Recently, JoBlo was invited to visit the set of Chris McKay’s Renfield, a action-comedy-horror reimagining of the classic master-servant relationship the title character has with the Prince of Darkness himself, Count Dracula (played by Nicolas Cage). While on set, a bunch of us got the chance to talk to Nicholas Hoult about playing the iconic character, working with Cage, and his own take on the classic Dracula mythos. Here’s a transcript of the group interview we got to participate in with Hoult!
So, it sounds like your character goes through quite a journey.
Yeah. Yeah, I guess. In this film, we pick up with Renfield. He’s kind of been working for Dracula for probably around 100 years, just under 100 years or so. So, the Renfield that we’ve seen in–you know, from Bram Stoker’s novels and from previous films, he’s kind of been living in his boss’s shadow in this very toxic relationship in a Devil Wears Prada way for a while, and then through the circumstance of this film kind of starts to, you know, realize that that’s not what he wanted in life, and he kind of got tricked and trapped into this relationship. And he starts to find his voice and capability to ultimately become a hero himself.
What’s your relationship to Dracula? Did you grow up watching the movies?
I–well, I didn’t really grow up watching them too much. I mean, I’ve been watching a lot of Hotel Transylvania with my little boy, so that’s probably more of the Dracula that I know.
I mean, I’d–you know, I’d seen the–in terms of horror movies, a lot like Young Frankenstein and whichever ones were, like, big through my childhood just coming out in ’90s. Sorry, I have a terrible memory.
Dracula Untold, the movie?
I didn’t see Dracula Untold. Sorry.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
I’ve see Bram Stoker’s Dracula, obviously. I’ve gone back and watched a lot of them for this. But, yeah, growing up, I wouldn’t say they were a big part of my life growing up.
But, yeah, I’ve gone back to watch and study them, and particularly like, Dwight Frye’s performance (in the 1931 Bela Lugosi version), I suppose, and trying to steal some stuff from him when possible, particularly that laugh and–
He brought–when possible to fit it in, you know, and I do my best. I’ve just–and gone back and read the book again as well, just see if there was anything in there that I–but as I said, we’d kind of joining Renfield at a very different point in his journey at the start of this film.
So, that was one thing I wanted to ask you about, was Dwight Frye’s Renfield kind of stole the show in the original Dracula.
Right, right, right.
And I was curious, what did you borrow from him? I was going to ask about the laugh, but I’m not going to make you do it if you can’t.
The laugh I have tried to squeeze in a couple of times. Whether it stays in the edit and it keeps in the cut, we’ll see.
But I was curious what you borrowed from him and what do you do make it your own, because his performance was so iconically beautiful and sad and manic.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think this version of Renfield is not probably as manic in this story. He’s more worn down by his lifestyle and environment and always having protect Dracula and how he treats him.
But, yeah, the laugh, I mean, I had–you know, I’d just go back and listen audio of him. And also, I have a couple of times just taken bits of dialect from the book–or from that iteration of the film and tried to kind of weave that into this dialogue. But, again, it’s very different, because this was written–Ryan Ridley is writing in the more modern tone and voice. So, it’s a modern monster take.
How has it been working with Nicholas Cage again? NOTE – the two starred together in Gore Verbinski’s The Weather Man (a Best Movie You Never Saw fave) when Hoult was a teenager.
It’s been so fun. Yeah, we did a film when I was 14. I played his son in a movie, and then I haven’t seen him since. But I’ve been such a–I mean, obviously, a fan of everything he’s done film-wise and acting-wise, but also just particularly recently with Pig and the–and I’ve watched the trailer for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
And the dedication he’s brought to this role and the ideas he’s got, the things he’s drawing from previous Dracula portrayals and what he’s bringing to it is really magical and powerful. And the dynamic between them I think is hopefully really working, because he’s just really passionate. He cares, and he loves acting, so he’s someone who’s dedicated, puts the time and work and wants to grow is very exciting.
Can we talk about Renfield’s diet?
I have been eating some bugs, yeah, mostly crickets. Did try some potato bugs. And dried ones that are flavored somewhat. Salt and vinegar I recommend, all these things that I never knew, which is kind of bizarre. I drew the line at, like, tarantulas and scorpions and stuff. And I was like, I don’t know if I want a–boiled and, like, shrink wrapped. And I was like, “That doesn’t seem so good.”
But the props team are amazing. They also build–create some, like, sweet versions. So, the cockroaches are actually made of caramel. They look exactly like a cockroach but it’s just gooey caramel. So, that was nice, rather than having to eat an actual cockroach. And, like, the worms were just gummy worms. And then the earth that they were in was just like ground up chocolate.
Like a dirty cake?
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, I was like this is–that was a good day. Yeah, so there has been some bug eating. And the concept behind the bug eating, and this obviously tracks back to the idea of that’s what gives–him consuming life forces was what gives him power. So, that’s kind of what gives him the edge when he’s caught in moments of peril. While having to protect Dracula, he eats a bug and gets that extra little bit of juice to be fighting.
You can read more from our Renfield set visit here, as well as a great 1:1 interview we got with Nicolas Cage about playing Dracula in the film. Renfield’s final trailer comes out tomorrow, and you can see the film in theaters as of April 14th!