EXCLUSIVE: Chris McKay is in negotiations to direct and produce Universal Pictures’ Renfield, a monster movie centered on Dracula’s familiar henchman and based on an original story outline from Robert Kirkman. McKay’s producing partner Samantha Nisenboim will be joining the project as executive producer.
Ryan Ridley wrote the script. The film will be produced by Skybound Entertainment’s film team including Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst.
In the original Dracula novel, R.M. Renfield was an inmate at a lunatic asylum who was thought to be suffering from delusions but actually is a servant of Dracula. Plot details of the movie weren’t announced, but it’s believed to take place during the present day and is not a period piece.
While Universal is developing a handful of high-profile monster pics including Wolfman starring Ryan Gosling and a Van Helsing pic with James Wan producing, the studio has been high on this project since getting the first draft. While the character isn’t the flashiest among its other monster IPs, insiders say the story’s mix of humor and action was something the studios was looking to have more of because so many of the other properties have a more horror element to them like Universal’s box office hit The Invisible Man.
Dexter Fletcher had flirted with the project before moving on to Paramount’s The Saint reboot, opening the job back up. After meeting with a number of directors, McKay’s ultimate pitch as his ability to balance those two things in his past projects ultimately won him the job.
Similar to what was done with the Invisible Man film inspired by Universal’s classic monster character, instead of pushing forward with the initial notion of an interconnected universe, the studio halted and reassessed and was reminded that passion and relevance have fueled these characters’ endurance over generations. Universal remains committed to creating compelling, filmmaker-driven projects based on characters from the studio’s vast monsters legacy. Instead of prescribing a mandated updating of these monster stories and making them all part of a larger scheme, the studio loosened these restrictions and open-sourced to filmmakers who were inspired to create their own unique stories.
McKay co-directed The Lego Movie and directed The Lego Batman Movie, which earned more than $312 million at the worldwide box office and was 90% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. He most recently directed live-action alien-invasion movie The Tomorrow War, which stars Chris Pratt and reportedly was sold during the pandemic to Amazon for over $200 million. It will be released on July 2.
McKay is represented by UTA, Rise Management and Morris Yorn.