HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eight – 10/08/18

10/08 – 1994: INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was the novel that crowned High Priestess of Gothic Horror ANNE RICE as the “Doyenne of the Dracula Set.” A lot of excitement and buzz swirled around the news that Warner Brothers was out to transform it into a feature film, with no less than THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and THE CRYING GAME director NEIL JORDAN at the helm.  There was absolutely no way they could go wrong.  The story of “Louis and Lestat” seemed primed for absolute success.

And then…they cast it. Uh-oh.

   

BRAD PITT as Louis. Okay, not what I had in mind when reading the book, but I could buy it. STEPHEN REA. ANTONIO BANDERAS, in a cameo that made you want to see a movie just about his character. THANDIE NEWTON, in a small role that eventually would put her on the path to that magnificent performance in HBO’S series version of WESTWORLD. CHRISTIAN SLATER as the “interviewer” the title refers to. And as Lestat…TOM CRUISE.

WHO…????

I’m sure anyone who remembers being there, recalls the absolute eruption of anger that piece of casting news caused. And no, I wasn’t exactly jazzed about it, either. Tom Cruise has always been good at being…Tom Cruise. RISKY BUSINESS. COCKTAIL. TOP GUN. That guy. The one time I could see him giving his all to really disappear into a role was playing Ron Kovic in BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, which admittedly was quite the departure for him. But a horror film about the eternally high-falutin’ undead? Especially a character familiar to fans of the books (and many who opined that DAVID BOWIE should’ve had that role)? Before a single frame of film was shot, it was pretty much a sure bet for deeply invested Louis-and-Lestat fans, that this flick was destined to tank at the box office.

Here’s the thing, though: once Anne Rice gave her own ‘seal of approval’ to Tom’s casting, the furor died down.  Well, at least a little. I remember reading that book at least a dozen times and thinking of either Bowie or someone like, say, JULIAN SANDS in the part, and that I’d have to hold my nose and go see it anyway, in order to support not only Neil Jordan and Anne, but ‘take one for the team’, for horror’s sake across the board.

Here’s the other thing: Tom wasn’t terrible.  It didn’t seem to me as if he completely botched the role, but I don’t think he gave it the “oomph” that the absolute right actor could have. (Unfortunately, perfect possibilities like AMERICAN HORROR STORY’S EVAN PETERS, or GAME OF THRONES’ HARRY LLOYD (“Viserys Targaryen”) hadn’t been discovered yet.)

Besides, between his ‘not bad’ performance and Brad Pitt’s good one (I always wonder what would’ve happened if they’d switched roles), nobody anticipated that the relative newcomer, KIRSTEN DUNST as a century-older-than-her-years Claudia, would steal the movie away from everybody! If the casting of the leads was somewhat problematic, there was NO question in anyone’s mind about her. She was Claudia.

The New Orleans setting for the story of the eternally youthful, eternally sorrowful Louis, and his dysfunctional “vampire family” couldn’t have been more suitable for Jordan’s dark sense of vision, gorgeously photographed by legendary DP PHILIPPE ROUSSELOT (BIG FISH, CONSTANTINE, THE BRAVE ONE), along with stunning visual and makeup FX helping bring Rice’s characters and situations to unforgettable life.

And it’s all helped along by a captivatingly baroque and sometimes thunderous score by ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL (IN DREAMS, PET SEMATARY, ALIEN 3), who at times seems to be trying to “out-Zimmer” HANS ZIMMER, and yet with a tale this outrageous, the cues and themes never seem to be overwhelming or out-of-place.

If anything, I hope if you’ve never seen this, that you’ll take the book for a spin first. (Yes, for my taste, the books are always better than the movies.)  Even if you aren’t a Tom Cruise fan – and it will work better for those who are – there’s much to discover, and eventually fall in love with about this movie.


Posted by Samuel Glass

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