‘Priest’ star Paul Bettany wanted less talk, more action

Posted May 13, 2011, at 12:16 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Vampires have been portrayed as hunky, angst-filled beautiful people in so many TV shows and movies over the past 10 years, they’ve lost a little of their bite. That changes with “Priest,” the feature based on the graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung that opens today.

There’ll be no Team Edward for these blood drinkers. The vamps in this post-apocalyptic action thriller are so bad the last pockets of humans have to live in walled cities just to survive. A short period of calm after the Vampire War is broken when the niece (Lily Collins) of a legendary vampire fighter (Paul Bettany) is kidnapped.

That leads Bettany to brutal battles with vampires.

“I was getting paid to run around and kill vampires and every day was a great day, even days where I got damaged,” Bettany says. “It just felt like a boyhood fantasy coming true.”

Bettany’s acting career has been a blend of action movies, such as “Legion” and “The Da Vinci Code,” with the more cerebral roles in “The Young Victoria” and “Creation.”

To make sure he could focus all of his energy on the vampire fighting, Bettany went through the script and cut out every line of dialogue he felt wasn’t needed.

“It often happens in scripts — because they’re written by writers — that often the man of few words is written loads of dialogue. I love words but the whole point is that this character is a man who doesn’t say much. Everyone else does the talking and I grunt and kill vampires,” Bettany says.

The vampire warrior is joined on his quiet quest by his niece’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), a wasteland sheriff, and a former warrior priestess (Maggie Q).

Gigandet, who played James in the definitive vampire angst film “Twilight,” wasn’t familiar with Hyung’s series when he was cast.

“We all sat down with the graphic novel and put it side-by-side with the script. You have your visuals right there. It gave us the feel and the vibe of the story even before we started filming,” Gigandet says.

What he found out was that unlike Bettany or Maggie Q, he didn’t have to be a good fighter. His character tends to get beaten up a lot in the books and in the film.

And he gets beat up by nasty vampires who don’t sparkle in the sunlight.

“All I have to say is these vampires could kick sparkling vampires in the a—,” Gigandet says.

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