Nicolas Cage is set to play Dracula in Universal’s “Renfield,” a monster movie centering not on the infamous vampire, but rather his notorious lackey.
The call sheet may be confusing. That’s because Cage is starring alongside another Nic, Nicholas Hoult, who is portraying the unhinged henchman known as Renfield.
An origin story, the upcoming film is expected to take place in the present day. It’s not clear how much it will stick to the source material, Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel “Dracula.” In the literary thriller, R.M. Renfield was an inmate at a lunatic asylum. He was thought to be suffering from delusions that compelled him to eat live creatures in the hopes of obtaining immortality, until it’s later revealed that he’s under the influence of one Count Dracula.
Chris McKay, the filmmaker behind “The Tomorrow War” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” is directing and producing “Renfield” from a screenplay by Ryan Ridley (“Rick and Morty”).
Cage is known to be an intensely method actor, gorging on red meat to gain weight and connect as a carnivore in the 2013 crime drama “Joe” and removing two of his teeth without anesthesia to inflict physical pain on himself before playing a Vietnam veteran in 1984’s “Birdy.” In the case of “Renfield,” it could mean plenty of garlic in Cage’s future.
Once a big box office draw, Cage spent the last decade away from major Hollywood productions and instead opted to make independent films. In a recent Variety interview, Cage said he preferred to work on low-budget film sets because traditional studio projects came with unwanted commercial constraints.
“When I was making Jerry Bruckheimer movies back-to-back, that was just a high pressure game. There were a lot of fun moments, but at the same time, there was also ‘We wrote this line. It has to be said this way,’” Cage said. “They’d put a camera on you and photograph you, and order you: ‘Now say the roller skate training wheels line.’ I’d say, ‘I’ll do that but I’d also like to try it this way.’ On independent movies, you have more freedom to experiment and be fluid. There’s less pressure and there’s more oxygen in the room.”
Best known for “Leaving Las Vegas,” “The Rock” and, to a different generation, “National Treasure,” Cage has garnered some of the best reviews of his career with 2021’s “Pig,” which follows a truffle hunter whose beloved animal is stolen. Before delving into all things Dracula, Cage will be seen in Lionsgate’s meta-comedy “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” In the movie, Cage is playing a fictionalized version of himself as a cash-strapped actor who also acts as a CIA informant in a drug sting.
“Renfield” is Universal’s latest attempt to fashion a cinematic universe around characters from the studio’s vast monster vault. After Tom Cruise’s 2017 reboot “The Mummy” flopped in theaters, the studio shifted its strategy away from interconnected stories and instead began to focus on standalone features. It has also been keeping production budgets on the lower end, making it easier for spooky pics to turn a profit. For example, the studio’s most recent monster-verse entry, “The Invisible Man” starring Elisabeth Moss, grossed $143 million worldwide in 2020, far less than “The Mummy” and its $409 million global box office haul. However, “The Invisible Man” cost only $7 million to produce while “The Mummy” cost nearly $200 million.
Universal will test its low-cost approach with several supernatural-themed projects in has in the works, including “Invisible Woman” directed by Elizabeth Banks and “Wolfman” with Ryan Gosling.
“Renfield” will be produced by Skybound Entertainment’s film team, including Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst. McKay’s producing partner Samantha Nisenboim will serve as an executive producer.
Cage is represented by WME, Stride Management, and attorney Patrick Knapp at GGSSC; Hoult is represented by UTA, 42 and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson LLP; McKay is represented by UTA, Rise Management and Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news of Cage’s casting.