I _ ' You sexy fang
Upping the doomed lurve angle, Francis Ford Coppola’s much- hyped but eagerly anticipated vamp saga Bram Stoker’s Dracula hopes to give a certain undead Transylvanian aristo a bloody new lease of life. Trevor Johnston quizzes the legendary director and his British star Gary Oldman on putting a bit of bite into a well-worn genre.
OK, so he’s a throbbingly hot Hollywood thang’n'all, but in some respects Gary Oldman is just like the rest of us — not altogether convinced that another, or even yet another, version of Dracula was exactly what the world needed just now. ‘My initial response was “why?",’ he recalls. ‘It was like they were doing another Superman or something, so I was pretty wary of it when my agent first brought up the script. But then he said it was Francis Ford Coppola and that really was the spark to the ﬂame — there was someone with the vision to take it in a different direction.’
This is what we call the Coppola factor. His reputation remains undimmed despite a distinctly patchy latterday career — since 1979’s awesome Apocalypse Now he‘s turned out a run of extremely flawed offerings including musical megaﬂops One From The Heart and Cotton Club plus the sadly disappointing The Godfather Part
16 The—Eist 2H9 lanuary — 11 February 1993
‘lt'svery ppealing when you have that vunerable look i your eye. I've often found women tend
to go for that.’ Gary Oldman tries out his seduction technique on Winona Ryder.
11]. So much so that Sight/ind Sound‘s recent poll ofa hundred filmmakers voted Coppola the greatest working director. placing him just ahead of Martin Scorsese at number four in the all-time rankings, and rated above the likes of Bergman. Ford and Hitchcock.
In person, Coppola is voluble, exquisitely well-dressed, and possessed of an enthusiasm that may just be promotionally-inspired but proves fairly irresistible all the same. Even when what
‘We all know what grief is, what loss is. We all understand the joy and the pain of love, and the script here intrigued me because it dealt in these earthbound emotions.’ Gary Oldman
he’s saying doesn’t quite seem to hang together. which makes for a good deal ofcommon ground between the man and his movies. he does at least have a firm line on why he wanted to do another Dracula in the first place. It was Winona Ryder who passed him the screenplay. written by author ofHook James V. Hart and initially intended for TV, which Coppola decided to take up as it ‘had lots ofthings in it about the real historical figure Vlad The Impaler and also a number ofelements
from the original novel which hadn't been used in
the many previous Dracula movies and so together '
they were enough to get us spiralling off into fresh territory.‘
Sure enough, the lush. over~ripe extravaganza that is Bram Stoker's Dracula — awkwardly titled, like last year’s Emily Brontc's Wuthering Heights, for arcane copyright reasons — fills the screen like no other vampire movie. By now the swathes of press coverage and plethora of television specials might have left you feeling fatigued by all manner
of fang-cry, but with its delirious panoply ofstudio
settings and rich tonal palette of dark reds and emerald greens. Coppola‘s latest is a riot of celluloid stylisation to savour.
The opening sequence on a medieval battlefield shows Gary Oldman as Romanian warrior Vlad who loses the love of his life when she commits suicide on hearing. inaccurately. that her significant other had been felled on the field of conflict. Vlad is left to curse God Himselfand in a hideous reversal of holy sacrament thus transform himself into a blood-drinking fiend doomed to wander undead through the centuries. It‘s to be several hundred years before he rediscovers the spirit of his dear departed in Winona Ryder‘s proper English madam Mina, ensnaring her betrothed Jonathan llarker (a truly misguided