Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Director Chris McKay has solely made just a few movies to date, however each has proven he is a filmmaker that likes to push his boundaries and take a look at new issues. Coming from TV animation like Ethical Orel and Robotic Hen, it made sense that McKay’s big-budget debut would are available 2017’s The Lego Batman Film, which took The Lego Film model of Batman and gave him his personal story alongside loads of different IP. 2021’s The Tomorrow Conflict noticed McKay trying a live-action sci-fi movie starring Chris Pratt and Sam Richardson that was filled with extra historical past and lore than your common motion movie. McKay’s newest, nevertheless, may be his most formidable venture but, as Renfield is a horror-comedy which exhibits the connection between Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and his servant Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) when Renfield decides he may need extra in life than serving the preferred vampire of all time.


In our interview with McKay, the director talked about what made him on this model of the Dracula story, the movies that influenced the look of Renfield, directing Nicolas Cage as Dracula, directing the one direct sequel to 1931’s Dracula, and what he contributed to the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves.

COLLIDER: So what was it that drew you to the story of Renfield?

CHRIS MCKAY: I’m an enormous horror film fan, and I grew up watching the previous films, and with the Common film monsters within the background of every part. Like, the very first e-book I believe I ever learn alone was a e-book by Alan Ormsby, who ended up turning into a screenwriter, however he wrote a e-book. I believe it’s mainly referred to as Film Monsters, and within the first half of the e-book is the historical past of every of the Common monsters: Creature, Wolf Man, Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, and many others. After which the remainder of it was find out how to do make-up like monsters. In order a child, I used to be targeted on it—it was in all probability like 70–100 pages, tops. I believe I learn it in a day, it was the very first thing the place I sat within the library, and I sat there, and I simply learn it ‘trigger I used to be fascinated.

Then I used to be lucky sufficient that they performed a whole lot of the previous horror films the place I grew up in Chicago, they performed a whole lot of the previous horror films, whether or not they had a day film slot earlier than the information. So once I got here house from faculty, they’d do Godzilla week, they’d do King Kong week, they’d do Common Monsters week. They in all probability didn’t name it Hammer Films Week, however I acquired to see the Oliver Reed werewolf films, issues like that. Son of Svengoolie was one other factor that was on Channel 32 in Chicago, so I acquired to observe that and see all such previous films and that type of factor.

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So it was very lucky that I used to be given a really complete overview of the historical past of those monsters. So when the script got here to me, and I noticed that it was a unique means into this world, that it was by a lens of Renfield, by a contemporary lens, by the lens of codependency and the boss from hell, that appeared like such a enjoyable means of doing this type of film, and the truth that Common was going to make it, and we are able to play with the previous Tod Browning film a little bit bit in our movie, and have this cockeyed perspective on this world simply appeared like a whole lot of enjoyable to me.

I fell in love with the character of Renfield and his relationship with Dracula. Renfield is mainly a man who needs to get out of this unhealthy relationship, and doesn’t know the way—he’s been on this relationship for 93 years, and he needs to get out of it. I checked out this as a possibility, as a result of it has a whole lot of black comedy in it, there’s a whole lot of motion in it, and there’s a little bit little bit of suspense and drama in it too. In order that, to me, appeared like an actual enjoyable mixture. It’s not one thing that comes across the desk fairly often. One thing that’s clearly nonetheless tied to one of many oldest IPs on the planet and possibly one of the vital filmed IPs on the planet whenever you have a look at it. Dracula’s in all probability up there with Sherlock Holmes and Hamlet so far as literary character that you simply see in film after film.

However the truth that it was this enjoyable means into this story, the truth that I am going R-rated and convey—for lack of a greater means of placing it—an Evil Lifeless II kind of splatstick humor to the film, in order that appeared like a whole lot of enjoyable, and I responded to all of that.

Sorry, lengthy approach to reply your query, it was one thing that was wholly authentic, and felt like a whole lot of enjoyable to work on, and it’s one thing I’ve acquired a deep love for.

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You’ve already stated that you simply grew up with these Common horror movies, and also you talked about Evil Lifeless II, have been there another horror movies that you simply have been taking a look at whenever you have been deciding the look of the movie?

