Interview with the Vampire (film)
|Interview with the Vampire|
|Directed by||Neil Jordan|
|Produced by||David Geffen|
|Screenplay by||Anne Rice|
|Based on||Interview with the Vampire|
by Anne Rice
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Edited by||Mick Audsley|
Joke van Wijk
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$223.7 million|
Interview with the Vampire is a 1994 American gothic romantic horror film directed by Neil Jordan, based on Anne Rice's 1976 novel of the same name, and starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The film focuses on Lestat (Cruise) and Louis (Pitt), beginning with Louis's transformation into a vampire by Lestat in 1791. The film chronicles their time together, and their turning of a ten-year-old girl, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), into a vampire. The narrative is framed by a present-day interview, in which Louis tells his story to a San Francisco reporter. The supporting cast features Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea.
The film was released in November 1994 to generally positive reviews, and received Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Original Score. Kirsten Dunst was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film.
In modern-day San Francisco, reporter Daniel Molloy interviews Louis de Pointe du Lac, who claims to be a vampire. Louis describes his human life as a wealthy plantation owner in 1791 Spanish Louisiana. Despondent following the death of his wife and infant child, one night he is attacked by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt while drunkenly wandering the waterfront of New Orleans. Lestat senses Louis' dissatisfaction with life and offers to turn him into a vampire, which Louis accepts. However, he quickly comes to regret it. While Lestat revels in the hunt and killing of humans, Louis resists killing them, drinking animal blood to sustain himself. He is disgusted by Lestat's pleasure in killing and comes to suffer tremendously as a vampire.
Wandering the streets of New Orleans, amid an outbreak of plague, Louis can resist his hunger no more and feeds on a little girl whose mother has died in the plague. To entice Louis to stay with him, Lestat turns the dying girl, Claudia, into a vampire. Together they raise her as a daughter—Louis has a pure love for Claudia, while Lestat treats her more as a student, training her to become a merciless killer. As thirty years pass, Claudia matures psychologically but still remains a little girl in appearance, and she's treated as such by Lestat. When she finally realizes that she will never grow old, she is furious with Lestat and tells Louis that they should leave him. She tricks Lestat into drinking the "dead blood" of twin boys that she killed by overdosing them with laudanum and she slits his throat. With Louis's help, she dumps Lestat's body in a swamp and the two plan a voyage to Europe. However, Lestat returns on the night of their departure, having drunk the blood of swamp creatures to survive. Lestat attacks them, but Louis sets him on fire and, in the ensuing blaze, they are able to escape to their ship and depart.
After traveling around Europe and the Mediterranean (but finding no other vampires), Louis and Claudia settle harmoniously in Paris. Louis encounters vampires Santiago and Armand by chance. Armand invites Louis and Claudia to his coven, the Théâtre des Vampires, where the vampires stage theatrical horror shows for humans. On their way out of the theater, Santiago reads Louis' mind and suspects that Louis and Claudia murdered Lestat. Armand warns Louis to send Claudia away for her own safety, and Louis is intrigued to stay with Armand and learn more about the meaning of being a vampire. Claudia demands that Louis turn a human woman, Madeleine, to be her new protector and companion, and he reluctantly complies. The Parisian vampires abduct all three and punish them for Lestat's murder: imprisoning Louis in a metal coffin, and trapping Claudia and Madeleine in a room where sunlight burns them to ash. Armand does nothing to prevent this, but the next day he frees Louis. Seeking revenge, Louis returns to the Theater at dawn and sets it on fire, killing all the vampires including Santiago. Armand arrives in time to help Louis escape the sunrise and once again offers him a place by his side. Louis, however, refuses Armand and leaves for good, knowing Armand could've saved Claudia.
As decades pass, Louis explores the world dejectedly alone and eventually returns to New Orleans. One night he comes across Lestat, living as a recluse in an abandoned mansion and surviving on rat blood like Louis did. Lestat asks Louis to rejoin him, but Louis rejects him and leaves. Louis concludes the interview, prompting Molloy to offer to be his new vampire companion. Louis is outraged that Molloy hasn't understood the tale of suffering he has related and scares him into abandoning his idea. After Louis vanishes, Molloy runs to his car and takes off. On the Golden Gate Bridge Lestat appears and attacks him, taking control of the car. Revived by Molloy's blood, Lestat offers him the choice that he "never had"—whether or not to become a vampire.
- Tom Cruise as Lestat de Lioncourt
- Brad Pitt as Louis de Pointe du Lac
- Christian Slater as Daniel Molloy
- Kirsten Dunst as Claudia
- Antonio Banderas as Armand
- Stephen Rea as Santiago
- Domiziana Giordano as Madeleine
- Thandie Newton as Yvette
- George Kelly as Dollmaker
- Marcel Iureş as Paris Vampire 
- Sara Stockbridge as Estelle
- Indra Ové as New Orleans Whore
The rights to Rice's novel were initially purchased by Paramount Pictures in April 1976, shortly before the book was published. However, the script lingered in development hell for years, with the rights being sold to Lorimar before finally ending up with Warner Bros.
