Google “quirky method actor” and it’s a guarantee: you won’t have to scroll too far down before seeing Nicolas Cage‘s name. Few actors have veered so wildly in their career choices or acting styles. One day he’s the drunken, suicidal television writer in Leaving Las Vegas (a role that won him an Oscar); another day, he’s chewing up and spitting out all the scenery as both hero and villain in John Woo‘s Face/Off. One minute Cage is playing it straight as a treasure hunter in the popular, PG-rated National Treasure series, then he’s going feral in the bloody revenge movie Mandy. Cage is a Hollywood anomaly because while his talent is undisputable, his performances veer from great to terrible, sometimes both in the same film. What really makes him a star though is that he’s, almost without exception, always entertaining.to watch.
So it’s no wonder everyone is wondering how Cage will play his latest role, the iconic Count Dracula, in the 2023 movie Renfield. Will his immortal Count be tragic and subdued, or maniacal and bombastic? Here’s what we know about the film so far.
Editor’s Note: This piece was updated on January 7 to include the first trailer.
When Is Renfield Coming Out?
Renfield currently has a theatrical release planned for April 14, 2023.
Is There a Renfield Trailer Yet?
The first trailer for Renfield was released online on January 5, 2023. The trailer gives us a good look at the overall comedic tone of the film, there’s also plenty of violence, Cageness, and bug-eating to behold.
How Closely Will Renfield Follow the Plot of Dracula?
In Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to secure a real estate deal for the ancient Count–and only narrowly escapes the evil immortal’s clutches. The main characters are Jonathan, his fiancée Mina, and vampire hunter Van Helsing. Though he’s been depicted in movies over 20 times, R.N. Renfield is just a minor character in the original story–a patient in a lunatic asylum who eats insects and rats to acquire their life force. In fact, Renfield is the archetypal vampire familiar; promised eternal life by Count Dracula, he nonetheless wavers in doing his bidding.
Rather than being a faithful adaptation of the novel, Renfield uses the source as a jumping-off point for a fresh take on the original story. Here, Renfield, sick of his toxic and co-dependent centuries-long relationship with Dracula, is the central character. Hoping to carve out a new life in modern-day New Orleans, Renfield’s life becomes more complicated when he falls for a feisty traffic cop and runs afoul of some mobsters. Meanwhile, he’s still got the endlessly demanding and possessive Dracula to deal with–a literal boss from hell who shows no sign of changing his old patterns.
Described alternatively as “violent comedy” or “oddball horror,” the movie was reportedly inspired in part by Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary series What We Do in the Shadows as well as other horror-comedy classics like An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead II, and Shaun of the Dead.
The official plot synopsis via Universal Pictures reads:
In this modern monster tale of Dracula’s loyal servant, Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men franchise) stars as Renfield, the tortured aide to history’s most narcissistic boss, Dracula (Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage). Renfield is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding, no matter how debased. But now, after centuries of servitude, Renfield is ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of The Prince of Darkness. If only he can figure out how to end his codependency.
Who’s Making Renfield and What’s the Dark Universe?
In recent years, Universal Studios attempted to revive and update their most famous Golden Age movie monsters (Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, etc ) by making films set in an interconnected universe called The Dark Universe. Unfortunately, things went sour fast. The 2017 Tom Cruise-led remake of The Mummy bombed just as badly as The Wolfman (2010) starring Benicio Del Toro had as well. Only 2020’s The Invisible Man, made by successful horror creators Blumhouse productions, met with any critical success.
Now, with a screenplay written by Ryan Ridley (Rick and Morty), based on a treatment by Robert Kirkman, Renfield has an uphill battle. Redeeming the Dark Universe will be hard enough, but can it really add something new to Dracula’s considerable legacy? Director Christopher McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, The Tomorrow War) signed on to direct and will produce the film with his producing partner Samantha Nisenboim and with David Alpert, Bryan Furst, and Sean Furst of Skybound Entertainment.
Who’s Starring In the Cast of Renfield?
In August 2021, Nicholas Hoult was cast in the lead role of Renfield. Hoult began his career at the age of 12 with a lead role in the Hugh Grant vehicle About a Boy and has been working steadily ever since. In addition to playing The Beast in the X-Men movies and his recurring role as Peter III in the Hulu series The Great, Hoult has been a compelling presence in successful films like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Tolkein (2018), and The Favorite (2018). More recently, he starred in the ensemble black comedy The Menu.
In November of that same year, Nicolas Cage was cast in the role of Dracula, Renfield’s master and employer. Since his first, memorable appearance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Cage has appeared in over 100 movies, from romantic comedies to action-adventure to serious adult dramas. Perhaps his most interesting recent movie is his meta-autobiographical role as Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022), but Cage, who has been open about taking more film roles than usual, has no less than five films currently in post-production. The latest release starring the actor, Butcher’s Crossing, is a Western and premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival in September.
Renfield also stars comedian and actress Awkwafina as Rebecca Quincy, a tough-talking traffic cop who captures Renfield’s eye and gives him the courage to change his life. The comedian began her career as a rapper before appearing in movies like Ocean’s 8 (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), and The Farewell (2019). Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse) and Ben Schwartz (The Afterparty) also appear as crime bosses who are likely the real antagonists of the film. Adrian Martinez stars as Rebecca’s traffic cop friend and James Moses Black plays Captain J. Browning. Other stars appearing in the movie include Bess Rous as Caitlyn, Caroline Williams as Vanessa, and Brandon Scott Jones in an as-yet-undisclosed role.
Will Anyone Eat a Bug in Renfield?
Appearing in over 200 films, Dracula was most famously played by Bela Lugosi in the 1930s and 1940s and by Christopher Lee in the 1960s and 1970s. However, over 20 other actors have played the undead count, including John Carradine, Frank Langella, Louis Jordan, Gary Oldman, Gerard Butler, Luke Evans, Leslie Nielsen, and even Morgan Freeman on the children’s television show The Electric Company. Over the last 100 years, Dracula’s character has evolved from the repellent feral monster in Nosferatu (1922) to an elegant, sexy, and strangely remorseful aristocrat in the recent BBC Series. So what could any actor, even Nicolas Cage, add to such a well-known role?
In fact, Cage has recently seen a resurgence in popularity and critical acclaim. This isn’t due to any changes he’s made–Cage still plays some variation of his unique personality in every movie he appears in–but because of an increased appreciation for his exaggerated, almost cartoonish style of acting. Furthermore, Cage’s eager willingness to discuss (and occasionally mock) his “nouveau shamanic” method of preparing for his roles has also brought new recognition and respect for his talents. And this isn’t the first time that Cage has played a vampire. In 1989, he starred in Vampire’s Kiss, a box office failure that became a cult film, partly because Cage notoriously ate a live cockroach on screen (he actually ate another bug for a second take; the director wanted to be sure he got the shot right). This–and the fact that Cage had to settle for a cockroach instead of a live bat like he wanted–only added to the legend of his off-screen eccentricity and bizarre Method-influenced acting style.
But will Cage’s latest vampire role live up to his first one? Reportedly, the actor’s inspiration for his take on the Count included silent film stars, his father August Coppola, David Bowie, and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. So while there’s no word on whether anyone will eat a live bug on screen, fans of Cage’s idiosyncratic and oddball performances will likely not be disappointed.