Welcome to the YA Movie Countdown, our resident expert’s continuing guide to young-adult book-to-film adaptations.
The time has finally come! The book-to-film adaptation of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is just days away and in honor of the big debut, we got the chance to sit down with the film’s stars to discuss the highlights of bringing the Moroi/Dhampir world to life. But before we get the details on the double dose of Oscar the cat, an excess of macaroons and thoughts about Frostbite, here’s a little Vampire Academy 101 for those playing catch-up.
What Is Vampire Academy About?
The narrative hones in on a society broken up into three species: benevolent vampires called Moroi, undead and immortal vampires called Strigoi, and half-Moroi/half-humans called Dhampirs. The Strigoi are cruel and sadistic, targeting Moroi because by drinking their blood, they become far stronger and faster. Moroi, on the other hand, drink blood from willing feeders, humans that volunteer to keep the Moroi nourished. Trouble is, human blood doesn’t have the same effect as Moroi blood. However, the Moroi do have an ability that the Strigoi do not – they can specialize in an element. For example, a Moroi with the ability to specialize in fire, like Christian Ozera, can manipulate the element at will, even as a weapon if necessary.
As for the Dhampirs, the only way to create a baby Dhampirs is for a Dhampir woman to have a child with a Moroi man. Dhampirs cannot have Dhampir babies with another Dhampir or with a human, so in order to sustain their kind, Dhampirs must stick with the Moroi and protect them from the Strigoi threat.
Now meet Zoey Deutch’s Rose and Lucy Fry’s Lissa. They both attend St. Vladimir’s Academy, but Rose is a Dhampir and Lucy is a Moroi, so they’ve got different curriculums. While Lissa strives to specialize in an element, Rose is busy training to fight as her guardian. On top of studying to become functional members of this society, both girls are also forced to deal with a number of familiar high school scenarios head-on, like crushes, bullying and more.
Zoey and Lucy: One is the daughter of Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch, and the other has starred in two Australian TV shows, but while neither Zoey Deutch nor Lucy Fry are industry novices, Vampire Academy certainly marks one enormous step forward for both of them. For the first time in their careers, they’re carrying a feature film. Having seen the film, I can assure you both Deutch and Fry deserved this opportunity and there were no better actresses to bring Rose and Lissa to screen. Just in time for the February 7 release, Movies.com got the chance to sit down with both stars to get a sense of what it took to adapt Vampire Academy and adapt it right. Catch the highlights of the conversations below.
Beefing up Rose’s past in order to make the transition from book to screen. “I did more work on her growing up… just literally a notebook and making up her history and specific stories that happened with a guy she liked in third grade or what her favorite food was when she was younger and now she hates because her taste buds changed. You know, like really stupid, mundane things that just sometimes help you when you don’t even know that they’re going to.” – Zoey Deutch
Life would be so much easier if only we were all as quick with those one-liners as Rose. “One of the things that really stood out to me was the fact that when I’m in situations where someone’s mean to me or does something that throws me off, I always wish I could come up with these great responses, and then I think of them later. I loved all of Rose’s one-liners.” – Zoey Deutch
Nailing the tone was vital for Vampire Academy. “The most important part of this movie is that the tone stayed consistent because that’s what I was most worried about. When you read the script, the humor and the dialogue is so broad and so wordy that if it were to step back in certain scenes, if it were to get a little nervous, like if [director] Mark [Waters] had trepidations about some of the interactions because it felt too ridiculous, the movie would not have worked. You would feel like you’re seeing six different movies. It needed to be specifically that way, so all those crazy lines that you’re like, ‘Where did [writer] Dan [Waters] come up with that?’ That’s in that world and for me as a teenager, a lot of those things I totally would say. I took out some things here and there, but for the most part, we stayed pretty true to Dan’s words.” – Zoey Deutch
