Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Dream-Casting Dracula

In the comments to some of my posts about Dracula adaptations, an Anonymous person and I got to talking about our own fan casts for the story. Anonymous mentioned Jeremy Irons as a possibility for Dracula and suggested Christoph Waltz as a potential Van Helsing. Waltz is an especially cool choice since he's actually the actor I imagined for the Van Helsing-inspired character as I was reading Dacre Stoker and JD Barker's Dracul. Anonymous went on to offer Saorise Ronan as a promising Mina, which would be awesome. I'll watch Ronan in anything, but especially as my favorite gothic hero.

This of course got me thinking about my own preferences for a Dracula cast. In the interest of variety, I'm intentionally picking actors that Anonymous did not mention, but my dream version would absolutely steal one of their ideas: splitting the story into two films.

I tried to think of cool subtitles for each movie, but couldn't, so I'm going the same route as the recent It films and just calling these Dracula, Part One and Dracula, Part Two.

Part One would skip the Harker-in-Transylvania stuff and go straight to Mina and Lucy in Whitby. It would be all mystery as the Demeter arrives in port and Lucy starts sleepwalking again before getting sick. Meanwhile, Mina would express worry over her missing fiancé and would leave to find him just about the time that Van Helsing shows up to assist with Lucy. The film would end with Lucy's final death at the hands of Van Helsing and her suitors. Then, as an epilogue - maybe a post-credits scene - Mina arrives back in London, newly married to Jonathan, and he spots Dracula in the street. I love that chilling image as a way to finish the movie. All credit to Anonymous for thinking of it

Part Two would open in flashback to Jonathan's arrival in Transylvania and his captivity at the castle. When he escapes and is hospitalized, the nuns send for Mina, who arrives to marry him and transport him back to England. That's where they learn about what happened with Lucy, and Mina becomes Dracula's new target.

So who plays whom? Let's start with Mina and Lucy, since they're the focus of the first film. Mina was easy for me to cast, because when I think of horror and young actors these days, Anya Taylor-Joy is the first person to pop into my head. From The Witch and Morgan to Split and Marrowbone, Taylor-Joy has embraced the scary stuff and she's extremely good in it.

For Lucy, I like Mia Goth. I mean, to start with, I just love her name. Mia Goth. But she's another cool actor with a lot of horror already in her filmography. She was in Marrowbone with Taylor-Joy, but also A Cure for Wellness and the recent Suspiria remake. She and Taylor-Joy also both have great looks. They're not just beautiful, they're eerily beautiful and will look great running around ruined abbeys, castles, and cemeteries in white dresses.

Lucy's fiancé Arthur is usually cast as blonde and generically noble-looking. And honestly, that's how I usually imagine him. But why not do something different and cast a face with some character? Will Poulter has already played a gothic nobleman in The Little Stranger and he's got this quietly dangerous strength that would bring great tension to the scenes when he's questioning Van Helsing's theories about Lucy.

Quincey Morris is an American cowboy, so I wanted a young, rugged actor from the States and preferably from Texas. After racking my brain to come up with someone in the right age range, I decided that accents can indeed be faked and went with my heart. I'm casting John Boyega.

That leaves Jack Seward from Lucy's suitors. The good doctor will do nicely as a thin geeky type, so I'm casting one of my favorite British young people, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, The Maze Runner).

Sneaking around the background of Part One will be Dr Seward's patient, Renfield, a man whose purpose in the plot won't be fully revealed until Part Two. According to Seward in the novel, Renfield is in his late 50s. This has got to be someone with some range, so I picked Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, The World is Not Enough, Once Upon a Time).

And finally - for Part One - we need to cast Van Helsing. Anonymous' Christoph Waltz probably would have been my first choice, but since I'm intentionally trying to pick differently, I think Werner Herzog would be really cool. He has the added benefit of having directed his own Dracula movie with 1979's Nosferatu the Vampyre.

In Part Two, we bring in the other two, important characters starting with Jonathan Harker. I like Dev Patel. Harker needs to be heroic; someone to relate to and feel bad about when things go horribly for him. Patel is super charismatic and he's already got experience in the Victorian setting with the upcoming The Personal History of David Copperfield.

And finally, we need a Dracula. A few years ago, I would have hesitated to suggest Benedict Cumberbatch for the only reason that he was on the verge of becoming over-exposed. He's not as ubiquitous these days though and he's easily my top preference for the part: thin, handsome, dangerous, and that voice. (Second choice - after seeing that photo with Mia Goth above - would be Jason Isaacs.) We'll have to age him up for the Transylvania scenes, but I prefer that over casting an older actor to age down.

So that's how I'd do it. I'd love to hear thoughts or suggestions of your own in the comments. This kind of exercise is most fun when discussed.


Anonymous said...

Mister May, as the delighted Anon who donated a few coals to this train of thought I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to put this list together; one will be taking advantage of your request to share a few of my quibbles regarding your casting choices and will do my best to justify those reservations as I offer some counter-suggestions, but I sincerely enjoyed seeing your article and am very flattered you thought the idea of a two-part DRACULA adaptation (equivalent to the George MacDonald Fraser-scripted THE THREE/FOUR MUSKETEERS from the 1970s) good enough to share. (-:

Before I make a deep dive into casting, two requests:-

-: Firstly, may I please post a link to this article on my Tumblr account? (I cannot promise this will pull in a wider audience, but I would like to bring your article to attention of another venue - as it were!); I would, of course, post a link to my own Tumblr account on this page as a courtesy (also, it must be said, so that I can share the gallery of Dracula portraits on my account with you).

