Dracula is one of the most iconic horror figures of all time, and there are few aspects of the character more famous than his fearsome fang-like teeth.
And so, when it came to the latest adaptation of the classic novel, the creators knew that this was something they had to get right.
Executive producer Sue Vertue told RadioTimes.com, “We went through quite a lot of different ideas about what the teeth would be like. And in the end, you come back to more of a traditional (version.)”
Originally, the team had wanted to do the fangs like a lamprey, meaning there would be a ring of circular teeth, but Mark Gatiss explained that after seeing what this would look like using photoshop they decided on a different approach.
He said, “You have to think about how you want your lead to look really great, and dashing, because that’s a huge part of Dracula’s appeal, and always has been, his sex appeal. One night with Dracula is worth dying for. Whereas, one night with a lamprey, you might go ‘I’m alright, thanks!’”
In the end, they opted for more regular fake teeth, albeit of a slightly less pearly white nature than those that have been associated with previous iterations of the character.
The series star Claes Bang told RadioTimes.com, “What they did quite cleverly is they just did what I have, and made them slightly bigger.
“And then what they also did, which I think is really clever, is they made them his age. Because if you look at, for instance, Christopher Lee, they’re shiny white. They could be out of a commercial for whatever you put in your mouth these days to get your teeth white.
“But these actually have a little bit more of the look of a predator, in a way. Worn teeth, that’s been used to eat people for a very long time.”
Although he is a fan of the way the teeth look, Bang admits that to call them comfortable would “go a little too far” – but he does admit that once he got used to them they were “quite easy.”
Of course, the teeth are not the only part of the costume required to make the character a truly creepy villain, and there were also many discussions about other aspects of his appearance.
Bang wears contact lenses – “for the blood lust” – in addition to all manner of prosthetics, hair, blood, nails and of course his cloak.
And according to the creators, they had to make a change to his cloak because while they thought the first one, which was velvet, looked the part, it also posed difficulties due to its heaviness, with Bang declaring that “it weighed a tonne.”
He explained, “It looked just amazing because it was really heavy. But then they actually managed to do one that looked as good but weighed a fourth of it.”
And Bang outlined that one of the other challenged revolved around his fake fingernails, which he had to wear everyday – and become such a hassle that at one point the make-up artists suggested that he simply grow out his own nails.
He also explained how the fingernails were made. “What was really clever about them is they were actually modelled from my teeth,” he said. “They did the fangs, and then they turned the fangs into fingernails – so the fingernails are sort of pointy.”
Given the importance the fangs have taken on in the Dracula canon, you’d be forgiven for thinking they had always been a vital part of the costume – but the first few film versions didn’t actually include them.
Mark Gatiss said, “The first movie to do fangs was a Turkish one called Dracula Istanbul, a very strange film – there’s literally no fangs in Dracula before that.”
And Steven Moffat pointed out one of the other things associated with Dracula that has changed over time and across many versions.
“There’s stuff that’s adhered to Dracula over the years, that become part of the central story of it, that were never in the original at all, as with Sherlock Holmes. It’s a surprise when you read the book, because Dracula’s out in the day light all the time, it’s not a problem for him. That’s from Hollywood…. But you pick and choose from the things that are cool.”
There’s certainly no shortage of cool things to pick and choose from, and viewers around the country will surely be intrigued to find out which ones Moffat and Gatiss have opted for this time round…
Dracula begins on New Year’s Day at 9pm on BBC One