Q&A: Kim Newman on “JOHNNY ALUCARD” and the world of “ANNO DRACULA”
Recently published by Titan Books, JOHNNY ALUCARD is the fourth novel in Kim Newman’s ANNO DRACULA sequence, a shared universe alternate history series of novels detailing a world in which Dracula triumphed over Van Helsing and his other foes. Taking place over several different countries and a hundred-year span, the books combine to form a witty, erudite horror epic that functions both as a rip-roaring pulp yarn and a thoughtful meditation on evil, in all its forms.
Renowned not only as a novelist but also as the U.K.’s foremost genre critic, Newman’s knowledge of his subject is vast, not to say intimidating. FANGORIA sat down with him to discuss Dracula (in all his myriad forms), the horror that was the 1980s, and just what it is he’s got against writer/director Adam Simon…
FANGORIA: Congratulations on the novel. I think it’s one of my favorites of the series.
KIM NEWMAN: Thank you. I’m not even sure whether it is a series or if it’s one long book. When I did the two novellas that were included with the reissues of the second and third books, I realized that I’d created something; that if you look at the series as a whole, is structurally the same as this fourth book, which is composed of a bunch of nearly self-contained narratives that add up to one overall story. So it looks a bit like a collection, but isn’t – it is actually a novel, but a novel that doesn’t have the unity of space and time that the others have. It doesn’t take place over a short time in one place; it takes place over decades, across the whole world. But hey, that’s still a story.
FANG: Writing the series has obviously been a stop/start process that’s been going on for two decades now. But have you always had some sort of overall narrative shape in your mind?
NEWMAN: I always knew where we were going with it. All the other books are pinned to real world events: the first one to the Jack the Ripper murders; the second one to the career of Baron von Richthofen; the third one is geared towards the making of LA DOLCE VITA. And this one – my initial thing was that it was essentially pinned to the Berlin Wall coming down. Although that doesn’t actually happen in the book really – there’s an analogue to that instead, because it’s still a fantastical world. But that was where I knew we would end, with that big break – the end of the Cold War, and the sense of things changing. It’s almost a ‘where we came in’ moment, because it almost takes us up to the point in real history where I started writing these books.
So the first novel – ANNO DRACULA – is set in 1888, but it’s kind of about the 1980s, because those were the current events that informed it: Margaret Thatcher, and the idea that there is no such thing as society. So here I’ve gone back to that period, and one of the reasons Thatcher isn’t in the book very much is that I kind of felt she was big in the first book, that she is invoked. And also, I didn’t really want to do a corridors of power type-novel, so Ronald Reagan isn’t really in this book either. It’s set in New York and Hollywood rather than Washington, although Oliver North is in it, and all of that sort of real world stuff—Iran Contra, and the dirty deals that went down during the Strategic Defence Initiative—does feed into this particular novel.
NEWMAN: I knew from quite early on that I would have to. I suppose I started with something that I was comfortable with; London is the city I’ve lived in for most of my life and I know well. It’s also the city of imagination that I’m most familiar with, and I knew there was going to be a certain amount of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper and Robert Louis Stevenson and cobbles and gaslight, which is sort of a Hammer Films version of Victorian England – a very attractive, almost relishable sort of environment, which we’re all quite keen on – and even though all these things stress just how hard and brutal it could be, it’s still sort of pleasing.
And so for the subsequent books, I realized I needed worlds like that…but different. Obviously the conventional way to write a sequel to a book is to pick up next week, and to be set in the same place, with the same characters, and shuffle them around a bit. And I didn’t really want to do that. I thought it was taken as read what would happen after the end of ANNO DRACULA. It’s like at the end of my WWI book, we don’t even get to the end of the war, because I figured that people know how the war turned out. So every book now I’ve tried to stretch myself.
Probably the most difficult one was THE BLOODY RED BARON, because you cannot visit WWI. You can read all the books, and I did—Robert Graves and all the great books about the air, Biggles and stuff. You immerse yourself in that. I did spend 20 minutes in a biplane, and someone flew me in a microlight over the Alps, which is one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. But that really helped me with that part of the book. And for DRACULA CHA CHA CHA, I’d been to Rome, and although it’s not as it was during the heyday of LA DOLCE VITA, I’ve sat in the Via Veneto, I’ve hung out with celebrities and paparazzi, and that sort of wonderful ridiculous madness, that anyone who goes to a film festival in Rome will have exactly the same kind of experience, and that all fed into that book. With this book, I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to LA. I did first go to LA at about the time this book ends, so I’ve got a fixed vision of what it was like then, and I’ve got plenty of friends who were in the film industry there at that time – some of whom are in this book!