Director Neil Jordan was approached by Warner Bros. to direct after the huge success of his movie The Crying Game (1992). Jordan was intrigued by the script, calling it "really interesting and slightly theatrical", but was especially interested after reading Rice's novel. He agreed to direct on the condition that he be allowed to write his own script, though he did not gain a writing credit. The themes of Catholic guilt which pervade the novel attracted Jordan, who called the story "the most wonderful parable about wallowing in guilt that I'd ever come across. But these things are unconscious, I don't have an agenda."
With David Geffen producing, the movie was given a $70 million budget, unprecedented for a film in the vampire genre. Jordan stated that:
It's not very often you can make a complicated, dark, dangerous movie and get a big budget for it. Vampire movies were traditionally made at the lower end of the scale, on a shoestring, on rudimentary sets. David Geffen is very powerful and he poured money into Interview. I wanted to make it on an epic scale of something like Gone With The Wind.
Author Anne Rice adapted her 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire into a screenplay with French actor Alain Delon in mind for the role of Louis. Later on, when Interview entered the casting stage, British actor Julian Sands was championed by Anne Rice and fans of the novel to play Lestat, but because Sands was not a well-known name at the time (being only famed for his performance in A Room with a View), he was rejected and the role was given to Tom Cruise. Because of his star power, Cruise received a record $10 million salary and a percentage of the profits. The casting was initially criticized by Anne Rice, who said that Cruise was "no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler", and the casting was "so bizarre; it's almost impossible to imagine how it's going to work". She recommended a number of other actors including John Malkovich, Peter Weller, Jeremy Irons, and Alexander Godunov. She suggested that Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise switch roles, stating that "I tried for a long time to tell them that they should just reverse these roles–have Brad Pitt play Lestat and have Tom Cruise play Louis. Of course, they don't listen to me."
Eventually, Rice became satisfied with Cruise's performance after seeing the completed film, saying that "from the moment he appeared, Tom was Lestat for me" and "that Tom did make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball." She called Cruise to compliment him and admit that she was wrong.
Due to Rice's perception of Hollywood's homophobia, at one point she rewrote the part of Louis, changing his sex to female, in order to specifically heterosexualize the character's relationship with Lestat. At the time, Rice felt it was the only way to get the film made, and singer-actress Cher was considered for the part. A song titled "Lovers Forever", which Cher wrote along with Shirley Eikhard for the film's soundtrack, got rejected as Pitt was ultimately cast for the role, though a dance-pop version of the song was released on Cher's 2013 album, Closer to the Truth.
Originally, River Phoenix was cast for the role of Daniel Molloy (as Anne Rice liked the idea), but he died four weeks before he was due to begin filming. When Christian Slater was cast in his place as Molloy, he donated his entire salary to Phoenix's favorite charitable organizations. The film has a dedication to Phoenix after the end credits. Eleven-year-old actress Kirsten Dunst was spotted by talent scouts and was the first girl tested for the role of Claudia.
Filming took place primarily in New Orleans and in London, with limited location shooting done in San Francisco and Paris. Louis' plantation was a combination of primarily Destrehan Plantation, just east of New Orleans, and Oak Alley Plantation in nearby Vacherie. The depiction of 18th and early 19th century New Orleans was achieved with a combination of location shooting in the French Quarter of New Orleans and filming on a purpose-built waterfront set along the Mississippi river. Production then moved to London, where interior sets were constructed at Pinewood Studios. The sets designed by Dante Ferretti included the interiors of Louis, Lestat and Claudia's New Orleans townhouse, Claudia and Louis' Paris hotel suite, the Théâtre des Vampires (built on Pinewood's 007 Stage), and the catacombs where the Parisien vampires live. Shooting took place in San Francisco, mainly on the Golden Gate Bridge, with the external façade of Louis' hotel located at the intersection of Taylor Street, Market Street, and Golden Gate Avenue. In Paris the exterior and lobby of the Opera Garnier were dressed to film Louis and Claudia's arrival at their hotel in Paris.
Tom Cruise wanted to minimize his height difference with Brad Pitt (Cruise is 5'7" compared to Pitt's 5'11"), so he wore heightened shoes and when the two walked side-by-side a shallow trench was dug for Pitt to walk in to make him appear shorter.
Brad Pitt admitted in a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly that he was "miserable" while making the film and even tried to buy himself out of his contract at one point. Pitt called the production "six-months of f---king darkness" because of the almost exclusive night shoots, filmed mostly in London in the depths of winter, which sent him into a depression. The script, which he received only two weeks prior to filming, was also a source of disappointment. He unfavorably contrasted the character of Louis which he had admired in the book to that presented in the script:
In the book you have this guy asking, 'Who am I?' Which was probably applicable to me at that time: 'Am I good? Am I of the angels? Am I bad? Am I of the devil?' In the book it is a guy going on this search of discovery. And in the meantime, he has this Lestat character that he's entranced by and abhors. ... In the movie, they took the sensational aspects of Lestat and made that the pulse of the film, and those things are very enjoyable and very good, but for me, there was just nothing to do -- you just sit and watch.
