and no fist fights, as these have been done before and done very well. I had been a fan of Chinese stick fighting and wanted to include that.”

Even the shot selections during action sequences are askew to other blockbusters. Beattie continues, “a lot of traditional fight scenes are quick close ups. I pulled it back and low so you could see the actors are really doing all these fights and I think that is part of the fun of it for the audience. The actors worked really hard to get their fights down.”

Having the right league of actors in this film was particularly important to Beattie.

“You are asking the audience to believe something they know isn’t true. Bill Nighy (Harry Potter; Wrath of the Titans) knows how to do that and Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings; What Lies Beneath) is brilliant at saying these wildly fantastic things and making you believe them. Aaron Eckhart was fantastic at that too. If you don’t get actors like this, no amount of costuming, sets, action sequences or visual effects will mean anything.”

Nighy was the only actor to come on board through invitation to play the demon Prince Naberius. Socratis Otto (The Matrix Reloaded) is his lead henchman, with both characters playing opposite Miranda Otto as  Queen Leonore of the Gargoyle order. Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard; Jack Reacher) is her most trusted gargoyle warrior, Gideon. Additionally, Yvonne Strahovski (TV’s Chuck) comes on board as Dr Terra Wade, a human who is unknowingly working for the demons.

This quartet, along with the entire horde of demon and gargoyle characters, came through an audition process. The ultimate casting came when Aaron Eckhart accepted the role of Adam.

“We sent him a script on a Saturday after his other film fell over on a Friday and he was committed by the Monday. He was one of the few actors that we thought could pull it off.”

Notably, the cast also includes Caitlyn Stasey, Deniz Adkeniz and Chris Pang as Gargoyles, who re-join Beattie after their successful work together in Tomorrow, When the War Began. I, Frankenstein also features the film’s screen story writer, Kevin Grevioux (Underworld) taking on the demon character of Dekar.

Beattie is incredibly proud of the Australian production and artistic crews, whose costuming, set design, music and sound production is as good as any Hollywood studio can produce. The location scouts targeted some of Melbourne’s darkest alleys and most stunning architectural landmarks to create an imagined city more gothic than Gotham itself.

Beattie reveals that up to five visual effects houses “were all working together and sharing assets to create one vision.”

The sound production team led by Andrew Plain (Tomorrow, When the War Began) is dynamic and brings each action scene to life, as does the production design of Katherine Brown.

The very polished result stems from one very clear vision on what the film should be by completion as well as professional integrity at its finest. Beattie explains the creative process involved “a lot of discussion and figuring out in advance what we wanted to do. With my films, I do all the work as early as I possibly can and come to something I really love and stick with it. I’m not flighty about it. The crew can then do their job, work harder for you and come on board. I like to say what I ‘m going to do and do what I say. All the crew worked very hard and would do anything for the film.”

The result is a spectacular visual feast and a unique, yet not un-relatable plot line. I, Frankenstein is another fine example of the modern day fantasy come science fiction genre, not to mention another film Australians will be proud of.

Interviewed by Bree Downs-Woolley

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