“We wanted to inject some new blood,” David S. Goyer said, with perhaps just a touch of irony, of “Blade: Trinity,” the third installment of the vampire-hunter trilogy that began with Stephen Norrington’s “Blade” in 1998 and continued with Guillermo Del Toro’s “Blade 2” in 2002. Goyer wrote both earlier pictures, but this time he’d taken over the directing chores as well, and he visited Dallas along with two of the picture’s stars, Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds, for a special screening (as well as to attend a big comic expo). “We just felt that since it was the third time out, we needed to do something a little different.”
Goyer added that though he admired both the previous “Blade” movies, “I didn’t try to emulate anything [in them]. Nor did Guillermo Del Toro, who directed the second one. What we did do, for the second one and the third one, was–of course, it was easier for me, because I’d written the other two–in terms of the palette, the shooting style, I just went off in my own direction. And honestly, that’s what I think the audience has liked about the movies. The second one wasn’t anything like the first one, and this one is different from the other two.”
Goyer explained, “It wasn’t a slam dunk that I was going to make a third one, much less direct a third one, because I didn’t immediately have a story that I thought the fans would like, and if I couldn’t figure out something cool, I wasn’t going to do it, because I didn’t want to let them down. Then I had the idea of sort of dropping Blade into the real world and also injecting humor into the franchise, and creating these other characters [young vampire hunters called the Night Stalkers]…and have it be more of an ensemble movie…, and I said, okay, I think this would be fun and interesting and new. So let’s do it. It was during the writing of the script that New Line [Pictures] approached me to direct it as well.”
The script, which has Blade and his new cohorts pursuing a bunch of vampires who have rejuvenated the original, 2000-year old Dracula from his slumber to lead them to victory over humankind, did represent a shift from the first two installments, which had the hero fight alone within a closed vampire world, but Goyer said the studio immediately approved it: “I turned it in, and we started production two days later. The studio had no notes at all–they just said, ‘Go!’”
Among the elements of new blood that Goyer added to the mix are Biel and Reynolds, she as Abigail Whistler, daughter of Blade’s mentor and leader of the Stalkers, and he as Hannibal King, a wise-cracking former vampire acolyte turned hunter. “I love a lot of independent films, and I like improvisation,” Goyer explained, “and so I knew that I wanted to cast people with an improvisational background. I think they infuse it with an energy you wouldn’t otherwise get.” That desire led him to hone in on Reynolds, whose previous work had been in comic roles both in film (“National Lampoon’s Van Wilder”) and on television (“Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”). It was a real change of pace for the young actor, who found the physical demands of the part a challenge.
“All said and done, it was almost eight months,” Reynolds said, “six months of shooting and two months of training. It was life-altering. You just gave up everything that you held precious before we started. You’ve got to live, breathe, sleep it. Straight action pushed me to the limit physically in a way that I’ve never been pushed before. Just transforming your body that way is really hard on the immune system.” So was working with pro wrestler Triple H, with whom Reynolds had a big fight scene and whom he called “basically the Empire State Building covered in skin. He does not know subtlety on a physical [level]. I remember that he smacked me in the head, with the back of his hand, in one scene, and I looked up and I went, ‘Ow!’ And it actually stayed in the movie! He just whacked me! I literally had a half-concussion at the end of it. But anytime you’d tell him to ease up a bit, he’d just amp it up ten percent the next time, so I just shut my mouth and took my beating.” Still, Reynolds said, “I loved playing Hannibal. He’s like a superhero that was vulnerable at the same time. There are scenes in the movie I wish I were still shooting, it was so much fun doing them.”
Goyer cast Biel after searching for “a woman that would be physically formidable and could really sell that.” He recalled that in audition, Biel emitted a scream–not of fear, but of energy–that blew him away. “That’s sort of why she got the job,” he laughed. “She just did this amazing scream. I just think that she’s really bad-ass.”
Biel said, “I had never done anything like this, not remotely. My first instinct was, why me? Why did you think of me? But I loved that Abigail was a total equal with the men she was dealing with–physically and mentally. But still she was feminine, not a masculine, scary person. She was a person of layers–she was vulnerable, she was sensitive and caring.” But Reynolds added: “She passed at first” on the part. “I did say no,” Biel admitted, “because I was thinking, ‘Blade 3’? 3? Whenever you hear that, you don’t know if that’s a smart idea. But I read the script, and I was just completely surprised by it. I thought, it’s got to be cheesy or something, and it wasn’t at all. It was funny and it was new.” She was also impressed by the cast–“such an eclectic group of people!” So she changed her mind.
The physical demands of Biel’s role were considerable too, though, she said, she didn’t suffer “anything as big as Ryan’s nail issue.” (To which Reynolds added: “Oh, she likes to bust my balls about [that]! You’re thrown halfway across a cell by a man named Triple H [and] walk away with just the odd little bump or bruise, and then just this stupid thing, something in a re-shoot we did five months later, where I jammed my nail. The dumbest injury of all time, after a movie like this. I jammed my nail and had to have it drilled. It was really ugly, and it hurt a lot!”)
“I didn’t have that life-altering or extreme happen to me,” Biel continued. “I just had my knees down to the bottom of my ankles turn black and blue from colliding with the stunt guys and cables and things…nothing serious.” Reynolds interjected: “She punched one stunt guy out, though!” Biel explained: “I did hit somebody in the face, by accident. I just gave him a chop right to the chin–an eighteen-year old kid! I really hit him in the face, that poor kid. And he said, ‘Oh, I’m fine, I’m fine.’ He turned and walked away and just went, ‘Oh!’” Reynolds interjected: “A stifled sob.”
As for their co-star Wesley Snipes, who once again plays the stern, laconic Blade, Reynolds said, “We never met Wesley. He’s a method actor, so he’s Blade on the set. I don’t know if he actually goes home and sleeps in the suit, but he certainly is very method in his acting. So…there’s absolutely no differentiation for me, although we did have dinner at the beginning of the movie, and he did smile. It made a cracking sound.”
There has been talk of a separate Night Stalker movie, and both Biel and Reynolds said they’d be interested in it (as well as contractually bound to it), but Goyer said that he wasn’t sure there would be another “Blade” installment. “I wanted this film to have some sense of completion and for the audience to feel that they’d gone on a journey, and not that this was just another chapter,” he explained. “Which is why I think it would be hard to do a fourth film after this, because I know, personally, I feel like I’ve said everything there is to say about the character. People have asked me if we would do a fourth one, and I can’t say never, but I just don’t know what that story would be. There aren’t many good sequels…and very few third movies that were good. And I can’t think of any fourth iterations that were any good. I’ve told them it’s highly unlikely I would do a fourth film. There are only so many ways you can kill a vampire. Say we win and kill all the vampires. What do you do then? I don’t know what Blade does–that’s all he knows how to do. How could you show Blade doing anything else? You just have to let the character ride off into the sunset.”
But Goyer is hopeful that good pictures based on other comic books are on the way. “There have been a lot of good comic book movies made,” he said, “but for every ‘Spider-Man 2,’ there’s going to be a ‘Catwoman,’ or there’s going to be a ‘Supergirl.’ I think the key is respecting the source material, and that the writer and the director and the producer involved genuinely love the source material. I think the ones that do a good job are ones that really love the material, not just jumping on the bandwagon. One of the reasons why you’re seeing more comic book movies now that are good is because you’ve got this whole generation of filmmakers that grew up reading Marvel Comics and DC Comics. It’s taken a while for those comic book fans to come of age so they can start to become tastemakers.” And Goyer is one of them.