FANG: I was going to ask you what you’ve got against poor Adam Simon…
NEWMAN: [Laughs] I’ve nothing against Adam Simon, he’s a friend of mine. The version of Adam Simon whom appears in this book is the one from (Robert Altman’s) THE PLAYER – the fictional Adam Simon, the “Who let Adam Simon on the lot?” version, rather than the real one who made CARNOSAUR. Who I know isn‘t quite like that Adam Simon, although they do obviously look alike and share the same name. And there are a few bits and pieces of Adam’s career that float around in there, but it’s all extrapolated from that opening shot of THE PLAYER.
FANG: Did you ask permission before you humiliated him (or at least his fictional counterpart) in print?
NEWMAN: I think I may have extorted some kind of vague promise that I would be allowed to do this, but no, not really (laughs). So far no one has come back and been really upset, some people have been happy to be included. This is the first of these books that features people I know, or people I’ve met. I know Adam Simon, and I’ve met Quentin Tarantino. I hope he likes it, although he doesn’t read very much so he’ll probably never come across it [laughs].
Leslie Klinger, who read this book, is Martin Sheen’s lawyer, so I suppose he may well mention it to him! But actually, in those sections—the sections dealing with Francis Coppola, and APOCALYPSE NOW—although it’s quite extreme, I was actually quite tactful about the real people; there are all kinds of things I didn’t go into. There’s not much scandal sheet stuff in there. In fact, Eleanor Coppola’s book about the making of APOCALYPSE NOW has got much more dirt than my made-up story about it. I could have been much meaner about Sofia Coppola [laughs], whose work I actually quite like.
FANG: When you killed Dracula off in DRACULA CHA CHA CHA, did you know you were going to give him a Hammer-style resurrection in this book?
NEWMAN: I knew you couldn’t kill him really. I did it in that book because it needed to happen. He was no good to himself, and was sort of at a low ebb. But I also knew that Hammer and Universal kept bringing him back. I knew you could take the ashes and pour blood over them, or whatever. I think it’s still ambiguous as to how he comes back, or if he comes back really. But he certainly has a presence. There’s actually more Dracula in this book, in which he’s dead, than there is in any of the other books. But then again, he was dead at the beginning—he’s always been undead, which is kind of the point of Dracula.
I liked the idea of Dracula as this cultural ghost, not having a body, not having this faintly embarrassing form of celebrity. It’s actually a great liberation for him. It means he can come back and actually be more evil again. So I knew that we would be working towards sort of bringing him back. I don’t know if I’ll do anything set after this; I’m quite pleased with where this book ends. There are some gaps I might fill in, and I am required to do another of these books eventually, so I’ll have to think of something. But I like where we are at the end of this book. Particularly I like where Dracula is at the end of this book.
FANG: A logical progression for the next book, given the establishment of an Israel-style vampire state in JOHNNY ALUCARD, would seem to be to look at terrorism. But am I right in thinking you already discarded that idea?
NEWMAN: I was going to write a book called THE WAR ON HORROR; that was going to be the next one. And then someone pointed out online that there was already a cartoon that had used that as a joke, and that kind of threw the whole thing away for me. Somebody had used the title. And then I went back and tried to think of other ways of doing it, or what else it would be called, and during that I just had a crisis of conscience, and just thought, I don’t want to be the guy that writes the vampire terrorist book. I may well do something with that…but I don’t really want to equate vampirism with Islam. It doesn’t quite work. In the same way that I didn’t want to equate vampirism with Nazism either, it didn’t quite work for me. I want a separate bad thing, a separate set of belief systems. There are ways that might develop, and I might find a way of teasing some of the material out.
But it’s almost like, where I go next, I want something that is structurally different. Having done this big diffuse book set over decades, I’m sort of tempted to do something set overnight. To do 24, or a chase thriller, two city blocks type of story. I’m not saying that’s what I will do, but that feels attractive to me now, as a contrast. There are a couple of places I might go. I always wanted to do a western someday, although that was kind of scuppered because my basic idea—a vampire Billy the Kid —was used by Uwe Boll in BLOODRAYNE 3. I don’t know if he’s aware of the paragraph in ANNO DRACULA where I set that up, but certainly now that he’s made his film, I can no longer do that. So thanks, Uwe. If there’s any way I can stop you making BLOODRAYNE 4…
FANG: The title JOHNNY ALUCARD refers to one of the characters from DRACULA A.D. 1972, which is not necessarily a particularly fondly remembered instalment in the Hammer series, but one which you’ve expressed affection for.