Visual effects were overseen by Stan Winston and his team, while the newly founded Digital Domain was responsible for creating the digital effects under Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato. Director Neil Jordan was initially hesitant to use Stan Winston Studios, because they had gained a reputation for specializing in large-scale animatronics and CGI with Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Interview with the Vampire was going to require mostly makeup effects. Winston designed the characters' vampire appearances and makeup effects, including a technique for stenciling translucent blue veins on the actors' faces. This required the actors to hang upside down for 30 minutes, so that the blood would rush to their heads and cause their veins to protrude, enabling the makeup artists to trace realistic patterns.
Digital effects were used mainly to add small details or to enhance certain physical effects, like the burning of the New Orleans set or the burning of Louis' plantation, whereby CGI flames were imposed on a miniature of the house. The most difficult digital effects to illustrate were Louis and Claudia's transformations into vampires, which were technologically very advanced for the time. The scene where Claudia cuts Lestat's throat was achieved by transferring from Tom Cruise bleeding from a prosthetic wound to an animatronic model designed to 'wither' as it bled out, enhanced with CGI blood. Winston also sculpted the rough model for the charred remains of Claudia and Madeleine, using archival photographs of victims from Hiroshima for inspiration.
A rough-cut of Interview was shown to test audiences, who according to producer David Geffen felt "there was a little too much blood and violence." The screenings were held over the objection of Neil Jordan, who was planning on further paring down the length of the film before previewing it, but Geffen wanted to show the longer version in order to "get a feel for what the audience wanted." Eventually about 20 minutes worth of footage was either cut or re-arranged before the theatrical version was ready.
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles opened on November 11, 1994. Opening weekend grosses amounted to $36.4m, placing it in the number one position at the US box office. In subsequent weeks it struggled against Star Trek Generations and The Santa Clause. Total gross in the United States was $105 million, while the total including international gross was $224 million, with an estimated budget of $60 million.
The film received mixed to positive reviews among film critics. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film as holding an overall 62% approval rating based on 52 reviews, with a rating average of 5.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "Despite lacking some of the book's subtler shadings, and suffering from some clumsy casting, Interview with the Vampire benefits from Neil Jordan's atmospheric direction and a surfeit of gothic thrills." The film holds a 59/100 on Metacritic. Praise from The New York Times's Elvis Mitchell and the Chicago Sun-Times's Roger Ebert was tempered by poor reviews in The Washington Post and Time magazine.
Oprah Winfrey famously walked out of an advance screening for the movie only 10 minutes in, because of the gore and dark themes. She even considered cancelling an interview with Tom Cruise promoting the film, stating that "I believe there are forces of light and darkness in the world, and I don't want to be a contributor to the force of darkness."
Interview with the Vampire was nominated for two Academy Awards—for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo) and for Best Original Score (Elliot Goldenthal), but lost to The Madness of King George and The Lion King, respectively. Goldenthal also received a nomination for Best Original Score at the 1995 Golden Globe Awards, as did Kirsten Dunst for Best Supporting Actress.
At the 1995 BAFTA Awards, the film won for Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot) and Best Production Design (Dante Ferretti), with further nominations for Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell) and Best Make-up and Hair (Stan Winston, Michèle Burke, Jan Archibald). The film won a Razzie Award for Worst Screen Couple for Pitt and Cruise, tied with Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone in The Specialist.
Almost a decade after this film, an adaptation for the third book in the series, The Queen of the Damned, was produced and distributed once again by Warner Bros. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt did not reprise their roles as Lestat and Louis. Many characters and important plotlines were written out of the film, which actually combined elements of The Vampire Lestat with The Queen of the Damned. The film was negatively received by critics, and Rice dismissed it completely as she felt the filmmakers had "mutilated" her work. During pre-production, Rice had pleaded with the studio not to produce a film of the book just yet as she believed her readers wanted a film based on the second book in the series, The Vampire Lestat. Rice was refused the cooperation of the studio.
In February 2012, a film adaptation of The Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth book in the series, entered development with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's film production company, Imagine Entertainment. It was reported that screenwriter Lee Patterson was going to pen the screenplay. However, Rice's son, Christopher, apparently had drafted a screenplay based on the novel that was met with praise from those involved in the developmental stage. Rice later confirmed that creative differences that were beyond those involved resulted in the dismissal of the project in April 2013.
In August 2014 Universal Pictures acquired the rights to the entire Vampire Chronicles. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have been named as producers and the deal includes the aforementioned screenplay for The Tale of the Body Thief, written by Christopher.
A new film adaptation of the book has been written by Josh Boone and was announced in May 2016, with Boone suggesting actor Jared Leto play the role of Lestat. In November 2016, all plans for a theatrical reboot were scrapped as Rice announced she had regained the rights to her novels and intends to create a television series starting with The Vampire Lestat.
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