MCKAY: Quite a lot of the look of the movie got here from Basil Gogos’ work, the stuff that he did for Well-known Monsters—which I believe he was doing this work within the ‘50s and ‘60s—on the time, these characters have been black and white, they usually have been solely seen in black and white, and he was the primary individual to interpret them into coloration. To place Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi in coloration, and that type of factor. And he painted them with very garish colours, actually moody lighting, however actually saturated greens and purples and oranges, and all that type of factor.

And so for me, that was the place the place a few of this began, as a result of I actually appreciated that look and that tone, and it felt like that was the way in which to make it each type of scary at occasions, or nonetheless within the supernatural world, and likewise make it type of really feel poppy and enjoyable. And I assume for me, a whole lot of films generally look the identical, the place it’s both tremendous, tremendous sharp and a traditional layer of saturation, or it’s like one type of coloration, and it’s principally yellow, or it’s principally brown-gray, you already know? I like previous lenses, so I wished the film to have this connection to the previous, and so we used a whole lot of uncoated lenses that had a whole lot of flaws in them, which creates a whole lot of attention-grabbing shapes of the lightning—particularly as a result of there’s a whole lot of candlelight within the film. And I need to have a whole lot of focus fall off, in order that the perimeters are a little bit blurrier, they usually get a little bit darker on the perimeters, and issues like that.

So I wished the film to look completely different, and a part of that’s wanting on the previous Hammer films, taking a look at clearly the Common films and issues like that. So there was a whole lot of the way in which these films really feel, the manufacturing design of the Hammer films, which I believe is de facto fantastic Technicolor and look of the previous films. American Werewolf is an enormous film for me, the way in which The Howling makes use of each comedy and horror. And in addition, Joe Dante in The Howling and John Landis in American Werewolf, [there are] a whole lot of allusions to the previous of their films, a type of cheeky humorousness, to the way in which John Landis makes use of music in American Werewolf.

So to me, these have been some issues that I checked out. And I really like Edgar Wright films, so clearly Shaun of the Lifeless. I wished the film to be a little bit extra grounded than possibly Shaun of the Lifeless, nevertheless it’s nonetheless acquired the identical type of cheeky sensibility. So to me, it was a whole lot of taking a look at these movies. It’s simply something that would assist make our film simply really feel a little bit bit completely different. , even the way in which we talked in regards to the battle scenes, watching a whole lot of Jackie Chan films, simply due to the way in which he makes use of humor in a battle scene, that was one thing that I wished to search out. Once more, you’re type of doing splatstick, so it’s a little bit of Evil Lifeless, however there’s additionally type of a reputable battle scene with an goal in the midst of it, so type of referencing the way in which you type of can construct a way of enjoyable within the battle scenes. So that you’re taking it considerably critically, as a result of it’s nonetheless acquired to have some stakes, nevertheless it’s additionally like, you’ve acquired a smile in your face always.

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You might have a really intensive historical past in animation, how do you are feeling that helped in making Renfield?

MCKAY: Properly, we at all times storyboard and animatic virtually all of the scenes within the film, as a result of I attempted to do a whole lot of stuff virtually. So, I need to begin with the inspiration of simply understanding what the essential thrust of the scene is, and it additionally helps you kick the tires on the scene to see what’s working from a narrative perspective, or what’s going to be problematic for me, you already know, from a efficiency perspective or a blocking perspective. So I at all times strive to do this even when it’s a straight dialogue scene, simply in order that we now have some type of body of reference, so we begin to do a tough draft of the scene. So constructing an animation, the construct reels to type of kick the tires on the film with storyboards and sound design and a few rudimentary voice over. , we now have everybody within the workplace pitching in to do voices and that type of factor.

You get to type of see the film and really feel the film out, and clear up these issues. And since I got here from stop-motion for probably the most half in animation—although the LEGO films have been digitally created in a pc—there’s one thing about it—stop-motion—the place it’s a must to construct or discover every part you need to put in entrance of the digicam. It’s type of with the ability to perceive that, and perceive the restrictions of what you will get virtually, and be capable of go like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna set prolong this,’ or there’s a specific amount of issues that we are able to have fall off into the darkness, and create one thing, like a shot of sunshine or one thing up there to type of create some visible curiosity, although we don’t have that quantity of depth on the set. However for those who let it fall off into the darkness and also you type of create form up there, it type of offers you a way that there’s one thing within the far distance. Issues like which might be stuff… it’s as a result of, working in animation—particularly as a result of I labored in a pair completely different sorts of animation—you type of perceive what you are able to do with the mix of sensible and visible results to assist prolong stuff. And I believe a part of it’s additionally as a result of I work in low-budget animation, that helped me be capable of type of improvise on set and be capable of go, ‘okay, cool, this factor didn’t present up, we don’t have this,’ or, ‘we solely have this a lot time, right here’s what we’re going to do with the intention to get probably the most bang for a buck.’

