Director Chloe Zhao Sinks Teeth Into Sci-Fi Western ‘Dracula’ for Universal

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Adam B. Vary
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“Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao is tackling the classic Universal monster Dracula, as the writer, producer and director of a new take on the character in the vein of a futuristic sci-fi western.

“I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody,” Zhao said in a release. “I’m very excited to work with Donna [Langley], Peter [Cramer] and the team at Universal to reimagine such a beloved character.”

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“Chloé’s singular lens shines a light on stories of the overlooked and misunderstood,” said Peter Cramer, Universal Pictures president. “We are thrilled to be working with her as she reimagines one of the most iconic outsider characters ever created.”

First created by Bram Stoker in his 1897 gothic horror novel, Dracula — a count who lives in the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania — has tantalized readers and audiences for over a century. The vampire was famously played by Bela Lugosi in the 1930s, Christopher Lee and Frank Langella in the 1960s and 1970s, and Gary Oldman in the 1990s. Universal’s most recent attempt to reboot the character, “Dracula Untold,” starred Luke Evans in 2014 and earned a tepid $217 million worldwide.

Separately, Blumhouse Productions is also developing a new version of Dracula, with director Karyn Kusama (“Destroyer”) and writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. A representative for Universal says Zhao’s new take on Dracula does not affect the Kusama project, which remains in development.

The announcement of Zhao’s project does further Universal’s new strategy to re-imagine its canon of monster movie characters through the lens of top tier filmmakers, characterized by Leigh Whannell’s acclaimed update of “The Invisible Man” in 2020 with Elisabeth Moss. Other approaches include Dexter Fletcher (“Rocketman”) developing his own take on the Dracula legend with a movie about his henchman, Renfield; Elizabeth Banks directing and starring in “The Invisible Woman;” and Paul Feig writing, producing and directing the monster movie “Dark Army.”

On Wednesday, Zhao became the first Asian woman nominated for a Golden Globe for best director for “Nomadland,” which chronicles the life of an itinerant worker, played by Frances McDormand, traveling across the American West. The film also earned Globe nominations for Zhao’s screenplay, best actress for McDormand, and best picture (drama). “Nomadland” has indeed emerged as a leading awards contender this season, earning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Her next film, Marvel Studio’s “Eternals” with Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek, is scheduled to open in November.

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