Interview with the Vampire

It’s that time of year again: Sean and I have fled cold, snowy Ottawa to celebrate his birthday in warmer or at least more exotic climes. Last year we were in Hawaii but this year we’ve set our sights on New Orleans, so you can count on the next several reviews carrying on in that theme.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles came out in 1994, which means it may be older than some of you. Based on the best selling novel by Anne Rice, herself a New Orleans native.

So the premise is this: a reporter (Christian Slater) is interviewing a 200 year old vampire, Louis (Brad Pitt). He was formerly a plantation owner who lost his wife in childbirth, which threw him into a depression. This is when he met a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise), who turned him and taught him vampire ways.

Tom Cruise was not supposed to have been cast; when Rice wrote it in 1976, she had  Rutger Hauer in mind. The book was optioned a few years later with John Travolta attached but a glut of other vampire movies (Dracula, Nosferatu the Vampyre, and Love at First Bite, all in 1979) put the project on pause. When the wheels started turning again, Travolta was deemed too old. Rice met with Tom Hanks instead, but interview-with-the-vampire-kirsten-dunst-brad-pitt-hughe turned it down for Forrest Gump. Daniel Day-Lewis was cast but then dropped out just weeks before filming. Then it was offered to Johnny Depp, who turned it down. And finally it went to Tom Cruise, which made Anne Rice livid, certain he could not handle the part. Of Cruise’s casting, she said “it’s so bizarre; it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work” and “the worst crime in the name of casting since The Bonfire of the Vanities.” Rice recused herself from the production but when she eventually forced herself to watch it, she was so impressed by Cruise’s performance that she wrote him a letter of apology.

Jeremy Irons had also turned down the part because he didn’t want to spend hours in the makeup chair again, and he wasn’t wrong. The vampire makeup took hours to do, in part because the actors were required to hang upside down for up to 30 minutes at a time, allowing the blood to rush into their faces, making veins bulge out. The makeup artists would then trace the veins to create the vampire’s look. But then the blood would disperse and the process would have to be repeated several times. To keep the vampire look secret, Tom Cruise ordered the set to be completely private, necessitating tunnels to be built to shuttle the stars to and from the set.

Makeup is not the only reason Brad Pitt was completely miserable on the set and tried his darndest to get out of the contract. He also hated his costumes and coloured contacts, but most of all he hated playing second fiddle to Tom Cruise – ahem – both on and off the set.

Christina Ricci, Julia Stiles, Evan Rachel Wood, and Natalie Portman all tried out for the part of Claudia but it was a young Kirsten Dunst who won the role. She had her first on-screen kiss in the film – her 12 year old self to Brad Pitt’s 30 years. She wasn’t even allowed to watch the film when it came out; it was R-rated, and her parents thought her too young.

Speaking of age discrepancies, there was also a height discrepancy, and it forced Tom Cruise to act atop crates to try to appear level with the other vampires. Cruise has said that he watched videos of lions eating zebras to prepare for the role. In unrelated news: Tom Cruise is a strange man.

Christian Slater took over the role of Malloy upon the death of River Phoenix. In his honour, Slater donated his salary to two of Phoenix’s favourite charities. The film has a dedication to him at the end of the credits.

Rice was originally worried that the movie would never get made because the novel contained allusions to a possible sexual relationship between Lestat and Louis. Not only was she prepared to write this out of the script completely, for a while she even turned the part of Louis into a woman, and had Cher in mind to play her. Ultimately the two roles remained male, and Cruise and Pitt earned a Razzie for worst screen couple. Conversely, the movie was also nominated for two Oscars, but lost those – Best Art/Set Direction went to The Madness of King George, and Best Original Score went to The Lion King. Cher had actually written a song for the movie, called Lovers Forever, but because of that dicey word Lovers, it was rejected – but eventually appeared on an album of hers in 2013!