What’s it like directing Nicolas Cage in such a grandiose function as this one?

MCKAY: Quite a lot of enjoyable. He’s nice. I really feel like I’ve gotten very fortunate with the actors and actually lucky to work with individuals who, basically, are very nice and actually care about what they’re doing and actually come to the desk to play, and Cage is among the most playful those that I’ve met. He’s an actual skilled, like he was off e-book on the second Zoom I had with him. And he had a voice, and he knew what he wished to do, and but, on the identical time, he was open to strive issues, and we’d actually improvise some stuff. And he had a handful of dialogue notes, and all of them have been actually humorous and fantastic and in character.

He’s acquired a deep love of the Christopher Lee Dracula vampire films, however significantly Christopher Lee, and he type of based mostly the character a little bit bit on his father, so far as his voice and type of the perspective. And so he simply got here to the desk with a totally fashioned character. As soon as he learn the script, and we had an preliminary dialog, he was in and he simply type of got here to play. The humorous factor is, with out Nic Hoult and with out Nic Cage, I don’t know if you may make this film, since you want actors who’re unafraid to be bizarre, and you already know, Hoult has to have the ability to need to eat bugs on digicam and be type of a bizarre type of man, but additionally be capable of be humorous and weak and charming. So we’ve acquired to have him to have the ability to carry the film, and somebody who may additionally do stunts.

The identical with Cage, he did a whole lot of his personal stunts too. We had Cage up on wires, we’ve acquired him doing issues. So there’s a whole lot of can-do perspective from these guys that, I’m simply actually lucky that they threw themselves into the cage, and wished to fucking throw stuntmen round, and issues like that. In addition to bringing the comedy and the weirdness, in addition to bringing the drama after we want it, when he feels betrayed by Renfield, you already know? Renfield needs to depart and that’s type of what units off their battle, and you actually really feel it. So, to have the ability to work with actors of that caliber who deliver that palette of feelings and vary to the film, I simply really feel actually lucky. I’d work with both of these guys any day of the week.

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So that you talked about that Renfield has been with Dracula for 93 years—does that imply that that is type of a direct sequel to the Tod Browning Dracula film?

MCKAY: I stored telling advertising that that’s what we should always say, that that is the one direct sequel. I assume you would argue Dracula’s Daughter is a sequel as a result of the opening scene is the aftermath of the Tod Browning film, however Bela Lugosi’s not in it, it’s an entire completely different set of characters. And it’s an excellent film, it’s wild for those who haven’t seen it. I believed the film was nice.

However to me, that is the one actual direct sequel with the Dracula and the Renfield of that film. So yeah, I want they’d use that within the advertising. I believe that will’ve been a humorous means of positioning this film. The longest time between the unique film and the sequel, beating Psycho, or no matter. I assume Avatar possibly now, because it appears like a very long time because the first one.

Yeah, I used to be doing the mathematics, and was like “wait 93 years, that’s when Dracula got here out…”

MCKAY: Properly, at first of the film—this isn’t a spoiler as a result of it’s actually within the first 5 minutes of the film—we flash again to Cage and Hoult as Dracula and Renfield assembly, and we comp them into the Tod Browning film. So it’s Cage on the staircase with the spiderweb behind him, saying, “I’m Dracula, I don’t drink wine,” and all that type of factor, and Hoult is type of within the Dwight Frye Renfield function, and it’s actually the identical costumes and every part. It was a whole lot of enjoyable, and if we had the time and money, I’d have comped these guys into subsequent Dracula films, I’d have come to the Hammer films, not an analog essentially due to the markers within the film, however I’d have put them within the Frank Langella film, and Dracula Untold, and every part. If I may’ve performed that, I’d’ve. I don’t know if the studio would’ve been up for that, however I’d have performed that simply. The Coppola film, that will’ve been nice.

So what’s your favourite vampire story in addition to this one?

