Nicholas Hoult on reuniting with Nicolas Cage, eating real bugs | Inquirer Entertainment

Nicholas Hoult on reuniting with Nicolas Cage, eating real bugs

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:15 AM April 21, 2023

Nicholas Hoult (left) as Renfield and Nicolas Cage as Dracula

Nicholas Hoult (left) as Renfield and Nicolas Cage as Dracula—PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES INTERNATIONAL

Nicholas Hoult was only 15 years old when he was cast as Nicolas Cage’s problematic teenage son in Gore Verbinski’s 2005 existentialist “dramedy,” “The Weather Man,” about a man caught in the grips of a midlife crisis.

Eighteen years later, the 33-year-old former child actor (“About a Boy”), who has since chalked up a string of high-profile projects (“The Menu,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Skins” and a number of “X-Men” movies), is thrilled to reunite with his Oscar-winning costar in a film essaying themes and characters that they can sink their thespic teeth into.


“I was very young the first time I worked with Nicolas professionally,” Nicholas told Inquirer Entertainment when we spoke to him last week. “This time, I got to actually see how Nicolas creates a character.


“Back when we were filming ‘The Weather Man,’ it was easy to see Nick as my father and say, ‘That’s my dad!’ But in this latest iteration of our relationship, it’s very different because he portrays a terrible and manipulative boss (laughs)! But he does kind of love Renfield … because they’ve been codependent with each other for about 100 years.

“This time around, I really loved watching him figure out the details that went into dissecting scenes and bringing his role to life. And now as an adult, there was a lot to appreciate that I probably wouldn’t have picked up when I was younger. So, I’m grateful to get another chance to work with him.”

Wildly inventive

Hoult (left) with Awkwafina

Hoult (left) with Awkwafina

Cage and Hoult’s reunion project “Renfield,” which opens in Philippine cinemas next week (on April 26), benefits not just from a killer premise, but also from a wildly inventive take on the vampire mythology.

The film tells the story of the remorselessly narcissistic Dracula (Cage) as seen from the perspective of his tortured aide Robert Montague Renfield (Hoult) who, following decades of abuse, is struck by an existential crisis after crossing paths with principled New Orleans policewoman Rebecca (Awkwafina).

The embattled lady cop is determined to bring down the city’s most powerful crime family, led by Bellafrancesca Lobo (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her son, Tedward (Ben Schwartz).

Empowered by Rebecca’s stubborn resolve to stand up for what’s right, Renfield suddenly finds himself unwilling to do Dracula’s bidding any longer.


With so much to “unpack” after years of thankless servitude, Renfield joins a support group for people with codependency issues, to deal with his unresolved anger issues. But his act of defiance doesn’t sit well with Dracula. After all, without Renfield, who’s going to collect his dinner for him, specifically the pure hearts of innocent kids, clueless cheerleaders and pious nuns?

Fresh, frisky

Hoult on the set of “Renfield”

Hoult on the set of “Renfield”

If you think you know what to expect from “Renfield,” you’ve got another think coming. As fresh and frisky as it is boisterously fun, the film is unlike anything we’ve seen about Dracula and his bug-eating “familiar.”

Moreover, it resurrects (pun intended) the genre of the Undead in fresh and invigorating new ways. Who knew blood, guts and gore could be so entertaining?

Asked how Renfield’s issues and fulminating grudge with Dracula resonated with him, Nick said that there’s something about the warring duo’s history that’s readily relatable to him.

“Actually, that says something about the range of themes being explored by the movie,” the actor pointed out. “It’s a relationship that is rooted on their shared history because they did have good times together … and they do care for each other.

Rooted in truth, honesty

Renfield (Hoult) joins a support group

Renfield (Hoult) joins a support group

“Even when Renfield is scared of his mentor, Dracula has been caring for him almost like an elderly parent would. So we still see Renfield trying to do what’s best for them, even though he feels like he needs to escape because [being with Dracula] is not what’s best for him.

“So, yes, that was something that Nick and I discussed a lot—and he did a beautiful job realizing that idea for his character and his relationship with Renfield.

“Look, Dracula is someone who’s lost everyone in his life, so when Renfield tries to abandon him, he feels lost again—which is an important element in the progression of his story. We want these characters to feel really rooted in truth and honesty because that’s what makes these stories relatable, even when it’s within the genres of comedy, horror or action.”

Our Q&A with Nicholas:

What was it like working with Nicolas Cage, who’s known as a method actor?

Onset, Nick was an absolute professional in terms of turning up and working with [director] Chris McKay and myself, or delivering what he could bring to what we were aiming for.

No, there weren’t any weird moments. As far as Nick being a method actor is concerned, he simply draws inspiration from so many different ideas. And they were choices that kept me on my toes within the scenes because you’re never quite sure which version of Dracula you’re going to get from moment to moment.

The movie recreated a scene between Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye from the 1931 film, “Dracula.” What did you take away from that experience?

Yeah, it was really interesting because for the beginning of the film, [director] Chris had this brilliant idea to give viewers a brief review of how Renfield and Dracula met. He decided that it would be good to superimpose Nick and me digitally into the 1931 film.

Our visual effects supervisor had to figure out exactly how certain shots from that movie were created and then, with likely angles and lenses, recreate those on a green screen. The interesting thing for us was, we would watch scenes from the original movie and recreate them in terms of physicality, or rhythm of speech, or how we were moving.

I read that you actually ate some real bugs. Could you take us through what you ended up ingesting and why?

(Laughs) Renfield gets some of his lifeforce from those bugs—he gains momentary power through them.

We were lucky that our props department was brilliant. They created caramel cockroaches that were actually delicious, as well as gummy worms. But I did eat real crickets, which were dried out and flavored, like salt and vinegar or barbecue—and, to be honest, they were pretty tasty (laughs).

The only bugs I didn’t like were potato bugs (aka Jerusalem crickets), about half an inch larger than most cockroaches. That one tasted kind of dirty.

You play a bunch of interesting characters in your body of work, just like Renfield. You were a zombie (“Warm Bodies”), a War Boy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), the deuteragonist in the upcoming “Nosferatu,” the Beast (“X-Men”) etc. Do these “idiosyncratic” roles seek you out, or are they a reflection of your personal preferences?

It’s a mix of both. I enjoy trying to find the humanity within those characters and their relationships. It’s enjoyable to find a semblance of that where it’s not expected. But I’m sure the reason behind those choices is a little better than “Oh, OK. Maybe he’s just the person that does those roles…”

I don’t know. I’m still trying to keep an element of variety in the characters I take on. And I like exploring different genres, styles and tones within this line of work.

You’re currently doing “Nosferatu,” and you just did “The Menu,” which was somewhat a horror flick. What’s your view of the horror genre in general?

The horror genre is something that I really enjoy seeing in the theater. But also I love the unexpected nature of some of the films that have recently been created—like “Barbarian,” which was not easy to watch.

Actually, the “horror” projects that I’ve been doing have been more darkly comedic or satirical in the feel of them. On the other hand, I’m so excited to see Robert Eggers’ version of “Nosferatu,” which is not comedic at all. It’s really horror.

I’m a fan of the genre, but I never imagined myself to be working within it as much as I have. But the genre brings with it exciting challenges from a character standpoint.

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In the film, Renfield gets some of his superpowers from Dracula. In reality, if you can get some skill or power from Nicolas Cage, what would it be?

I would steal his encyclopedic knowledge of film. He really does have so much passion and love for films. When he references them on set, it would sometimes be about movies I haven’t seen at all (laughs). I think it’s part of the reason that makes Nicolas Cage such a great actor. So, I’d like to steal that from him.

TAGS: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage

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