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SAN DIEGO -- In a year of one No. 1 comic-book movie after another, there might just be one more.

Sony Pictures -- which has already scored with Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3 -- is releasing 30 Days of Night, based on the IDW Publishing comic book, on Oct. 14.

The film was part of Sony's recent presentation at Comic-Con International, and the studio also conducted a small press conference with stars Josh Hartnett and Ben Foster, director David Slade, producer Sam Raimi and the comic's creators, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.

Following is an edited transcription.

Question: Can you talk about the genesis of this project and what makes this movie different from other vampire movies?

Raimi: Well, I think it started with Ben Templesmith's and Steve Niles' great graphic book. The visuals that Templesmith provided for me were strikingly original and terrifying. I love the original take on the vampires that he illustrated.

Also, just the sense of -- the use of the long shot. I don't know if they're called that in comic books. But the way he showed cold and ice and the frozen overlook of the environment was shockingly, you know, gripping in the visuals.

But then our writer Steve Niles, did a great job in that graphic book. I was very enamoured of the two characters, the main characters. But also the vampires and the fact that he'd bothered to create a very rich mythology for them. I really liked learning about them. I was hungry to know more and basically the situation he came up with. Which should have been come up with writers a hundred years ago, a hundred times every year. It's so obvious, once a great writer comes up with something like that.

But to make it take place in Barrow, Alaska, maybe the northernmost American city where nightfall is just such a long period of time and have vampires come to this place with characters I really care about, Eben and Stella. And it's cut off and it's iced over. Just the combination of all those things, for me made it something that I really wanted to to see in a picture.

Question: What attracted you into playing the main character?

Hartnett: Well, I read the graphic novel at the exact same time as I read the script. And I spoke to David on the phone not too long after that and then really the biggest sell for me was the people involved. I went and saw Hard Candy and I have never really been -- and I'm going to get shot for saying this, but I've never really read a lot of comic books. So like this -- I'm sorry.

Question: It's OK.

Hartnett: Okay. But I flipped through this one and saw that there was a, you know, the visuals were astounding and I thought with the combination of David and those original visuals, it was going to be a spectacular-looking film. And I also thought there was room for a good character in there.

I mean, the script as written was great. I mean, it had all the elements of a really interesting, thoughtful film about what it would be like to be stuck in a situation where you have no escape and you're being hunted. And the idea of being hunted and not being able to just go out and kick some ass, I thought was different from, you know, most of your average action films or suspense films or horror films.

I thought it was just going to be kind of a nice -- add a nice touch of maybe Treasure of the Sierra Madre or, you know, like a Mutiny on the Bounty sort of thing. You're in conflict the entire time and there's no kind of logical way of getting out of it.

So I just thought it would be a really cool film and then all the people involved. And then we got an amazing cast together, David pulled together an incredible cast with Ben and Danny Houston and Melissa (George). Just seemed like the right thing to do.

Also actually the biggest thing, and I don't even know if I told you this David, but the thing that really turned me onto the project more than anything was, David came up to Minnesota where I'm from and we sat at this bar/bowling alley that I've been going to since I was a kid. And we sat there, we talked for about an hour and he had his little digital camera. He had a Leica digital camera, he was very proud of it,in a little metal case. And he took a few pictures, he took a few pictures with it and he sent to me via e-mail and I didn't recognize the place. Because he'd graded it in such a way and he he fooled around with it and manipulated it to the point where the whole place -- it was the middle of a bright sunny summer day -- and it looked haunted. It looked. And I was like this guy has got the right mentality for this film. I'm looking forward to it.

Question: Steve, as creator of this project, you handed your baby over to Hollywood, you're putting it in somebody else's hands. Some people take the approach where a comic is a comic and film is separate and have nothing to do with it. Some people want to be really involved. What's your process?

Niles: Well, for me, you know, they took me onto -- they gave me first shot at the screenplay. So I got to that and then it's been great. Ever since then, every single person from Sam, to David, the producers, everybody has kept me in the loop throughout the entire process. It's been absolutely amazing. I felt really attached to it. Pretty much since I met David, I knew I was in good hands. So I just trust him and just they've kept me updated the entire time. It's been pretty amazing.

Templesmith: I was the complete opposite. I would treat it as, there is the film and then there is the comic, and I didn't want to get my hopes up so that they could be dashed if it turned out to be different. But then I went to the set and saw what they were doing, and David was so faithful to all the aspects that I thought made the comic what it was. That it is literally almost, not -- within reason, the same thing. It is so faithfully done. The level of detail he's done is extraordinary. So he turned a somewhat skeptical, you know, like I'll treat that as something separate from what I'm doing to, wow, this is me on film virtually.

