It's The Matrix versus vampires; the trilogy begins now! Timur Bekmambetov on Night Watch
If you haven't heard already, The Russians Are Coming! And they're invading the big screen. Russian writer and director, Timur Bekmambetov, is bringing his Night Watch trilogy to America.
The series is about a war between two sides the Light and the Dark, better known as Night Watch and Day Watch. In the first film, Night Watch, hundreds of years of peace between the two groups has passed, but another war has grown imminent. In present-day Russia, it's up to one small group to save the world.
I was recently able to watch the first of the three films, and was beyond extremely impressed. Some of the special effects in this movie are out of this world. I would probably go as far as to say ‘it's Matrix on crack!' And I even got a sneak peak at the second film in the series, Day Watch! Once again, it proves to be a special effects haven!
I had the chance to speak with Timur Bekmambetov about the film, and what he's working on next. You can tell he's so excited about this franchise. Here's what he talked about:
Where did you first come up with the concept of the trilogy and the story?
Timur Bekmambetov: They just came to me; it's my culture, it's my world. It's just what I am feeling; I would try to explain what was happening, but I'm not sure if that is right. It's a unique background, if you live in Russia, it comes with terror. It was just a fantasy world, and we know how to produce that fantasy world.
So do you believe in that kind of world the afterlife and fantasy?
Timur Bekmambetov: Yes, I believe that everything we are telling is real.
What do you think is the appeal of these movies for the Russian people?
Timur Bekmambetov: We made this movie for the Russian people; it was a goal, it was a task for us. It's a thing about our audience, and that's why it's so specific. It has unique story elements, and unique visual elements because the Russian people will feel it and understand it properly. And we expected to have success in Russia, but it's surprisingly how it's done here (in the States).
So what was that decision to bring this movie over here to the US?
Timur Bekmambetov: I think the best way to be interesting, I think the only way to be interesting is to talk to yourself. I think what's happened and why it's interesting to you is because it's an interesting question, but I don't know why. I can just imagine why, but this movie is a reflection of America. Just look in the mirror, and reflect it on the culture of this country in the last 40 years, hundred years. And we made a movie with a lot of references from your culture.
That's so true, so did you know when you were making this film that you were going to bring it over to America?
Timur Bekmambetov: No, we did everything for a Russian audience, but we didn't expect this.
The opening sequence of the battle is very interesting with the special effects, and it sucks the audience into the story.
Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah, in Russia, during the 90's, I produced and directed a commercial for Russia's biggest bank Imperial Bank. There were 17 commercials, kind of short stories, of kings and queens, the Royal people, and we made all kinds of stories about the Imperial people; we shot a story in central Asia, in Europe, everywhere around the world. We shot 1-minute short movies about that time, the gothic times, and I liked it.
As far as the casting, where did you find the young boy?
Timur Bekmambetov: As usual, in a school; we had a lot of candidates for this role, and he was the one for this role. Out of 1000 children, we found a boy who was representative of a new generation of Russian people. He's a result of the cultural everything excites him. During the shooting and filming of the movie, he was playing on the computer, Spiderman; he was crazy. This new generation has grown up on American movies and American games. And when he's asking his mother about vampires, she thinks he's joking, but that's her world.
As a new actor, was it hard for him to get used to being on the set?
Timur Bekmambetov: No, because the other actors support him, and when you have that, you're in an ideal world. He's a kid, and everyone plays to him as a kid. Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is a great Russian actor; the other actors helped him to do this. They created this, they played with him, they helped him, and I think it was a great school for him. And also, he likes it, he created a lot of ideas; he's interesting.
And he's coming back for Day Watch?
Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah, but I think it's just the usual process because he's become a star.
So how is Day watch coming along?
Timur Bekmambetov: Day Watch is great! It's done twice the amount of money in Russia, almost $35 million during the month; it's an event!
And you're bringing it over here to the States soon?
Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah, I have a print; I think it's coming in the summer, the people from FOX know. I think it'll be soon, because I think it'll be reasonable to release it after Night Watch.
After Day Watch, what are you working on?
Timur Bekmambetov: We are developing the third part of the trilogy (Dusk Watch) for FOX, and I hope it will be soon. We are discussing the script now.
Are you working on anything outside of this series of films?
Timur Bekmambetov: As usual, I have 100 projects at the same time. I have a lot of plans, but I don't know what's going to happen. There's a Universal project based on the comic book, Wanted, and a space project; I just don't know what would be first or second. Everything depends on Night Watch, how people accept it; I don't know how they will accept it, or not.
Who were your influences growing up in the movie world that made you want to get into this business?
Timur Bekmambetov: Oh, I can't give you a first or second in this line, but a lot of directors and a lot of movies. First, I think most is based on the Russian traditions, Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky and these directors were very important to me from the beginning. And then when American movies started coming to Russia, we were watching videos of all these Blade Runner, Polanski movies, Star Wars. It was a new breed, and what's interesting is you could have a criminal record if someone found these videos, if you have an American movie; some people would even go to prison for that. I like different movies; I like Polanski, I like Cameron, I like Kubrick, I like the Scott brothers Ridley and Tony. For me, it's just one world; I can not separate them.
What do you want Americans to know about this series?
Timur Bekmambetov: It's a new message that comes from Russia, and I think it'll be important for them to listen to what we're talking about. I think it'll be important, because I think it's interesting.
This is definitely a movie you don't want to miss!!
Night Watch opens in limited cities on February 17th, nationwide starting on March 3rd; it's rated R.