In a time where gargoyles and demons are fighting a war that could destroy humanity, one movie was brave enough to re-invent a classic horror monster and turn him into an action hero who gets stuck in the middle. What’s the name of that movie? I, Frankenstein. Who is the iconic monster in question? …Um, Frankenstein. Like I just said. C’mon class, pay attention!
Serving as both a writer and director on this monster mash-up is Stuart Beattie, the Victor Frankenstein figure supplying that jolt of electricity to bring I, Frankenstein from its deep, eternal sleep. Jam-packed with CGI inspired action, Aaron Eckhart ass-kicking, and some crazy live action gargoyles, Beattie turns Frankenstein from a lumbering giant into a demon bashing machine – one that tries to win over old-school Hammer fans and new-age monster fans alike.
Getting the chance to sit down with Stuart while the director was running the New York City press gauntlet last weekend, I seized the opportunity to ask about some of the burning questions I had after screening his movie the night before. Along with such banter (no spoilers, don’t worry), I asked Stuart about the challenges of working with so much CGI, if there were any injuries on set during the intense action sequences, and where he looked for inspiration in his own Frankenstein character (who eventually becomes known as Adam).
Read on to find out what Mr. Beattie had to say!
Stuart Beattie: [Looking at my phone, noticing multiple cracks] That’s a very Frankensteinian phone isn’t it, look at that!
WGTC: Oh yeah, we’re going to need to stitch this thing back together eventually, but talking about the monster, let’s ask the most general question – why I, Frankenstein?
Stuart Beattie: The idea of making a really character driven action movie. They wanted to call it I, Frankenstein, and Frankenstein is such a rich character. I figured they can’t fuck this up, or if they do, then they can’t call it Frankenstein. What I pitched them was the character, this monster because he’s alive, he’s denied love, and that’s what he wants, that’s the only thing he wants, that’s what keeps him going – then taking that monster on a journey who becomes a man.
I actually pitched the film three times and they passed, twice, before they finally accepted. I kept saying “It’s about a monster that becomes a man,” and they kept saying, “No.”
WGTC: That’s persistance!
Stuart Beattie: Well they kept calling me back! Finally they said, “Well, it’s an action movie?” I said, “Yeah! An action movie about a monster who becomes a man.” It was really that. Character is always the first thing to get sacrificed in action movies, and if you look at the plot of I, Frankenstein, there’s actually no real plot. It’s really a series of choices the characters make, and if they don’t make those choices, literally the film would end. That’s the kind of film I was trying to tell. I didn’t want the plot to overcome the character, because the characters are all so rich, great, and cool. It was a matter of, “So the story ends if this character doesn’t do that, and that character, and this,” and that to me is a more interesting story.
WGTC: Were you ever cautious about Frankenstein purists not being able to accept your new version of the iconic monster?
Stuart Beattie: I really just took everything from Mary Shelley – that was my base. I said from the start, “This film takes place in the world of Mary Shelley,” so that’s a real being who has been brought to life and has been running around for 200 years. He’s not going to be lumbering, the bolts in the neck were a Universal thing, not Mary Shelley, so I kind of went back to the source. I thought if I go back to the source, am protective of that source, and treat it with respect, then even purists of the Hammer films will at least respect that. I took it very seriously, and I really tried to make it as though this really happened.
If someone really did animate a corpse, to me, you wouldn’t go find a leg and an arm and stitch them all together. There are tons of perfectly good corpses, right? To me, maybe it was all the internal organs that came from other people, which makes sense, right? Why did the body die – probably because the heart failed or the lungs failed. OK, so that’s where all the pieces came from, I got that. You know, and I’d pick a good looking corpse. I would!
WGTC: Can’t go wrong with Aaron Eckhart!
Stuart Beattie: [Laughs] Oh he’s ugly. No! I’d find someone in shape. You’d want the perfect specimen, right? Really, all those decisions came from trying to make it real, and saying, “If this really did happen, how would this look?” I felt if I was true to that, then the Hammer purists would forgive me.
WGTC: So you use a lot of CGI here…
Stuart Beattie: Yeah, we couldn’t find any gargoyles!