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Silent bite, unholy fright

23 December 2006   |   Written by Benji Wilson

What is it about Marc Warren and playing evil characters?

It’s the eyes. There’s something about Marc Warren’s stare that’s a little unsettling. The nation’s casting directors have noticed it too – Warren can make a strong claim to be Britain’s scariest performer, with a CV that includes roles as a gang rapist (in Men Only), a skinhead (Boston Sickout) and a hooligan (Green Street). So it should come as no surprise that this Christmas he’ll be spreading his own particular brand of good cheer by playing profoundly unpleasant characters not once, but twice.

He appears as the assassin Teatime in Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather on Sky One while on BBC1 he follows in the fang marks of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman with his portrayal of the poster-boy of horror, Count Dracula. At times, Stewart Harcourt’s new version drastically reworks Bram Stoker’s classic tale, making it far more erotic, gory and hard-hitting than most previous incarnations. Warren stars opposite Sophia Myles (Thunderbirds) as Lucy, the frustrated wife of Holmwood (The Line of Beauty’s Dan Stevens), an aristocrat who can’t consummate their marriage because he has syphilis. In trying to arrange a blood transfusion for himself, Holmwood brings Dracula into his home – with gruesome results.

We’re promised a scary, intelligent chiller that’s ideal for a dark winter’s night. “I think I’m feasting on a n old whore tonight,” Warren tells RT from the West Country shoot. Among other scenes being filmed is one where he’s buried in a coffin. And if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, Warren himself came up with the idea of filling the coffin with insects. “I suggested beetles, millipedes, and the odd worm. I think I might have some maggots in my mouth. My only request was no spiders. So the special effects people turned up today … with nothing by spiders”.

Warren may be likeably sardonic, but there’s no mistaking an underlying relish for the dark side. He has a picture of himself in full Drac regalia on his mobile, and he’s taken to playing a version of the Bauhaus goth-rock classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead before he goes on set. And don’t get him started on his fangs. “I’ve got two sets of teeth – the everyday ones and then I’ve got my feasting and ‘throating’ ones.” He pops out for a moment, returning to flash his fangs with a maniacal hiss. He claims the tech have been a bit of a hit. “Girls like them. Actually, I think girls quite like vampires. There’s something appealing about them, they’re sort of naughty and sexy.”

As if to prove the point, he adds: “The first scene I did was with Sophia and I suggest we should do it naked. She was great with it. I just got on and sort of devoured her. We really went for it with the blood. Blood everywhere. She was basically drinking it.”

Not your usual period drama. As Myles says: “Don’t eat your dinner before you watch it.”