In this modern monster tale of Dracula’s loyal servant, Emmy nominee Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men franchise) stars as Renfield, the tortured aide to history’s most narcissistic boss, Dracula (Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage). Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased. But now, after centuries of servitude, Renfield is ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of The Prince of Darkness. If only he can figure out how to end his codependency.
Evil doesn’t span eternity without a little help.
In this modern monster tale of Dracula’s loyal servant, Emmy nominee NICHOLAS HOULT (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Great) stars as Renfield, the tortured aide to history’s most narcissistic boss, Dracula (Oscar® winner NICOLAS CAGE). Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased. But now, after centuries of servitude, Renfield is ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of The Prince of Darkness. If only he can figure out how to end his codependency.
Renfield is directed by Emmy winner CHRIS McKAY (The Tomorrow War, The LEGO Batman Movie) from a screen story by The Walking Dead and Invincible creator ROBERT KIRKMAN and a screenplay by RYAN RIDLEY (Ghosted series, Rick & Morty series).
The film also stars Golden Globe winner AWKWAFINA (The Farewell, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings), Emmy winner BEN SCHWARTZ (Sonic, The Afterparty), ADRIAN MARTINEZ (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Focus), BRANDON SCOTT JONES (Ghosts, The Other Two) and Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO (House of Saddam, House of Sand and Fog).
Renfield is a Skybound/Giant Wildcat production, produced by CHRIS McKAY, SAMANTHA NISENBOIM (co-producers, The Tomorrow War), BRYAN FURST (Daybreakers), SEAN FURST (Daybreakers), ROBERT KIRKMAN and DAVID ALPERT p.g.a. (The Walking Dead, Invincible). The executive producer is TODD LEWIS (unit production manager, Jason Bourne).
The film’s director for photography is MITCHELL AMUNDSEN (Now You See Me) and the production designer is ALEC HAMMOND (The Divergent Series: Insurgent). Renfield’s editors are Emmy nominee ZENE BAKER ace (Thor: Ragnarok), RYAN FOLSEY (The Addams Family 2) and Emmy nominee GIANCARLO GANZIANO (South Park). The film’s costume designer is LISA LOVAAS (Transformers: The Last Knight) and the music is by Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee MARCO BELTRAMI (The Hurt Locker, A Quiet Place franchise).
Sometimes, your boss can be a real monster. In the case of R.M. Renfield, he’s literally working for one of the most famous monsters of all time.
A wildly inventive take on vampire mythology, Renfield stars Nicholas Hoult as the sad, perennially abused henchman of Dracula (Nicolas Cage) who, after dutifully serving his exploitative master for decades, is in the grips of a full-blown everlasting-life crisis. Renfield is unwilling to do Dracula’s bidding any longer but has no idea how to strike out on his own. That all changes when he meets New Orleans cop Rebecca (Awkwafina), a principled officer with some unresolved anger issues, who is determined to bring down the city’s most powerful crime family, led by Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son Tedward (Ben Schwartz). Inspired by Rebecca’s willingness to stand up for what’s right, Renfield begins to imagine a brighter future for himself, one where he might escape the drudgery of his nightly existence and enjoy walking among the living once more.
The inspired premise was the brainchild of prolific writer-producer Robert Kirkman, best known as the creator of the long-running hit television series The Walking Dead and the hit animated series Invincible. “Robert thought about the idea of deviating from the conventional Dracula story, which tells either the Dracula origin or what happened to Dracula after a certain event,” says producer David Alpert, Kirkman’s partner in Skybound Entertainment. “Robert posed the question, ‘What if we told the Dracula story from someone in his orbit?’”
Renfield was an obvious candidate. The character had originated in the pages of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula, published in 1897, as an inmate at an English asylum who consumes flies, spiders, birds and other creatures to gain their “life-force” and attain a kind of immortality. He also appeared in director Tod Browning’s 1931 film adaptation of that legendary novel, which starred Bela Lugosi as the aristocratic vampire and Dwight Frye as the disturbed Renfield. Decades later, musician and actor Tom Waits took on the role in Francis Ford Coppola’s sweeping Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which featured Gary Oldman as the mythic vampire.
