Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves were two of the hottest film stars of the early 1990s. And according to the former, it turns out that there may well be more to the Hollywood couple’s relationship than meets the eye. Here’s a look at how a wedding scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula blurred the boundaries between fantasy and reality.
In 1992 Ryder pulled double duty in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, appearing as both the vampire’s former flame Princess Elisabeta and his reincarnated girlfriend Mina Murray. The actress also played a vital part in bringing the classic horror tale back to the big screen. After all, director Francis Ford Coppola only came on board when Ryder alerted him to the project.
At the time, Ryder was one of Hollywood’s golden girls. She had first caught attention starring alongside Corey Haim in the 1986 teen movie Lucas and a year later impressed critics with her performance in Square Dance. But Ryder’s career only truly took off when she worked on two Tim Burton films in quick succession.
In 1988’s Beetlejuice, Ryder portrays Lydia Deetz, a teenage goth who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin’s ghosts after moving with her family to a creepy mansion. Then, two years later, the actress reunited with Burton and co-starred with Johnny Depp – her real-life partner at the time – in Edward Scissorhands. And both movies proved to be huge box-office hits.
In between Ryder’s two Burton movies, she also took a gamble by signing up for provocative teen satire Heathers. The actress’ agent pleaded with her to pass on the role of Veronica, in fact, fearing that the part would irreparably damage her career. But Ryder’s intuition paid off, and the 1988 flick is now regarded as a cult classic.
Meanwhile, Ryder also found the time to play Jerry Lee Lewis’ teenage bride in biopic Great Balls of Fire!, Kiefer Sutherland’s love interest in Vietnam War tale 1969 and pop star Debbie Gibson in a Mojo Nixon music promo. She then capitalized on the success of Edward Scissorhands by teaming up with Cher and Christina Ricci in 1990’s Mermaids. And for her performance in that film, Ryder picked up her first major award nomination: a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actress.
In the early ’90s, Ryder continued to strike while the iron was hot, starring as the titular adopted child in 1991’s Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael. That same year, the actress ventured into arthouse territory with the leading role of Los Angeles cab driver Corky in Jim Jarmusch’s vignette collection Night on Earth. Then, in 1992 Ryder finally got the chance to work with Francis Ford Coppola, having previously pulled out of the director’s 1990 trilogy-closing The Godfather III because of ill health.
Meanwhile, Ryder’s co-star in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Keanu Reeves, had also emerged as a young Hollywood favorite during the same era. And much like Ryder, Reeves flitted between popular mainstream fare and indie cinema. He first hit our movie screens in 1986’s Youngblood, playing a goalie for a Canadian ice hockey team.
Later that same year, Reeves earned much more screen time in River’s Edge, an indie drama based on the aftermath of a teenage murder. He then enjoyed a prolific 1988, appearing in no fewer than four different movies. These included emotive drama Permanent Record, comedy The Prince of Pennsylvania and period romance Dangerous Liaisons.
Of course, Reeves’ big breakthrough occurred when he starred opposite Alex Winter in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The slacker sci-fi comedy even spawned a sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, two years later. And three decades on, Ted remains one of the defining parts of Reeves’ varied career.
That same year, Reeves also impressed in Parenthood, and in 1991 he consolidated his heartthrob status in Point Break. In fact, the actor even picked up the coveted title of Most Desirable Male at the 1992 MTV Movie Awards on the back of his role in the surfing flick. But Reeves would soon prove that there is more to him than a pretty face.
Indeed, in 1991 Reeves earned substantial critical acclaim for his performance in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. The actor played the best pal of River Phoenix’s character in the film, which was hailed as a New Queer Cinema classic. That same year, Reeves also showcased his skills as a bass guitarist in grunge outfit Dogstar, which he also co-founded.
In 1992 Reeves followed in the footsteps of Barry Norton, Bruno Ganz and Trevor Eve when he was cast as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, he received a pasting from critics for his performance as the ill-fated solicitor. Entertainment Weekly, for instance, argued that Reeves was completely “out of his depth” in the vampire horror.
