Before Bram Stoker's Dracula, Winona Ryder Worried Francis Ford Coppola Didn't Like Her

When closely examined, Hollywood history is a remarkably fickle thing. Not only have some major casting decisions almost been thwarted by circumstance but entire movies have been made (or not made) thanks to one key event.

One such movie is "Bram Stoker's Dracula," made by Francis Ford Coppola in 1992. The film became a landmark adaptation of the perennial horror novel (and character), ending up as one of the 10 highest-grossing films of '92 and influencing further versions of the Count and other vampire films that followed.

Yet it almost didn't happen — not with Coppola at the helm, anyway. The director was not on board from the beginning of the film's development, with screenwriter James V. Hart the one who was attempting to shepherd it to the screen for over a decade before star Winona Ryder attached herself to the film, saving it from being relegated to a cable TV movie.

Even with Ryder on board, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" still needed a director, and Coppola seemed to be a long shot given the history he shared with Ryder. The two didn't have a falling out per se, but the issues surrounding Ryder's involvement with Coppola's "The Godfather Part III" made the actress wonder if the filmmaker had beef with her. Ryder's interest in burying a perceived hatchet led to a fateful meeting about the future of "Bram Stoker's Dracula."

The curse of Mary Corleone

By all accounts, the production of "The Godfather Part III" was not a breezy one, and that was apparent as early as the film's development. While Coppola struggled to lock down the film's script and locations, he tried to cast the movie, finding trouble even with actors who seemed like sure things: Robert Duvall, who portrayed the role of Tom Hagen in the first two "Godfather" movies, left the production after a salary dispute, causing his part to be rewritten and recast.

Although the characters of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), Kay Adams-Corleone (Diane Keaton), and Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) are highly important in the movie, the key role is arguably Michael and Kay's daughter (and Vincent's eventual lover), Mary Corleone. Coppola originally cast Julia Roberts in the part, but scheduling issues prevented her involvement. Madonna apparently lobbied for the role, but neither Coppola nor Paramount Pictures thought she was right for it.

Attempting to balance Paramount's desire for a rising young star and his own interest in someone who seemed appropriate for the part, Coppola settled on Ryder, and the actress even arrived in Rome to begin shooting on December 28th, 1989. Yet she suffered from nervous exhaustion and was forced to leave the shoot suddenly on little to no notice. Coppola ended up casting his own real-life daughter, future director Sofia Coppola, and while he was very happy with the results, Ryder understandably wondered if this incident soured the director on her.

Ryder makes Coppola an offer he can't refuse

After the poorly-received release of "The Godfather Part III" in December of 1990, Coppola was looking for his next project. According to an in-depth article about the making of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" by Entertainment Weekly's Trish Deitch Rohrer, Coppola "began to hear from a variety of sources that Winona Ryder thought he didn't like her."

Coppola decided to reach out to the actress, inviting her to a meeting in order to dispel her fears about his feelings toward her. At that meeting, Ryder decided to bring up her interest in Hart's "Dracula" script, as the screenwriter recalled in 1992:

"Apparently, she had been a fan of the novel growing up. She read my screenplay when she was 19 and she was actively looking for a transition role, something where she would play a grown-up woman. And the role of Mina was what she was looking for. She gave it to Francis to see if he felt it was a role she should do, I think to heal some of the problems that had come out over her not doing 'Godfather III.'"

As it turned out, Ryder and Coppola both got more than they bargained for out of that "no hard feelings" meeting: Coppola became taken with the idea of making "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and soon afterward was officially hired to make the picture. Although the production of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was as tense as just about every Coppola shoot has infamously been, Ryder did say at the time that she generally enjoyed the experience, stating "I had fun because the cast and crew were very fun people."

In any case, watching "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is indeed very fun, and it's wild to realize that it may not have happened at all save one chance meeting.