Creating Nicolas Cage's Dracula Teeth For Renfield Required Cutting Edge Technology

Update: A previous version of this article suggested that Nicolas Cage's teeth were modified for "Renfield." However, we have confirmed with Universal that "The teeth were made by process of scanning [Cage's] teeth and then digitally sculpting the Dracula teeth before 3D printing the dental prosthetics." Our updated article continues below. 

"Renfield" isn't going to be the first time Nicolas Cage has donned vampire fangs on camera. Unlike the literal plastic chompers he wore in the notorious "Vampire's Kiss," however, his prosthetics in Universal's upcoming horror comedy are the meticulous work of an Academy Award-nominated makeup artist. Christien Tinsley had to make sure that Cage's dentures looked appropriately threatening while also allowing the actor enough room to talk clearly. Thanks to modern technology, that goal was easier than it would have been in the past.

Vampire fangs may be a common and essential part of Halloween costumes, but their penchant for obstructing mouth movements makes them a bit of pain to apply on film. In fact, Bela Lugosi didn't even wear prosthetic teeth in the original "Dracula" film. The fangs wouldn't become an iconic part of vampire effects until Hammer's own take on "Dracula" in 1958 (a Turkish version of the story was actually the sharp dentures' first on-screen appearance). Special effects have ranged from the elaborately wired dentures in "The Lost Boys" (1987) to the CG fangs in the 2011 "Fright Night." Some films, like "Near Dark" (1987) and the "Twilight" series, choose to forgo the look altogether. When working on "Renfield," however, Tinsley creatively utilized a 3D printer to streamline the often painstaking makeup process.

A sharply creative design

The Oscars recognized Christien Tinsley for his contributions to "The Passion of the Christ" as well as, most significantly, for creating the 3D FX makeup technique called the "Tinsley transfer." During an interview with Variety, the artist revealed that "Renfield" is the first time a production's makeup department used a 3D printer to make prosthetic teeth. The method worked wonders in "Renfield," which required the ability to quickly make physical changes to the prosthetics if needed. In addition, Nicolas Cage's Dracula has a particularly jagged set of chompers, meaning that Tinsley needed to do some extra work beyond the traditional sharpening of the canine fangs.

Luckily, the 3D printer made it easy to construct an acrylic model from a scan of Cage's own teeth. The method also provided a way to print several copies in case they broke on set. Tinsley explained that the technology allowed for "more freedom to create different designs very quickly." He added that "it was important the veneers were thin" in order to let Cage "emote and annunciate properly," so he and the team "shaved Nic's [prosthetic] teeth down" for "full freedom." The entire process is an ingenious bit of FX, a very modern approach to creating what is essentially a traditional design.

"Renfield" opens in theaters on April 14, 2023.