Ironically, it was also that creative dead end that led to his macabre rebirth in Dracula; after Winona Ryder dropped out of third Godfather photo at the last minute, she brought the famous film maker a screenplay by James V. Hart as a kind of atonement. She wanted to adapt the absolute most Victorian of Victorian horror novels (and the most adapted of Victorian novels, period), and she wanted Coppola to direct.
It was his own fascination with Dracula from his childhood, and those nights at a camp lake, that drew Coppola into the project. It was also this affinity with the source material that makes Bram Stoker’s Dracula the arguably most accurate adaptation of Stoker’s book in terms of plot structure and characters: here was the first theatrical version of Dracula to lean heavily into the epistolary framing of the source material, with diaries and journal entries of various characters telling and focusing the story. Coppola’s film is also the first version to include all of Stoker’s fearless vampire hunters: Jonathan Harker (who, unlike so many other Hollywood versions of this story, actually becomes the one who travels to Transylvania and returns again), Professor Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood, Dr. John Seward (named Jack in the movie), and even one of Stoker’s most entertaining creations, Quincey P. Morris. The latter, a Texan adventurer with a big mustache and an even bigger Bowie knife, has rarely been seen on screen. This is a shame because he is such a wonderful insight into a British Imperialist’s perspective on… the Turn right a bit American at the turn of the 20th century.
These elements and many others, including grand passages of dialogue and a horseback denouement with Roma servants of the undead under the setting sun of Dracula Castle, were all incorporated into Coppola’s film – many of them at the director’s own instigation after he boarded the plane. came, according to Coppola. Still, the filmmaker was hired to realize the Dracula script and concept that caught the attention of Columbia Pictures and Ryder, the latter of whom was eager to transition into adult roles after rising to adolescent movie stardom through Tim Burton projects such as beetle juice (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1991). That is, they wanted to create a gothic romance about a lovable Count Dracula and his lost but now reincarnated female love, Mina Murray Harker.
At the tender age of 12, I had none of this background information, just a sense of dread that one of the first “adult” books I ever read was being ignored when Bram Stoker’s Dracula begins not in 1897 but in 1462, where the (highly fictionalized) history of Prince Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), is grafted onto Stoker’s story. Despite popular misconceptions, many of which stem from this 1992 film, Stoker didn’t model his literary vampire after the 15th-century Voivode of Wallachia — Stoker simply stole his cool nickname (Dracula means “Son of the Dragon” in medieval Romanian) .
However, it made for a fantastic framing device. The wife of Vlad, the princess consort of Wallachia, actually committed suicide by throwing herself into a river (hence the current name Râul Doamnă, meaning ‘The Princess River’). In reality, it was because she thought she was about to be captured by the Turks, not because she longed to be reunited with Dracula. But with a bit of movie magic, it is suddenly transformed into an operatic setting in which Vlad is betrayed by the church he was defending. When his beloved princess Elisabeta commits suicide and is sent to Hell, Dracula becomes inconsolable and sells his soul to Satan. He becomes undead.
This has nothing to do with Stoker, but it certainly made the Dracula, played by Oldman, a much more dynamic and tragic figure – and easier to lean on as he seduces and eventually conquers Mina (who, like Elisabeta, is played by Ryder) even as her fiancé Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is slowly tortured and drained by Dracula’s succubi brides.