Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola is disputing Winona Ryder’s claim that he ordered Keanu Reeves and other actors to insult her on the set of Bram Stocker’s Dracula in 1992.
Ryder, 48, claimed in an interview with the Sunday Times that Coppola told actors to shout offensive comments at her in a bid to make her cry while filming but both Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins refused to join in.
The 81-year-old auteur insists her version of events was ‘not how it happened’ but did admit he had told Gary Oldman to whisper unscripted ‘horrific and evil’ words to Winona and others on set while in character as Dracula.
He said it was part of an ‘improvisation’, which is ‘a common filmmaking practice.’
His version: Francis Ford Coppola, 81, denied Winona Ryder’s claim that he shouted insults at her and told her costars to do the same for Bram Stoker’s Dracula; pictured in August 2019
‘While I think Winona is a wonderful actor, the incident she described is not how it happened, and shouting or abusing people isn’t something I do as a person or as a filmmaker,’ Coppola said in a statement to People.
‘In this situation, which I remember clearly, I instructed Gary Oldman — in character as Dracula — to whisper improvised words to her and the other characters, making them as horrific and evil as he could. I don’t know what was said, but improvisation is a common filmmaking practice.’
Coppola has previously said that he instructed Oldman to whisper improvised words to get reactions out of other actors on set, including in an erotic scene featuring Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra.
In her Sunday Times interview, Ryder said that Coppola began shouting out insults while filming a scene in which she was ‘supposed to be crying,’ including yelling, ‘You whore!’
Not him: ‘While I think Winona is a wonderful actor, the incident she described is not how it happened, and shouting or abusing people isn’t something I do as a person or as a filmmaker,’ Coppola said; Ryder, Coppola and Oldman in 1992
Improvisation: ‘In this situation, which I remember clearly, I instructed Gary Oldman — in character as Dracula — to whisper improvised words to her and the other characters, making them as horrific and evil as he could…’; publicity still from Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In order to create more emotional distress in her performance, he allegedly told her male co-stars on set to join in, though the taunting ended when multiple actors wouldn’t take part.
‘Literally, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu [Reeves]… Francis was trying to get all of them to yell things that would make me cry, but Keanu wouldn’t, Anthony wouldn’t. … It just didn’t work,’ she said.
‘I was, like, really? It kind of did the opposite.’
Despite the experience, Ryder noted that she and the Apocalypse Now director are ‘good now.’
Insulting: In her Sunday Times interview, Ryder said that Coppola began shouting out insults while filming a scene in which she was ‘supposed to be crying,’ including yelling, ‘You whore!’; still from Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Reeves stars in the Dracula update as Jonathan Harker, a solicitor who travels to Transylvania to take on the elderly Count Dracula as a client.
Oldman played the title character both in a grotesque, heavily made-up elder version and a more youthful version that matched his own appearance.
Ryder played a dual role as Mina Harker, the wife of Reeves character, as well as the original wife of Dracula, who killed herself in the 15th Century after assuming her husband had died.
Acting friends: Keanu Reeves played the solicitor Jonathan Harker, while Ryder played his wife Mina Harker, who was married to a young Dracula (Gary Oldman) in a former life; still from Bram Stoker’s Dracula
When the immortal Dracula reenters her life, it stirs romantic feelings from her past life that she struggles to understand.
Hopkins has a memorable supporting role as the vampire film staple Abraham Van Helsing, a professor whose interests range from science to the occult and who knows how to destroy the vampire.
Grant played a smaller role as Dr. Jack Steward, the administrator of an insane asylum and a suitor of Lucy Westenra, one of Dracula’s first victims after he relocates to London.
Though Ryder mentioned Grant as one of the actor’s Coppola allegedly told to insult her, she didn’t specify if he complied or refused like Reeves and Hopkins.
What a start: Ryder revealed her friendship with Keanu Reeves started after he allegedly refused to join in with Coppola
The Edward Scissorhands actress also said that Reeves’ behavior led the two to be friends, and frequent costars, throughout the years.
Although Coppola’s Dracula update received mixed reviews at the time, with many of the pans singling out Ryder and Reeves’ stilted acting, it went on to gross $215 million on a production budget of $40 million, and was nominated for four Oscars, winning three for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Makeup.
Since then, the film has been reevaluated positively, with many critics singling out out Oldman’s performance and the classic special effects and set design.
Increasing in stature: Bram Stoker’s Dracula received mixed reviews, but was a hit at the box office and scored multiple Oscar nominations. Retrospective reviews have been kinder