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Hopefully Depp won't disappoint his fans in the new Dark Shadows, which comes out May 11th, because he may be the most famous actor to take on the role of a vampire. Considering what it takes to pull off a true vampire legend, the man has big shoes to fill.
Besides the obvious (Jonathan Frid), the following list of actors have set the bar very high as vampires.
The Vampire (1913) was technically the cinema's first introduction to bloodsuckers, but the silent film Nosferatu (1922) starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok is considered by many to be the original vampire movie. The story was a ripoff of Bram Stoker's Dracula, as director F.W. Murnau could not secure the official rights, but his film used more Transylvanian folklore and is actually credited with the idea that vampires cannot bear sunlight. Fact: Willem Defoe starred as Max Schreck in the 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire.
It took a full decade before Stoker's Dracula was officially adapted, and Bela Lugosi played the Count in the aptly named Dracula (1931). The actor turned a legendary performance with a slow, calculated delivery, and was perhaps the first vampire to bring a certain sex appeal to the silver screen. Fact: Belosi was chosen after the original Count, Lon Chaney, passed away in 1930. Lon Chaney Jr. went on to play the role of the count several years later.
Lon Chaney Jr.
Lon Chaney Jr. was the only actor to have played all four classic movie monsters. He was the titular character in the following films: The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy's Tomb (1942), and Son of Dracula (1943). As the Count's son, he was the only vampire in the film industry to display great physical strength, until Christopher Lee came along. Fact: Chaney was also the first vampire in film history to have an on-screen man-to-bat transformation.
Christopher Lee is considered by many to be the greatest vampire actor of all time. He has played the most famous vampire, Count Dracula, a total of 10 times, between 1958 and well, present day. If you count voice work, he will add the 11th notch this year as "Movie Dracula" in Tim Burton's upcoming Frankenweenie. He is famous for his deep basso voice, but it's mostly the 6'5" frame that makes Lee one of the most terrifying vampires of all time. Fact: You can link Lee to to anyone in Hollywood in an average of 2.59 steps, much less than Kevin Bacon, and the lowest average of any actor.
Kiefer cut his partying teeth with the "Brat Pack" after filming The Lost Boys (1987) with the crew. As a vampire punk named David, the leader of a teenage gang that terrorizes the boardwalk, Sutherland was a natural at being freaky. Keep in mind that his nemesis in the film, Jason Patric, took Julia Roberts off to Europe 3 days before she was supposed to wed our boy Kiefer in 1991. Knowing that now, their final battle (the video at left) is especially dramatic. Fact: Kiefer is featured as David on the cover of The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead.
Tom Cruise & Brad Pitt
Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire was begging for an adaption, and in 1994, these were the best men for the job. Superstars like Cruise and Pitt usually only do one monster role like this in their entire career. Johnny Depp will do the same this year in Dark Shadows, but he actually turned down the role of Lestat, which Tom Cruise took. Tom Cruise then proceede to watch videos of lions attacking zebras to prepare for his role. Fact: Brad Pitt was supposedly "uncomfortable" during the entire production.
Okay, so maybe he is only a half-vampire "Daywalker", but at the turn of the century, Snipes became the first high-tech, ultra-violent, and bad ass vampire in Blade (1998), the first of a trilogy. The film's body count of 88, when compared to it's vampire blockbuster predecessors Interview with the Vampire (26) and The Lost Boys (13), shows how far the vampire genre has been taken since Bela Lugosi was creeping into ladies' windows. Fact: LL Cool J was originally considered for the role.
Give this man credit where it's due. The Twilight "Saga" is the most lucrative vampire franchise of all time, which might make his character the most famous vampire ever. Yes, he sparkles, but get this: nobody hates Twilight more than Robbert Pattinson himself. After filming, the actor had this to say about playing Edward Cullen, "..the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that's how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself." Fact: Cedric Diggory could beat up Edward Cullen.