Zhao will write, direct and produce through her production company, Highwayman.
This new Dracula project, however, will be a far cry from the more traditional or even modern incarnations made over the years. Details are being kept in the coffin, but Zhao’s version is described as an original, futuristic, sci-fi Western. Themes of being on society’s fringes, something Zhao has tackled in her previous work, will course through the project’s veins.
“Chloé’s singular lens shines a light on stories of the overlooked and misunderstood,” said Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer. “We are thrilled to be working with her as she reimagines one of the most iconic outsider characters ever created.”
Stated Zhao: “I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody. I’m very excited to work with Donna, Peter and the team at Universal to reimagine such a beloved character.”
Zhao’s Dracula take comes as the character sharpens his fangs to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Universal’s classic directed by Tod Browning that starred Bela Lugosi.
And it is the latest project to be injected into Universal’s lair that houses development that builds on the studio’s vast monsters of movieland legacy. The studio several years ago re-oriented its development for a more filmmaker-driven approach for more out-of-the-box thinking not tethered to any shared story universe. The success of last year’s Invisible Man was a fruit of those labors. Among the talent working on monster projects are Dexter Fletcher, Paul Feig, James Wan, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Miller and Phil Lord.
Zhao’s latest film, Nomadland, explores those living outside of society’s bounds in the vast landscape of the American West and stars Frances McDormand. It is also one of the most acclaimed movies of 2020, and Zhao one of the most chased-after filmmakers.
On Wednesday, the movie received four Golden Globe nominations, including best motion picture (drama), best screenplay and best director, the latter making Zhao the first Asian woman to receive a Golden Globe directing nomination.
Previously, Nomadland won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the first film ever to win the top prize at both festivals.
On top of that, the film won best feature and audience award at the Gotham Awards and best picture from the National Society of Film Critics. Zhao won best director awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle and San Francisco Film Critics Circle, as well as numerous accolades for her film editing and screenplay adaptation.
Universal may have staked a claim on Zhao’s first project since the acclaim of Nomadland hit, but the Dracula endeavor will not be her first studio or big-budget feature, as she is currently in postproduction on Eternals for Marvel Studios. That movie currently has a Nov. 5 release date.
Zhao is repped by Ilene Feldman Management, Simon Faber at Pangea, and attorney Linda Lichter.