Exclusive Interview with Hugh Dancy from "Blood and Chocolate"

Behind the Scenes of "Blood and Chocolate" with Hugh Dancy

Hugh Dancy stars in "Blood and Chocolate". Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc. © 2006 Lakeshore Entertainment
Blood and Chocolate is set in modern day Bucharest and follows 19-year-old Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), a young woman with an interesting secret: she's a werewolf. Vivian's already complicated life becomes even more so when she meets Aiden, a handsome American, who's in Bucharest researching the legends of loup garoux for his upcoming graphic novel.

British actor Hugh Dancy (Aiden) came up with a better description of Blood and Chocolate instead of the simple 'werewolf movie' tag.

"It’s a horror/comedy/romance/werewolf love story," explained Dancy who adopted an American accent to play Aiden and spent a healthy amount of time working with wolves on Blood and Chocolate.

Blood and Chocolate is a lot different than the other films on your resume. What was the appeal of starring in a movie about werewolves?
“I suppose you just summed it up, really. It seemed different. It seemed like a lot of different things. I mean, yes, it is a werewolf movie but at times it seemed like it was quite light-hearted. It was a romance; it was contemporary. It was kind of different than other movies of that genre that I’d seen, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.”

You said it’s “kind of a werewolf movie” yet all the trailers, posters and photos from the film stress the ‘werewolf’ aspect. It’s interesting that you see it as much more than that.
“I mean it is a werewolf movie, but when you’re acting with a wolf there’s not a lot to really get out of that so you concentrate on what the rest of the story is about and how the rest of it works on its own.

What I mean by that is that what when you say werewolf movie, I always see images of great big lumbering prosthetic monsters or, I don’t know, digital larger-than-life wolves with red eyes. It’s not that. These are real wolves that we played around with. That’s different.”

How did you feel about the decision to go with real wolves rather than CGI creatures?
“I thought it was a very good one because we do always see that in Hollywood movies, and the idea was it’s not a monster movie.

I mean it’s a werewolf movie and they may be evil, but they’re not these kinds of crazed beasts.”

That’s an interesting way to describe it. It’s not a monster movie but there are werewolves in it.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that’s the way that Katja von Garnier, the director, saw it. I’ve subsequently discovered a lot of people really think of wolves as very beautiful, as she certainly did. We had these animals and I’ve got to say they were amazing. They’re incredible creatures. They’re wild and they’re ferocious I guess at times, but not monsters in the traditional sense.”

Were you into werewolves as a kid?
“I think I was probably more about the vampires, to be honest with you. Although I do seem to remember when I was a kid – a small kid – and my sister was even smaller, she couldn’t get to sleep one night because she was convinced there were werewolves under her bed. I had to go and stamp on them and kill them so she could sleep. I just remembered that. But by and large, I was more in the vampire line.”

You had to stamp on them to kill them?
(Laughing) "I had to stamp on the imaginary werewolves.”

Why do you think in general people are still so fascinated by werewolves and vampires in 2007?
“Because I think that they all – particularly those two myths – are about the dark side of human nature.

You know, I don’t personally believe that there are actual people out there who can turn into bats or transform into wolves every month, but I can see where the myth would come from. The idea that we’ve all got something that’s a bit wild or a bit evil inside us.”

Did you do a lot of research into the werewolf mythology?
“Not particularly. I think the thing about the myths or whatever you want to call them, why they endure or just the genre endures as movies, is because you can reinvent it every time. You don’t have to be too slavishly adherent to whatever anybody’s done before. People know the basics. We know that they die if they get hit with silver. We know they tend to need a moon and that kind of thing. And then beyond that you’re free to imagine what you want, I think. That’s how those stories stay alive, by reinvention.”

Were there any special challenges filming in Romania?
“There were freezing, subzero temperatures, but nothing particularly specific to Romania. A good thing is a lot of people film nowadays in that part of the world and one of the reasons is that it’s cheaper. You can do a lot more for your money. The disadvantage is that often people are filming there trying to pretend that you’re in Manhattan and it’s pretty obvious that you’re not. But our movie is set in Romania as well. It’s meant to be in these slightly modern but mythological places, so we had the best of both worlds in that respect.

It was challenging at times. You know, the country is transforming still after the revolution and you can see it, you know? You can feel it. It’s a strange place at times.”

Did actually filming in Romania help you get into the mood of the film and into character?
“I guess so because it really is an incredible city – the city of Bucharest, which is the capitol. And actually I went outside the city. We went, a few of us, hopped on the train and went out to Transylvania which is part of Romania and is obviously the home of pretty much every ghoulish thing under the sun…I should say under the stars.

It’s really evocative, the city itself where the movie is set is - and I think you see it in the film – it’s partially this very beautiful, old city and it’s also quite run down in parts. There’s a modern, urban quality to it as well. It’s quite strange, and that is reflected in the film.”

Page 2: On Working with Wolves and Horror Movies

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Working with wolves must have been interesting. Did you do any special training in order to feel even semi-comfortable around them?
“Really it was just hanging out with them, and it’s more about them feeling comfortable with you," said Hugh Dancy. "Although obviously I had to pull myself together a little bit too because the wolves can’t be trained. They’re wild animals. You can’t really teach them tricks so it’s more about me getting used to the idea that this wolf is just going to jump on me to get at the little piece of red meat on my shoulder which they had placed there.

Obviously it took some convincing. (Laughing) I mean me not the wolf.”

How many times did you flinch?
(Laughing) “You know, you realize pretty quickly that the sensible thing to do is not flinch. Flinching goes out the window pretty quickly. They were beautiful, really beautiful animals and fascinating to be so close to them. Once you’re comfortable around them it’s very easy to fall into the illusion that, ‘Oh, they’re just kind of big, big, hairy dogs,’ you know? They come up and they’re like dogs. You can play with them and can pet them a little bit. They lick your hand or whatever, and then suddenly someone comes out with a bit of food and you see what’s underneath that and you have to think again.”

