Read Our Q&A With ‘Vampire Academy’ Screenwriter Dan Waters!
There’s still a fair amount of time before Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters hits theaters — seriously, February 14 can’t come soon enough! — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of VA treats to snack on in the meantime… like a Q&A with the screenwriter!
We had the chance to chat with Dan Waters about the Zoey Deutch-led film based off of author Richelle Mead‘s YA novel, and he spilled some of the juiciest details on the upcoming movie, including the comparisons to Twilight (with mentions of The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments as well), the bad-ass that is Dimitri Belikov, and the steamy necklace scene…
First off, we loved the teaser trailer, and we’re so excited for Vampire Academy! Tell us about your experience working with the movie.
Dan Waters: I hadn’t read the book, so you can imagine when the producers came and said, “Would you like to write Vampire Academy?” I thought, “Oh no, has my career come to this? Is this like a Saturday morning show? Is this like a Zack and Cody Go to Space? [However], when I read the book, I was exhilarated because I didn’t know the book. Then I immediately read all of the books before I even began thinking of doing the first movie. Then I was completely into it. I think when people say they’re sick of the vampire genre — believe me I was sick of it too — but to me when people are sick of a genre, that’s the best time to go into the genre, because that way you can play with the clichés and kind of move things around and mess with people’s brains. And I think Vampire Academy is the perfect vehicle to do that because it has so much more going on than just the vampires.
How involved were you with filming the movie? Were you on set a lot?
Dan: I was in London right before the movie started shooting [because I had to do all that last-minute work on the script], and then I was at the very start and the very end. That’s was probably the best thing for a writer because you don’t want to be there too much. Because when they see the writer, they’ll start to rewrite things and I thought we had the adaptation in a perfect place. Thank you for liking the teaser! I think people are over-analyzing it not knowing it’s just a one-minute piece of marketing that I think a lot of people get a little too crazy analyzing it because a lot of time the surface clichés are going to come through. And if you read the book, you know there’s a lot more complexity, a lot more going on then we could possibly show in a teaser.
Are there any major changes from the book to the script?
Dan: I think just an overall major change is a lot of the book is in Rose’s head and she has a lot of information that she keeps from other characters and keeps even from the reader. To me, I wanted to take it out of her head and put in on the screen a little bit more. Kind of like, maybe Rose doesn’t know as much about Ms. Karp as she thinks she does, and that way it allows her to be more active. I like making the characters more active and creating more of a mystery and having them try to find out things. There’s a scene where Rose is hiding under a desk, that’s in the teaser and everyone started going crazy like, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” I think it is part of the new detective element of the mystery-solving element of the movie as opposed to the book. Because you know Richelle [Mead]’s writing is so great that you get caught up in Rose’s thoughts and words. But I know it’s boring for people walk into a movie and the whole movie is the lead character narrating and saying this happens and then this happens and then this happened. So I think we tried to make a little more engaging in that way.
How does a kick-butt character like Rose compare to the other fictional heroines like Katniss, Bella, etc?
Dan: Everyone always says we need more strong female characters. To me, Rose is more interesting than a strong female character because sometimes she’s weak, sometimes she’s hilarious, sometimes she’s violent. She’s vulgar, she’s enigmatic. To me, she’s got so many adjectives going on that you can’t compare her to any other character be it Katniss or Bella Swan or anybody. To me — this is getting a little off topic — but to me, it’s a little sexist the way we feel the need to compare every teenage heroine, which we don’t do with [male heroes]. Nobody says, “Hey, Iron Man has a better sense of humor than Wolverine” because there’s so few female heroes that we feel the need to compare them, when I think the great thing about Rose is that she’s a complete original and I think she takes all comparisons and throws them away. You can’t compare her to anyone else.
How do you hope fans will react to seeing VA on the big screen?
Dan: My philosophy from the start has been listen to the fans, respect the fans, but don’t be their b-tch. :laughs: There’s some fans that are going to want to watch a four-hour slideshow of every page in the book, wearing white gloves and holding a clipboard. Making sure every frame is exactly like the book. Those people may be a little disappointed, but I think once you get locked in the roller coaster that I’ve been very respectful of the book. I wouldn’t be adapting the book if I didn’t like the book and I think a lot of times people adapt a book and then say we’re just going to keep the title and go crazy. I think that the fans of the book will be excited and especially after the disappointment of The Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures, it proved there’s definitely a need to expand outside of the book. Which to me means the marketing may drive the fans a little crazy at times, but the fans should relax about the marketing because the actual movie is very faithful to the soul of VA. Don’t beat me up over the trailer, but if you don’t like the movie, then you can come and beat me up!
