David Tennant is no stranger to playing an icon. After portraying sci-fi’s most famous time traveller, Doctor Who, for half a decade, the Scottish actor knows exactly what it’s like to step into some well-worn shoes and still make them look brand new.
That skill no doubt aided Tennant while filming director Craig Gillespie’s remake of Fright Night, in which Tennant plays Las Vegas illusionist/vampire hunter Peter Vincent – a role first made famous by iconic actor Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes). Take a look at that synopsis of the Fright Night remake:
Teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) guesses that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) is a vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths. When no one he knows believes him, he enlists Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a self proclaimed vampire killer and Las Vegas magician, to help him take down Jerry.
We had a chance to speak with The Doctor Tennant bright and early in the morning, when the actor was just coming off a ‘grooming session.’ Among other things, we discussed what it’s like being challenged with stepping up and owning an already-famous character, what the new version of Peter Vincent is all about, and those long-standing rumors that the character is actually a caricature of a certain real-life illusionist:
Screen Rant: Good Morning – grooming went well?
David Tennant: (Laughs) Grooming was exceptional! I feel very groomed!
SR: Very good. Let’s start off by talking about your character in Fright Night, Peter Vincent. This is, of course, a well-known (and loved) character – can you tell us about your take on Peter Vincent?
DT: Well I wasn’t required to compete with Roddy McDowall – who we all know enjoys legendary status quite rightly – because the Peter Vincent in this version is radically relocated both geographically and spiritually from the original one. He fills the same hole in the movie, but he comes from a very different place. He’s a Las Vegas illusionist whereas Roddy McDowall was a late-night horror show host, which I guess don’t really exist anymore, so one of [screenwriter] Marti Noxon’s first tasks was to find a modern-day equivalent for that. So she looked at those illusionists who use Gothic imagery and vampire motifs, which gave her an in for somebody who might know a bit more about the subject [of vampires] and who might perhaps even have some history with the subject that might prove useful to Charlie Brewster when he needs a bit of help.
While lounging around his West End dressing room waiting to go on-stage to perform in Much Ado About Nothing, former timelord Tennant, talked Total Film through how he’s been keeping busy since stepping away from the Tardis.
First up he’s starring as a tight-trousered Las Vegas illusionist in the 3D update of Fright Night, then he’ll lend his voice to Aardman’s latest The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (released 28 March 2012).
“What a joy to be part of that. You feel a little bit of a cheat to take any credit for it, but really the stars of this film are the animators. What they can make a piece of plasticine is quite remarkable.”
“The other day I did my last session on the film and they brought the little model of [my character] Darwin down so I have shaken hands the plasticine me – which was strangely thrilling.”
Also strangely thrilling is Tennant’s next film project which he hopes to start work on by the end of the year. But he’s sworn to secrecy on details:
“It will be something entirely new to me – the process will be something I’ve never done before. That’s exciting and a little bit scary – and I’ve already said too much!”