“I am afraid, madam, my days are sacrosanct.”
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
A tale of two vampires. Lestat de Lioncourt and Louis de Pointe du Lac, in New Orleans, circa 1791… Author Anne Rice had based Lestat on Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. And her agent, Vicki Wilson, suggested… Anjelica Huston!
Anne did write one script for producer Julia Phillips, with Cher as Louis, “as a transvestite woman, so she could have her own New Orleans plantation and run it as a man” – otherwise the story was pure Interview .
Although fancying Ridley Scott or David Cronenberg (both turned down producer David Geffen’s offers), Rice was much taken with Irish director Neil Jordan. She loved his Company of Wolves (so did her vampires!) and his “amazing” Crying Game proved he was not “scared by gender.”
At first furious with him for rewriting her script (“he actually put things back from the book”),
Anne Rice positively exploded at his choice of
Tom Thumb Cruise as the “overpowering, very blond,
very tall, very athletic, very full” Lestat.
Bizarre, she called it. She felt sure Cruise had never read any of the books, beyond the first – if that. “His comments on TV that he wanted to do something scary and he loved creature-features as a kid… didn’t make me feel any better. If Daniel Day-Lewis had played Lestat, we wouldn’t be in this dilemma, but he turned it down.”
Her main complaint about Cruise was his lack of that major component of any actor’s mesmerising spell: a voice. “How is he possibly going to say those lines… exert the power of Lestat… Over and over in the books, I say, his voice was like the roughest velvet and here’s an actor with no voice.
“Cruise,” she insisted,“was no more Lestat
than Edward G Robinson is Rhett Butler.”
Critics agreed, Premiere’s Libby Gelman-Waxner felt Cruise as a witty, decadent vampire was the equivalent of casting Paul Newman as Miss Havisham.
Anne Rice had forgotten, it seemed, that she had first sold the rights, back in 1978, to a similar off-the-radar choice. John Travolta.
Producer Julia Phillips nearly set it up with Travolta’s perennial replacement, Richard Gere. “I read a script but The Vampire Lestat was the one I was interested in. It strikes me as better than the first.” Julia Phillips tried to accommodate him by buying the Lestat rights. However, deep down, she knew Gere was a bad idea. “But he’s so passionate, so charming, so committed.”
Or he was for a dangled $2.3m. “In the end, he blows himself off the deal for less than three hundred grand, and blames me. He snubs me in restaurants… Plus ca change , etc.”
Lestat . David Geffen spent many months trying to land Daniel Day-Lewis. Topping the Rice list was Jeremy Irons: “he looked so good in Damage … I’m not sure really young people [have] the kind of depth that he had in Damage and Dead Ringers.”
Rice also fancied the “too old” Rutger Hauer,
Alexander Godunov, Richard E Grant,
John Malkovich, Peter Weller.
Oh, and Christopher Walken…
Chris was usually too cool for her until she fell for his Batman Returns villain. Thoughts moved toward Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks (no, really!), Anthony Hopkins, Sting, John Travolta – and Jon Voight when John Boorman was due to direct.. But mainly Brad Pitt. “And I was the lead,” said Rufus Sewell. “Until Tom Cruise decided he was interested.”
Louis . Rice loved the idea of Brad Ptitt for Louis although she felt he’d be better as Lestat with Cruise as the “brooding, dark, guilt-ridden, passive, reflective, reactive” Louis. She tried to get Jordan to swop them. Pitt as Lestat and Cruise, or better still Day-Lewis, as Louis. “I don’t think he agreed with me,. I’m not even sure he understood me.” Then again, for one (all too brief) moment, Cher and Anjelica Huston were even disc used…
Daniel Molloy . Jordan and producer Stephen Woolley asked Stephen Dorff to succeed River Phoenix, following his ODeath in 1993 at age 23. Dorff had been 12 to Phoenix’s 15 when they auditioned for Stand By Me , 1986. “He’s the only one I grew up respecting,” says Dorff, “the one guy I looked up to. I’ve often been compared to him. Similar vulnerability. That’s why his death really affected me.” (They had been booked as brothers that year in Safe Passage ).
After viewing his tests, Geffen found him “brilliant but too young.” Besides, Geffen (who had by now had sacked Julia Phillips for comments in her book, You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again), wanted another name for the marquee. Christian Slater agreed to take over. He donated his salary to River’s favourite charities.
Claudia . Erin Moore, Natalie Portman, Christina Ricci, Julia Stilews, Dominique Swain, (the ’97 Lolita, ironically opposite Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert), Evan Rachel Wood tested. Kirsten Dunst won.
Naturally, ultimately – or politically –
Anne Rice was won over by
(or had to be).
She hailed the film as “a masterpiece.” She took out a full page, $3,450 Variety ad to say: “See this film, guys, see it.” The ad mentioned herself… 86 times.