Benjamin Walker

While most young actors in Hollywood fear being typecast as just another pretty face attached to a set of washboard abs, 29-year-old Benjamin Walker has managed to find a very specific niche. “I play weird presidents,” jokes the Cartersville, Georgia, native. “I’ll probably be doing a hip-hop version of Taft next.” After turning heads with supporting roles in Kinsey (2004) and Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Walker made an even bigger splash—literally—on Broadway playing the singing-and-dancing title role in the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a part that required him to perform in a puddle of blood on a nightly basis as a cutthroat rock-star version of the seventh U.S. president. This summer, Walker once again assumes a presidential role—this time as an ax-wielding, vampire-slaughtering Abraham Lincoln in director Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a gothy revisionist fantasy that shows Lincoln abolishing not only slavery but world-destroying vampirism as well. In order to play the great statesman, Walker got a crash course in obscure Lincolnian history and weapons training. “There were over 400 axes on the set,” he recalls, “though mine were often made of rubber so I wouldn’t kill the stuntmen when I accidentally hit them on the head.” Ax-wielding proved just one of the unexpected educational opportunities on set. “To play Lincoln when he’s older, I’d be in the makeup chair for eight hours,” Walker says. “During that time, I watched every film that I was ever supposed to have seen. I worked my way through Kurosawa’s entire body of work while turning into Abraham Lincoln.” While Walker is refreshingly humble about his blooming acting career (he’s currently shooting Stephen Frears’ Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight opposite Christopher Plummer), he also remains committed to the other great creative love of his life: stand-up comedy. “I’ve been doing stand-up since I was studying at Julliard,” he says. “Technically, you weren’t supposed to perform in public while you were studying there, but I would go out and do open mike nights.”