Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Character: Mina Murray/Elisabeta
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: James V. Hart based on 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker
Cast Members: Keanu Reeves, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Sadie Frost, Monica Belucci, Tom Waits, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes
Release date: November 13, 1992
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Romance
A young lawyer is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away.
It was Ryder who initially brought the script to the attention of Coppola. He agreed to meet with her so they could clear the air after the late withdrawal from The Godfather Part III caused production delays on that film and led her to believe Coppola dislike her. He was attracted to the sensual elements of the screenplay and said he wanted portions of the picture to resemble an ‘erotic dream’. Due to delays and cost overruns on some of Coppola’s previous projects such as Apocalypse Now and One from the Heart, Coppola was determined to bring the film in on time and on budget. To accomplish this he filmed on sound stages to avoid potential troubles caused by inclement weather.
Coppola chose to invest a significant amount of the budget into costumes in order to showcase the actors, whom he considered the “jewels” of the feature. He had an artist storyboard the entire film in advance to carefully illustrate each planned shot, a process which created around a thousand images. He turned the drawings into a choppy animated film and added music, then spliced in scenes from the French version of Beauty and the Beast that Jean Cocteau directed in 1946 along with paintings by Gustav Klimt and other symbolist artists. He showed the animated film to his designers to give them an idea of the mood and theme he was aiming for. Coppola also asked the set costume designers to simply bring him designs which were “weird”. “‘Weird’ became a code word for ‘Let’s not do formula,'” he later recalled. “‘Give me something that either comes from the research or that comes from your own nightmares.’ I gave them paintings, and I gave them drawings, and I talked to them about how I thought the imagery could work.”
Coppola brought in acting coach Greta Seacat to coach Frost and Ryder for their erotic scenes as he felt uncomfortable discussing sexuality with the young actresses. However he did ask Oldman to speak seductively off camera to Frost while they were filming a scene in which she writhed alone in her bed in ecstasy. She later classified the things Oldman said to her as “very unrepeatable”.
Francis Ford Coppola was insistent that he did not want to use any kind of contemporary special effects techniques such as computer-generated imagery when making the movie, instead wishing to use antiquated effects techniques from the early history of cinema, which he felt would be more appropriate given the film’s period setting coincides with the origin of film. He initially hired a standard visual effects team, but when they told him that the things he wanted to achieve were impossible without using modern digital technology, Coppola disagreed and fired them, replacing them with his son Roman Coppola. As a result, all of the visual effects seen in the film were achieved without the use of optical or computer generated effects, but were created using on-set and in-camera methods. For example, any sequences that would have typically required the use of compositing, were instead achieved by either rear projection with actors placed in front of a screen with an image projected behind them, or through multiple exposure by shooting a background slate then rewinding the film though the camera and shooting the foreground slate on the same piece of film, all the while using matting techniques to ensure that only the desired areas of film were exposed. Forced perspectives were often employed to combine miniature effects or matte paintings with full sized elements, or create distorted views of reality, such as holding the camera upside down or at odd angles to create the effect of objects defying the laws of physics.
The film won three Academy Awards – Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup – being also nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. It also won five Saturn Awards – Best Horror Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Writing, and Best Costume. Winona was nominated as Best Actress.
Jim Hart about his screenplay for Dracula
Noni about playing Mina
Richard E. Grant about his first meeting with Winona
Francis Ford Coppola about abusing actors on set
Richard E. Grant about the first rehearsels
Winona about Coppola’s methods
Francis Ford Coppola about casting Keanu Reeves
Richard E. Grant about Sadie and Winona
Keanu Reeves about filming Dracula
The world premiere of the film took place in Los Angeles on November 13, 1992.