When you are taking on the production of one of the most popular anime series ever, Blood: The Last Vampire, there is understandably some pressure. The animated film is a cult classic and has been deemed one of the greatest anime projects of all-time. Luckily for the live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire they have Bill Kong attached to it.
Kong earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero is another great film he was behind, so fans of Blood should be excited to see where Kong takes this version. We talked with Kong about what fans can expect from the new Blood, the pressure he feels to please the fans and why people are infatuated with the vampire mystique.
Adam Sweeney: What got you interested in doing a live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire?
Bill Kong: I saw the original animated version of Blood in 2002. I think the original forty-eight minute version really attracted me. I was attracted to the character and the action, It was so well made. I thought it was the perfect vehicle to make into a live-action film.
Obviously the action sequences will be amazing. You’re known for that. What do you think will separate Blood from other vampire films right now?
I think what’s different is that vampire movies rarely have this much action. Most have more suspense but there’s never been a vampire movie with so much action. Normally you only need a certain amount of time to make a film like this but we spent six months. Some people ask, ‘Why six months?’ Well every scene, the action scenes took a month and a half for each one, so that makes a big difference. I think nobody has ever seen a vampire movie like this with this much action.
I was watching some of the behind the scenes clips and it looked like Gianna Jun took quite a beating. She seemed to do well with it. She has a nice acting pedigree. What made you choose her to play Saya?
First, we needed to find an Asian girl that had a charismatic grace that would attract an audience. Second, she needed to speak good English and it was very important for her to be able to handle the action scenes. I had worked with her before so I knew she was popular and had a pretty face, but one day I showed her the anime and asked her if she wanted to take on the challenge of learning English and spending months to prepare for action sequences. After 24 hours she called me and said, ‘I saw the anime last night. I liked it and I want to do it.’ I was so happy that the anime attracted her. She spent so much time for the movie.
You have to respect her for taking on the challenge. Did you feel pressure to please the rabid fan base that Blood has?
Yes, we do. We’re fans also so we feel the need to make them happy. We’re big fans too. When I showed the film to Mamoru Oshii, he was so happy that the film was true to the original. I never expected that we could be so faithful to the original. Yes, we feel pressure to the fan base.
What do you think it is about vampires that brings this continued ability for fans to gravitate to their story? It’s interesting.
I don’t know why either. I love vampire movies because they never stop. People like the idea of the vampire. It’s about the imagination and there is a great creative power behind the idea of the vampire. They can’t be stopped.
True. You had a lot of say in choosing the cast for the film. Was it easier to do on this film than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because of the source material or was it more of a challenge?
We had a great variety of people to choose. We got lucky to cast Alison Miller or Liam Cunningham, for example. There’s a lot of great English speaking actors but in a Chinese film it can be difficult.
I think it’s cool that you’re taking an unconventional route, which Blood did originally by doing English translation and then putting a subtitle over it. Does that make it more accessible in the U.S.?
Yes, it does. People in the U.S. have apprehension about reading subtitles.
Right. I have heard a ton of my friends say they have hesitation.
Crouching Tiger was successful in Chinese and it was very successful in America. But we did a survey of people who watched Crouching Tiger and ninety-five percent of Americans chose the English language over subtitles on the DVD.
So they would rather hear it in English. But there are many places in the world where people don’t mind subtitles.
I always think without it that you run the risk of losing something in the translation. What do you want fans to take from this adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire?
We spent a lot of time and effort in making a special vampire story. I think when people watch the anime that they want to see Saya fight more and show us more action. We are giving that to the public. I hope people do enjoy the fights. Gianna Jun trained very hard to do it and we spent a lot of effort to make it happen.
The original had a unique spin on it and I think you’re doing a good job of taking it to a new level. Thanks a ton for the interview, Bill.
Blood: The Last Vampire is out today in limited release. If it’s not in your area, check out the anime version at your local video rental store. You won’t regret it.