Excited to place the familiar at the center of his own narrative, Kirkman wrote a treatment for Renfield that focused on the toxic dynamic between Dracula and Renfield, beautifully blending black comedy with gleefully over-the-top horror movie mayhem. “We looked at what the ultimate codependent relationship is, which is the relationship between Renfield and the ultimate narcissist, Dracula,” Alpert says. “The second the story is put in those pop-psychology terms, people look at it and they laugh.”
Given Kirkman’s demanding schedule, however, he, Alpert and the film’s other producers, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst, quickly realized they would need to find another screenwriter to fully flesh out the script. In December of 2018, Kirkman reached out to writer Ryan Ridley, pitching his idea, and Ridley responded immediately. “I thought, ‘This is exactly the kind of movie I want to write,’” Ridley says. “I had been looking to write a blockbuster genre comedy action movie for a while. Suddenly, it was served up on a silver platter by Robert.”
Ridley spun movie gold from Kirkman’s keenly entertaining concept, rooted in Renfield’s very messy personal journey toward redemption. But the film required a director who could ingeniously navigate this material to maximize both the humor and the horror. Director Chris McKay was at the top of the list.
McKay’s comedic sensibility was a pitch-perfect match for the material, which also nicely dovetailed with McKay’s own longtime interests as a lifelong horror fan. “Ryan Ridley’s script was a lot fun, and it didn’t take itself too seriously,” McKay says. “It was bonkers and over-the-top, yet I felt for Renfield. It seemed like a great way to get into a Dracula movie. Also, I’m a huge Basil Gogos fan. He painted many Universal monsters like Wolfman, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula for Famous Monsters magazine and others. They were garishly lit and incredibly saturated color-wise, and I always wanted to do a movie that felt the way those paintings looked... this seemed like an opportunity to make that vision a reality.”
Producer Samantha Nisenboim saw the potential in the project and the emotional truth at the heart of it. “Renfield thinks that he isn’t somebody unless he is with Dracula, that Dracula defines him and gives his world meaning and gives him some sort of power,” Nisenboim says. “Over the course of this film, he has a chance to find himself, and it’s just very easy to root for somebody to find themselves and to embrace themselves and to realize that they are enough. I think we’re all very hard on ourselves day-to-day. The idea that, ‘I am enough,’ is a great message.”
Early in the process, McKay had an ingenious idea about how Renfield might open—by compositing the new movie’s Renfield and Dracula into classic Universal vampire films, beginning with Browning’s black-and-white Dracula. “We needed some backstory on their relationship, and I wanted a shout out to the original Dracula and Bela Lugosi,” McKay says. “What better way to connect the backstory of our hero’s relationship to Dracula than to place him directly in the original 1931 Dracula film? We shot a lot more than what ended up in the final film. Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult did almost all of the lines from the initial meeting between Lugosi and Dwight Frye. The actors— and the VFX team—did an incredible job recreating those classic moments from Dracula.”
After more than a century of servitude, Renfield longs to be away from all-powerful Dracula, but the vampire has no intention of allowing Renfield to walk free. It’s a situation that’s left Renfield feeling largely hopeless and unhappy. The role is portrayed by Emmy nominee Nicholas Hoult. “Nick Hoult was an actor I've always really liked,” director Chris McKay says. “I was so excited that he said yes because honestly there would be no movie without him. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met. Just throws himself into everything. And he’s so smart and funny. Nick has no ego and just wants to have fun. He’s super thoughtful about the script and the characters. He’s the best fucking partner to have on a movie.”
Hoult immediately zeroed in on Renfield’s emotional core. “Renfield’s just exhausted with the prospect of continuing to do Dracula’s dirty work,” Hoult says. “He’s worn down, beaten down and looking for an escape or some sort of spark to return to his normal life and what he misses. It’s a toxic relationship between Renfield and Dracula—they’ve been together for so long and they really know how to push each other’s buttons and work against each other.”
