Renfield Team Talks Potential of Exploring Universal Monsters’ World
McKay: It was important to me to have a connection to the Tod Browning movie. But it was also important for Dracula and Renfield’s relationship that there was this past. It is a past the audience could easily connect to because you either know those movies or you have experience of it in pop culture. To be able to put Cage up on the staircase with the spider web behind him, and Hoult on the ground there in the traditional movie Renfield outfit, was incredible. It works on so many levels: For the story, for my own personal love of these movies, for the audience to be able to kind of experience that.
When you have someone like Nicolas Cage in this role, how does that change the direction of this film?
McKay: He loves horror movies. He loves Dracula. He loves Christopher Lee’s Dracula, specifically, and weirdly sort of looks a little bit like Christopher Lee. To be able to have him come in with all of that enthusiasm and all that joy, with all that history as a cinephile? He knows this stuff inside and out, and cares about it on a really deep level. He immediately came to the table with a voice, and body language, and ideas as far as wanting to change things in the dialogue to sound a little more like he’s from the past.
Kirkman: Finding the right Dracula for this movie was probably the most important thing to get right to make sure the movie worked. You wanted somebody that could have a new flavor to it, but also be as scary as Dracula gets at times, and as funny as our Dracula is at times. It was a difficult process to find somebody that could do all that and still have the gravitas of being Dracula himself. Cage was brought up fairly early on. We didn’t know if we’d be able to get him, but we always knew that’s a guy that could land it. When we actually got him, I was thrilled. The prospect of working with the guy and meeting with the guy, that’s cool as hell. But what I wasn’t prepared for was just how professional he is. When an actor of Cage’s level has the longevity he has, you’re kind of like, what’s the secret sauce there? He was so dedicated to this role, came in completely off book, had amazing suggestions, brilliant ideas, tweaked the script in ways that 100 percent, across the board, made things better.
He would go through his dialogue, move a word here, flipped sentences to add two words to a line of dialogue. You’d be like, “Oh my God, those two words he added at the end, they bring it all together and make it work so much better!” It was a real sight to behold somebody who has been working as long as he has, has done the amazing things that he has, and he’s not jaded at all. He is still excited to go to work. He’s still giving everything, 110 percent. It was remarkable.
Is there a love between Renfield and Dracula?
McKay: Absolutely. Renfield obviously worships Dracula at some level and loves Dracula. I actually think Dracula loves Renfield. Yes, he’s gaslighting and love-bombing Renfield in the very beginning of the movie, telling him he’s his only friend. But Dracula and Cage are truly emotional about these feelings. So I think that even though it’s a very twisted relationship and a very twisted love, he really truly does love Renfield because he literally has a tear in his eye when he’s saying to Renfield I’m your best friend. He just wants Renfield to do exactly what he says and just follow him. He’s a bad boyfriend; it’s a bad boyfriend/love relationship.