Stephen Woolley discusses the inspirations and challenges behind new vampire thriller Byzantium, which screens tomorrow [Sunday 9] at Toronto.
Veteran UK producer Stephen Woolley reteams with Neil Jordan for vampire thriller Byzantium, which has a special screening in Toronto on Sunday.
Woolley says he has long felt at ease working on films with a gothic flavour: “Having made Company of Wolves and Interview with the Vampire, I love the genre…I released The Evil Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street when I was at Palace Pictures, so I’ve always been a huge fan of the horror-gothic strain, but I haven’t made this kind of film for a while,” says Woolley, who runs Number 9 Films with his wife, producer Elizabeth Karlsen.
Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton star in Byzantium as a mother-daughter vampire duo who wreakhavoc on an unsuspecting English seaside community.
It was the unusual plot twist of female vampire protagonists that initially drew Woolley to Moira Buffini’s script: “What was most interesting to me about Moira’s source material was the mother-daughter relationship. I had never seen that portrayed strongly before in a film.”
“But the biggest challenge was financing the film,” he says. “We wanted to make something classier than most films in the genre. It needed a sense of proportion because the story spans 200 years. It was always going to be an expensive genre film.”
Instrumental to achieving that feat were the film’s primary financiers Demarest and backing from StudioCanal, which pre-bought UK rights, the Irish Film Board and the UK’s British Film Institute was also key. (WestEnd Films handles international sales, CAA and WME represent the US.)
Woolley and Karlsen are also in Toronto with their new production of Mike Newell’s Great Expectations, which gets a gala screening on Tuesday and is sold by HanWay.
“It has been the backing of the UKFC/BFI that has allowed us to work with the writers and directors we have worked with and to have been as prolific as we have been of late,” he says.
And while 2012 has already been a bumper year for Number 9, the outfit is hard at work on its next production Carol, on which Karlsen is the lead producer (HanWay also handles sales).
Phyllis Nagy has adapted the script from Patricia Highsmith’s 1950s romance novel The Price of Salt, with John Crowley directing and Mia Wasikowska and Cate Blanchett attached to star.
“We’re really concentrating on Carol now”, says Woolley. “We worked with John [Crowley] on Intermission and with Phyllis [Nagy] on Mrs. Harris. We enjoy working with people we have worked successfully with in the past.”