Queen of the Damned
|Queen of the Damned|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Rymer|
|Produced by||Jorge Saralegui|
|Written by||Scott Abbott|
|Based on||The Vampire Chronicles|
by Anne Rice
|Music by||Richard Gibbs|
|Edited by||Dany Cooper|
Village Roadshow Pictures
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$45.5 million|
Queen of the Damned is a 2002 Australian-American horror film, and a loose adaptation of the third novel of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles series, The Queen of the Damned, although the film contains many plot elements from the novel's predecessor The Vampire Lestat. It stars Aaliyah in the title role as the vampire queen Akasha, and Stuart Townsend as the vampire Lestat.
This was Aaliyah's final film, completed before her death on August 25, 2001. The film was released posthumously on February 22, 2002 in the US and on April 4, 2002 in Australia. It received generally negative reviews from critics but was a moderate box office success.
The vampire Lestat is awakened from decades of slumber by the sound of a hard rock band, and proceeds to take over as their lead singer. Achieving international success, Lestat, having revealed the existence of vampires, taunts the others of his kind during an interview for promoting his first and only live concert.
Jesse Reeves, a researcher for the paranormal studies group Talamasca, is intrigued by Lestat's lyrics after hearing one of his songs play on TV and tells the rest of the group her theory that he really is a vampire. Her mentor, David Talbot, takes her aside and tells her they know what he is and that a vampire called Marius made him. David also shows her Lestat's journal that he recovered and gives it to Jesse for her to read. In the journal, Lestat recalls how he was turned into a vampire by Marius and how he awoke Akasha, the first vampire, with his music. Unsatisfied with what she read, Jesse tracks Lestat down to a London vampire club called The Admiral's Arms, where he saves her from three vampires and confronts her about Marius.
In Los Angeles, Lestat is visited by Marius, who warns him that the other vampires will not tolerate his flamboyant public profile. Marius also reveals that Akasha has awakened due to Lestat's new music and begs him to cancel his concert, which he refuses. Meanwhile, Akasha, who is searching for Lestat, arrives at The Admiral's Arms. After the vampires reveal their plan to kill Lestat at his concert, Akasha torches the club and kills all the vampires inside. Jesse arrives at Los Angeles and gives Lestat his journal back. She then asks him to show her what being a vampire is like. Lestat scoffs at the idea, but Jesse convinces him to spend his last moments before the concert with her. The two spend some time together and Jesse later asks Lestat to turn her, telling him she wants to be with him and that she wants to know everything he does. Lestat angrily refuses, showing her what it's like for a vampire to feed on a human, then leaves.
While performing at his concert in Death Valley, a group of vampires attack Lestat. With Marius' help, they both fend off most of the vampires until Akasha bursts through the stage and takes Lestat with her. Akasha brings Lestat to her new home, where the two vampires mutually feed on one another, during which time Lestat becomes spellbound by Akasha and is forced to obey her, and Akasha proclaims Lestat her new king. After the concert, Jesse is taken to the home of her aunt, Maharet, who later reveals herself to be one of the Ancient Vampires. Knowing Akasha's plan to take over the world, the Ancient Vampires discuss their plans to destroy the Queen by drinking from her and draining her of her blood. However, they believe that whoever drinks the Queen's last drop will not survive.
Empowered by Akasha's blood, Lestat and the Queen confront the Ancient Vampires. When they refuse to join her, Akasha then commands Lestat to kill Jesse, as The Queen sees her both as an enemy, due to being Maharet's descendant, and as food, with Akasha making an example out of her for those who dare disobey her command. Lestat ostensibly obeys, but after drinking Jesse's blood, comes to his senses and is released from Akasha's power. He angrily requests for his "crown" and Akasha openly gives him her arm to feed on. Lestat then turns on her and begins to drain Akasha's blood. With the help of the Ancients, Akasha's power diminishes. Maharet is the last to drink Akasha's blood, killing Akasha. Lestat goes to Jesse and, cradling her in his arms, gives her his blood as Maharet turns into a marble statue and "sleeps", becoming the new Queen of the Damned.
Lestat and Jesse, who is now a vampire, visits David and return Lestat's journal. When asked by David what it is like, Jesse jokingly offers to turn him into a vampire to which he replies he's too old for immortality. Jesse then bids David goodbye and leaves with Lestat. A few moments later, David is greeted by Marius.
The film closes with Lestat and Jesse walking hand in hand, among mortals, into the night.
- Aaliyah as Akasha
- Stuart Townsend as Lestat de Lioncourt
- Marguerite Moreau as Jesse Reeves
- Richael Tanner as young Jesse
- Vincent Perez as Marius de Romanus
- Paul McGann as David Talbot
- Lena Olin as Maharet
- Christian Manon as Mael
- Claudia Black as Pandora
- Bruce Spence as Khayman
- Matthew Newton as Armand
- Tiriel Mora as Roger
- Megan Dorman as Maudy
- Johnathan Devoy as James
- Pia Miranda as Roommate
Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to several of Anne Rice's novels—the first three Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches trilogy—after a 1988 takeover of Lorimar Productions. An eventual adaptation of Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan and produced by David Geffen) was released in 1994, although not without controversy, particularly over fan reaction to the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat, an objection initially shared by Anne Rice, which she recanted after seeing the finished film.
After the commercial and critical success of Interview, Neil Jordan began initial development of the novel's sequel, The Vampire Lestat, although this went nowhere.
