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Vamping it up

Screen takes a look at exclusive footage of Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, showcased during day two of FrightFest.

Not content with showing one piece of exclusive footage - the full-length SXSW trailer for horror anthology The ABCs Of Death - FrightFest day two also treated its audience to world exclusive footage of Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, set to premiere at Toronto next month.

Introducing the footage, writer Moira Buffini stated that the film goes “right back to the roots when vampires moved through society just like everyone else,” and prompted the biggest response by adding: “and they weren’t glittery”.

The highly promising footage showed Gemma Arterton as Clara Webb, towing a perfect line between alluring and dangerous, as she talks to her daughter’s teacher about her past. Flicking back to some gorgeously composed shots of Clara - including a striking one of her bathing under a waterfall running with blood - as she rescues her daughter (Saoirse Ronan) from danger, the footage ends with Clara sinking her teeth into the teacher as he now knew too much.

It certainly seems set to deliver on producer Stephen Woolley’s belief that “it is still possible to subvert the [vampire] genre,” a belief that was raised in him when he saw Buffini’s play A Vampire Story in Bristol which Byzantium is adapted from. “[It showed me] there can still be great stories that you can write around the theme of immortality and love.”

For Buffini, having working with Arterton on Tamara Drewe which Buffini scripted, it was clear who should play lead vampire Clara. “Knowing her, I just knew she’d be fantastic for this role. I mentioned her really early on to Stephen and Neil, and when Neil met her, I think he was of the same opinion that she was, and is indeed, fantastic in this role.”

Woolley added: “We were blessed with Gemma and Saoirse in these roles. They’re both perfectly cast and amazing actors.”

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