Which scene are you looking forward to seeing come together on the big screen?
Dan: I definitely think from the fans’ point of view that there’s something about the necklace scene that really captures their imagination. I think a lot of teenage girls want to be naughty girls but nice girls at the same time, so there’s nothing like a magical necklace that makes you do all this crazy stuff. Every girl can relate to that so I think that’s definitely the scene I’m looking forward to. I can tell you we’ve had some people look at the scene and I think I made the scene a little too amusing for the first take. I had it being almost comic, but I think we made it a perfect balance of sexy and weird and amusing. So I think people will be happy with that scene. Most of my favorite scene are towards the end of the book and end of the movie. So I don’t want to give too much away. But I think people will come out jazzed because of the end of the movie really works.
When you were on set, what was the dynamic like between the actors?
Dan: I think both Lucy Fry and Zoey Deutch are so much like their characters that I think it helped. Lucy and Lissa both have the magic of spirit, they both just have a gleaming spirit emanating off of them. That was great, you need it because Rose and Zoey are both a little in your face and both hilarious but sometimes hard to take. So I think they even each other out. But I was surprised by just how much work the supporting characters put into their roles like the girl who plays Mia, Sami Gayle, she was there on the first day of shooting and she had one of her biggest scenes toward the end of the book and she just brought kind of this emotion and complexity to Mia which I didn’t think was in the book and she brought it to character. People were actually crying and I think all the other on the set were like a little scared and they were like, “Okay, this girl came to play, so we all gotta up our game!” I think that was a great first day and everybody upped their game. Sarah Hyland as Natalie, you wouldn’t think there was a lot to work with, but I think if you watched the movie a second time and just watch Sarah, the little things she does in the background that’s almost it’s own second movie just doing that.
How much insight did you take from Richelle while writing the script? Were you calling her a lot?
Dan: I think it’d be dangerous to put her in the position of having to micromanage me. Especially the first draft, I just did the first draft without talking to her. Then after she read it, that’s when we talked. I think the great thing was that she read it not just as a person who created the material, but just as a fan. She just got caught up in it. The best compliment she gave me was that she forgot she had written the book. She was so caught up in the script. I think there [were] some things, like in the book Lissa literally cuts herself and in the script I made it more allegorical, more supernatural cutting that she does of herself. I thought, “Uh oh, this is going to be the first thing Richelle brings up.” But she brought it up in a good way saying, “Oh my god, that’s so much better than doing it like an ABC after-school special where they cut themselves with an actual blade,” so I was happy about that. Then I had some other crazy ideas like can Jesse be Latin? And can Rose be Japanese? That’s when she started to hit me over the head with a napkin. Once I started about changing the guys’ physical appearances, that’s when she started to get really angry, in a funny way.
People were very happy with the actor who was cast as Dimitri, Danila Kozlovsky. What were your thoughts on him?
Dan: Oh good! I mean he is such an awesome guy. Here’s the thing that I think may freak people out. He is an M-A-N, he’s a man. He is tough, super cool, but I think some of the fans want him to be cute, fake Russian, guy that they can cuddle with and our Dimitri is not a cuddler. Dimitri is a true bad-ass.
When you sat down to write the script, what scene was the most intimidating to write?
Dan: To me, intimidation is exciting. That’s what makes it interesting. I think there’s a certain scene, in a jail cell toward the end of the movie, that to me is where the supernatural elements where the thriller elements and the high school elements all come together. To me, that’s the scene that has to work or the whole movie doesn’t work. To me, it worked on the page and it really worked the way my brother directed it. Again, it’s a scene where the actors were amazing too, so I think there’s going to be some people grumbling, “How dare she use the silver stake one book early!” and “How dare the ankle scene come before the shopping scene!” But then that scene is going to heal everyone.
Vampire Academy hits theaters on February 14, 2014! Will you be checking it out? Check out the on-set pictures in the gallery below, then tell us in the comments section!