David Tennant is no stranger to playing an icon. After portraying sci-fi’s most famous time traveller, Doctor Who, for half a decade, the Scottish actor knows exactly what it’s like to step into some well-worn shoes and still make
them look brand new.
That skill no doubt aided Tennant while filming director Craig Gillespie’s remake of Fright Night, in which Tennant plays Las Vegas illusionist/vampire hunter Peter Vincent – a role first made famous by iconic
actor Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes).
DT: Well I wasn’t required to compete with Roddy McDowall – who we all know enjoys legendary status quite rightly
– because the Peter Vincent in this version is radically relocated both geographically and spiritually from the original
one. He fills the same hole in the movie, but he comes from a very different place. He’s a Las Vegas illusionist whereas
Roddy McDowall was a late-night horror show host, which I guess don’t really exist anymore, so one of [screenwriter]
Marti Noxon’s first tasks was to find a modern-day equivalent for that. So she looked at those illusionists who use Gothic imagery and
vampire motifs, which gave her an in for somebody who might know a bit more about the subject [of vampires] and who might
perhaps even have some history with the subject that might prove useful to Charlie Brewster when he needs a bit of help.
SR: One issue that’s going to come up about this character is its possible connection to certain real-life
performers and/or illusionists (specifically illusionist Criss Angel). Is
there a connection there?
No. And I’m glad you brought it up, because I have heard people saying that this is some sort of Criss Angel rip-off.
And I’m devastated if Criss Angel thinks that this is any way a reflection on him, because Peter Vincent is clearly
a lot less successful – both professionally and personally – than I’m sure Criss Angel is. I think there
are similar or familiar motifs, but it’s not based on anyone in particular. I hope Criss Angel doesn’t think we’re
taking the piss out of him, making fun of him.
SR: Taking a look at this role, and your role as The Doctor, you seem to have a knack for taking iconic characters
and making them very much your own. Can you talk about that process?
I think in both the situations we’re talking about that I was a bit lucky. In both circumstances it was about rebooting
the character – that’s always been the case in ‘Doctor Who’ since it first started: the next actor
who takes over is kind of expected to start on page one, which I imagine is more difficult for a Sherlock Holmes or a James
Bond, where there are certain expectations about that character. With The Doctor and of course with Peter Vincent you’re
sort of starting anew with this character. You might face certain expectations about what that character’s place in
the narrative is, but beyond that you’re kinda given free reign.
If anything, the challenge is to be different. It helped that my Peter Vincent is a very different type of man than the
Roddy McDowall one – so you kind of dispense with worrying about that hopefully quite early on and just try and create
a character that is interesting and fun and complex. Hopefully a bit funny, hopefully a little bit of pathos… as with
anything, you just try to tell that story and be part of that world, and serve it up with as much juice as you can muster.
SR: How was it doing the action scenes in the film – do you consider yourself an ‘action-capable’
[WARNING MILD SPOILER]
I like getting dirty, its always fun to do that sort of stuff. It’s kinda like playing cowboys and Indians in the
playground, but real. Playing with guns, falling off things, and hanging on rope. Of course we have the safety of very capable
stunt advisors and specialists and all these people who make sure you’re not going to get hurt. So it’s hard not
to enjoy that stuff. I like to get in it as much as possible and do as much as I’m allowed. I don’t think I ended
up getting [stunt doubled] on ‘Fright Night’ – I don’t want to deny the stuntmen their credit –
but I think all the various falling over, falling down stairs, firing guns, I managed to do myself. It’s great fun but
it’s a little bit nerve-wracking as well, since there is an element of danger.
There’s an incredible sequence at the end of the film with some incredible fire stunts. My character is sort of in
amongst that (not on fire himself but simply watching) and I imagined I would be back in my trailer having a cup of tea at
this point, but because of brilliant things brilliantly done by these incredible stuntmen I was actually still in the action
watching all this at close-quarter. It’s such a thrill – it’s like playing but with real things that explode
and blow up and fly in the air.
SR: You have a very loyal fanbase - what can they expect to see from you next?
Well I’ve got another movie called The Decoy Bride which is to be released soon. I’m providing a voice for the next Aardman Animations picture [the makers of 'Chicken
Run'] which is…The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
SR: We noticed while researching Pirates that you’re actually voicing Charles Darwin. Wow.
A young Charles Darwin – Charles Darwin hasn’t quite found himself yet. It’s a fairly free take on the
Charles Darwin history…I think the Elephant Man makes an appearance, too.
You can catch Tennant voicing an animated version of the man behind evolutionary theory in the future – but be sure
to first check him out as a vampire hunter in Fright Night, which opens in theaters this weekend.
For more on the film, be sure to check out our Interview with screenwriter Marti Noxon.