INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE —–“Coffins, I’m afraid, are a necessity.” Anne Rice’s 1976 book had Movie written all over it, but it took 18 years before this $60,000,000, 123-minute adaptation punctured pulsing box-office arteries to become the 9th most popular flick of 1994, its suffering immortals thirstily lapping up $223,700,000 from the mortal flock. *
“Evil has a point of view, God kills indiscriminately…and so shall we.”
In modern-day San Francisco,’Louis’ de Point du Lac’ (Brad Pitt), a very strange young man, relates his morbidly fascinating life story to an anxious journalist (Christian Slater). Louis, alas, is not so young. He’s a vampire, has been since being initiated into the select club in New Orleans back in 1791. His “mentor” was ‘Lestat de Lioncourt’ (Tom Cruise), who happily takes the despondent Louis into a deliriously macabre, blood-bathed half-life that spans continents, centuries and companies of corpses. The similarly afflicted but ethically opposed duo “adopt” an orphaned child, ‘Claudia’ (Kirsten Dunst). Later in Paris, Louis & Claudia encounter an organized coven of vampires led by ‘Armand’ (Antonio Banderas). Safe to say, everyone gets both more and less of what they bargained for.
“Most of all I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it, a release from the pain of living. My invitation was open to anyone. Sailors, thieves, whores and slaves…but it was a vampire that accepted.”
As directed by Neil Jordan, scripted by Rice, the extravagant Gothic descent into carnage and erotica plays with nightmarish ghoulishness, existential anguish and self-kidding drollery, and the mix mostly works well (the humor helps a lot). Cruise clearly has a field day being diabolically practical, Pitt is suitably glum, Banderas suave. 11-year-old Dunst is remarkable.
“I watched the whole magnificence of the dawn for the last time, as if it were the first. And then I said goodbye to the sunlight and went out to become what I became.”
Greatly aided by Dante Ferretti’s lush production design and the effects magic of Stan Winston. Filmed in New Orleans and various spots around Louisiana including the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, plus sojourns to San Francisco, Paris and London. Sets and costuming merit praise.
“Feed on what you will. Rats, chickens, poodles, I’ll leave you to it and watch you come around. But just remember, life without me would be even more unbearable.”
Such was the seductive quality of star power, fully one-quarter of the production cost went to Cruise’s salary, then five times emergent challenger Pitt’s. Rice was initially opposed to casting that cat Tom, saying he was “no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler” but she came around full circle when she saw his performance: “…from the moment he appeared, Tom was Lestat for me…”
Pitt, 29, who double-scored that year with Legends Of The Fall, was so bummed by the six-month shoot, enduring the makeup and the morose mode of his endlessly depressed character that he begged producers to let him out, but surrendered to his fate when they informed him freedom would cost $40,000,000.
Also donating plasma are Stephen Rea, Thandie Newton (21, 4th film) and Micha Bergese. Haunting music score from Elliot Goldenthal, rich cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Goldenthal’s score and Malcolm Middleton’s superb Art Direction were Oscar-nominated.
* Rice’s book (her debut, at 35), a dozen subsequent “Vampire Chronicles” sequels and her other sundry sagas of the exotic and erotic have sold over 100,000,000 copies. The other films thus far made from the trove have been resounding flops: Queen Of The Damned, Exit To Eden and The Young Messiah.