Renfield’s finally finds the motivation to break away from the toxic relationship with Dracula (Nicolas Cage) when he meets New Orleans police office Rebecca (Awkwafina). Renfield is inspired by Rebecca’s fearlessness and her strong moral compass, so he tentatively begins to try to shake off his festering malaise in the hopes of leaving his past behind and rejoining the world of the living. It’s a difficult undertaking that requires coming to terms with some difficult truths…and consuming a whole lot of creepy crawlies.
For the filmmakers, Hoult’s range and inherent charm made him the ideal candidate to play Renfield. “There are a lot of ‘barriers to entry’ to falling in love with Renfield, who eats bugs and murders people,” producer Bryan Furst says. “Yet Nick is so endearing and appealing that he really lets the audience love him despite what outwardly would seem like disqualifying, despicable behavior.”
Hoult is one of the most consistently versatile actors of his generation, starring in such large-scale genre-inflected blockbusters as X-Men: Days of Future Past and Mad Max: Fury Road and indie gems like the offbeat zombie romance Warm Bodies and, more recently, the horror-satire The Menu. His versatility is most visible in his Emmy nominated role in The Great, in which he plays the spoiled, narcissistic, sociopathic (but oddly endearing) man-child Russian Emperor, Peter. The duality that Hoult embraces in that role, of being both lovable and repugnant, is as fearless as it is rare, and it made him the ideal artist to play Renfield.
To prepare to play Renfield, Hoult read Stoker’s Dracula and watched the 1931 film to see what elements he might borrow from Dwight Frye’s mesmerizing performance. “I stole what I could,” Hoult says. “I tried to pepper in little nods to what came before, even though, obviously, the tone of this is very much a comedy-action film and a modern interpretation of the character. It gave me a lot of freedom to do what I want with the role as well.”
Hoult also underwent extensive fight training so he could more easily perform the stunt work the part required. What he couldn’t necessarily prepare for was the number of bugs he would need to consume. Fortunately for Hoult, most of them were made from confectionary by the props department, though he did consume various flavors of dried crickets and at least one real insect. “They made caramel cockroaches, so I didn’t have to eat real ones,” Hoult says. “I would not recommend the potato bugs,” Hoult says. “They were very buggy in flavor.”
Few actors commit to a role the way Academy Award®-winner Nicolas Cage does, and his outsized presence made him an obvious choice to take on the iconic role of Dracula. Not to mention, he had previously embraced his inner bloodsucker very early in his career, for the 1988 cult favorite Vampire’s Kiss.
When Cage first read the Renfield script, he was impressed with the originality of the premise. “I thought this was a new way of going about it and that it would give us a chance to play with a tone that I really admired ever since I saw American Werewolf in London,” Cage says. “If you can hit that bullseye of comedy and horror, you’ve got something quite special and quite delicious.”
From the beginning, Cage was fully committed to embodying the Prince of Darkness and enriched the filmmaking process from day one. “Right away Nick started working on the character and the voice,” Chris McKay says “We had a Zoom with him early on where he was doing the lines, improvising a few things and doing the voice. He’s an awesome actor and just an inspiration to be around.”
Cage’s own relationship with the character of Dracula extends to his earliest childhood days, when his father, August Coppola, would project black-and-white 35 mm films on a screen in the family’s living room. Among them was 1929’s groundbreaking silent Nosferatu, an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s book, starring Max Schreck as the sinister vampire Count Orlok. The gruesome creature with a bald head and long, talon-like fingernails was seared into Cage’s memory. “Let me tell you something, when you see that movie when you’re 5, with him doing those crazy things with his eyes and his fingers, that leaves an indelible impression,” Cage says.
