Giving ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ some teeth

Time has not diminished the warm memories of those who worked on Francis Ford Coppola’s horror-romance “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

“He steered the ship,” said Michele Burke, who won an Oscar for her makeup and hair design, about her collaboration with the director most widely known for “The Godfather” trilogy. “It was like being in rarefied air in his company.”

Burke and several members of the crew, who won Oscars for their evocative work on “Dracula” — makeup artists Greg Cannom and Matthew W. Mungle and special effects sound editors Tom C. McCarthy and David E. Stone — will discuss the production Thursday evening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The program will also premiere a newly struck 35mm print of the film that was shot on sound stages at Sony Pictures.

The 20th anniversary presentation is part of the academy’s Science and Technology Council’s “Prime Tech” screening series that spotlights Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films that have been recognized in at least one technological category.


Besides winning Oscars for costume design, makeup and sound effects editing, “Dracula” won scientific and technical awards using Lightning Strikes, an electronic lightning effect system, and the Arriflex 535 Camera System.

So what inspired Burke’s memorable Dracula look, in which star Gary Oldman sported long, white hair gathered on top in two buns? “I looked at designs of Hopi Indians and I went back to old Kabuki [style],” she said. “This was a marriage between East and West.”

Coppola, she said, “didn’t say much. But it was obvious when he liked something.”

Burke noted that “Francis knew exactly what he wanted. The whole thing was story boarded and controlled right from the top down basically. Everything was shot on stage. There was no location work. Francis said, ‘I want this to be like a stage play or opera.’”


The filmmaker’s son, writer-director Roman Coppola, who was the second unit and visual effects director on “Dracula,” noted “the premise of my dad’s approach was to shoot it very much in the manner of when the book was written, which was 1897. It coincided with the birth of cinema and the birth of cinema really sprung out of the world of magic and theatrical magic.”

Burke worked closely with costume designer Eiko Ishioka, also an Oscar winner, because Coppola wanted Ishioka to be the “conduit for the creative process in makeup, hair and wardrobe. Everything was completely designed and thought out before we went onto the set to shoot it.”

Cannom, who created Dracula’s old-age makeup as well as his frighteningly effective wolf and bat personas, said Coppola was not only open to the crew’s ideas, he had really fun gatherings at his ranch in Northern California.

“He would have all of these meetings for four hours, play music and talk about what he wanted. He showed us paintings and just all of these incredible Victorian pictures. It just turned out to be one of those films where everything went right.”

McCarthy was astonished at the freedom Coppola gave him as a sound editor. “Usually, when you are on a film you would meet with the director and the director would talk about sound concepts back and forth with you,” he said.

“But it was more like, ‘Tommy, I want you to go back to L.A. and have fun with the project. I know you will do well and do what you think is right. I will see you premix.’”

The film, though, was a challenge because this “Dracula” was a mix of horror and a dark love story. “There were a lot of transitions we needed to make with the soundtrack in telling the story,” said McCarthy.

What stands out to McCarthy as his best accomplishment in the film? “I think what I enjoyed most within the movie was the peacock,” McCarthy said. “We transitioned the peacock sound [from one scene] into a whistle for a steam train.”


‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’

Where: Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.

Admission: $3 to $5



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