(Editor’s note: this interview was conducted prior to the current SAG-AFTRA strike.)
When lifelong monster kid David Dastmalchian took on the role of First Mate for Universal's The Last Voyage of the Demeter, he was understandably ecstatic. A dream come true for a fan born and raised on Universal Monsters. Not only is Demeter a Dracula movie, it's a Universal Studios Dracula movie which Dastmalchian is quick to point out with reverence, and that carries quite a bit of weight. Comic book creator, Chainsaw Awards host extraordinaire and connoisseur of the macabre, David Dastmalchian joined us to talk about what we can expect from this more animalistic Dracula (brought to life by Javier Botet), the horror of not knowing how to defeat a monster, and a fang-to-fang showdown for the ultimate Dracula of all time. A Dracula bracket. A "Dracket" if you will. Enjoy!
FANGORIA: When I was a kid, I tried to create a Monster Squad, and I made little handwritten zines. I would quiz people, "What are all the ways to kill a vampire? How do you kill a werewolf?" That was my version of a Monster Kid Club.
David Dastmalchian: Which was the motivator for me when I was writing Count Crowley, because I love that everybody thinks they know how to kill a monster. Even your most seasoned horror vet — if you and I were trapped in a house and I was like, "Angel, vampires are coming." And you're like, "Don't worry, I got this. Give me the wooden broom. Get me a sharpening tool." And then I say, "But they've lied..." That's horrifying to me, that you think you know how to defeat the evil, and you don't.
Just like in real life, sometimes we're up against these crazy people who are so insanely evil in the world, and we're like, "Oh, I know how we'll defeat them with the law." Oh, that didn't work. "Oh, how about integrity, honesty, trying to reach their humanity?" That doesn't work.
So, needless to say, the world is still a horror show, and that's why it's important that we make monster movies, and I'm grateful to be a part of making the first, in my opinion, absolutely scary Dracula film to come along in a very, very, very long time. You know what a huge fan I am of Dracula and the history of Dracula and Bram Stoker and all that stuff. We've talked about it before, but the fact that I'm a part of not only a Dracula movie, but a Universal Pictures Dracula movie, and the fact that it's going to be in cinemas and that people are going to get to go and be on the ship, the Demeter, which I've always dreamt of telling that story.
What's great about the film and the way that Andre put the ensemble together is it's this very international mix of people who sound different, look different. There are communication barriers, cultural barriers, there's all this stuff, but we're stuck together. And we're either going to start to communicate and work together, or we're going to let our egos get in the way, and we're going to let all this toxic BS get in the way, and then Dracula feeds upon that. Now, because it's a horror movie and because it's called The Last Voyage of the Demeter, I'll let the audience go ahead and guess what choices we make. But I love that. I think it's so cool.
FANGORIA: I don't have high hopes for you in this one, my friend.
DD: Have you seen my resume? If you look at my characters, how many of them proportionally live? If you were in Vegas and you were like, "Okay, we're going to a Dave Dastmalchian movie. What are the odds that he makes it to the final credits?" I wouldn't bet on me.
FANGORIA: Anyone who knows anything about you, even peripherally, knows you are a true blue monster kid, born and raised. And not only is it a Dracula movie, like you said, but it's a Universal Dracula movie.
DD: It's insane. I'll show you something really quick. Here's my certificate of authenticity from the Warren Publishing Company for this vial of dirt from Dracula's Castle, which is contained in a coffin amulet.
This was a gift from my dear friend, Jeremy Miller, which I then re-gifted to André Øvredal when we were about to start filming because as much as I'm a science-based guy, much more like Clement's Corey Hawkins character in The Last Voyage of the Demeter — I'm still superstitious. And I'm still ready at any given time for lycanthropy to be proven real or whatever. So, having some Dracula dirt on the boat with us was pretty cool.
FANGORIA: That is amazing. I love that little tidbit. I'm all for science as well, but also, I don't fuck with things I don't know about. So, I don't know if I would say superstitious, but I'm not a fuck around and find out type. I'm like, "Let's just leave that and respect it over there."
DD: I'm a mix. It depends on the day of the week. It depends on where my anxiety levels are, how much therapy I've been doing. But there are certain days I'm like, "Ooh, what do you think is behind that door?" And my wife is like, "No, why would you even... Why?"
FANGORIA: You're a horror fan. You know better, David, come on.