In thinking about how he wanted to portray Dracula in Renfield, Cage mined the past for inspiration—Schreck was an influence, as was towering English actor Christopher Lee, who starred in the many Dracula films produced by England’s Hammer Films beginning with 1958’s Horror of Dracula. Cage also appreciated the vulnerability of Gary Oldman’s take on the character in 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. But his most direct influence was an even closer relation. “My father was a very elegant man who spoke with a mid-Atlantic accent and was impossibly intelligent,” Cage says. “He always knew he was the smartest man of any room he walked into. So, I thought Dad would be a pretty good model for this character.”
Additionally, Cage looked to famously toxic relationships from classic films, including the one between Anne Bancroft’s seductive, predatory Mrs. Robinson and Dustin Hoffman’s aimless, disaffected Benjamin Braddock in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, but he channeled his points of inspiration into something new and wholly original. “Anne’s voice started coming into my mind, which I’m very happy about,” Cage says. “But it’s uniquely me. Whatever I’m absorbing and receiving from these other influences, I’m filtering it through my own instrument.”
For Cage, the challenge lay in tapping into the complicated dynamic between his character and Hoult’s—finding the nuances of their rapport while remaining true to both the horrific and comedic moments. “The subject matter itself is not funny, it’s disturbing,” Cage says. “But at the root of it, there is a kind of love there. There are moments where I’m looking at Nick Hoult, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is my son.’ And then there are moments where it’s just abuse. It’s the dark side of human relationships that we’re exploring in this. That’s not an easy subject to take on, and certainly, to give it the spin of comedy, it’s tricky.”
Renfield might be trapped in a toxic relationship at the start of Renfield, but New Orleans police officer Rebecca is facing troubles of her own. The role is portrayed by Awkwafina, who’s known for her work in such acclaimed films as Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings as well as her TV series, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.
Rebecca, after tragically losing her father to the Lobo family crime syndicate—a death that has gone unpunished and unavenged—Rebecca’s reputation on the force has taken a hit, thanks to her unchecked anger issues, and she’s become estranged from her successful FBI agent sister, Kate (Game Night’s CAMILLE CHEN). Although Rebecca is also a Quantico grad, these days, she’s stuck on traffic duty with a well-meaning, if somewhat dim-witted, partner, Chris (ADRIAN MARTINEZ).
“When Rebecca meets Renfield, it’s at a time where she needs to resolve her own issues, I think, in the same way that he does,” Awkwafina says. “They are on a mirroring journey of reconciling with the past. Ultimately, Rebecca wants to do right by her sister—she doesn’t want to be the person with the bad instincts or the person reacting out of anger. But she also wants vengeance.”
The rapper and actress brought the perfect energy to the righteous cop. “I love Awkwafina,” director Chris McKay says. “She’s a little bit of a troublemaker, and that’s why I thought she’d make a great Rebecca. She’s always a little up-to-no-good and has an edge to her, ready to get in someone’s face. She had great chemistry with Nick Hoult. They made a great odd pair. I would watch a hundred movies of ‘Renbecca’ traveling the world and solving crimes, like the old Thin Man movies.”
Their rapport feels so natural largely because the two performers genuinely enjoyed working together. “Nick Hoult is the perfect leading man,” Awkwafina says. “His energy is magnetic, and what he’s bringing to this character is a level of humor that is really hard to embody. I found myself cracking up all the time when I was working with him.”
Tedward “Teddy” Lobo, the power-hungry eldest son of a powerful New Orleans crime family, imagines himself as the ultimate gangster, even though struggles to be perceived that way. In the shadow of his domineering and terrifying mother, Bellafrancesca, Teddy is willing to do anything to elevate and amplify his street cred, and that makes him unpredictable and increasingly dangerous. For Emmy Award-winning actor Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic), the role allowed him to tap into his dark side. “Straight out of the gate, Teddy’s doing a bunch of coke and killing a bunch of people immediately,” Schwartz says. “There is no prologue to this character, it’s off to the frickin’ races. It was a blast.”
