Dexter Fletcher, the director of both Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody (after the firing of Bryan Singer, anyway), is making his way into the Universal monster-verse—tangentially, anyway. Variety reports that the director is attached to helm Renfield, a film that would be centered around Dracula’s infamous servant/familiar/henchman/whatever you want to call him. The film is based on a pitch from The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman, and would be written by Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley.
This is, suffice to say, an interesting idea to keep expanding upon Universal’s monster library, while also designing a film that fits the current aesthetic of lower budgets and “buzzy filmmakers,” following the failure of the Dark Universe as an MCU-style shared film universe. Renfield would be a follow-up (thematically, not directly) to Leigh Whannell’s upcoming Invisible Man, which dropped its first trailer recently.
In Bram Stoker’s original epistolary novel, R.M. Renfield is the name of an inmate at an insane asylum, who seems curiously informed in terms of the impending doom that is Dracula’s arrival in London. He is, as it turns out, the vampire’s longtime servant, having long since been driven mad through servitude. His most oft-parodied display of insanity is the fact that Renfield enjoys consuming live houseflies—one has to wonder if some element of that characteristic will make it through into Fletcher’s version. Given that this version of the story is speculated to take place in the present day, that might present some new challenges—but it will certainly save on budget, right?
Renfield has been played on screen numerous times in the past, perhaps most famously by actor Dwight Frye in Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi. Others who have portrayed Renfield have included the likes of Klaus Kinski in 1970’s Count Dracula (he would go on to play Dracula himself in 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre), Tom Waits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Peter MacNicol in the Leslie Nielsen comedy Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
It’s likewise an interesting pivot for Fletcher, who just helmed back-to-back, majorly successful musical biopics. You have to wonder what he has up his sleeve here … as well as if it will be in some way related to the Universal monster project that Paul Feig is apparently still working on. We’ll let you know as more information unearths itself.