They would actually just put meat on your shoulder and expect you to stand there while a wolf came at you?
“Yeah, in a very general, very broad sense that’s the way it works. But I realized that they’re not just… It’s not like they’re going to go for the meat but if they can’t get that they’ll take the next best thing, like your ear.

They’re more advanced than that, so I lost whatever fear I might have had pretty quickly.”

But you still have to act while they’re coming at you…
“Yeah, but you have to act terrified so it’s not too difficult.”

And you didn’t have to worry about them hitting their marks?
“No, because most of the time their mark was me (laughing).

I could see them coming. There was technicalities and things, the little stuff you do. It’s weird. You end up worrying more about, ‘Okay, how am I going to land? Make sure the wolf’s head is going in the right place for the camera and I have to do this and that.’ You think, ‘Hang on! Somebody is throwing a grown wolf at me. Why am I worried about all this other stuff.’ But it was all pretty good.”

When you were having grown wolves launched at you, did you ever at that point question why they didn’t go with CGI instead?
(Laughing) “Yeah. ‘These live wolves seemed like such a good idea at the time.’ No, honestly not. I’ve worked with CGI before and there may have been moments of nervousness with the wolves but nothing compared with the long stretches with tedium that you have to endure when you’re acting - and also the humiliation - when you’re pretending to be wrestled to the ground by something that isn’t there. You’ve got a whole film crew standing around looking at you. It’s just embarrassing. I prefer the real thing any day.”

Not only did you have wolves launched at you but you also had to do an American accent. How difficult is it for you to pick up accents?
“Not too tough. I mean it depends, really.

I guess I feel fairly comfortable doing that.”

Is it usually a matter of just studying a little bit and then it comes pretty quickly?
“I was working with a few Americans and I’m working with Agnes [Bruckner] and you just have to rely upon people’s honesty. I’ve done it the other way around. I’ve worked with American actors doing British accents and you have to remember, ‘Okay, there’s no point in being polite.’ If I messed it up, I hope that somebody will say to me, ‘Look, that’s not how we say whatever it might be.’”

Have accents always come pretty easy for you?
“Yes, relatively speaking. It’s a bit of a hostage to fortune to say that, but it’s not something that really daunts me. I mean, maybe it should more than it does but it’s not something I worry about too much.”

And how was working with Agnes Bruckner?
”Great.

Agnes is a lot of fun. I really did have a very good time with her. There were moments when we were filming two weeks back-to-back of night shoots and it just decided to pour with rain every night all night. You know, we’re having fun but that can be a little of an uphill struggle. And so you need a kind of somebody to cheer you along and vice a versa, and she was great like that.”

After doing a ‘horror’ movie like this, would you do it again?
“Yeah, sure. As far as I’m concerned, in general, the best thing you can hope to do is to vary what you do. You never know what the result will be. Particularly with movies, you never know what the end product is going to be when you get involved and that’s part of the pleasure. You’re putting yourself in this massive group venture so, yeah, to keep yourself enthusiastic you look for something new somewhere down the line. But certainly doing this hasn’t made me think, ‘God, I’d never do a horror-based movie again.’ Quite the contrary.”

Page 3: On Choosing Scripts, The Jane Austen Book Club, and Evening

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How tough is it to find projects that are new and different?
“Well, I think you just are lucky. You’re only as good as your luck. You can’t rely on anything other than hope that a decent script will pop through your door, that somebody will think of you. The ratio of good to bad material is not very promising a lot of the time, but then there’s always something that makes you think, ‘That could be different.

That could be interesting.’”

What do you look for in a script?
“It’s really hard to say and I actually don’t have a proper answer for you. I think, first of all, a lot of film scripts are written quite formulaic and the more you read, the more you notice the formulas and the more that kind of turns you off. Whenever you read something where somebody has tried something a little bit different… If the character in question doesn’t waltz in on the first page: ‘He’s the handsome, heroic sort of guy…’ I think, ‘Oh god, that’s so boring. Can’t he just be a little bit messed up? Can’t he be a bit normal?’ But there’s not like there’s one thing that you can look for.”

Is there a type of character you haven’t done yet that you’re anxious to play?
“No, not really. Not really. I suppose everybody wants to play a serious villain somewhere down the line.”

Why is it that it’s so appealing to play a bad guy?
“You know, I think because it’s sometimes a little bit more theatrical, even if it’s downplayed.

There’s that kind of sense that you can play it up a little bit more.”

And speaking of other roles, you’ve got a bunch of films coming up. It seems like you’re keeping really busy.
“I don’t know how many of them are real and how many of them are just kind of things floating around on the Internet.”

How about The Jane Austen Book Club?
“That’s true.

I just finished filming that. He’s called Grigg. He’s the lone male member of the book club.”

What’s it like to be the lone male?
(Laughing) “Daunting! Maybe that’s not strong enough of a word. I felt at times as though I was a mascot in human form. It was great, you know? The character finds himself in this group of women – five women and him – and he kind of almost ends up in the group by mistake. He doesn’t know any of them and he’s very sweet, but he’s still a little outnumbered. That’s basically how I felt.”

And you’re rumored to be in Bronte. Is that actually happening?
“No. It’s funny how a few people have mentioned that recently, but I don’t know anything about that.”

But you are in Evening, correct?
“Evening, yes. I filmed it a little earlier this year and that’s coming out sometime this summer or later this year. And then another movie called Beyond the Gates which we filmed in Rwanda a couple of years ago.”