MCKAY: That’s a great query. Certainly one of my favourite film recollections as a child was watching the Roddy McDowall and Williams Ragsdale in Fright Night time, with Chris Sarandon as a vampire, which is a film that got here out within the ’80s. It’s type of like Rear Window as a vampire film, and I at all times actually appreciated that film. I at all times thought that there’s one thing about the way it had humorous moments, nevertheless it was additionally only a straight-up vampire film. A vampire strikes in subsequent door and a child sees him by the window, and nobody believes him. It’s nice. Really, in our film, I solid William Ragsdale as a priest who, early within the film, is searching Dracula and Renfield, which was actually enjoyable for me to have the ability to do. It’s a bit half, nevertheless it’s a enjoyable second for me, and there’s a enjoyable factor that occurs to the priest early at first, I believe you may see within the purple band trailer.

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In the event you had your choose of another Common monster film that you would do a Renfield-esque model of, which might be probably the most attention-grabbing to you?

MCKAY: I at all times actually appreciated the Wolf Man. I at all times thought that Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man have been huge as a result of they’re all sympathetic. You felt sorry for Frankenstein’s mom, you felt sorry for the Wolf Man on some degree. I imply, I even felt sorry for Dracula, although they assume he’s extra liable for the issues that he does. Frankenstein’s monster is simply created by Frankenstein. And you already know, Lon Chaney Jr. within the Wolf Man is bitten by a werewolf, and it’s not his fault, so to talk. However there’s one thing about Dracula that I assume I at all times felt type of unhappy, and I at all times felt sorry for him, that he couldn’t assist, possibly, who he was. For me, the Wolf Man can be enjoyable. I don’t know whose lens you’ll put that by. I imply, that will be an attention-grabbing factor to determine. I assume you would undergo his father’s perspective, or one thing, to do it differently. However I believe that’s such an excellent story and I believe you would have some enjoyable with that.

So that you even have a narrative credit score on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves. Are you able to inform us something about that movie as properly?

MCKAY: Yeah, I used to be an enormous D&D child. I used to be approached to direct that film, and I began creating it, and what we have been creating—Mike Gilio and I, the author I used to be working with—we have been type of creating a heist film. Like, how are you going to make this type of an Ocean’s Eleven-type movie. As a result of a whole lot of what you’re doing in D&D is you’re going into a spot, and also you’re going to take one thing to rid it of some unhealthy man or one thing, and it’s often a little bit of each. And people films are often like, ‘we’re gonna attempt to steal one thing,’ however there’s additionally a dishonorable function and an honorable function, and a possible option to make in some unspecified time in the future within the film. And in order that was type of the way in which that we went about it, and we developed a remedy that the studio appreciated, and Mike went off and wrote a very nice script. And whereas I used to be creating that, Tomorrow Conflict got here alongside, and it was a film that had a window with Chris Pratt’s schedule, they usually wanted a director, and it was about 4 or 5 months earlier than they have been going to shoot it. So I kinda had to select, and I type of jumped on that, which then put the script and every part that we had performed as type of bounce ball for another administrators to take it.

I believe, from what I perceive—I’ve nonetheless not seen the completed film as a result of I’ve been engaged on Renfield—however I hear [there are] a whole lot of the scenes that Mike and I labored on after which Mike wrote which might be within the film or at the very least some variations of them. So I’m excited that they type of proceed, at the very least considerably in that route. However I acquired to design dragons and issues like that for the film. So there [were] all types of dream come true stuff, and I actually love fantasy. I grew up on a whole lot of the Excalibur, Sorcerer, and that type of factor.

So to have the ability to do one thing in that world, but additionally attempt to inform it although a contemporary lens, and attempt to do it by a heist, prefer it’s this heist staff stepping into, after which the specialist who can do that stuff, and supposed to do this, and that type of factor, that, to me, was a whole lot of enjoyable, to only think about what that will have been and how one can shoot that in a enjoyable, kinetic means. However I can’t wait to see that film. I actually have heard solely good issues about it, and yeah, it seems nice. And the truth that [there are] like Beholders and issues like that they put within the film, and bugbears and owlbears, that was type of what we did. We actually have been like, “OK, let’s open up the monster guide, and what number of of those monsters can we get into this film someway.” It seems like they type of took that ball and ran with it. So I’m excited.

Renfield opens in theaters April 14.

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