Gemma Arterton (left) and Saoirse Ronan say Byzantium is a female empowerment pic.
BYZANTIUM directed by Neil Jordan, written by Moira Buffini, with Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan and Sam Riley. A Mongrel Media release. 118 minutes. Opens Friday (July 12). For venues and times, see Movies.
After Buffy, True Blood and the Twilight series, the vampire movie seems to have had the blood sucked out of it. The folks behind the new film Byzantium share your pain.
"People go, ‘Oh really, another vampire movie?'" says Byzantium star Gemma Arterton, "and they have every right to think that because there has been so much."
Arterton is at TIFF alongside her co-star Saoirse (pronounced "sir-she") Ronan and director Neil Jordan. Their new take on the vampire is about to have its world premiere, and the three have been spending the day doing promotional rounds.
"We've been moving about a bit," says Ronan, who starred in Hanna and received an Oscar nom for Atonement. "And we've seen you everywhere we've gone."
She's right. This is the fourth time we've said hello, after a poolside photo shoot in the morning, a casual midday run-in on the street and an awkward incident just prior to our interview when three of us ended up washing our hands together in a co-ed bathroom.
By the time we finally get to our interview late in the afternoon at Maison Mercer, the women feel comfortable enough to kick off their shoes and curl up on a couch together while discussing the 200-year-old vampires they play in the movie.
"The instant I read [the script], I didn't even think about [Twilight]," says Arterton, a former Bond girl and star of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. "It was better. It's a reinvention of the vampire genre. It's a female empowerment movie."
"It doesn't really feel like a vampire movie," adds Ronan. "It's about so many other things: the relationship between a mother and daughter, their struggle for what they both want. It's a teenage love story. It's about being stuck in the past and knowing when to move on and when to let go."
Guiding the actors through their struggle with eternal life is director Neil Jordan, whose 1994 Interview With The Vampire revived the genre. Jordan admits that he enjoyed the first Twilight movie ("I'm not a snob" he says), but that didn't assuage his reluctance to add yet another movie to the exhausted canon.
"Vampires were everywhere," says Jordan, which he says may not be such a bad thing. "I think when you look at the history of vampire movies, they're getting more interesting in the last 20 years than they have been for generations."
While he points out that some entries in the genre are "cornball as hell," like Resident Evil and its ilk, he recognizes that others are remarkably imaginative in exploring human concerns through the vampire's condition. One such example is the Swedish film Let The Right One In, which addresses prepubescent sexuality and bullying.
"Vampire movies can take many different approaches," he says. "They can be whatever anyone wants them to be."