NEWMAN: I love it. I have to say, it’s one of those films I have a lifelong relationship with. I saw it in 1973, because for some reason they didn’t release it in 1972. So I saw it when it came out, on a double bill with TROG, and I saw THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA on a double bill with BLACULA, a year later. And in the 70s I loved those films – I’d seen a lot of the earlier Hammer films on TV, but these were the Hammer films I saw in the cinema. From DRACULA A.D. 1972 to TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, I went to see all of those—FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, DEMONS OF THE MIND, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, all that kind of stuff—those are films I have really vivid memories of seeing theatrically, along with Amicus anthologies and some of the later Tigon movies. So that’s very much my happy place, that era of British horror, with that slightly counter-culture youth inflection, which I think is sort of the lingering influence of Michael Reeves on British horror.
And then later, I saw those films again on television in my early 20s and I thought they were terrible. Because they were now horribly dated and the music was awful, and I realized that kids were actually nothing like that. But now I’ve watched them all again and I’ve warmed up to their charms, there is something really fascinating about them. They’re a weird cultural mix that comes out of desperation, from a studio that had no idea what to do anymore, that had genuinely lost its connection with its audience and were trying anything. The fact is, some of those things I think really work.
Oddly enough, because I suppose they’re perennial, they’re all out on DVD and are coming out again on Nlu-ray. I’m sure they’ve all turned a profit, but at the time they weren’t thought to be that successful, the last 3-4 years of Hammer films. And yet, whatever the big important British films of the time were, no one remembers them. There was a point where Bryan Forbes took over a studio, and he was really annoyed to find he was tied into a deal with Hammer Films to make TWINS OF EVIL, because he had some ‘important’ projects he wanted to do. But frankly, Bryan Forbes’ important projects from 1972?
FANG: Whereas TWINS OF EVIL has just come out on Blu-ray…
NEWMAN: Exactly, yes. And I’m sure he wanted to make solid middlebrow not very exciting British films…
FANG: The sort of thing British films are very good at…
NEWMAN: That’s right! He wasn’t going to be giving all the money to Derek Jarman or Ken Russell. It was going to be films about middle-managers having nervous breakdowns. I mean, fair enough. I actually really like THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF, which is essentially that story. But that’s done as a horror film, so it really works! I also think that British horror films back then were relating to crises in society really well. The kids in DRACULA A.D. 1972 are terrible caricatures, but I do remember people dressing and talking exactly like that. There are things in those films I really like. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA I think is a really interesting attempt to put Dracula in the modern world in a way that DRACULA A.D. 1972 isn’t. Because it makes him a property developer, and he’s involved with politics and big business and international espionage.
Actually, SATANIC RITES would be a great pilot for a Van Helsing series, where Van Helsing is teamed up with le Carré-style secret agents, and SWEENEY-style Scotland Yard, dealing with occult threats. I would have watched that every week! But oddly enough, all that stuff I used in [Newman’s novella] AQUARIUS (ANNO DRACULA 1968), so Johnny Alucard just became this name, although I think it’s a great name. I know it’s sort of an embarrassment now, but SON OF DRACULA is the first film that does this, the idea of ‘Alucard’ being ‘Dracula’ spelt backwards. DRACULA A.D. 1972 has this great moment where Peter Cushing, playing the world’s greatest expert on vampires, sits down with a piece of paper, and you get all these close-ups of his straining, sweating brow, as he spends five minutes working out that Alucard is Dracula spelt backwards.
But actually, it’s not from Stoker, but I think Sheridan Le Fanu, where CARMILLA only uses anagrams of her own name. And for me, it ties in with this obsessive/compulsive thing that some folklore vampires have, the counting of sesame seeds and all this stuff. But also, like Dracula, it’s a good name – ‘Alucard’. Good strong name. And Johnny, obviously. I think there are probably more films called ‘Johnny something’ than any other name. So I wanted to do that. And the lead character, he evolves from being called Ion Popescu, which is the most boring name you can have in Romania; it’s ‘John Smith’ in Romanian. But every single evolutionary move between Ion Popescu and John Alucard is good. ‘Johnny Pop’ is a really great Andy Warhol-type name. It really kind of sums up the kind of Warhol superstar; horrifying pretend celebrities who are showy and self-destructive and live these kind of butterfly lives. And yet it’s still a credible anglicization of Ion Popescu.