Slade: I'll just chime in at this point, you know, from my point of view as a filmmaker. First of all, I was handed such a fantastic premise. As Sam said, something that should have been thought of a hundred years ago and then of course now here it is. But one of the most amazing things of this premise is that what we're talking about is, we're vampires, we're the real thing. We hide behind the myth of the vampire. So that's fantastic for me because I can make these vampires anything I want them to be. I can make them very realistic and this is what we wanted to do. Yet at the same time, the schism was, okay to make this a horror film and a very scary one, which I believe we succeeded in doing, you can't go into the realms of fantasy.

So this was the biggest schism because, of course, Ben's illustrations were so fantastic and we wanted to hang onto that. So there was this really kind of difficult kind of balancing act where we were taking this fantastic template and, you know, some of the details that Ben is talking about is literally reproducing fabrics on dresses to look like the fabrics that were drawn, to the look of a particular character who had a tattoo on her head, t-shirt designs. Finding ways, using the sacrifice of cats and magic to make vampires look the way that Ben drew them. Which is not really possible, you know, with traditional prosthetics and the things that you use.

And so such rich source material, but yet my ambition was to make a truly terrifying film. And of course those are the two things that had to meet. The fantastic fantasy, beautifully drawn thing and the gritty, real, terrifying thing.

Niles: And that was something, you know, when Ben and I were doing the comic, I think we were both really aware of is that vampires aren't scary anymore. They hang out with you, you know, teenage girls date them on TV now. (laughs) They're just, you know, they're not scary. We've made them too human.

So we had to strip away all that, and the idea of a creature that looks very much like us, that looks at us like cattle, like food, and that is it. That was something me and Ben really wanted to do. Make actual frightening vampires again. And then, that worked in the comic, especially with his designs and then you take that film.

Question: In vampire movies there is normally a sexual tension between the characters, is there that kind of tension in this movie being that vampires are very erotic?

Slade: These ones aren't. They don't say a little (Arthur) Rimbaud poem and then take you home. No, they just jump and rip off and eat and feed.

Because, you know, one of the things I didn't want to do was rely on the supernatural. Because supernatural isn't scary. What we wanted to do was say, well look, if this is the reality of this, if there is a race of whatever these things are that are vampires, that live, that have to live nocturnally, that feed on blood, yes they would use all of these things to their advantage and absolutely not would they be any of these things. Any of these, you know, Anne Rice putting, you know, things that -- no disrespect to that because that's a whole different genre. I don't really see this film almost as a vampire film in that sense. Because, yes, the only thing that it has going for it within those genres, is that it's none of those things.

So, you know, I mean one of my goals again, was like, you know, when I first saw Max Schreck, I'm like, oh my God and that was scary. Now of course it's camp and it's funny and it's strange now. But we wanted to come in and we wanted to say, well listen, we want the audience to have the same reaction. To say OK, we've seen vampires but these don't look like the vampires we've seen before, and Ben created a fantastic template with the shark like teeth, the black dead eyes and it was up to us to figure out how to do that and make it real and convincing.

Question: When you were shooting this, what role does geography play in creating the mood of the comic book?

Hartnett I was actually going to touch on that point just for a quick second. It's like something that also drew me to the story that I thought was fantastic is that it deals with the idea that vampires have become this mythological beast and they're not really, you know, they're not really taken seriously as a horror entity.

It deals with that in the way that they've maintained their mystery, the way that they've maintained their mystery is by doing things like this. By staging it as though it's an accident so they don't ever get hunted. Well they have to be asleep during the day or well they have to be out of the sunlight. They will go to a town or do go to a town, cut it off completely, you know, slaughter everybody involved. No witnesses and make it look like a.. you know, so they can keep doing this for awhile. Because it's the way they've operated forever and it's a different take on the whole situation.

Niles: It's really kind of cool just do a Google search for "arctic circle disappearances." You will get thousands. So there's actually, you know, there's something there.

Question: Getting back to the location, how did you set about to recreate the comic. You shot this movie in New Zealand?

Slade: We shot it in New Zealand. You know we obviously -- something in Alaska, of course you go to New Zealand, obvious thing to do. You know, because you can't get to Australia, it's too far and Tasmania's too small.

But they do have mountains. We did shoot -- I remember you almost -- you know, trudging for hours on end through the snow and you -- and on the top of a mountain, all of us getting altitude sickness and suddenly being hit with a whiteout.

So we shot on the south islands where they have beautiful snow fields, you know, to spend some time using magic to make some of the mountains disappear, to give it an Alaskan feel. We shot in backlot stages that we built using, you know, some fake snow and such. But with the use of, you know, drama, really, and great character acting, created this sense of isolation which... Yes metaphorically, yes they're in the middle of nowhere. Yes we have these wide matte paintings which are showing that this town is in the middle of absolutely nowhere. But really, you know, the location is kind of an adjunct to the performances, which is, as Josh was saying earlier, this kind of rats in the cage mentality of -- it becomes a survival film after awhile.

