Move over, Tom Waits. Dracula’s got a new right-hand man. Deadline is reporting that Nicholas Hoult is set to star in Renfield, the Universal Pictures monster movie that Robert Kirkman is developing with writer Ryan Ridley (Rick and Morty) and director Chis McKay (The Tomorrow War).
In Bram Stoker's original 1897 Gothic horror novel, Dracula, Renfield was an inmate in an asylum, who turns out to be Dracula’s servant. He was portrayed by Waits in the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, where he was "no lunatic man, but a sane man fighting for his soul" (though that doesn't explain his bug-eating habit).
No word on what this version of the character will be like — or if it will have any direct connection with the Dracula film that the studio is also working on — but according to Deadline, it will be set in the present day, as are most of the films being produced through Universal’s unholy union with Blumhouse (see: The Invisible Man, the upcoming Ryan Gosling-led Wolfman, and the aforementioned Dracula).
While plot details are being kept under wraps, Kirkman revealed during a Comic-Con@Home spotlight panel last month that yes, Renfield's master, Dracula, will appear in the film. "The whole plot is that Renfield is Dracula's servant and decides that he doesn't want to be his servant anymore, and it's that conflict that kind of drives the story," Kirkman said at the panel. "So yeah, Dracula's actually a big part of the movie."
Meanwhile, McKay recently told SYFY WIRE that Renfield is “a movie about co-dependency and it’s about bad bosses,” while noting, "It’s definitely a horror-action movie, but it’s also obviously a comedy and it’s also gonna be a lot of fun."
In 2017, Universal attempted to resurrect its stable of classic monsters with the Tom Cruise-led The Mummy, but the film failed to bring the moribund franchise back to life. So, with The Invisible Man, Universal (with Blumhouse's help) took the IP in a different direction, and it paid off: the Leigh Whannell-directed film became a critical and commercial hit, earning $122 million off a $7 million budget. Now, the plan has been to take a creator-driven approach with the Universal Monsters over the Dark Universe’s attempt at establishing a cinematic universe linked by character continuity.
Renfield is one of multiple monster projects we expect to see from Universal. In addition to the previously mentioned Dracula and Wolfman films, Saw and Aquaman director James Wan is developing a monster movie for the studio, as are Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
SYFY WIRE and Universal Pictures are both owned by NBCUniversal.