Chloé Zhao Sets ‘Nomadland’ Followup with Sci-Fi Western Spin on ‘Dracula’

Zhao just made history as the first Asian woman to be nominated for a directing Golden Globe.
NOMADLAND, from left: Frances McDormand, director Chloe Zhao, on set, 2020. ph: Joshua Richards / © Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
Frances McDormand and Chloe Zhao on the set of "Nomadland"
Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Chloé Zhao made history this week as the first Asian woman to be nominated for a directing Golden Globe — for her film “Nomadland” — and now she’s setting sights on her next project: a science-fiction western spin on Dracula. Zhao will write, direct, and produce via her production banner Highwayman for Universal Pictures, which is expanding its repertoire of monster movies by heading back into its vault of classics.

The Hollywood Reporter has the original scoop, writing, “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.”

In a statement, Zhao said she has “always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody.” Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer added that Zhao’s insight into the “overlooked and misunderstood” will fuel the project. Zhao previously directed “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and “The Rider.”

The news arrives as Universal reaches the 90th anniversary of Tod Browning’s 1931 classic “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi. Universal was emboldened to revisit some of its most iconic monsters by the success in early 2020 of “The Invisible Man,” which despite COVID shutdowns early into its run still earned north of $143 million globally.

Zhao is quickly becoming adept at refashioning stories IP, as she’s currently in post-production on another tentpole project, “Eternals,” for Disney and Marvel Studios. That film is currently set to be released on November 5, 2021.

“I want to make films that last, that have a timeless feel to them, that aren’t just a flash in the pan with whatever topic is trending on Twitter right now. I’m not interested in that stuff,” Zhao told IndieWire in an interview back in September.

Zhao’s “Nomadland” not only earned four Golden Globe nominations, but also earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress for Frances McDormand on Thursday. The film has also appeared on dozens of top 10 lists and has been showered in other critic group awards. If Zhao makes it to the Oscars as predicted, she will be the first Asian woman to be nominated for Best Director.

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