'Van Helsing' screenwriter: Mad Max was our inspiration for the character's new iteration
Not much is yet known about Universal’s Marvel Cinematic Universe-style Monster reboots, which have been racking up quite the cadre of A-list stars over the last several months. While shooting on The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella is already complete and two of the other installments -- The Wolf Man and another untitled monster project -- have been given release dates, there are a total of six other films in the series that remain in some phase of development.
One of those developing projects is Van Helsing, which is being scripted by Eric Heisserer and Jon Spaihts and will serve as a big-screen vehicle for the eponymous monster-hunter who has been portrayed in various incarnations by Peter Cushing (Hammer’s Dracula series), Laurence Olivier (1979’s Dracula), Anthony Hopkins (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Christopher Plummer (Dracula 2000) and Hugh Jackman, who embodied the character in Stephen Sommers' ill-fated Van Helsing from 2004.
While speaking with Heisserer about his upcoming horror film Lights Out, I asked how he and Spaihts are approaching the character, who has mostly been portrayed on-screen as an erudite older man. Might they be going a different way with the role, I wondered? While Heisserer was predictably (and understandably) light on specifics, he did offer one tantalizing clue:
“I can only say that early on, our inspiration for his behavior and his mannerisms was all in Mad Max,” said Heisserer, referencing the tough-as-nails, lone wolf protagonist of George Miller’s famous dystopian action series. While that’s all he could tell me -- and the qualifier “early on” could indicate that’s no longer the way they’re going -- it could hold our best clue yet as to the manner in which the rebooted character will be envisioned on screen.
One thing that seems pretty clear is this: Van Helsing will almost certainly not be played by a woman. While the Universal Monster reboots have already affected a gender-reversal with one of its classic characters -- Boutella will play a female version of the Mummy in that film -- when I noted it might be interesting to see an actress in the role of the vampire-hunter, Heisserer artfully redirected me to the forthcoming Syfy series Van Helsing, which stars Kelly Overton as, yes, Vanessa Helsing.
“Well, I think you’re in luck,” said Heisserer. “I think there’s a Syfy miniseries, or some sort of series, that comes out that has a female Van Helsing. So that should be interesting.”
Elsewhere, Heisserer was forthcoming about the overall tone of the Monster reboots, mostly by indicating that there won’t be a consistent tone the films share in common.
“It’s early days right now,” Heisserer stressed, before continuing, “I can say that the decision that a lot of us made was to go and just write the best movie we could in our own corner and make sure it's good on its own...and didn't necessarily need to link arm-in arm-with anybody else. And to be tonally different from the other films. One may be a little bit more comedic, action-adventure-y, one can be very much a traditional horror piece. That kind of thing. And then we'll see what happens as the projects evolve and we all get a chance to convene and talk, and make sure the movies feel like they're all in the same world.”