FANG: Is there a sense here that you’re returning to Stoker’s conception of the Count as an uncultured foreign outsider – but instead of spreading vampirism, he’s now spreading drug abuse and bad taste?
NEWMAN: I think what many Dracula stories have lost over the years is the idea of Dracula as evil, as a monster. As a bad thing, as a bad influence. And Stoker is really good on this; not just the fact that he’s a vampire, and therefore presumably a creature of Hell, but also that he’s a brutal thug and a terrible philistine. He learns English from railway timetables, and everything he does is bad! So I thought, extrapolating that on a global scale, he should just be the ultimate bad influence. And I’ve come to realise that my vision of the Apocalypse, it isn’t so much this kind of ROAD WARRIOR-type dystopia as a deluge of little incremental ways of the world getting worse, and crueller, and more tasteless. And so I thought that’s what Johnny Alucard is for: the man who will pervert everything, who will turn art into advertising.
And because the series has some sympathetic vampire characters in it, it’s not a complete reversion to the idea that vampires are all evil creatures from Hell. I wanted it to be more complicated than that. But Dracula…even amongst vampires, Dracula has to be scary. He has to be the character that everybody else is upset by. And I think that we’ve had too many of the sort of lovelorn Draculas— probably Gary Oldman was the most famous one of those, but even Frank Langella or Jack Palance played it kind of that way, although all those performances have things to recommend them. So I wanted to get away from all of that and go back to him being just evil. To go back to THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, that’s one of the few movies that gives him something huge to do. Even Stoker I think didn’t quite trust Dracula enough to give him a proper evil plan. SATANIC RITES gives him something colossal: he wants to spread a plague to wipe out humanity, and therefore kill himself. That’s kind of magnificent, it’s a Bond villain level of idiotic evil plan. But it is worthy of him.
In too many Dracula movies, he seems to be obsessed with seducing the wife of a provincial solicitor, which is kind of a bit sad. Would you expect Blofeld to spend his time chasing after Miss Moneypenny?
FANG: You included the moment from Stoker’s novel where Dracula is stabbed and bleeds coins. Are you trying to get at underexplored aspects of the character? How much more is there left to do with him?
NEWMAN: Oh, I love that. I thought for a while that no Dracula movie had done that moment, but actually it’s in Guy Maddin’s DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGIN’S DIARY. But the fact that this obscure silent movie ballet film is the only film out of 30 or 40 adaptations of DRACULA that has this great moment makes you think there is still stuff if you go back to the novel. I did want to explore the idea of Dracula and money, which is a theme in the novel, but isn’t in any of the movies. When we first meet Dracula in Stoker’s novel, he’s looking for treasure; he’s marking where the blue flames show where the gold is. And there is the bit where he’s stabbed and bleeds gold, which is an astonishing moment, and became the touchstone for this book. It’s what I use as the epigraph, and I restage it in several ways throughout, because it is such a key moment.
There are still bits of DRACULA I could probably go back and play with, because it is this big book that has so many footnotes and asides, and no single adaptation has managed to include everything from it. It’s probably one of the reasons this series has been able to go on for so long, because the original material is not just rich, but actually rich and untapped, in many ways.
FANG: JOHNNY ALUCARD obviously functions as a critique of celebrity and the American Dream. And yet the shared world aspects seem to come from a real genuine love for a lot of this material. Is there a sense of using the elements you love to critique a shift in culture you don’t?
NEWMAN: Yeah, that’s exactly what I do. What I think these books are about is trying to live an honourable life in an appalling world. Trying to find the things, whether they be culturally valuable— art—or whether they be decent human behaviour, decent human relationships, a commitment to keep up the struggle, fight the good fight, all that kind of stuff. That’s what I think makes these books not an unbearable dystopia, not just a brutal crushing of dreams. There’s still a sense that you can carry on, particularly of course, because my lead characters can literally go on forever. I wouldn’t do these books if I didn’t love Dracula on one level, if I didn’t love all the associated stuff that comes along with that, the gothic horror, all these great pulp and crime and thriller characters that we’ve lived with for 100 years now, and certainly that’s something I find really pleasurable about them, and I hope readers do to. I think that for books that are objectively quite pessimistic, and cynical and depressing, readers have found ways of liking them, and I hope I find ways of making them not only entertaining, but engaging.