Schwartz theorized that as bad a guy as Teddy is, much of his posturing is simply him aping how he thinks a gangster should behave. So, before the shoot, the actor re-acquainted himself with some of the movies he assumed Lobo would play on heavy rotation to get the character’s physicality just right. “I watched Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco,” Schwartz says. “We played with the idea that he has a swagger about him because those are the movies that he idolizes. He’s got some sort of blacklight poster of like, Scarface or Heat or something like that. He’s a badass character in his head, but he’s never going to be those guys.”
Teddy’s reputation is undermined by a truly fearsome woman in his life—Lobo matriarch Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo). No matter how tough a façade Teddy presents to the outside world, everyone in the Lobo family knows who really calls the shots. “I love the idea of this bad dude still having mommy issues,” Schwartz says.
To portray the intimidating Bellafrancesca Lobo, the filmmakers turned to Emmy winner and Academy Award® nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo, who tapped into her character’s cold-blooded strength and unyielding drive to command. “Bellafrancesca is a self-righteous being who has built an empire, the most powerful crime family in this fantasyland,” Aghdashloo says.
Although Bellafrancesca loves her son Teddy, she becomes frustrated with his repeated failings, which she feels reflect poorly on the family. Says Aghdashloo: “She keeps asking her son, ‘Do you remember when your enemies no longer fear you? It is when you lose your power.’ She’s so right.”
As committed and driven as Rebecca is, her partner Chris, portrayed by beloved veteran actor Adrian Martinez (Stumptown, American Hustle), is the exact opposite. “Rebecca is all about making a difference, she’s like, ‘Let’s really kick some ass,’” Martinez says. “Chris is more like, ‘Maybe we should eat first?’” And although Chris makes some surprising choices that run counter to Rebecca’s best interests, he does have real affection for his partner. “Chris does really care about Rebecca,” Martinez says. “She’s like his kid sister, so he’s got her back.”
Martinez actor spoke to local police before the shoot began to help get a better sense of how Chris might behave on the job. But it was on set where he and Awkwafina forged their characters’ ‘Abbott/Costello’ dynamic. “Awkwafina is a creative assassin—that’s how I think of her,” Martinez says. “She’s tiny, yet she can light up the world.”
Brandon Scott Jones
As the leader of the co-dependency support group that starts Renfield on the path to a new life, Mark feels a great deal of compassion for the people who attend his meetings— though, as actor Brandon Scott Jones points out, “He’s not a professional therapist and that definitely creeps through,” Jones says. Of course, even the most impeccably credentialled counselor would struggle to manage Renfield’s specific set of issues. “Mark just wants to help people escape bad relationships but has no idea how bad they can really be,” Jones says.
Known for his acclaimed turn as the spirit of Revolutionary War captain Isaac Higgintoot on the hit TV comedy Ghosts, the actor, writer and producer was delighted by the chance to play the small but pivotal role in Renfield. A fan of unconventional genre fare, Jones says he loved the script’s inventive approach to horror mythology. “It’s exactly the type of movie I would go see,” Jones says. “It was so creative and funny while still retaining all the fun elements of a classic Universal monster movie. A lot of supernatural stories are great, fun, cathartic allegories with something to say, and I think Renfield takes that and runs with it.”
The opportunity to work opposite Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage also felt like a dream come true. Jones describes watching Cage turn up on set in full vampire regalia as an experience he won’t soon forget. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, that’s Dracula,’” Jones says. “And then, separately, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s Nicolas Cage.’ He looked cool as hell.”
• Renfield was shot on location in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, from January to April 2022.
• Production designer Alec Hammond (RED, R.I.P.D., Snake Eyes) studied frames from the classic Universal horror films as well as more recent vampire movies to develop the right aesthetic for Renfield. McKay was interested in creating heightened environments that would complement the movie’s genre-spanning tone and would have a timeless appeal. “The classic Universal monster movies have a period sensibility to them, but they’re still great viewing now,” Hammond says. “That was one of the goals we had for the entire production.”