“You never ever ever come to the director with a problem unless you have a solution. They don’t have to take it. And I think that’s something in life, too. I wish I could actually listen to my own advice, but for the most part, especially on set, that’s a huge thing for me; I don’t ever go, ‘This is wrong.’ I go, ‘How would I fix it?’ Because otherwise you’re just creating more of an issue.” – Zoey Deutch
Watching playback… on the director’s monitor! “When you’re shooting, a director’s behind the monitor, which is the direct feed from what the cameras are shooting. And so the director has his director’s chair and he’s behind the monitor. With most directors you do not watch playback. That’s unheard of. And you certainly don’t watch it at his monitor. You go to the playback guy, which is funny because our playback guy’s name was Guy. And Mark was so respectful of me because he knew I was very nervous about a lot of the dialogue and a lot of the fight scenes and just the tone in general, so he let me watch anything and everything I wanted in his chair all the time, and I had to kind of try to subtly tell the actors who had never done anything before, ‘This isn’t not normal.’ [Laughs] ‘Don’t do this on another set. You will literally get fired immediately!’ But he was so lovely and collaborative and helpful for me, but also very firm in his ideas. He didn’t budge. He was never mean, but he didn’t budge. If he wanted something, he wanted something and that was the way it was gonna be, and that’s what you need in a director.” – Zoey Deutch
Mark Waters’ favorite performance note for Lucy. “A lot of the time it was faster. He loves everything to be really fast and witty, and he’s got such a great eye for comedy. He knows how things play so whenever he would have a note about the way that something should be said, I knew that he would have it exactly right because with Mean Girls, the comedy’s just amazing.” – Lucy Fry
If Mia is the Regina George of Vampire Academy, that makes Lissa the Cady Heron, right? “Yeah, that’s true! It’s true because there is that phase where Lissa tries to stick up for herself and tries to protect Rose by playing the power game. And of course she starts off with good intentions, but then she’s actually got her own powers that start to pull her apart so I guess it’s Cady with really dangerous powers involved. [Laughs]” – Lucy Fry
The magic of the “f**k pass.” “[Mark] did it with another actor. It’s called a ‘F**k Pass.’ It’s where you say the line with ‘f**k’ every other word, just to get it out of your system and he said he did that with a lot of the dialogue in Mean Girls. But I definitely interrogated him all the time about Lindsay Lohan. [Laughs]” – Zoey Deutch
Lissa and Rose are best buddies in the movie and so are Lucy and Zoey in real life. “I guess the great thing about us is that our friendship is a really good balance of energy in that it’s very much like Rose and Lissa. Zoey’s so protective of me and really bold and says exactly what she thinks and I can be a little bit quieter. With her I just feel really safe to just be myself and I don’t have to push anything out there, and that worked really well with us on set. We just naturally fell into a similar relationship to Rose and Lissa, which made it really easy.” – Lucy Fry
Going to the gym vs. martial arts. “Anything in the gym I hated. [Laughs] All the boxing, all the martial arts, that was fantastic because I actually felt as if I was gaining information – it’s hard to learn something when you’re not interested in it, especially it’s hard to retain information when you’re not interested in it. That’s the basic rule of school. I was just so much more invested in the martial arts stuff. That was awesome. And also I was going through a lot of stuff during that time with a person that was really awful to me and my trainer printed out a picture of her and put it on the punching bag, which was hilarious – and useful, I might add!” – Zoey Deutch
Playing Lissa wasn’t just about getting inside the character’s head. Fry trained physically for the role, too. “The tragedy of Lissa’s past and losing both her parents was something that I wasn’t familiar with thankfully, so I did a lot of physical theater training before we started filming to feel just sort of where it sits in her body. I guess my background is very physical. I trained with a physical theater company called Zen Zen Zo and so rather than doing a lot of physiological development I did more training with this coach and felt where it manifests in her body and her body language. For me it was kind of like a closing off in the chest and that sort of comes across in Lissa being a little bit more reserved and shy and then I guess when she starts to use her powers to take over the power then those toxins get released which kind of make everything go a bit crazy.” – Lucy Fry