I aim for elegantly unsatisfying stories. I think that a story that is completely satisfying actually in the end just shuts everything down; it means that you no longer have the oppositional. I think sometimes you need to have things happen that your readers would rather hadn’t? And I know it seems cruel, and forces you into a bad position sometimes, but I do think you need to sometimes go the way people weren’t expecting. I know that there are several things in the books that people have found to be jaw-dropping surprises, but I don’t do M. Night Shyamalan-level ‘everything you know is wrong’ twists. I find that rather cruel, it’s like playing a trick on the reader. I do sometimes want to go down areas that I think will be uncomfortable, but after all, we’re still dealing with a horrific concept.
FANG: The use of Francis Coppola as a character seems very loaded. You open with him at the height of his powers making your APOCALYPSE NOW version of DRACULA, then years later, contrast him as a washed up hack jumping at the chance of making DRACULA 2.
NEWMAN: Yeah, well he did make THE GODFATHER PART III. A film I actually quite like; there are bits of it I think work really well. But there is that JACK/THE RAINMAKER period. I have to say, I wrote that section of the story before he came back a bit and started making TWIXT and those little interesting low budget independent films. Which are not achievements on the scale of THE CONVERSATION even, let alone THE GODFATHER or APOCALYPSE NOW but you know what? I’d rather have TWIXT than JACK. So if I were writing that section now, or taking it forward, I might well do more with that. I think he redeemed himself, but not until after I wrote that.
FANG: So was there a sense that he summed up that era for you, and symptomized the promise that was squandered?
NEWMAN: Yes. I am one of those people, and I know everybody is bored to death hearing from us, who think that films in the 70s were much better than films in the 80s, and subsequently. And Coppola is symptomatic of that, but also he’s the one that made a Dracula movie, so that’s why him rather than any other figure. That’s why Orson Welles is in there, because he made a Dracula radio play. And so they were good figures to sum up what was going on in the movies. I suppose what it is, is that I imagine two vampire movies in depth in this book; there’s my imagined version of Coppola’s DRACULA, in which it’s one of his great films, and then there’s this film THE ROCK, which is my version of the worst piece of shit vampire movie. (Although the thing about THE ROCK is that I’d probably still quite like it, in the way that I quite like the actual film called THE ROCK.)
But I was trying to think of something that summed up the worst of that period of Hollywood; those big bloated steroidal right wing nonsensical rubbish action movies that people are now nostalgic about and want to bring back. People often ask me – because I’ve seen a lot of films – what’s the worst film I’ve ever seen. And what they want you to say is PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE or MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, but it’s TOP GUN. That’s the film I hate the most. And one of the reasons I hate it is that it’s exactly the film they set out to make. It’s a great melange of the two least interesting forms of cinema, the Navy recruiting film and gay pornography. (Actually, I think maybe I hate MOULIN ROUGE almost as much.)
Those things, they are perfect examples of films that sort of fooled a lot of people. There are loads of people who love those movies, who won’t address them, who won’t try and pick out what’s underlying them, that I find despicable. And I ground my teeth during those films during the 80s and 90s, and I’m not prepared to warm up to them now. I mean, that period of filmmaking at least offered…maybe THE LAST BOY SCOUT is the masterpiece of that era. DIE HARD is certainly a masterpiece of its type. I like those films. But you know, they’re not THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS.
And certainly if we’re looking at genre movies, a world that’s typified by the great works of Romero or early funny John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper or Larry Cohen, as opposed to even the world of THE EVIL DEAD or RE-ANIMATOR, which are films I love, but they are lesser. They try to do less, they are less engaged. And that’s not even talking about FRIDAY THE 13TH, which strikes me as being the horror version of STAR WARS; the idea that you can make a film that is entirely derivative and denuded of actual meaning. And audiences will turn up and not even notice.
FANG: It feels almost as if Orson Welles is the unsung hero of the book, in that he sabotages his big comeback moment to stop Dracula. Which I found absolutely heartbreaking.
NEWMAN: Yeah, but you’re a filmmaker though! [Laughs] I hope people feel that. It kind of requires you to have an investment in Welles, who’s still the great martyr of cinema. One of the things I hope I bring out in my fantasy version of his life is that he was responsible– he sort of sabotaged his own career as much as he was abused by others. But it has to be said: at the time, everyone put CITIZEN KANE on their top ten list, and there was no particular reason why—I don’t want to single anyone out, but any of the Movie Brats who’d been enormously successful couldn’t have just given Welles a million dollars and said, just make a movie. They may well have thought if they’d have done that, Welles would have just gone to Spain and bought some paintings and some wine, and maybe shot a bit more of DON QUIXOTE! But at that point in his career he was definitely someone who needed some sort of patronage. It’s interesting that in the current era, Coppola is basically someone who’s doing these little self-funded films. It’s probably a shame that Welles died when he did. These days you could just give him a camera and he’d have made a movie, and he probably would have done that. I could have used someone else, but he made a Dracula. The key figures in the book – Warhol, Coppola, Welles – they all did DRACULA.
