What really went on behind-the-scenes of Bram Stoker's Dracula?
In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola was desperate. He was coming off the financial and critical disappointment that accompanied the release of The Godfather Part III and his Zoetrope Productions needed a hit. A big budget, operatic, R-rated horror movie didn't seem like the best way to get one - even with a hot young cast including Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, and Anthony Hopkins fresh off an Academy Award for Silence of the Lambs - yet that's exactly what Coppola set out to make. And, being Coppola, he didn't go the safe route.
The filmmaker fired production designers and special effects teams, drastically reimagined the character of Dracula (while also staying truer to the book than perhaps any other production), put his 24-year-old son Roman in charge of special effects, and pushed his actors to the breaking point. The result was the hit that Coppola needed, netting three Academy Awards and bringing in a worldwide box office of more than $200 million.
The troubled production also ensured there would be plenty of behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Bram Stoker's Dracula - some of them as strange and uncanny as anything that happened on the screen.
Winona Ryder Brought The Script To Coppola
Winona Ryder and Francis Ford Coppola had narrowly avoided working together just a few years earlier when Ryder was cast as Mary Corleone in Coppola's The Godfather Part III. Ryder was fresh off a role in Mermaids and arrived in Rome for filming, exhausted and ill. "I get this call in the middle of the night and get a doctor for Winona," co-producer Fred Roos later recalled. The doctor visited Ryder in the hotel and advised sending her home. So, at the last minute, Ryder's pivotal part in the film was replaced with Coppola's then-19-year-old daughter, Sofia.
"I always knew that there was no weirdness between me and him," Ryder said of Coppola's interest in Dracula. "But I was surprised he wanted to possibly work with me again, because of all the controversy." Ryder had a script that had originally been intended as a TV movie, which was to be directed by Michael Apted.
"[Winona] told me she loved this Dracula script that was very much like the book," Coppola recalled later. He had his own relationship with Dracula, having read the book aloud to kids at a drama camp when he was younger, and the idea of doing a more true-to-the-book adaptation appealed to him.23011Is this fascinating?
It's Rumored That Oldman Was Drunk When Filming The Razor-Licking Scene
In one of the most famous scenes in the movie, Keanu Reeves' Jonathan Harker cuts himself shaving, and Gary Oldman's Dracula licks the blood from the straight razor. There are rumors that Oldman was drunk on set at the time of filming, and he doesn't deny that he had a drinking problem at that time. "It took me by surprise," he later told GQ about his dependency issues.
Oldman and Coppola had disagreements on set, often over creative differences, which Coppola said were sometimes exacerbated by Oldman's drinking. “I wouldn’t call drinking a factor, other than a couple of times over a long period of time,” Coppola explained. “Let’s say he’s been drinking, and you’re trying to explain something. How people can drink before noon is just - they put a grandstand in front of everyone. They say, ‘It’s not clear what you want me to do!’"
One night, during the filming of Dracula, Oldman was picked up for drunk driving after an evening out with Kiefer Sutherland. At the time, Oldman defended his behavior by saying, "That was a Saturday night!" According to Chris Heath, writing for GQ, "He liked to tell people that this had taught him that he couldn't drink and drive. So he had decided to give up driving."
These days, Oldman has been sober for years, and he looks back at his indiscretions with clearer eyes. "I don't regret any of it," he told GQ, "I'm just glad it's all behind me."24217Is this fascinating?
No Visual Effects Crew Took Coppola Seriously, So He Fired Them
Coppola wanted to handle all of the film's special effects in-camera, with nothing in post-production - essentially performing the effects as if they were magic tricks. The effects team told him that doing what he wanted was impossible without modern digital effects, so he fired them and hired his son Roman, around 24 at the time, and a magic enthusiast.
"There was no messing around on the set of Dracula," Seth Hansen writes at PopHorror. "This was old-school, by-the-books practical effects work." Coppola and his son even consulted with a professional stage magician to achieve the effect of Dracula's brides rising from the bed.
"Roman was a real hero of Dracula," Francis Ford Coppola told Entertainment Weekly years later. "I thought he was going to win an Oscar for what he did." Unfortunately, while Bram Stoker's Dracula walked away with three Oscars that year, a statue for Roman Coppola's old-school special effects work wasn't one of them.25830Is this fascinating?
A River Of Blood Flowed Through The Sony Backlot While Filming
Production designer Tom Sanders was driving across the Sony Picures backlot on his way to work on Bram Stoker's Dracula when he came upon a river of blood flowing between the soundstages. People from various productions were splashing across it, wading in it, wondering where it came from, and it took Sanders a few moments to realize that it couldn't come from anyplace but the movie he, himself, was working on.
Described as "thick, viscous, and terribly crimson," the gallons of fake blood flowed from the soundstage where they were filming, along the main street, and all the way across the studio. Just another day in the Hollywood dream factory...20011Is this fascinating?