A wildly inventive take on vampire mythology, “Renfield” stars Nicholas Hoult as the sad, perennially abused henchman of Dracula (Nicolas Cage) who, after dutifully serving his exploitative master for decades, is in the grips of a full-blown everlasting-life crisis. Renfield is unwilling to do Dracula’s bidding any longer but has no idea how to strike out on his own.
That all changes when he meets New Orleans cop Rebecca (Awkwafina), a principled officer with some unresolved anger issues, who is determined to bring down the city’s most powerful crime family, led by Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son Tedward (Ben Schwartz). Inspired by Rebecca’s willingness to stand up for what’s right, Renfield begins to imagine a brighter future for himself, one where he might escape the drudgery of his nightly existence and enjoy walking among the living once more.
After more than a century of servitude, Renfield longs to be away from all-powerful Dracula, but the vampire has no intention of allowing Renfield to walk free. It’s a situation that’s left Renfield feeling largely hopeless and unhappy. The role is portrayed by Emmy nominee Nicholas Hoult. Hoult immediately zeroed in on Renfield’s emotional core. “Renfield’s just exhausted with the prospect of continuing to do Dracula’s dirty work,” Hoult says. “He’s worn down, beaten down and looking for an escape or some sort of spark to return to his normal life and what he misses. It’s a toxic relationship between Renfield and Dracula—they’ve been together for so long and they really know how to push each other’s buttons and work against each other.”
Few actors commit to a role the way Academy Award®-winner Nicolas Cage does, and his outsized presence made him an obvious choice to take on the iconic role of Dracula. Not to mention, he had previously embraced his inner bloodsucker very early in his career, for the 1988 cult favorite Vampire’s Kiss. For Cage, the challenge lay in tapping into the complicated dynamic between his character and Hoult’s—finding the nuances of their rapport while remaining true to both the horrific and comedic moments. “The subject matter itself is not funny, it’s disturbing,” Cage says. “But at the root of it, there is a kind of love there. And then there are moments where it’s just abuse. It’s the dark side of human relationships that we’re exploring in this. That’s not an easy subject to take on, and certainly, to give it the spin of comedy, it’s tricky.”
Renfield might be trapped in a toxic relationship at the start of Renfield, but New Orleans police officer Rebecca is facing troubles of her own. The role is portrayed by Awkwafina, who’s known for her work in such acclaimed films as Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings. Their rapport feels so natural largely because the two performers genuinely enjoyed working together. “Nick Hoult is the perfect leading man,” Awkwafina says. “His energy is magnetic, and what he’s bringing to this character is a level of humor that is really hard to embody. I found myself cracking up all the time when I was working with him.”
A Universal Pictures International release, Renfield will open in PH cinemas on April 26.