• For the opening flashback sequence, Hammond designed an impressive library set where the elaborate stunt choreography could unfold. He wanted the set to feel like a “direct descendant of the Bela Lugosi film…where you feel the trappings of 200, 300, 400, 500 years of accumulated wealth,” Hammond says. “It also had to be a set where you can light somebody on fire and have antiques shatter and fights happening within.”
• In present day, Dracula is no longer living in a castle. Rather, his lair is inside the basement of New Orleans’ defunct Charity Hospital, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city.
• Instead of shooting inside the real Charity Hospital, the production recreated a larger, grander version of the dilapidated space on a soundstage, according to Hammond’s specifications. “It almost looks like a crumbling old cathedral, made of tile and old blood and oxygen tubes and piping,” Hammond says.
• McKay and Hammond posited that Renfield might have thought to revive Dracula by feeding him intravenously, so Hammond created a “blood throne” for the vampire. The base of the throne was an antique oral surgery chair, which was then augmented with dozens of bags of blood, some fanned out behind Dracula in the shape as a peacock’s tail. “It’s a homemade contraption,” Hammond says. “We see the lengths that Renfield has gone to keep Dracula healthy. And we get to do a wonderfully theatrical flourish of a throne. Dracula back in the day could have sat on thrones of kings. Now he’s sitting on an old surgery chair surrounded by a bunch of blood bags.”
• Hammond designed Renfield’s apartment to reflect the character’s personal evolution. “This is the first home of his own Renfield’s had since the 1930s when he left his family, and he’s super excited about it,” Hammond says. “In his exuberance of finally breaking free from Dracula, he just goes overboard.”
• Although initially quite drab, the apartment is soon decorated in a riot of bright colors with inspirational posters covering all the walls. “Renfield doesn’t know how to live as an autonomous person, so he goes way too far,” Hammond says. “When you’re that happy, you want everything to be that happy—there’s no sense of restraint.”
• The formidable compound occupied by the Lobo family is equally over-the-top, though in a very different way. “It’s completely covered in gold leaf with two gigantic, super grotesque walls on the outside of it,” Hammond says. “It’s delicious in its tastelessness. It shows how much hubris the Lobo family has. No crime lord ever has been as conspicuous in a town. It shows, at first glance, that they’re above the law.”
• To create the bugs and worms that Renfield eats in the film, prop master GARY TUERS and his team used 3D grown prints of real life-sized cockroaches, beetles, worms and ants to create food-grade silicone molds. In the end, close to 100 of each bug was created.
• There were various methods of research and development that went into what materials were best suited for each bug mold. The best, according to Tuers, was injected melted caramel into cylinder bug molds. They would add on legs after the caramel dried.
• The process of testing the materials was extensive. One attempt included making batches of Jell-O and adding charcoal to it for color before freezing the food-grade- quality molds to produce the worms. They ultimately didn’t go down that road.
• The biggest challenge for Tuers and his team was getting all the bugs made and then storing them in a safe, dry place until they were needed for production. Filming in New Orleans in the winter made this a tricky challenge.
• Before production began, Tuers met with director Chris McKay and Nicholas Hoult for a “bug Show-and-Tell.” This ranged from drawings of bugs that Tuers planned to mold, actual candy like gummy worms, to real edible bugs that one can buy on the internet. He brought crickets that came in 3 flavors (ranch, BBQ and salt & vinegar), beetles, potato bugs, and even tarantulas. McKay and Hoult actually ate some of the bugs during the Show-and-Tell, and, over the course of the 3 months of production, Tuers estimates that Hoult ate about 100 crickets.
For Renfield, the filmmakers set out to create a style of action that had never before been seen on screen, turning to acclaimed stunt coordinator CHRIS BREWSTER (Black Adam, The Tomorrow War) to help design the film’s insane action. “I worked with Chris on The Tomorrow War, and I really liked his kinetic, brutal style,” director Chris McKay says. “I knew I wanted a little bit of that... but the fun version. The fights needed to be kinetic, to show off Renfield's ‘Dracula powers,’ and be a bit over-the-top. We talked a lot about the way Jackie Chan’s fights are choreographed. How funny a fight can be. How there’s always little bit of improvisation in those fights, so they feel spontaneous and yet still a little grounded.”