-: Secondly, may I respectfully suggest naming the two halves of this project WESTENRA for Part I and DRACULA for Part II? (Part of my logic for splitting the novel into two halves was so that Miss Lucy might become far more central to the plot - the film is, in fact, intended to be the Tragedy of Lucy Westenra as Victim transfigured beyond all recognition by her attacker* with the film mainly sticking to Miss Lucy's view of events, with only brief digressions elsewhere).

This is, admittedly, also grounded in the fact that WESTENRA has a pretty strong Victorian Gothic feel in its own right!

*I was tempted to use the word 'abuser' but am not certain that this would be the most appropriate term; certainly the assaults on Miss Lucy, without even the slightest interest in her conscious consent, are a little too close to sexual abuse for comfort - with the extra Horror factor of the Victim becoming a victimiser in her turn (with a preference for children).

Anonymous said...

RIGHT, here follow my own best efforts at assembling a Dream Cast for an adaptation of DRACULA (it must, perforce, be incomplete as a result of hasty construction and I would appreciate your thoughts on how it might be fleshed out):-

Jeff Goldblum as COUNT DRACULA
Rizzo the Rat and/or The Great Gonzo as R.M.RENFIELD
Kermit the Frog as DOCTOR JOHN SEWARD
Miss Piggy as MINA HARKER
Sam the Eagle as QUINCEY P. MORRIS
Fozzie the Bear as LORD GODALMING


Wait a minute, that's the cast for MUPPET DRACULA - another pet project I keep on the back-burners of my imagination; basically, it has struck me that while DEAD & LOVING IT has much to recommend it (Mr Peter MacNicol is predictably perfect as Renfield and I'm extremely fond of Mr Mel Brooks Van Helsing) it tragically lacks some of the funniest bits in the novel (and might have benefitted from being played deadpan, rather than for broad comedy).

It also struck me that while one would have been interested in seeing a Disney Renaissance animated DRACULA back in the day, the current (photo-realistic) style they use doesn't really lend itself to Gothic Horror of even the more family friendly sort ... then it struck me that 'Muppet Dracula' was an inherently amusing concept in its own right and that Mr Henson's creations are timeless.

It has also struck me - after only recently watching the 1931 DRACULA for the first time - that the films weaknesses (most prominently the strong sense that the director was hitting the beats in the script, rather than telling a coherent story) might have been remedied were Renfield and the tragedy of his unfortunate relationship with Count Dracula been made the through line that allows one to follow a plot arc from start to finish (something that might have been accomplished by showing a scene where Mr Renfield meets Mina Harker, then showing Renfield race off to Carfax Abbey at the worst possible time - while being watched like a hawk by Van Helsing et al - as the only way he could give away Dracula's location, to soothe a troubled conscience, without actually clashing with his hypnotic conditioning).

Hopefully these three distinct ideas could be assembled into a coherent, ideally hilarious, whole!

Anonymous said...

Mr May, I have rather run headlong into the character limits for this format - you can find my detailed thoughts on casting WESTENRA/DRACULA at the other end of the link below (which will lead you to my Tumblr account) - although I am more than happy to receive your reply in this section of your website, which I shall be watching. (-:

^^ If you're interested, you might also input the search 'DRACULA PORTRAIT PROJECT' and find the small selection of character portraits that kick-started my Opinions about Dracula adaptations! ^^

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Fantastic. It’s fun to soak up the passion by proximity from such a big fan of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson, thank you very kindly for the compliment! One can only hope that my passion is zealous without driving me all the way into zealotry. (-;

One would, in fact, love to see your own thoughts on the subject of adapting Dracula - I suspect that an illustrator would have more than a few suggestions of Interest when it comes to bringing a novel to life in a visual medium!

Paxton said...

Hey, Mike, I love your ideas for a new movie Dracula. I think I lean more towards Jason Isaacs, but the Batch would be pretty great.

Well done. I love the split movies idea too.


Zahir Blue said...

I honestly must applaud your casting choices! Having recently written a play adaptation which will be going up on Zoom Feb. 14, I can tell you my own imaginary casting went through several iterations. Myself, I love the notion of splitting the film into two parts. My only real problem is that it seems to me Van Helsing works better if quite old, which makes him much more dependent on others. My own "dream cast"...
LUCY Stephanie Hyam ("Doctor Who" "Sherlock" "Gentleman Jack")
MINA Freya Mavor ("The White Queen" "The ABC Murders")
HARKER Kit Harrington ("Game of Thrones")
ARTHUR A young Arthur Darvill ("Doctor Who" "The White Queen")
QUINCEY Josh Hartnett ("Penny Dreadful")
MRS. WESTENRA Tara Fitzgerald ("GAme of Thrones" "The ABC Murders")
RENFIELD David Tennant ("Doctor Who" "Good Omens")
SEWARD A young Rupert Penry Jones ("Persuasion" "The Strain")
VAN HELSING Michael Gambon ("Harry Potter" "Doctor Who" "The Singing Detective")
DRACULA Noomi Rapace ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo")

Michael May said...

I love ALL of those choices, but especially Harrington as Harker, Hartnett as Quincey, Tennant as Renfield, and Gambon as Van Helsing, and I am 10000% in love with Rapace as Dracula.

I don't know much about Zoom outside of participating in some meetings that way, but if you end up with a link to your finished play, I'd love to see it!


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