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What makes a great vampire? The anatomy of Nic Cage's Dracula in 'Renfield'
Cage and director Chris McKay drew reference from 90+ years of vampire cinema.
Renfield might be a contemporary take on the Dracula mythology, but director Chris McKay and Dracula actor Nicolas Cage put a lot of thought and care into crafting a take on the vampire that honors all of his cinematic incarnations, and many of the specific actors who have also portrayed the Alpha predator.
In particular, the end credits feature Cage as Dracula back through time in reproduced sequences that seem plucked right from the source films. Meticulously recreated through costume design, production design and blocking, Cage cuts a familiar silhouette that brings to mind the names of legendary Dracula performers like Lugosi, Chaney, Lee and more.
As all great performances are often inspired by actors who came before, we've stitched together some of the performances — horror and not — that Cage and McKay have referenced for their Renfield aesthetic. Starting from the top of Cage's noggin to the tip of his well polished shoes, SYFY WIRE dissects his performance down to its base elements:
Cage has said he looked to actor Christopher Lee's performance as the Count in the Hammer Horror series of films — which began with Dracula (1958) — for the overall vibe of his version of the character. It's easy to see the resemblance as both are commanding, pallid, and have a preference for dark clothes and slicked back hair. They're also both very frightening in action which keeps the stakes and danger of the character ever present.
Head and Face
Renfield begins by reproduced scenes from Tod Browning's 1931 film, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye as Renfield. Shot in black and white, the scenes imply Cage and Nicholas Hoult's Renfield have the same origins in the same universe. Cage is dressed like Lugosi's Count Dracula which helps establish just how long he's been stuck "living" this cursed existence. And it allows the audience to see what he's retained over the decades of regenerating and slipping into new eras.
For Cage's fangs, Lon Chaney Sr.’s London After Midnight vampire — which only survives in a few still images — was the model for his very scary set of chompers. Sharp like shark's teeth, they are terrifying reminders of the damage the vampire can do.
Cage's Dracula definitely has a certain way of moving in the world and it's not the predatory or speedy way that some vamps are portrayed. He's actually got a very measured, and then at times when he's trying to be charming, a very jovial air about him. Cage says he looked to his own father, August Coppola — who was an academic — for his character's overall countenance when speaking with Renfield. And then, surprisingly, he took from actress Anne Bancroft, who played Mrs. Robinson the seducer in The Graduate, when Drac is trying to win new friends and influence people.
And there's also shades of John Badham's 1979 Dracula in which Frank Langella made the vampire quite the Gothic sex symbol. Cage's Dracula doesn't fall for anyone, but he's got a swagger that he shows off to the co-dependency support group and crime family matriarch, Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo).
Craving even more vampire shenanigans? Check out SYFY's Reginald the Vampire, which is set to return later this year for a second season. Or head on over to Peacock, where Vampire Academy is now in session. And that's not all! Universal Pictures will release a second Dracula-inspired movie — Last Voyage of the Demeter — into theaters this August.