As the rights to the novels would revert to Anne Rice at the end of 2000, initial story meetings to adapt one or both of the remaining Vampire Chronicles began in 1998. The decision was made early to substantially rewrite the plot, and to base most of the movie on the third book: The Vampire Lestat was considered too broad and episodic for a two-hour feature film, although the novel's setup of Lestat's awakening and career as a rock star was used. It was also decided to focus on Lestat as the primary character, and the back story of Akasha and the Story of the Twins were omitted, despite these being virtually central to the plot of the novel.
Displeased with the lack of progress, and more particularly with the studio's lack of consultation with her over the script development, author Anne Rice wrote a critical reply to a fan's question about the film in 1998:
The key factor is that the entire vampire contract terminates in the year 2000. All the properties revert to me at that time, unless production commences—principal photography that is—before then. I don't think it is possible for Warner Bros. to develop anything in that amount of time.
They have not been receptive to me or to my ideas at all.
Not very long ago, less than a year ago in fact, I begged the executives there to let me write a script for THE VAMPIRE LESTAT for union scale (the Writers Guild won't let you write it for free) and a deferred payment not due until release of the picture. They simply weren't interested. It was very painful for me, as I had been talking to a new director they'd hired and we were both excited about the idea.
I felt snubbed and hurt and have not bothered to approach them since. The young director is supposed to be developing THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED which I think is a bad idea, and basically a doomed project.
In spite of their showing no interest in me as the screen writer, they have not been able to find one themselves for this bizarre idea of THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. I'm not too surprised. I think any respectable script writer would be crazy to tackle that novel without having fully developed the background story of Lestat. Anyway, that is where it is.
During 1999, the script was developed by TV screenwriter Scott Abbott and Australian writer/director Michael Petroni. Another Australian, Michael Rymer, was confirmed to direct. Rymer suggested the film be shot in his home city of Melbourne, which would save considerably on production costs.
The first actor cast was R&B singer Aaliyah (who had made her film and acting debut in Romeo Must Die) as Akasha, the eponymous Queen of the Damned. Jenna Dewan and Foxy Brown were rumored to have been considered for the role of Akasha in addition to Aaliyah. The search for an actor to play Lestat took much longer—the idea of Tom Cruise reprising the role was considered but dismissed—although front runners included Wes Bentley, Josh Hartnett and Heath Ledger. Irish actor Stuart Townsend assumed the role in 2000, and the final cast included Vincent Perez as Marius, Paul McGann as David Talbot, Lena Olin as Maharet and Marguerite Moreau as Jesse Reeves. Australian actors included Claudia Black as Pandora and Matthew Newton as Armand.
With a large cast of international and Australian actors, Queen of the Damned began principal photography on October 2, 2000 and ended on December 17, 2000, in a former biscuit factory, converted into a studio in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans. Location filming took place around the city of Melbourne, although some filming was done in Los Angeles. For the scenes of Lestat's concert in Death Valley, over 3000 goths were recruited from Melbourne nightclubs and on the internet, then driven on a fleet of buses to a quarry in Werribee to act as extras.
The songs for Lestat's band were written and performed by Jonathan Davis, of the Nu-Metal band Korn, and Richard Gibbs, although Davis's contractual commitments to Sony BMG meant that his vocals could not appear on the soundtrack album. Instead, the vocals were re-recorded by other musicians for the soundtrack release: Wayne Static of Static-X ("Not Meant for Me"), David Draiman of Disturbed ("Forsaken"), Chester Bennington of Linkin Park ("System"), Marilyn Manson ("Redeemer"), and Jay Gordon of Orgy ("Slept So Long"). During the end credits "Not Meant For Me" is played. It is Jonathan Davis' version although the credits credit it as the Wayne Static version from the album.
Davis also made a small cameo in the film; when Jesse arrives in Los Angeles, a scalper (Jonathan Davis) attempts to sell her tickets to Lestat's show.
The soundtrack also contains other songs featured in the film: "Body Crumbles" by Dry Cell, "Cold" by Static-X, "Dead Cell" by Papa Roach, "Excess" by Tricky, "Headstrong" by Earshot, "Penetrate" by Godhead, "Down With the Sickness" by Disturbed, "Change (In the House of Flies)" by Deftones and "Before I'm Dead" by Kidneythieves.
The original studio recording of "Careless" was written and produced by Davis and Gibbs, during the Queen of the Damned sessions, all vocals by Davis, keyboards by Gibbs, guitars by Munky, Head, and Davis, and drums by Vinnie Colaiuta.
By July 2001, author Anne Rice had mellowed her previous stance on the film, much as she had with Interview. When asked about the film's progress, she answered:
Everything I hear about the movie is good. Warner Bros. is extremely enthusiastic. They are working very hard to make it perfect. I have no real news. Let me repeat what I mentioned in a recent message. I met Stuart Townsend, the young man who is playing Lestat and he was absolutely charming. He had Lestat's excellent speaking voice and his feline grace. I cannot wait to see him in the film.
By late 2001, Rice had seen the completed film and was sufficiently satisfied to allow her name to be used on promotional material, although she later became disillusioned about it and dismissed the film in 2003, stating that a television series format would be more suited to her work.
Public and critical reaction
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics, with several reviewers such as Roger Ebert describing it as "goofy" or "damned". The film has an approval "rotten" rating of 12% at Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus calling the film "A muddled and campy MTV-styled vampire movie with lots of eye candy and bad accents." Despite negative reviews, Queen of the Damned nonetheless topped the box office on its opening weekend, against fairly weak competition. The film grossed $45.5 million on a $35 million budget.
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- Anne Rice answers Salon readers' questions Archived June 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Salon.com, August 23, 1996.
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- All that glitters is not gold, The Age, March 11, 2002.
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