• Stunt coordinator Chris Brewster studied earlier films featuring the character of Dracula. Brewster then built out ideas for the vampire’s movements that would feel true to his royal heritage. “Dracula’s a prince,” Brewster says. “He goes from being a matador to being the bull. You see a very clear shift in his physicality and in his posture, and in everything he does.”
• Once that style was in place, Brewster then determined how Renfield would move. Because Renfield has ingested some of Dracula’s blood, Brewster decided that Renfield’s fighting style should mirror the vampire’s own.
• Nicholas Hoult began training in Los Angeles six months prior to the start of rehearsals so that he would be able to perform all the actions the fight sequences required. “Nick learned three of the fights in the first three hours of training,” Brewster says. “He’s a quick study. And he repped those fights over and over, first by himself, then with me, then with the entire stunt team, and worked through the choreography so much that it became muscle memory. By the time we were filming, he was not thinking about what move had to do next, he was playing for the camera.”
• Among the most challenging sequences to choreograph was the opening of the film, in which Hoult and Nicolas Cage are ingeniously incorporated into the finales of earlier vampire films. “The way Chris McKay described it originally, it was as as if we were jumping into the final battle of someone else’s film,” Brewster says. “So, we jump right into a massive piece of action. And it is the first time our viewers see our Dracula.”
• The two-minute sequence involved intensive fight choreography using weapons, wirework and lighting stunt people on fire. “It is every element of the stunt world all contained in a two-minute sequence,” Brewster says. “And every frame that we shot, and every moment of that fight scene, is perfect.”
• Much like his apartment, Renfield’s wardrobe reflects his personal evolution. Costume designer Lisa Lovaas (Horizon, Ambulance, Transformers: The Last Knight) initially designed a tailored brown suit for Renfield that he’s meant to have worn since the 1930s. In modern day, the suit is literally coming apart at the seams. “As Count Dracula’s devoted servant, Renfield has his hands completely full, with little time to focus on himself,” Lovaas says. “For this suit Chris McKay and I created a look that would not appear out of place on the streets of New Orleans today. It’s heavily worn and mended, but fortunately Nick Holt wears clothes very well and so it becomes stylish and modern.”
• Once Renfield strikes out on his own, his wardrobe changes dramatically. Suddenly, he’s wearing brightly colored sweaters with chinos and sneakers because he’s really trying to fit into modern society.
• For Cage’s Dracula, Lovaas took inspiration from a wide range of sources—Bela Lugosi, David Bowie, even Liberace—creating a striking red velvet suit paired with an elegant cape for the character’s modern-day scenes. All his costumes were embroidered with the initials “CD” to suggest that each piece had been custom-made for the aristocratic vampire.
• Lovaas also created a diamond-and-ruby-encrusted medallion for Dracula that was meant to resemble one worn by Lugosi in the 1931 film, though the designer adapted the piece specifically for Cage. “My husband did a painting of Dracula that was based on a life portrait of Vlad the Impaler,” Lovaas says. “He replaced the face in the painting with Nick’s, re-made it as a miniature, and we put it behind glass. So, there’s a miniature portrait of Nick Cage as Vlad in the center of the amulet.”
• The police uniform Lovaas designed for Awkwafina helped the actress live out a lifelong fantasy. “Awkwafina told me straight up, ‘I always wanted to be a cop,’” Lovaas says. “She put on that uniform and just owned it. She moved with such authority, like she’s been practicing to be an officer for many years.”
• Lovaas dressed Ben Schwartz’s Tedward Lobo in eye-catching shirts to underscore his ambitious, overly eager energy. His mother, Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo) always looked pristine in all-white attire, with jackets thrown over her shoulders. She also had her own beautiful satin cape.