However, perhaps the most scathing review came from Total Film’s Josh Winning, who wrote, “You can visibly see [Reeves] attempting not to end every one of his lines with ‘dude.’ The result? A performance that looks like the young actor’s perpetually constipated – painful for all parties.” And it wasn’t just Reeves’ acting ability that was ruthlessly slated. His attempt at an English accent is considered by many to be the worst ever committed to celluloid, in fact.
Meanwhile, Ryder was also criticized for her attempt to sound like a natural Brit, with Time describing her London tone as a “literal horror show.” Her overall performance, however, was greeted more kindly than Reeves’. For instance, The Austin Chronicle’s Marc Savlov wrote, “Ryder, seemingly the perfect choice for Dracula’s obscure object of desire, Mina Harker, is better by far than Reeves.”
In a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, both Reeves and Ryder reminisced about their time on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And Reeves began in a typically effusive manner, telling Ryder, “You were pretty much in Dracula land. You and Gary were all doing your thing. I was Jonathan Harker – all in the background… I had like one scene.”
However, Ryder was quick to stop Reeves from trivializing his role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and reminded him that he had helped her to cope with the shoot. The actress revealed that she’d recently discovered an old diary that she had written while filming the movie. And one particular passage read, “Angst, angst, angst, angst… Thank God for Keanu. Thank God I’m going to see Keanu.”
Ryder told Reeves, “I was always just so happy when you were around because there was so much sort of trauma.” What’s more, the actress compared her co-star’s relaxed approach to acting to that of Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy. She added, “There’s no embroidery. [Reeves] just does it, which is so great. A lot of people embroider a lot.”
Rather touchingly, Ryder and Reeves continued to stay in touch once filming on Bram Stoker’s Dracula had come to an end. Ryder revealed that they had written letters to each other on several occasions, in fact. “It was so nice,” Ryder gushed to Vanity Fair. “People just don’t do that anymore.”
What’s more, Ryder and Reeves have met up for meals out at least once every two years since their time together on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And it’s a good job that the pair have remained on such friendly terms, too. Because, according to Ryder, she and Reeves may actually be more than friends.
Ryder made the revelation while being interviewed in 2018 alongside Reeves by Entertainment Weekly. The duo were promoting their fourth movie together, Destination Wedding. And all the talk of getting hitched prompted Ryder to reminisce about her own experience of walking down the aisle while shooting Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Referring to herself and Reeves, Ryder told the magazine, “We actually got married in Dracula. No, I swear to god, I think we’re married in real life.” And the actress went on to explain that director Francis Ford Coppola had decided to appoint a real-life Romanian priest for the scene.
Ryder added, “We shot the master, and he did the whole thing. So, I think we’re married.” But while Reeves’ two-time co-star may have been relatively convinced that their on-screen nuptials weren’t just make believe, Reeves himself seemed less sure. And on hearing Ryder’s recollection, the actor quipped, “It’s lovely to see you again.”
In fact, Reeves had to be reminded by Ryder that they had both filmed a wedding in its entirety and said “I do.” And the man who played Jonathan Harker in the offending scene then queried, “We said ‘yes?’” Ryder replied, “Don’t you remember that? It was on Valentine’s Day.”
Ryder’s recollections of the big day eventually appeared to sway Reeves. And after hearing all the details, the actor stated, “Oh my gosh, we’re married!” What’s more, Ryder’s theory was later given further credence by the man who had organized the fictional wedding ceremony: Bram Stoker’s Dracula director, Francis Ford Coppola.
Coppola had first shot the wedding sequence in a stylized manner that had left him disappointed when he had watched it back for the first time. And as a result, the director had opted to reshoot the scene in a more authentic way. In the commentary on a DVD version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Coppola recalled, “I decided having the real wedding ceremony as it might be in [Greek Orthodox Christianity] would be beautiful.”
Then, Coppola had booked a genuine minister and a Los Angeles Greek Orthodox church and asked Ryder and Reeves to walk down the aisle in front of the cameras once again. And he was left far more impressed with the results second time around. “This is pretty authentic,” Coppola said, according to The Guardian.
