After years of development on a Dracula origin story, known for a time as Dracula Year Zero, Universal Pictures and newcomer director Gary Shore are in the final stages of preparing, Dracula Untold, for an October 2014 release. For months, some skeptics had dismissed the project as a shallow cash grab (or at the very least a risky bet at the box office) - while other fans remained cautiously optimistic there might still be new storylines and ideas to explore within Dracula folklore and mythology. To help update the character for modern moviegoers, as indicated in our Dracula Untold set visit report, Shore and the studio settled on a genre-bending tale of sacrifice - mixing together drama, horror, historical, and supernatural elements.
Instead of a traditional take on the character, Dracula Untold will position future vampire, Vlad III Țepeș (aka Vlad the Impaler), played by Luke Evans, as a loving husband, father, and caring ruler to the Wallachian people (Transylvania/modern day Romania). However, when an old acquaintance, Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) backs the Wallachian King into a corner, threatening his kingdom with annihilation, Vlad turns to a dark power in order to gain the upper hand - and Dracula is born.
Given the long and bloodthirsty history contained between Dracula Untold and the character's introduction in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, it is expected that Vlad will survive the events of this origin story - though his kingdom and family may not fare quite as well. As a result, if Dracula Untold does well in theaters, where might the titular character go in a sequel?
In our conversation with Luke Evans on set, the star confirmed sequel discussions - as well as indicated, given that Dracula is an immortal being, anything is possible in future installments:
If you’re going to start a story anyway you gotta start at the beginning and so you could go anywhere with Dracula right now. After this movie finishes the story finishes in a very, it’s like an open book where can he go. He’s immortal, so it could go anywhere. There’s a lot of discussions about that so it’s very exciting and I’m very much involved in the whole thing.
At this point, the outcome of Dracula Untold is unclear: Vlad could be driven away from his kingdom by his own family, friends, and former subjects (upon the revelation of his dark powers) or they might all be destroyed in the final battle between Dracula and Mehmed II. Who knows? Dracula Untold 2 could even pick up in an entirely different time period, hundreds of years later, long after any of Vlad's Wallachian ties have passed away.
More than most characters, Dracula is actually ripe for a lengthy millennia-spanning series arc - which would allow the filmmakers to drastically alter the character's psychology, location, and supporting cast with each episode. Of course, there's no guarantee that this is what Universal Pictures has planned but, if Dracula Untold is a hit, wouldn't it be interesting to see the character turn-up in other historically grounded events or time periods? After all, Dracula is depicted in a variety of storylines across multiple storytelling mediums. In the last decade of film alone, he's appeared in Blade: Trinity, Van Helsing, and Hotel Transylvania - which each depict different locale/time period combinations.
Not to mention, Universal intends to build a shared universe with their rebooted monster properties. The interwoven cinematic creature universe is supposed to kick-off with The Mummy reboot but could we see Evans as Dracula (centuries later) teaming up or fighting other classic monsters in a future film? It's possible.
Understandably, for now Universal Pictures is focused on presenting this "untold" story of Dracula - a point that executive producer Alissa Phillips was quick to reinforce on set:
We are so focused on getting this one right. If you sit around thinking what you are doing for the second film or the third when you haven’t even finished or even seen the first cut of the first, then I feel you are really dooming yourself. You got to just get the first one right. You got to do it responsibly; you have to make all the right choices. [...] I believe that if we are rewarded with success, we would love the story to continue, absolutely. We would love Luke Evans to continue playing Vlad. We just need to get the first one right.
It's encouraging to hear that the filmmakers are focused on delivering a solid Dracula origin story - before getting lost in sequel and shared universe ideas. Regardless, Dracula Untold is an ambitious film - one that will have to walk a fine line between honoring the character's classic iconography and blazing a new interpretation that will appeal to modern filmgoers.
Still, just because Phillips and Universal Studios are dedicating all their efforts to relaunching Dracula for a new big screen adventure does not mean that the filmmakers haven't at least thought about where the story could go - since the executive producer openly teased: "There are a lot of years between 1400 and 1890 aren't there? Quite a few."
Dracula Untold opens in U.S. theaters on October 17th, 2014.
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