Ambassador Vexed At Hollywood's British Vampires

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The vampire romance The Twilight Saga: New Moon was No. 1 at the movie box office over the weekend. It's not just tween girls who are paying attention. Vampire flicks are having an impact on trans-Atlantic relations. Britain's ambassador to the U.S. Sir Nigel Sheinwald tells Renee Montagne he takes issue with so many British actors playing what he calls "the unholy ranks of the silver screen's undead."

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

If you're alive or even undead, you'll be wondering this morning if �Twilight: New Moon� opened big. And I'm here to tell you, yes, $140 million over three days. And not just tween girls are paying attention. On his blog, Britain's ambassador to the United States is having some fun with the descendants of Count Dracula. Sir Nigel Sheinwald contemplates why so many British actors are cast among the unholy ranks of the silver screen's undead. We wondered as well.

Sir NIGEL SHEINWALD (Ambassador, Great Britain): In many cases, the vampires are obvious and real, but the fact that they're British isn't. And in the �Twilight: New Moon� this weekend we saw not just one but two British vampires, the leading vampire, Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson, and the king of the vampires, played by none other than Michael Sheen, who in recent years has also played Tony Blair and David Frost. The HBO series �True Blood,� the vampire Bill Compton is played by Stephen Moyer, another Brit, but successfully, I think, posing as an American vampire.

MONTAGNE: Yes, so that would - we do have to touch on that. Rob Pattinson does have an American accent. And also - so does Bill Compton, although, his is, you know, Louisiana drawl, sort of.

Sir SHEINWALD: Exactly.

MONTAGNE: So it couldn't be just the English accents. You also think�

Sir SHEINWALD: It can't just be that. I don't know what it is. I mean, we think of ourselves as pretty honest and straightforward people. But there's a long tradition of Brits playing sort of sinister characters in American films. And I think in this area, the area of vampires, maybe it's, you know, it's something about our weather and our pasty faces, our pallid complexions. Maybe that's got something to do with it, which is playing through in a rather subtle way here.

MONTAGNE: Right. I mean, I hate to say this, but, you know, pasty complexions, it just screams vampire.

Sir SHEINWALD: It does. Maybe the deadpan humor. Does that have anything to do with it? I don't know.

(Soundbite of laugher)

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, as an ambassador, the Hollywood may seem a little outside your area, but you do make the point in the blog that while it may seem like a certain amount of puff here, it is indeed a serious concern when it comes to your cultural portfolio.

Sir SHEINWALD: No, it does. And, you know, and that is a part of the work of the British ambassador. There's a huge cultural flow backwards and forwards between the United States and the whole of Europe, but certainly very important in that is the UK, and it's two-way.

You know, we have Kevin Spacey running one of our top theaters. Recently in Washington we've had Helen Mirren, we've had Ian McKellen both in town. In New York, you've got Jude Law playing in �Hamlet.�

There's a huge amount of cross fertilization between the arts worlds of the two countries. That's gone on for a long, long time. And I'm interested that there's a British role in vampires, as there's a British role in blogging.

MONTAGNE: And, you know, as you also conclude in this particular blog entry - and you're not shy about the puns - in terms of the culture, the stakes may be high is how you put it.

Sir SHEINWALD: I conclude, I think, by saying that - I think I ask the question whether I and my colleagues at the embassy are, you know, are confident of our continued trans-Atlantic success in this area and other areas of our cultural life. And I conclude by saying that the stakes are indeed high, but you can definitely count on it. And they may be an example of very, very bad British deadpan humor.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Well, it's very charming as - listening to it from you. So thank you very much for joining us.

Sir SHEINWALD: It's a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald spoke from London about his latest blog entry titled �A Bloody Good Show.�

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