My favorite cereal growing up was Count Chocula. Cereal was, of course, a special occasion—specifically for the late-night pajamas hours or, for some of you weirdos, the “red-light district” hours. It had marshmallows in it that were probably made of plutonium, but they gave Count Chocula that perfect radioactive zing which tickles the tongue in every bite. In many households it was relegated to “dessert-cereal” status because it had a sugar content that really juiced kids up. Most importantly, however, Count Chocula was heavily inspired by one of the greatest fictional characters of all time—Count Dracula. The mascot of the cereal was a Count Dracula-looking fellow, obviously cartoonized so as not to devastate children just trying to grab a bowl before bedtime.
Why bring this up? Because Dracula shows up everywhere in pop culture. He’s a loveable character that even kids like. He’s scary, but also overwhelmingly charming. For all of his pros, it’s important to have some perspective on Dracula—he spends his days in his castle and his nights on the prowl for female blood. Understandably, General Mills doesn’t relay that info to kids via Count Chocula. Liking an antagonist like Dracula is actually a lot like eating a sugary cereal. You feel like you shouldn’t, but you do anyway, because you can’t help it.
Along with being the face of sugary cereals, Dracula has been a movie and TV star. The last big movie about Dracula was Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 effort “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which received fairly negative reviews. That movie came out in 1992, which means that within probably, let’s say, just throwing it out there, ten years, there will be a new Dracula movie. On account of his ubiquity in pop culture and the fact that people of all ages adore him, it doesn’t make sense for there not to be another big Dracula movie in the not-too-distant future.
So what’s there to consider for this new Dracula movie? To clarify the term “Dracula movie,” this doesn’t imply a movie that follows the 19th century Bram Stoker story—for our purposes we don’t care at all about the original story. We care more about a movie that merely contains Dracula as a main character, perhaps involving Dracula through an entirely new storyline. It would follow his journeys and habits and how he responds to things that happen in the world around him, but it wouldn’t follow the original Bram Stoker story in the slightest. Why? The people don’t want the classic story. They don’t care about it. They want a new, fresh movie with Dracula…just kind of…in it.
So let’s get to the burning questions: who should take up the role as Dracula in a modern day Dracula film, and what would that film look like? The answer to the former lies in the answer to the latter. The choice for lead actor totally depends on the type of Dracula movie they’re going for. Since this movie won’t follow the narrative constraints of the original Bram Stoker story, a modern day Dracula movie can take a number of routes. Let’s discuss three: A really dumb comedy, a dark and edgy horror film, and a quirky indie with a coming-of-age feel. With these genres in mind, each of these three movies would require a wildly different type of lead actor.
WRITER’S NOTE: There is absolutely no scientific or even intelligent method with regards to the selection of these actors. A bunch of names came to my head and I thought—“Yeah, they could probably play Dracula, why not?” In other words, this is very much a genius stream of consciousness that has culminated into this (if not totally useless) semi-useless article. At the same time, I really think I struck oil. Nevertheless, it should open the discussion so that you, the reader, can think about this very important question too. You’re welcome.
The really dumb comedy
It would be a really dumb comedy, meaning, it would feel a bit like “Airplane!” in that it would embrace its own absurdity. Today, it would be damn near impossible to write a Dracula comedy without wanting to just go all out ridiculous. It wouldn’t have a message, and it would barely have a coherent or important narrative. It would just be a really dumb movie consisting of pure, unadulterated joy.
Who would play this Dracula? This Dracula would have a whole new personality, but still have the bloodsucker tendencies that are ripe for comedic fun. First name that comes to mind: Michael Cera. That’s an easy one. It makes no sense, yet so much sense, especially with that little mustache he’s had going on lately. He’s so quiet and gentle and unassuming. It would be nice to see Dracula be so vulnerable and harmless. Michael Cera is also either not sexy at all, or a sexual dynamo. Who knows? Only one way to find out.
Also, Dracula can’t cross water on his own. He needs to be carried. So seeing Michael Cera as Dracula being carried like a baby over a small brook would be delightful. That said, at the end of the day, he’s only a good choice in theory. He’s not the right choice, because a movie with Michael Cera as Dracula won’t ever get made. We’re dealing with realistic hypotheses here.
Here’s a question—why not consider a comedy in which Dracula is black? Who’s to say Dracula can’t be black? White Hollywood wouldn’t ever give that movie the green light—but let’s entertain the idea. Perhaps Chris Rock? Will Smith? Chris Rock would undoubtedly be hilarious, but only if he put absolutely no effort into pulling off an Eastern European accent. The names that keep coming to mind, however, are Keegan-Michael Key and/or Jordan Peele. Key has Dracula’s height down, and he’s also a chameleon when it comes to voices—he could probably do a great Eastern European accent. Peele, on the other hand, could perhaps add more layers to his performance as Dracula. Peele is stockier and shorter, but he’s as adept at voices as Key is. Peele would add a really interesting dimension to this Dracula movie, as he has frequently revealed his penchant for horror. Most recently, he released his directorial debut—the horror film “Get Out”—and he’s injected some actually uncomfortable and horrific elements to various “Key & Peele” sketches. Throw Peele into the Carpathian mountains and we get a funny and potentially scary movie—but it won’t happen.
