Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult on "overdoing it" as Dracula and Renfield

(Image credit: Universal)

Renfield shifts the focus from Count Dracula to one of the more minor characters in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Directed by Chris McKay, written by Ryan Ridley and based on an idea from Robert Kirkman, the movie brings the classic story into the modern day. Set in New Orleans, Count Dracula's lackey Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) finds a new lease on life when he falls in love with Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), if only he could get his boss off his back... 

In the cover feature for the latest issue of Total Film magazine, the cast and crew spoke about balancing genres and getting the tone right for the new movie. Admitting that what he had in mind was "dancing on the head of a pin", McKay’s path from The Lego Batman Movie and The Tomorrow War led him to Renfield with a sharp eye for comedy and action, but he turned up without a roadmap for a film with many more genre ambitions. 

"In terms of other movies that do this well, there are a lot more swings than hits," he admits. "But I think part of it is the way it’s framed – we’ve got action and comedy and horror and romance but it’s all seen through an awkward, weird lens. I looked at it a bit like the weird world-building in John Wick. It’s all too easy to just run straight back to those classics that I grew up with, but the challenge is to make it a little bit different. And when you hire Nic Cage, finding that difference just becomes a whole lot easier…"

Cage committed himself completely to the the role, and even offered up a raft of tweaks to Ridley’s script ("it seemed crazy at the time, but then you go, well, it’s Nicolas Cage playing Dracula, like, let him say whatever he wants…" says Ridley). Part of that commitment meant spending 14-hour days in costume to take the second lead in a film that really belonged to Hoult. But then, as Cage rightly says, "If something’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing…"


(Image credit: Universal)

"That’s a quote that’s really stuck with me, in terms of everything, I guess," laughs his co-star Nicholas Hoult to Total Film, remembering the time Cage repeated the same advice about overindulging your instincts. "I was like a kid in a sweet shop just watching him work. But I’m not one of those actors that can improvise 10 witty, funny, bizarre things off the cuff. I like to have something funny on the page, and then hopefully I can do it justice. For me, I think it always comes back to the idea of being honest and truthful to the character."

Speaking about the intense physical transformation the role demanded, Cage adds that one of the big challenges was his false teeth. They stayed in his mouth throughout the whole shoot – even after he left for the day. "They were fairly invasive," he remembers. "I was trying to give the character an eloquent and an elegant voice and that was pretty hard to do with all that ceramic material in my mouth. But I got used to it by taking them home with me, leaving them in when I was in my hotel room. It does give the character a great look though…"

Renfield opens in cinemas on April 14. For much more from stars Cage, Hoult, Awkwafina, and creators Ridley and McKay on reinventing a classic movie monster, grab a copy of the new issue of Total Film magazine when it hits shelves (and digital newsstands) this Thursday, March 2. Check out the covers below:

Total Film's Renfield covers.

(Image credit: Universal/Total Film)

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Paul Bradshaw is a freelance film journalist who writes frequent reviews and features for Total Film. He's also a member of the London Critic's Circle.

With contributions from