Renfield Took Inspiration From Musical Legend David Bowie For Nicolas Cage's Dracula Look

Chris McKay's new horror comedy "Renfield," starring Nicholas Hoult as the title character and Nicolas Cage as a very familiar vampire Count, may serve as a direct sequel to Tod Browning's 1931 classic "Dracula." Set in the present day, it catches up with Count Dracula and his enslaved, immortal henchman Renfield as they have fallen into a pattern. As it goes: Dracula kills too many people, vampire hunters nearly kill him, he and Renfield flee the country to convalesce, Renfield finds new victims to restore his master, Dracula rises again, and the cycle repeats. 

Renfield, having been locked in the same pattern for a century, has grown weary. While he is immortal and eating bugs gives him a short burst of superpowers, he hates that his boss is so narcissistic and controlling. Over the course of "Renfield," the character will go to self-help meetings aimed to support those in controlling relationships, and slowly comes to understand his own needs. He will begin dressing in pastels and brighter colors, comb his hair, and look less and less like a sniveling, rodent-like lapdog of the Devil. 

Dracula, meanwhile, will continue to drink blood and gain more and more strength. At the start of the film, he is a largely fleshless ghoul. By the end of the film, his skin will have grown back, his teeth will once again be razor-sharp, and, importantly, he'll once again have access to his old wardrobe. 

The outfits in "Renfield" were designed by Lisa Lovaas, the costume designer behind "Black Widow," "Ambulance," and numerous other blockbusters. In a recent interview with Variety, Lovaas talked about how the ordinarily dandyish Dracula received a glam rock upgrade, inspired directly by the outfits of David Bowie. When dressing Dracula, there are far worse places to start. 

Current, but timeless

According to the Variety interview, Lisa Lovaas' specific goal was to make Dracula simultaneously fashionable and yet immortal, "current, but timeless." Designing Dracula seems to be a fraught exercise, given how many cinematic Draculas there have already been. To this day, filmmakers are living down the legacies put in place by Bela Lugosi and Tod Browning's costume designers Vera West and Ed Ware. One will have to be careful to create a Dracula that can evoke traditional images of vampirism, but also be cautious not to repeat any of the many renditions of extant Draculas. 

Notably, Lovaas said that timelessness was previously captured by David Bowie, specifically by the all-red suit the rocker wore on his 1987 Glass Spider tour. Going into the climax of "Renfield," Dracula's suit was a crimson velveteen number, and the David Bowie look was being deliberately evoked. Lovaas said: 

"I loved the monochrome style of that iconic red suit of his from the late '80s. Such a bold and powerful look which I thought worked well for Nic. It just felt like a strong dramatic flourish for the end. [...] The character has developed over time, and there's a continuity to the look that's been established. It was important to me to maintain that continuity, and hopefully to build on it, with respect for its history."

In many ways, the evolving fashionable elegance of Dracula could match the evolution of David Bowie, as both are ethereal, weirdly immortal beings whose respective looks evolved as the decades passed, but never without retaining a sense of class.

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste

Lisa Lovaas admitted that Nicholas Hoult's costumes were an afterthought to Nicolas Cage's. As a henchman, Renfield would likely dress only to impress his boss anyway, so it stands to reason that Renfield's wardrobe would be secondary to Dracula. Lovaas had to put many, many outfits onto her actor to find the costumes that worked perfectly, including some known, traditional vampire accouterments. She said:

"Specific costume choices were in large part driven by what worked best for Nic on any given scene. [...] I had all kinds of things for Nic to try on, capes that were furlined, capes that were bejeweled, and Nic Cage was 100% game for all of it. [...] The silk, brocade, velvet, shiny leather, all bring a kind of elegant richness that we wanted to portray for Dracula, a man of wealth, taste and elegance."

As for Renfield's colorful ensembles, Lovaas said that the outfits reflected the childlike nature of the character. Renfield was being reborn, and his first instinct was to run in the opposite direction of the black suits he had once worn. His outfits look very much like he recently fled the land of Oz or perhaps a job at F.A.O. Schwartz. Describing Renfield's outfits, Lovaas said:

"There's a kind of naïveté and innocence there, which ties into his character and the sense of hopefulness he has for the future. [...] And there's nothing like patchwork pastels to bring that all together."

Overall, "Renfield" is a gently comedic movie, led by two amazing lead performances from Hoult and Cage. It is currently playing in theaters. Go for the outfits. Stay for the bloody fun.