DD: And then there's the part of me that's the first one that knows, "Oh, I'm getting the hell out of here." But truly, Angel, FANGORIA and Universal, and Dracula all combined into a movie that I get to be a part of, it's such an insanely scary vision of Dracula. I can't wait for all the people out there who think they know their opinions about Dracula or a Dracula movie, who were raised on maybe a different version of the vampire mythology, to see this. A lot of the moviegoers now are going to be people whose exposure was mostly through the cooler, slicker, sexier kind of vampires. And now, they're ready for a different take on the mythology. And André and the writers showed up at the perfect time to present this because it's genuinely time to make Dracula scary again.
FANGORIA: Hell yeah. While we're on the topic of different Draculas, let's do a quick little Dracula showdown, a Dracula bracket. A "Dracket," if you will. So Fang to Fang, toe to toe, who would win... Lugosi versus Lee?
DD: God, that's really a tough question. I'm going to go with Christopher Lee, only because the savagery that his Dracula demonstrates. There are certain films where he's just much more savagely vicious. But God, I love Bela.
FANGORIA: That's a mean question.
DD: That's like saying, "Who will win in a fistfight? your dad or your grandpa?" I don't want to watch my dad beat up my grandpa. Come on, Angel. That's depressing.
FANGORIA: I'm sorry.
DD: Go ahead. Next question. I got it.
FANGORIA: All right. Lee versus Oldman.
DD: Oh, Christopher Lee. Gary Oldman's awesome, he's so great, and it's such a sexy, cool take. What a wonderful emotional, dramatic, almost Shakespearean Dracula. But no, Christopher Lee's is so much more unhinged and, for lack of a better term, evil.
FANGORIA: Yeah, one hundred percent. Although I do love Oldman as well, but these are all horrible questions because I wouldn't be able to pick. All right, Christopher Lee versus Max Schreck?
DD: I'm still going to go with Christopher Lee, even though what Max Schreck did and what I think we're doing with The Last Voyage of the Demeter is the more bestial, animalistic, terrifying type. But Schreck is bringing to life the Dracula from Bram Stoker when Dracula's very, very old and withered and so hungry. And so, he's a little slower and a little less able. Christopher Lee's got swagger. He was in the prime of his physical form when he brought that role to life. And man, he's so good. He's so good.
FANGORIA: Swag, swag, swag, swag, swag.
DD: Yeah, yeah. You go ahead, I want to see any anymore you've got, because I think you've left one off the list.
FANGORIA: All right. Our last one, Christopher Lee versus Javier Botet?
DD: Well, here we go. The time has come.
FANGORIA: The time has come.
DD: It's time for a new era. And this is the movie Creed, right? Now it's time to dethrone Rocky. Javier's Dracula is so much more powerful. If anyone out there knows or loves cats the way I do, I love cats so much, and I think they're the most incredible animals. But there's something so fucked up about when they catch a mouse and the way they play with their food that you go, "There's something just a little twisted in their primal natures."
Javier, with André's guidance, of course, brings to life a Dracula who gets off almost or gets more nourishment, it seems, out of a blood that's pumping higher. Dracula could just walk into the galley one day and have a buffet if he so chose. But the fact that he seems to get this illicit pleasure out of toying with his food is so dark, gross and scary. It adds to this level of dread for those of us who are trying to battle him. I love it.
I will say, a name that oft is overlooked and who I think is just a phenomenal Dracula. And there are several others that we've left off the list, including the Spanish language Dracula, Carlos Villarías. That was shot at the same time that they were making Universal's Dracula. That is a film that needs to be watched.
If you haven't seen it and you are a horror fan, trust me. And the conditions under which they were making that film, overnight while the Bela and Tod Browning version was being filmed —incredible. But I would point to Jack Palance. His Dracula is the version of the abusive, codependent, toxic relationship embodiment of Dracula that is so volatile and scary. You think, "Oh, Jack Palance, Curly's Gold.", and all that stuff. But his Dracula, it's a tour de force, and it's rarely seen. I hope that it gets a resurrection at some point. But yeah. Yeah, Javier all the way. And I hope he sees this interview. We'll make sure and get it to him.
Check out our full video interview with David Dastmalchian below. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is now in theaters, read more from David and Demeter's DraculaJavier Botet in our current issue, FANGORIA Volume 2 Issue #20.