As part of our set visit coverage of Renfield (check out our full set visit report here) we got the honor of talking to Academy Award Winner and newfound Prince of Darkness himself, Nicolas Cage, who plays Dracula in the film. Nicolas Cage has been a legend in the world of movies for many years. He was destined to wear the cape of a vampire lord. During our interview, we discussed all the inspirations behind his performance and appearance as well as the balance between horror and comedy that Nicholas Hoult brought to the film. Cage’s Dracula has a rock and roll feel to him. The classics are mixed with the current. I saw you perform on set and you looked incredible. I wanted to ask you first, what do you think has fascinated readers and viewers over the centuries to keep us coming back to Dracula?
Well, that’s a great question. I think it has something to do expressing the human situation. You can replace one addiction with another, such as heroin, alcohol or sex. I think Dracula tells the story of a person who is addicted to blood. How did he get to that point? I’ve thought about the romantic element in Dracula’s personality that is love and exile. A character that is unrequited. Unrequited love is a vulnerability that can lead to a bad condition. This is my theory about the fascination with Dracula and the vampire characters. I don’t believe it comes up in the film. In the film, I am very supportive of Nicholas Hoult and the relationship is actually quite comical. Nick does a great job of examining the Renfield character through a comedy format. I find him charming and witty. It’s a new take on the Renfield character. This kind of ties into another question that I had: what is the pathos behind Dracula’s relationship with Renfield? I’ve already spoken to Chris and Nick about the film. They said that you have a scene in which Dracula learns Renfield has betrayed him and you break like your character’s broken heart on screen. I was curious to know about Dracula’s loneliness and his connection to Renfield. That’s his only connection to another human being. I think that Dracula has a kind of perverse love for Renfield, which is more like a toxic relationship. There is still a certain affection, however twisted it may be. So, yeah, his broken heart. I think that is the problem, that he is constantly up against the human experience of breaking each other’s heart. You also mentioned the comedy element of the film which I am eager to see. Finding the balance between comedy and horror is important, because these are two of the most extreme places of human emotion and film. Can you discuss finding balance in this film?
Well it’s something I feel fortunate to have innately within my chemistry. I see things in a funny way. I have always seen things in a humorous way, since I was a child. But it just seems to be that way. Not always. Sometimes I do something more dramatic, and it’s not funny at all. I always try to find humor in every situation, no matter how intense. That’s a good lesson in life for me. It’s good to always look for the humor. You’re right. It’s a tricky balance to achieve on camera, but it works beautifully when done correctly. Chris McKay is the man to thank for that. He was always conscious of that balance and made sure that it stayed within that zone. But he didn’t just want it to be funny. He wanted there to be a sense of menace and pathos. I was astonished when I saw An American Werewolf in London
the first time. Landis’s film was my model. The experience I had as a young boy in the cinema was absolutely wonderful. But it wasn’t just funny. There were some really scary moments. It knocks you about. You don’t always know when to laugh or scream. And I like it. It keeps you on your toes. I’m looking at my
American werewolf in London figure that I have right now. I think that Nick Hoult, and you, both have a great talent for playing a serious role and then switching to being charming and humorous, and then changing back to, I’m about to kill you at the snap of my finger. I wanted to know how you handled those two roles because it seems that Renfield and Dracula can be so snappy. It’s timing. It’s all about rhythm. It’s a part of your body. Nick Hoult has it. Nick Hoult possesses that. It’s perfect timing. He has everything at his fingertips. I saw him in The Menu
a few weeks ago and I called him to tell how great I thought he looked. What was also compelling was that he could be vulnerable. You can see his eyes change from a fast-paced, comedic repartee to genuine pain. And I think you’re really blessed with that. I don’t know how to explain beyond that, but I think Nick is gifted in his timing. I don’t know how else to explain how we got to this point, except to say that Nick is incredibly gifted at timing. I was also happy to see Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, and Lonchaney in your Dracula. Can you describe your process for building your Dracula, and what you took from previous versions? It’s more a starting point. What was it about Christopher Lee, exactly? I like his Dracula. I like the back hair that is slick. In his case, the accident was British. In my case, it was more of a mid Atlantic accent, because all those who read to August Coppola were reading to him because he had such a powerful and charismatic aura whenever he walked into a room, because of his intellect and because he spoke so well and was eloquent, and because he chose to speak with distinction. He was a professor in literature and he spoke with a mid-Atlantic accent. I found this as a child. I asked him, “Why do you speak like that?” He had his reasons. I thought he was a good model for Dracula, because he looked like Christopher Lee’s younger brother. It was easy for my to channel August Coppola more than anyone else. Then I would take any inspiration or influence that I had from older versions of vampirism, not Dracula but Schrek on camera, and go back all the way to Schrek. Max Schrek, Orlock I was intrigued by his minimal German expressionistic gestures that conveyed that he was disappearing. I thought it really beautiful and I don’t even know why I thought so. What is that? I would ask Chris. Is it a dance? People don’t behave like that anymore in films. I got to see your jewelry and the medallion you wear. I love that it features you as Vlad The Impaler. I thought it was a nice touch and it also harkened back to Coppola’s Bram Stoker Dracula.
I was not involved in any of this. I had an amazing wardrobe team. They were the ones who brought in the rings, medallions, lower jackets, velveteen clothing, and everything else. I don’t even know why they brought it in, but it was something I liked right away. The makeup artist Kingsley designed the fangs, using Christopher Lee to model them. From there, we went all the way up to Lon Cheney Senior in London for the fangs. This was a design that came from makeup and wardrobe, and I was the one who tried to find what I could recruit internally to fill the physical image well. It was a design that came from makeup and wardrobe. I was the one who was trying to recruit whatever I could internally to fill the image well. You were dressed in velvet, but still ferocious. And I thought that was great, because that was always the thing that Lee exuded, was that brutality just underneath this veneer of civility.Well, it was a kind of yeah, the veneer of civility is exactly right. This Eloquent Lord, Baron or Count speaks very well, and maintains an air of gentlemanliness in his social interactions. The cobra and panther are lurking, ready to strike. Brewster was the stunt coordinator and worked closely with Chris McKay. The two Chriss. I wanted to enhance the animality in Dracula’s contrast to his so-called elegance as a man. It was amazing. Sir, I want to thank you again for the incredible work you have done, from Raising Arizona to Moonstruck. I can’t get enough of this film. I have a figure of you from Mandy up on my shelf next to Lee and Lugosi.I love that,
is one of my favorites. I’m so glad to hear that. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoyed our conversation.Renfield hits theaters on
April 14th. The new trailer will be released tomorrow!