How about Paul Rudd? Now we’re talking. This is actually a realistic option. Rudd is tall, funny, and charming. He can also carry the lead role perhaps better than Michael Cera can, so if the comedy writers wanted to craft a stronger (but still loose) narrative while still being ridiculous, Rudd is the best option. He’s funny and can keep the enthusiasm up. He can probably inject some much needed Draculaen sexiness, be it sincere or goofy; either way, it would work. Being scary won’t really matter. It’s a comedy. Then again, Rudd trying to be scary would only boost the giggles. He would look great as any iteration of Dracula for a comedy. The discussion ends here: Paul Rudd would be the ideal choice for a comedic Dracula motion picture. Will they cast him? Probably not.
The dark, edgy horror
It’s also quite possible they’d take another stab at a Dracula horror movie. It would be far more terrifying and far more horrific than Coppola’s 1992 effort. The Dracula in this hypothetical film has to be terrifying. While, say, Gary Oldman could bring the scare and charm pretty well, in this new age Dracula film, the producers could potentially totally ditch the charm for pure villainy. They would make this sucker a real nightmare inducer. They would want to push the envelope fear factor-wise. Who can do scary? Perhaps Michael Fassbender would be a good choice. Michael Fassbender is very Irish and Dracula is very Eastern European, but Fassbender is good-looking enough to just touch the charm of Dracula, while not overdoing it—ideal for this new edgy version. He also has an intensity to him that would work quite well. The electricity in his eyes could surely be used for fear. If he can make the role his own, he could make this Dracula one of the scariest that’s ever been on the screen.
It’s also probable that for a dark and edgy horror they would find someone who’s actually Eastern European to add some much-needed authenticity. Better yet, they would find someone who was actually born and raised in an abandoned Eastern European castle. This hypothetical person would be totally unknown, but through this role he would take Hollywood by storm and he’d get invited on Conan and stuff. We don’t know who this person is yet, but he’s got a Dracula role waiting at his doorstep. Before we just accept this option, let’s explore others.
Let’s not discount Tobey Maguire. He was very scary in “Brothers,” but not in a Dracula sense, more like a mentally unstable “why does he keep looking at me like that?” kind of way. Maguire is always a good choice for anything, so his inclusion is valid.
Tom Hardy could be likely. He’s picked up momentum recently, and since his portrayal of Bane in Batman, he’s been cast primarily as villains—really scary ones. He may not be very “sexy,” but he can be horrifying, and there is no doubt that he can keep the villainous enthusiasm up for a two-hour film. People in real life are probably actually scared of Hardy; therefore, he’d be a great fit for Dracula.
All this being said, it’s clear they will go with the unknown Eastern European castle person.
The quirky indie
You simply can’t rule this out. It’s totally possible in this very bizarre world of ours. It would be a quirky, coming-of-age story for Dracula. But it would be tastefully done of course. Perhaps in this film they would select someone unknown, but it’s more likely a bigger name actor will totally fall in love with the director’s vision and sign on immediately. Having a big-name actor is crucial for these movies. Luckily, it happens all the time. Who would that person be? They can’t be too funny—kinda awkward funny, but not like Michael Cera funny. They have to react to their surroundings as though everything in the world is against them, so for this film, Dracula would have a victim’s mentality, yet still try to make the best of his situation in his search for happiness. They have to have hopes and aspirations. That’s essentially Dracula’s essence, right? So a few names come to mind: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mark Ruffalo, let’s throw in Elijah Wood while we’re at it.
Right off the bat, let’s throw out Ruffalo because, upon writing this, the author just remembered that he was the Hulk, so for some unexplainable reason that disqualifies him from playing Dracula.
Dano and Radcliffe were both in “Swiss Army Man” together. That was a funny and quirky movie, and they were both funny and quirky. Radcliffe is trying hard to take roles that are weird, but he would probably have an ethical dilemma aligning himself with Dracula, because as we all know, Dracula is associated with Nosferatu, and Nosferatu looks like Lord Voldemort. So ultimately, that’s a no-go for our Harry Potter friend, Danny Rad. Dano, in all seriousness, would be excellent. He could definitely pull off the look of Dracula with a little bit of makeup magic. He can be awkward but emotional and really nails that deep-down turmoil that an indie Dracula movie would probably want. Paul Dano is our man.
And Elijah Wood…yeah, sorry bud, you’re too short.
Projected Rotten tomatoes ratings:
Comedy version: 12%
Dark version: 67%
Quirky indie version: 99%