The film supposedly inspired a real life crime shortly after the film’s release. On November 17, 1994, Daniel Sterling and his girlfriend Lisa Stellwagen watched the film together. The next day, Sterling stabbed Stellwagen seven times in her chest and back and sucked the blood from her wounds. Stellwagen survived the multiple stab wounds and Sterling was arrested. He claimed the film influenced his plan but the jury convicted him of attempted first-degree murder, among several other charges.

Lots of the 1700s vampire stuff was filmed in and around New Orleans. River scenes were fudged by removing modern items like the Greater New Orleans Bridge and surrounding radio towers in post-production. The Old Coliseum Theatre was used for on-location shooting but sadly burned down in 2006 so Sean and I won’t be able to visit. The city and the businesses were quite cooperative to the film crew – they agreed to turn out their lights for the duration of the filming to preserve the illusion of the film’s time period.

You may recall that the film ends up in San Francisco, where Malloy drives across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sean and I are not visiting that esteemed city this trip but we have before, and reviewed the movies to prove it. The crew received permission to shut down 2 lanes of traffic on that bridge, which is reportedly very hard to get.

 

Have you ever been to New Orleans? What are your favourite spots? Any favourite movies set in the city? Predictions as to what I’ll review next? Be sure to check our Twitter feed for updates from the city – @assholemovies

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22 thoughts on “Interview with the Vampire

  1. J.

    Never been, but I’ve always been drawn to the place… not sure why, right enough.

    As for the flick, I haven’t seen it since buying the VHS in the mid-90s. I liked it… though I reckon it could have been a whole lot better with Daniel Day Lewis as Lestat.

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  2. Liz A.

    I saw that back in the day. That was about when I went through my vampire phase and had just completed reading the books. I wonder how well this movie would hold up now, as I haven’t seen it in probably 20 years.

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  3. Willow Croft

    I have. I like the city. The ghost/history/walking tours were fun…saw all the requisite tourist stuff: some of the cemeteries, Ann Rice’s house, Trent Reznor’s house, Court of the Two Sisters dining, etc. There’s gotta be guides to off-the-beaten-path New Orleans online… 🙂

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  4. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    Ugh – one of my favorite books as a teenager, the movie was just horrible compared to the book. I don’t even like thinking about it.

    That said, enjoy one of my absolute favorite places in the world – I mean, I like New Orleans so much I named Choppy after it (Tchoupitoulas Street)!

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  5. The Telltale Mind

    Some neat facts – some I’ve heard and some I’ve not. I didn’t mind this film, but as a fan of the book series, I thought they could have done a lot more. Hopefully the television series that is being shopped around can do that.

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  6. Christopher

    That’s weirdly fascinating to know how Tom Cruise prepared for the role. From the way he chewed the scenery I thought he was paying homage to Vincent Price rather than trying to be an ersatz lion.

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  7. StephLove

    I used to be such an Anne Rice fan.. I have been to New Orleans, back in 1993 with Beth, and it was mainly because of the Mayfair witches books I wanted to see the Garden District. But we stayed in the French Quarter and it was lovely. In the early 2000s, I used to teach Interview with the Vampire (the book) in a horror class. I prefer the book but my hazy memory of the movie is that it’s pretty good, too.

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  8. mydangblog

    I really loved that movie when it came out, despite Brad Pitt reading his lines like he had a mouthful of cotton, but this post was so interesting and full of things I didn’t know–thanks!!

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  9. Arionis

    One of my favorite book series! Like Anne, I was livid when I heard Tom Cruise was playing Lestat. Also like her, I changed my mind when I saw the movie. I enjoyed the movie for the most part. Can not say the same for Queen of the Damned. Thanks for all the behind the scenes trivia. It was really interesting.

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  10. Carolee Croft

    Thanks for the interesting info! Too bad the actors had to suffer so much… it seems uncannily to happen a lot with movies that have dark subject matter, somewhat like the Macbeth curse.

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  11. The Inner Circle

    as one who actually watches a cheetah eat zebra meat,I can assure you its not all that it cracked up to be. Funny how you headed south for this review while I’m heading East but will end up in the same city Molloy does.

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