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Blame it on the fangs.
On the heels of Renfield director Chris McKay saying Nicolas Cage went method on the set while playing Dracula — the filmmaker told Insider “whatever scene we did he would still be 100 percent living in that attitude after we stopped shooting” — the veteran actor recalled his own version of events to The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s New York premiere.
“I just don’t have that recollection, I don’t know why Chris said that,” Cage said. “I had a lot of laughs in between takes with both Chris McKay and Nick Hoult, so maybe that was his experience, maybe because I still had the fangs in my mouth that made me speak a certain way, but that wasn’t my experience.”
Either way, the role requires range for Cage who, after a career of iconic roles, steps into one of the most notable as Dracula in Universal’s new horror comedy Renfield. Cage stars opposite Nicholas Hoult, who plays Dracula’s tortured assistant as he seeks a life outside of serving the count, and said he was drawn to the dual tones of the film.
“With this Dracula, I was trying to fuse that which is scary and humorous even at the same time in the line delivery,” he said on Tuesday. “It was just how can you be creepy and funny at the same time, that was the challenge.”
As Cage himself noted, “Dracula is a character that’s been done many times, it’s been done well a few times.” He said the performances of Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman served as a starting point, but his father, August Coppola, was the biggest influence on his portrayal.
“He always spoke with distinction, he was always very elegant and eloquent, he was always the smartest man in every room he walked in and he knew, and he made sure we knew,” Cage explained. “I think Dracula, being around for so many years, would have some of that aura.” He also cited Anne Bancroft’s performance in The Graduate as another inspiration, who he thought was “very seductive and Dracula-esque. So I was looking at her manner of speaking, kind of mid-Atlantic vocalization that both my father and Anne Bancroft had.”
As for Hoult, Renfield served as a reunion with Cage after the two worked together on 2005’s The Weather Man, when the younger actor was just 14.
“I think getting to work with him again as an adult gave me a true appreciation of what a master he is of the craft, how much he’s given to the cinematic world over the years, all of the iconic performances he’s given, and I think this is another one,” Hoult told THR, adding that when he read the script, “I was like, ‘Oh, this feels very different. It’s a swing, but if it works then I think we have a fun movie.'”
McKay said he knew Cage was right to play the iconic vampire because “the way the script was written, he’s supposed to be the rock ‘n’ roll Dracula, so what better person to embody rock ‘n’ roll Dracula than Nicolas Cage? He can wear rings, he can wear the outfits, he looks amazing, and he’s got the right attitude.”
The director remembered that that he was “almost in tears” the first time he saw Cage fully in costume: “It was like OK, this movie is going to work.” Co-star Ben Schwartz also said Cage was right for the role “because I think he’s unpredictable, I think he brings such uniqueness to roles, you kind of don’t know what he’s going to do,” noting that he brings 110 percent to every scene.
“So he’s in there, and when he’s Dracula, he’s so in the zone, and he gets himself pumped up and it’s just like you’re acting with Dracula,” Schwartz said. “And the best part is when they say ‘Cut,’ you’re just standing next to Dracula hanging out afterwards being like, ‘So I loved Adaptation.’ So it’s very fun.”
Renfield hits theaters April 14.
Neha Joy contributed to this story.
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