How to convince an audience that you’re having the life sucked out of you. “Again, the physical theater training really helped for that scene. I think they would have done makeup, not the bright cheeks and everything, but I really felt pretty awful after all that because I was really holding my breath and doing all of that and the training that I did before was a lot about how to get to really extreme physical places and then let them go.” – Lucy Fry
How to sell compulsion and a psychic bond on camera. “The scenes where I’m doing compulsion or something, I’m looking straight down the lens, which was always a bit weird. And also when it was from my perspective, like Rose in my head, I would kind of be behind the camera saying the lines so the other person could be looking into the camera.” – Lucy Fry
While shooting Rose’s half of “Lissa-vision,” Deutch essentially had to react to something, but with no visual references. “Yeah it was hard and I appreciate that. Also most of the stuff Lucy hadn’t shot yet, the stuff that I was supposed to be seeing, so that was difficult. What was more difficult was the physical stuff that I was supposed to be reacting to that I didn’t know how she was going to do it. And that’s not my place to decide. It has to be consistent, it has to be similar. It worked out, but I was definitely nervous about that.” – Zoey Deutch
Oscar the cat gets a meatier role in the movie and Fry was thrilled about the additional cuddle time. “It was the sweetest, sweetest thing, Sydney. It was just the cuddliest cat. There were two cats actually that were playing Oscar. One of them was the one that was really well trained and knew how to stay and walk and everything, and then there was the one that just loved being cuddled and most of the scenes we were doing cuddling scenes so I got to just snuggle this cat the whole time and it was so good for me because I’d been missing my dog a lot and it’s like animal therapy. It just feels so much better. Every day that Oscar was needed I was just so happy.” – Lucy Fry
1 Vampire bite = many, many different shots. “What we would do is go in for the bite without the fangs and then put them in for a second shot so that between the going in and then the fangs being there, you just do the CGI of them growing. And then when you go out from the bite you don’t have them in, so you can be on the skin and then they put the blood where the bite’s meant to be.” – Lucy Fry
48 very important macaroons. “I would make Mark let me have more props. He doesn’t like props and I don’t understand that. I wanted her to have things to do [while] coming from places and stuff, which was something I wasn’t allowed to fight with him about. I’ll never forget, we got into an argument because – it was one of the only ones I actually won – I was like, ‘I haven’t eaten anything in the movie, not the entire movie!’ And he was like, ‘That’s your problem,’ or whatever he said. No, he didn’t say that. He probably came up with a great argument because he’s amazing at debating. And so I said, ‘Okay, here we are in this scene, the party scene, let’s just have this person come by with a tray of macaroons and I’ll pick one up and eat it!’ And he was like, ‘Fine!’ So I got to eat the macaroon. That was my victory of the entire film, that one rose macaroon that I ate like 48 times, so it was my own damn fault.” – Zoey Deutch
How to prep so that if Frostbite gets a green light, Zoey is ready to go. “I actually would say do less training because I lost too much weight. I was a vegetarian for seven years; I had to start eating meat while I was training because I was rapidly losing so much weight and I couldn’t keep it up while shooting so actually the only thing I would say is train less for the next one. I know that sounds ridiculous, but that’s how I feel.” – Zoey Deutch
Is Lucy ready for Frostbite’s unprecedented threesome? “Well, I like that it’s from Rose’s perspective and that she gets out of there before anything too intense happens. I guess I haven’t ever done that before so it would take a lot of courage, but, you know, if we get to do a second film, then I would just be so excited for the film and you do what you’ve gotta do.” – Lucy Fry
Can Zoey ski? “[Laughs] No! Oh, I have an awful skiing story that I’m not gonna tell now, but no, I can’t ski! I’m the worst skier pretty much.” – Zoey Deutch
RAPID FIRE Q&A
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