Public Pressure Convinced Universal To Cast Bela Lugosi As Dracula

Before Bela Lugosi took on the role of Dracula on screen, he first donned the cape on stage in the 1927 American production of the Broadway play “Dracula.” According to Lugosi’s website, his time spent inhabiting the enigmatic vampire on stage is where he worked on perfecting the character. He embodied Dracula, so much so that when it came time to cast the lead role for the upcoming Universal film, to anyone who was anybody, it seemed like a no-brainer to cast him in the main role.

In Arthur Lenning’s book, “The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi,” he details how Universal had already cast two of the Broadway play’s other “Dracula” actors in its film version — Herbert Bunston in the role of Dr. Seward and Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing. However, the studio was still on the fence about Lugosi. Lenning postulates that some felt Lugosi was simply not as famous as the other actors who were being considered for the role, and because he was Hungarian, there was worry that he might be “too foreign to have box-office appeal.” 

Lugosi’s performance in a “local presentation” of the play which Lenning describes as being “not the polished touring version” may have also had something to do with Universal’s hesitancy to cast Lugosi. They simply did not understand what all the fuss was about in regard to the actor, and they weren’t ready to take a chance on him. However, thankfully others believed in Lugosi’s potential to helm the film, and soon people were not shy about voicing their opinion on who should be the one to fill The Count’s coffin.

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