FANG: How do you decide upon the shared world elements you use? Is it just you playing with things you love or something more? I’m thinking of elements like the group of vigilante vampire killers.
NEWMAN: I am a great believer in the Raymond Chandler notion that if you get stuck, have a man come through the door with a gun. And so, quite often, if you’re writing a story set in LA in this year, and I’m thinking, well, who’s the policeman? And you know, you’ve got several choices, you can look at the various TV series. I normally pick the one I like the most, obviously. And sometimes it is just like that, it’s like casting. With the vigilantes, it’s New York in the 70s, which is basically vigilante town. There are a whole bunch that didn’t make the cut! Robert Ginty from THE EXTERMINATOR could have been in there. Wasn’t good enough! And that is one of the few cases where I have done something approaching mash-up, where I think, “who is my gang of fearless vampire hunters?” And they’re not all named, but obviously Travis Bickle is one of them, and some Blaxploitation characters are in there, and Ms 45, a particular favourite of mine, and Shaggy and Scooby, because I figure that’s it, that’s your set!
NEWMAN: In this, occasionally. In the first book, I wasn’t quite so strict about it. I did just make up a couple of characters. But I’ve sort of got pushed into a thing of not doing that, and so, apart from my fictional characters, I’ve tended to either use real people or…not simply just characters from other people’s books, but often amalgams of people from other people’s books, so you mash two or three characters together. One of the things I do here is that I needed a sort of magus character to explain things, and I was thinking of Marvel Comics’ Dr Strange, but he lives in New York and it had to be Hollywood. So instead I thought, oh well, there’s Kenneth Anger – you’ve got magic, Hollywood gossip and whatever – but what I’ve come up with is a version of Anger that’s a bit like Dr Strange. So in the world of ANNO DRACULA, Kenneth Anger is Dr Strange!
But sometimes people do requests or expect you to use things, and I just think, well, I haven’t really got anything to say about that. Because whenever I’ve needed a roomful of vampires, it’s dead easy; you just get a reference book on vampires in fiction and take their names! There are so many counts and barons in Italian horror films that I haven’t used all of them up yet. But the ones I’ve never been able to work in are the vampires from THE LOST BOYS, because they have the most boring names! The arch evil character in that is just called David. A totally unresonant name, I don’t know where I would fit that in even. And I do try and touch on all the major vampire franchises, but that one has just never made it! Sorry, LOST BOYS fans. Maybe I’ll get the Coreys in somewhere…
FANG: Is there an ANNO DRACULA film adaptation on the cards?
NEWMAN: The rights are currently held by a UK production company. I had a meeting with them and a writer yesterday. There is some interest, but I don’t think a single word has been written. At the moment, we’re looking at six hours for television. That seems to be a good enough way of doing the first book without the compromises necessary to make a feature out of it. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life going around like Stephen King dissing adaptations of my work, so I’ve tried to hold out for people who are at least going to try and make something good. I know that there are writers who disagree with this, but I feel as though it would be better for it not to happen than to happen badly. Even if there was a lot of money attached to it happening badly.
FANG: Who would you ideally want to play your Count?
NEWMAN: Good point. It’s not my suggestion – Dave Elsey, the makeup guy who really wants to do ANNO DRACULA, he said the first thing we should do as soon as there’s a script is get Christopher Lee to read all of Dracula’s dialogue, so whoever it is, whatever kind of makeup or GGI or whatever we do, Christopher Lee’s voice will come out! Which I think would be perfect, I’d love that.
FANG: Do you have a recommendation for an underseen Dracula film?
NEWMAN: I think Guy Maddin’s film is really interesting; it has a really solid take. I like the TV version with Denholm Elliot, which is now available on DVD and seeable for the first time in many years. Big fan of the Louis Jourdan version for the BBC, which has more of the plot than any other version. But I do collect Dracula movies, so I’ve seen EMMANUELLE VS DRACULA, or BONNIE & CLYDE VS DRACULA, or DIE HARD DRACULA…I wouldn’t recommend any of those…
JOHNNY ALUCARD and definitive editions of the rest of the ANNO DRACULA sequence are available now from Titan Books.