Let Nicolas Cage Keep Playing Dracula, You Cowards

In Chris McKay's upcoming film "Renfield," the title character (Nicholas Hoult) find himself falling in love and finding a new life for himself, even though he is still, after many decades, the chief henchman of Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage). A trailer has already been released, and it appears to be a sad-sack comedy about the pressures of working for a horrible boss. The horrible boss only happens to be a blood-drinking lord of the night.

Cage, perhaps one of the gamest actors to have ever lived, appears to be having a ball as Dracula, gnashing and mugging with the best of them. Cage has referred to his own acting style as "nouveau shamanic," describing a process of shaman-like evocation, but interpreted through a modern sensibility. It sounds highfalutin, but it's merely a florid phrase to describe something very specific. Cage's acting style allows him to play moody, subdued roles effectively, as well as broad, over-the-top roles. When he does either, it's exhilarating, but it's the latter that gets the actor's clips posted on YouTube. Doubtless, the reader has seen Cage's alphabet scene from Robert Bierman's 1988 film "Vampire's Kiss." Thanks to his wilder role, Cage has developed a reputation as a "kooky" actor. In actuality, he is merely committed.

In an interview with Variety, Cage revealed how committed he was to playing Dracula, bothering to explore the oft-dramatized Bram Stoker character through his own particular idiom. Because he is merely a supporting character in "Renfield," Cage admitted that he would like more opportunities to play the king of vampires, as there was certainly more character work to be done.

Nouveau Shamanism

The amount of screen time Nicolas Cage has in "Renfield" remains to be seen, but Cage feels that it wasn't quite enough. There were, it seems, no prolonged moments where the camera was able to look into Dracula's eyes and see the pity that Cage attempted to communicate. Those small moments whetted Cage's imagination, inspiring him to dig into vampire psychology. He explained:

"You know, there are some minor moments here where you get to see some of the pathos in Dracula's eyes. [...] That made me think that maybe one day I might like to try for a whole movie where you're really understanding the psyche of the character. I didn't really have the time to delve into that here."

Whether or not "Renfield" is a hit, the idea of Cage continuing to play Dracula is certainly a fascinating one. The actor, now 59, is obviously well-suited to outsize roles, and his Dracula certainly looks interesting. If one can assure audiences a string of interesting screenplays, then there's no reason why a long series of Cage/Dracula films couldn't be put into production. There are only a few actors that one can strongly associate with the role to date — Bela Lugosi remains the gold standard, while Christopher Lee very much stands on his own — and it may be high time for Cage to join the ranks.

Indeed, Cage mused in an interview with Total Film Magazine that Dracula was a hoop through which he knew he would have to eventually jump. Having been a cinematic mainstay for a century, Dracula awaits in front of several actors, hoping to get his teeth into them.

Christopher Lee meets Nic's dad

Nicolas Cage talked about the drive he felt toward the Transylvanian count, saying:

"The concept of Dracula, in itself, is a challenge. [...] It's been done so many times already. It's been done very well and it's also been done not very well. I certainly admire Christopher Lee and Frank Langella and Bela Lugosi and Gary [Oldman]. But I wanted to see if I could bring something fresh to the character. And I also kind of always knew I had to do it at some point."

Indeed, like a noted Shakespearean character, or even a pop figure like Superman, finding a fresh angle is always going to be a challenge. Incidentally, Cage almost played Superman in a notoriously unmade Tim Burton film called "Superman Lives." It's actually quite rare that Cage is asked to play notable, known characters in feature film form. Apart from the Marvel Comics character Ghost Rider and a few notable voice roles in animated films (he played Superman in "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies"), Cage tends to create his characters from whole cloth. Finding a new angle is his métier. 

Cage admitted Dracula his angle was a combination of Christopher Lee and his own father, explaining:

"I knew Christopher. I did a small scene with him in 'Season of the Witch,' and I liked him very much. We had a lot of nice conversations, and he reminded me quite a bit of my father, August. So from then on, my dad sort of became the main inspiration for me."

His performance hasn't yet been seen by a mass audience — "Renfield" hits theaters on April 14, 2023 — but the small nibbles we've been given may said to portend well. Why not a decade of Cage/Dracula movies?