What’s more, Coppola has supported Ryder’s claims that she and Reeves have been a wedded couple for more than 25 years as a result of the fictional Dracula nuptials. The director added, “So in a sense, when we were all done, we realized that [Reeves] and [Ryder] really are married as a result of this scene and this ceremony.” So, how did said scene come about in the first place?
Well, the drama begins when Jonathan Harker (Reeves) visits Transylvania to meet his latest client, Count Dracula – portrayed by Gary Oldman. But things go awry when the vampire finds a photo of the lawyer’s bride-to-be, Mina (Ryder), a lady he believes is his wife, Elisabeta, back from the dead. Dracula then travels to England – but not before he’s set his army of undead brides to devour his new love rival.
Dracula’s much more youthful and better-looking daylight self initially enchants Mina when he makes it to England. But his seduction scheme is foiled when Jonathan, who has somehow broken out of the vampire’s lair with his life intact, manages to get the word out about his ordeal. And Mina subsequently flees to Romania to tie the knot with her true love.
After saying “I do,” Jonathan and Mina can be seen drinking from a chalice before passionately locking lips. Neither the groom nor the bride are shown speaking on camera. And it’s therefore impossible to tell whether Reeves and Ryder’s fictional or actual names were uttered by the very real Greek Orthodox priest.
Meanwhile, the footage of Jonathan and Mina getting married is interspersed with the tragic death of Mina’s best friend, Lucy. On learning about the happy couple’s nuptials, you see, Dracula lashes out by turning Lucy into a vampire. And she is then slain for good by the likes of Van Helsing, Seward and Holmwood.
Dracula reveals all to Mina on her and Jonathan’s hometown return. Then, in a state of confusion, the newlywed woman claims that she can recall her past life as Elisabeta and that she’s very much in love with Dracula. Mina then asks that she, too, be turned into vampire form.
Dracula then flees from London before Van Helsing hypnotizes Mina to discover his whereabouts. After traveling to the Borgo Pass, the vampire hunter is nearly feasted upon by both Dracula’s brides and Mina. Van Helsing saves both Mina and himself, however, with a ring of fire. And the next morning a fight ensues in which Dracula is stabbed by Jonathan.
Jonathan and Van Helsing let Mina comfort Dracula as he staggers into the nearby chapel. After transforming into Vlad – the younger version of himself – the vampire pleads with Mina to put him out of his misery. Mina subsequently stabs him through the heart before decapitating him. And Vlad and his late wife, Elisabeta, can then be seen reuniting on their ascent to Heaven.
But whether or not the wedding scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is for real, it’s still the closest that both Ryder and Reeves have gotten to walking down the aisle. Of course, Ryder did enjoy a three-year engagement with Edward Scissorhands co-star Johnny Depp back in the early 1990s. The pair broke up before they said “I do,” however.
Ryder later entered into lengthy, high-profile relationships with Dave Pirner – the lead vocalist with alt-rock outfit Soul Asylum – and fellow Hollywood actor Matt Damon. Since 2011, though, the actress has been dating Scott Mackinlay Hahn, an American fashion designer. However, as of March 2019 there hasn’t yet been any sign of wedding bells.
In 2016 Ryder told The Edit that she was perfectly happy as an unmarried woman, in fact. She said, “I’d rather never have been married than been divorced a few times. Not that there’s anything wrong with divorce, but I don’t think I could do it if that was a possibility. When your parents are madly in love for 45 years, your standards are really high. But I’ve been happily with someone for quite a while now.”
Sadly, Reeves’ personal life has been beset by tragedy. In April 2001, for instance, the actor’s former partner Jennifer Syme – with whom he had split in 1999 – died in a car accident in Los Angeles. She had been driving along Cahuenga Boulevard when she had clipped three vehicles that had been parked on the side of the road.
Reeves has been linked to other women before and since Syme’s passing, although the Canadian has yet to confirm any significant relationship rumors. For now, though, at least the actor has his could-be-relationship with Ryder to cherish.