SDCC: What this slayer Priest has to say to Twilight vamps

Legion director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany are reuniting for another film, Priest, based on the TokyoPop Korean manga, which will begin shooting before Legion has even finished post-production.

"It's pretty scary," Bettany said in a group interview over the weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego. "We start on August 23rd. It's loosely based on a graphic novel, and, in fact, I believe the graphic novel and the makers of our movie are going to sort of meld the worlds."

For the film version, Stewart is crossing genres as diverse as western and science fiction. "It's part Searchers, part Blade Runner, part war movie," Stewart said in a separate group interview. "There is religion in it, but it's an alternate reality. It's not our reality. It iconically looks like a western, but it's not a period western at all. They have futuristic motorcycles and all sorts of bitchin' cool stuff."

Bettany will play a priest-cum-vampire hunter. "He's from a sect of sort of warrior priests that have been formed to kill vampires," Bettany said. "However, they find a political solution with the vampires, and he isn't needed anymore. But if you are really good at fighting, it's hard not to practice something that you're good at."

The vampires of Priest may be an answer to the Twilight/True Blood emo-sensitive brand. Stewart even provides an alternate mythology so there can be no confusion. "Our vampires are a Darwinian divergence from man," Stewart said. "They are not people. It's very biological. There are creatures in our world that are photosensitive and feed on the blood of mammals and sometimes maybe don't even have eyes because they live in darkness. There's only one nod in the film to the sexy vampire, but he's a very unique character in this world."

Bettany made both Legion and Priest as an experiment to try his hand at action heroes. He'd played supporting roles in actioners such as A Knight's Tale and Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.

"Last year was a fulfilling year," Bettany said. "I got to fulfill those shoot-'em-up childhood fantasy movies. I used to sit in on Sundays and watch the old Errol Flynn movies, and suddenly you're on wires, doing flips, and you look like Bruce Lee in 10 minutes. It's a lot of what my sort of initial falling in love with films as a kid was about, action. I wasn't watching Bergman films when I first started watching movies. So I'm really excited about that. It's a lot of fun to sort of come back to [the genre]. It really was like being a kid again, and I'm getting ready to start again on this film."

As for the double duty Stewart has to do, prepping and shooting Priest while finalizing the release prints for Legion, Stewart considers it a high-class problem. "We call it a champagne problem," Stewart said. "I'm very lucky. I don't sleep a lot, but now's the time."

Legion opens Jan. 22, 2010.

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