Thursday, 6 October 2011

Casting Dracula

I was watching Pineapple express on the telly last night and the scene where Seth Rogan rocks up to his girlfriend's place comes on. She's sitting at the dinner table with her parents. They're waiting for him. I see her dad's side profile and wonder: 'Wouldn't Ed Begley, Jr. make a good Van Helsing?'


I sometimes fantasise what a proper film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) would look like. The 1992 version came close in that it retained the main characters, but the central love story sent it way off course. Anthony Hopkins did a commendable job as Van Helsing, though, highlighted some of the character's 'madness'.

As far as I'm concerned, no adaptation I've seen has stayed 'true' to the novel, that is, retained the main plot points, scenes, dialogue and characters. I don't think it'd be that hard to do. That's why I wonder who'd be cast the movie and so on.

Classic movie monsters
The guy even kinda looks like Edward Van Sloan (1882-1964), the first actor to play Van Helsing on the bigscreen (left). More importantly, they both resemble the description Mina Harker gives in the book:
I rose and bowed, and he came towards me, a man of medium weight, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the trunk as the head is on the neck. The poise of the head strikes me at once as indicative of thought and power. The head is noble, well-sized, broad, and large behind the ears. The face, clean-shaven, shows a hard, square chin, a large resolute, mobile mouth, a good-sized nose, rather straight, but with quick, sensitive nostrils, that seem to broaden as the big bushy brows come down and the mouth tightens. The forehead is broad and fine, rising at first almost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wide apart, such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumble over it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyes are set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man's moods.
Hopefully, Begley can rock a Dutch accent. He's also 62, which is still (barely) within the boundaries of the professor's middle-aged status. However, if I wasn't gonna do a 'straight' version of this flick, like an 'update' or something, I'd choose Samuel L. Mother****in' Jackson. He'd walk through a door, into a room full of vampires, looking like Shaft—again—wielding pump action shotgun, chk-chk BLAM! Awesome.

Anyway, with Van Helsing cast, it naturally got me thinking who Dracula should be. I've already made my case for the actor who would've been perfect for the role, but he's out of the race on account of being dead and all.

How about Christopher Lee? He's said he'd play the part again, if the script stuck to Stoker's novel (one of the reasons he stopped participating in the Hammer sequels), but, let's face it—he's getting on a bit. He turned 89 this year, and even though you could make him look younger with prosthetics and whatnot, would he really be up to the challenge? He'd need to shave that beard off, too.

But Pineapple express saved the day, again. Dracula was right under my nose. What about the film's bad guy, Gary Cole? He's played evil supernatural characters before—think Sheriff Lucas Buck in American gothic (1995-6). He looks like a bit of a cold bastard—why not? Let's do another comparison with the novel. Here's how Jonathan Harker describes Dracula:
His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.
Sure that bushy hair business doesn't match Cole's appearance, hough I do think he's got a 'fixed and rather cruel-looking' mouth. Compare Harker's description with the pic of Cole, left. Hell, he's even trying to grow a moustache there. He'd have to tone down his drawl, though. No Reece Bobby for the Count.

As to the rest, I've only thought vaguely of them. Someone lordly looking for Arthur Holmwood. Paul Bettany? For Mina or Lucy, I was thinking Ellie Kemper from The office. She's got a sweet, 'innocent' vibe to her, just like Madeline Smith in The vampire lovers (1970).

Who's left? Jonathan Harker, John Seward and Quincey Harker. Oh, and Renfield. Those ones I'm stuck on, but I did think of Felix Williamson for Seward, mainly because of his 'look' in Underbelly: razor. But I also realise that's because it reminds me, vaguely, of Richard E. Grant in the '92 flick. Cast-wise, that one's a hard act to follow.


Zahir Blue said...

You seem to be focusing on an American retelling of Dracula, since your cast is virtually all-American. With that in mind--yeah, methinks you've got a good idea there.

Anthony Hogg said...

As most of my movie exposure comes from American movies, it's admittedly hard to think out of the box. If, for example, I knew of a Dutch actor with a similar appearance to Van Helsing, I'd defer to him.

Do you have any ideas for a better cast? :D

Zahir Blue said...

Better? No. I have my own ideas, naturally! I've wanted to see Viggo Mortensen as Dracula for quite awhile with Michael Gambon or Alan Rickman as Van Helsing and Felicity Jones as Lucy with Rachel Hurd Wood as Mina and Daniel Radcliff as Harker (with a lot of emphasis on their love story) with David Tennant as Renfield, with perhaps Rupert Penry Jones as Seward. Mind you, I also think a four or six hour miniseries is the way to go!

Anthony Hogg said...

Some interesting choices there, but correct me if I'm wrong: looks like you've provided a Brit-centric counter to my American one!

I 100% agree on the miniseries idea, though. I've often though of that, meself!

Zahir Blue said...

Well, yeah but the novel takes place in England. Most of the characters are English, with essentially two exceptions and I don't know very many Dutch or Romanian actors.

Anthony Hogg said...

Heh. My brain must've been on holiday when I wrote that. Apologies.

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