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It’s called 'Renfield,' not 'Nic Cage Plays Dracula' – and he's very OK with that

"My job was to support his performance, and I think we did that,” Cage told us.

By Brian Silliman
Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult

Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage have sunk their fangs into working together once more. They met while doing The Weather Man 14 years ago, but their new gore-comedy-drama Renfield is quite the departure from that. In Renfield, Hoult plays the titular long-suffering familiar, while Cage brings his unique talents to Dracula. 

How did they manage the balance of a horror comedy, and did their previous work together help to inform their dynamic? What were some of their influences when it comes to the vast array of Dracula lore? SYFY WIRE caught up with Cage and Hoult ahead of the film's premiere in theaters on April 14, and one thing was very clear: Nicolas Cage took the title seriously. It’s called Renfield, not Nic Cage Plays Dracula.

The tone of the movie strikes a tricky line between comedy, horror, and drama. As Hoult said, “The tone is really specific.” When it came to how they went about approaching that, he said, “You just have to play the honesty.” Cage added, “We had a director that was really hands on finding that balance, Chris McKay. It was very important to him that we bring the comedy, but also the pathos.”

Helping this pathos was the fact that Hoult and Cage had worked together before.

“I was fully aware of his abilities when we did The Weather Man," Cage said. "He was only 14 then, but I'm not surprised what he's achieved subsequently.

“When I take that job on to be a supporting actor, I need to find out where the lead is going to go so I can fit within his tone,” Cage said. “He's setting the pace. In this movie, I was trying to bring a kind of pop art spark to the character and string a few scenes together that would resonate. But my job was to support his performance and I think we did that. I think it worked out perfectly, almost like jazz or like a dance.”

RELATED: "Renfield star Nicolas Cage partly based Dracula performance on cats and snakes"

Hoult was equally full of praise for Cage, and was excited to shoot with a Nic Cage Dracula. “The Dracula scenes throughout this movie are the ones I was most excited to play and get into,” Hoult said, going on to tell Cage, “But also each time you arrived as that character from the beginning of the story to the end, you brought a new dynamic and something fresh to look at the relationship between them.”

“This is what I love about working with Nic,” Hoult continued. “He'd come in and he'd focus on the silhouettes of [Bela] Lugosi and stuff like that… and throw all these amazing shapes within scenes that reference that while still being new.” In terms of crafting this new cinematic Dracula, Cage mentioned that some of his inspirations came from unexpected places.

“You sort of open yourself up empathically to whatever's circling around. I mean, gosh, Anne Bancroft made it into this Dracula performance,” Cage explained. “All that stuff from The Graduate, I thought she was a perfect model for this Dracula. My father was a great model for this Dracula because he always spoke so eloquently and was always the smartest man in the room and made sure everybody knew it. Christopher Lee, I loved the way he looked, but it's about cherry-picking what's been done well and then extruding out from that and finding your own voice in the character.”

Ultimately, all of that seemed secondary to Cage, as he was always deferring to Hoult. “He's the lead,” he said. “He's setting the pace, and I have to fit within that pace.”

Renfield comes to theaters on April 14.