Not only is it minus-10 outside, not only if you go out you're gong to freeze to death. Not only are you running out of food, but there's also creatures that are going to kill you and eat you. You haven't got much chance. So you're stuck.

And so, you know, in terms of the question about tension, yes this is where tension came to play. The tension between the characters, the tension between actors and this I hope brings a sense of reality to the film, an older class of horror movie where, you know, performance and acting is hugely influential, not just gore and effects. Very few effects actually in this film.

Question: This is for Josh and Ben, can you each talk about your characters and what attracted you to -- if not a vampire movie -- then a scary movie?

Foster: I have a great vampire fetish, so when I was going through a comic store and saw 30 Days of Night, I guess two years ago, I bought it immediately and ended up buying several copies for friends. And it was just something that, just really turned me on. And I've known David for a few years now and he gave me a shout and said, "You know I think I'm thinking of making a vampire film." I said, "Great, fantastic, what is it?" He says, "30 Days of Night." I was like, "Wonderful. What can I do for you?"

And so we met in a coffee shop and in Hollywood and- he said, "I'm not going to sell you anything, I'm just going to show you." As he does, he sends pictures, etc. This man never stops making things. He's making photographs or stickers or T-shirts and designs and short films. Constantly creating -- I think he would explode if he didn't have that outlet.

And we're in this coffee shop and he opens up his laptop and he shows me some brief footage of camera tests that he did on the vampires. And being somebody who's spent a great amount of time watching films and reading books and comics and dressing up as vampires for Halloween for years, it was startling how different these vampires looked. And we didn't even talk about a character at first. I was just in, I'm in, I'm in, I'm in.

Slade: And I wouldn't let you be a vampire.

Foster: And he wouldn't let me be a vampire! And I could only want to be a vampire in this fiml.

Hartnett: Virtually the same reasons. I've always liked horror films, I've always liked vampire films. But I never -- I guess I never really found -- that I haven't found the right combination of people that were involved in a film like this since, you know, I worked with Robert Rodriguez on Faculty. For me it was all about David and Sam and the book and just the right elements and I thought it would make a really interesting film. I just thought it would be a lot of fun to be a part of.

But I have no vampire fetish I guess. So I guess I'm not as committed.

Foster: No lack of commitment. Josh did a hell of a performance and it's a tricky genre to be able to hand in a leading-man role, surrounded by vampires. This is not an easy task and he hands in a fantastic, very haunted character. This is not your usual kick ass leading man. This is a tortured soul surviving a very difficult and terrifying scenario.

Hartnett: Don't play it up too much. (laughs)

Foster: You'll get into the vampire thing after it comes out.

Slade: People will say, "Oh well the vampires are -- you know." But yes it is technically a vampire film, but it's technically a survival film too and I think you'll invest as much in the performance and the actors as you will in the monsters. That said, the monsters are truly fantastic. Danny Huston, who's absent at the moment...

Hartnett:Danny is amazing.

Slade: Danny is astonishing. I want to quote Sam because after the first screening, you said you thought it was your favorite vampire performance you'd seen in quite some time.

Raimi: Yeah I've never seen a better one.

Slade: His favorite vampire performance there is. So and...

Raimi: I mean, I loved Willem Dafoe, his completely direction in -- his Nosferatu, but on side -- on par with that. Those are my two favorites.

Slade:Danny really -- we'll talk about him in his absence just in a positive way because Danny really -- we created a language for him to -- he took that language, he made it his own. He had to wear contact lenses and teeth and nails. He went andendured that, he rehearsed in that stuff. He took that stuff to his hotel with him and would wear it and scare the shit out of the people in the hotel rooms.

So he would totally -- yeah and we were shooting like about a month of nights or something? At least a month of nights and, you know, it just -- it was more than 30 days. It was about fifty days of shite, for 30 Days of Night and yes, as you were saying, it's a very difficult thing to pull off the leading man thing. But also to play a convincing monster with depth and integrity, equally as daunting. I mean to me, I'm just thankful I got Josh and I got Danny because, you know, they both brought those things to the table that are difficult and there's no denying that.

Question: Do you find it difficult these days to find horror material because of the Asian horror movies. Is it difficult to find good material?

Raimi: Well I love reading books and comic books so I wouldn't say it was difficult for me. It's rare that you come across a great, great graphic novel in the field of horror. I never have before. So I guess it's incredibly rare. But I wouldn't use the word dificult because I so enjoy reading it. It was wonderfully refreshing and thrilling to come across Steve Niles' and Ben's 30 Days of Night.

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