"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" author speaks out
(CBS News) It may be one of the strangest, most imaginative movie pitches ever: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The movie based on the combination of history and horror fantasy opens in theaters Friday.
CBS News recently sat down with the young, ambitious writer who came up with the idea.
Author, screenwriter and producer Seth Grahame-Smith said that the premise is completely ridiculous. He affirmed - in case you were wondering that, to the best of his knowledge, "Abraham Lincoln...did not, in fact, fight vampires."
He called the story - first a New York Times best-seller - "an absolutely sort of muscular - ridiculous - bad-ass ride."
Before he was the new Hollywood "it" kid, Grahame-Smith was a no-name writer with a long list of little-known credits. "I'm considered an overnight success, and I spent 11 years in a one-bedroom apartment writing things day and night that nobody would read," Grahame-Smith said.
His first hit came in 2009: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" - a mash-up of the Jane Austen classic with cannibalism. This year, his latest hit is "Unholy Night," a subversive re-casting of the three wise men as thieves.
In between, there was "Lincoln."
"I think that Abraham Lincoln, the real man, was, in a lot of ways, the only American superhero," Grahame-Smith said. "It's the ultimate sort of American dream story. No education, no money, no family name. And yet, he's able to pull himself up and, not only become the president of the United States, but then unite the United States."
Grahame-Smith knew his screenplay would not be a critical darling - it has been met with less than glowing reviews - but he says at least it's not boilerplate. He said, "The way I see it, whatever else it is, it's a huge summer movie that is, for a change, not a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, a remake, based on a toy, a video game, or a board game. And that's where I come in and make my case of, like, 'Hey, let's do something strange. Let's do something offbeat, a little daring. Let's get back to doing cool genre films.'"
Grahame-Smith's current genre - the historical recreation - is one he's energized. He just doesn't want it to define him. He explained, "I frankly don't want to become a parody of myself, you know? By the time, you know, if I'm wring Peter the Great - Ape Hunter or something, I mean you know, which would probably make a pretty good book now that I think of it."
Grahame-Smith freely acknowledges the pressure. His first screenplay this spring's "Dark Shadows" starring Johnny Depp fell flat - even in 3D.
"It largely didn't work," Grahame-Smith said. "You know, I guess financially and critically it was, you know - I'm proud of the movie. But you can't live and die with each thing, but you feel it you know? And my concern with 'Lincoln' is that people don't quite know what to make of it, just based on the title. If people really like it, great. If they don't, then you just move on and try to do better next time."
Grahame-Smith currently has more than a dozen projects in development, including producing the Stephen King classic "It."
Grahame-Smith called King "one of the most underrated writers of the 20th and 21st century." "He's among the most prolific and I think talented writers of our generation, of our time," he said. "I'm frankly not that good a writer. But I, you know, I want to write the stories that I want to write."
When asked about his comment that he's not a good writer - considering how many books he's sold, Grahame-Smith said, "I have to think of myself like that because, I tell people, if you don't wince when you read something that you wrote two years ago, then you've got a problem because it means you've stopped growing."
That's certainly not the case with Grahame-Smith. If anything, his ambition is expanding.
He said, "First, I was just in shock that I was invited to the party, you know? Then you're happy that you're invited to the party. And then now I'm in the phase where I'm, like, 'OK, well, what am I gonna do here at the party?'"
Watch "CBS This Morning" special correspondent Jeff Glor's full interview with Grahame-Smith in the video above.The interview was conducted at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library. For more information about Lincoln, you can take part in their free program about the 16th president called Emancipating Lincoln.
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