FROM ANNE RICE: ON THE FILM, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
DEAR READERS AND VIEWERS,
As you may know, while the film IWTV was in production with David Geffen,
the author of the book had no legitimate contact with him or with the studio
or with anyone connected with the film.
When the announcement was made that Tom Cruise would star as Lestat, I had
deep reservations and severe criticisms. So did many many of my readers. I
talked openly about this. A curtain thereafter divided me from the entire
production, and with reason. Nobody likes to be criticized, and that
includes movie people, too.
I understand and accept what happened. But to me, movies and books are not
like sports. There is no immediate consensus on whether a player had scored
a home run or a touch down. So it was okay to speak my mind on the casting,
and I don't have any regrets.
But to continue...
I saw no rough cuts of IWTV; I saw no clips. I went to no screenings. It
wasn't until David Geffen, himself took the unusual risk of sending me a VHS
tape of the movie, that I saw it. And I approached this tape with a deep
fear of being hurt, crushed, disappointed, destroyed by the finished work.
When I saw the film on VHS, I came out at once in favor of it, declaring
that I loved it. I bought two pages in VARIETY to talk about it in a frank
and unedited announcement. No one controlled what I wrote, or had any
opportunity to delete any part of it. I loved the film. I said so. I had no
idea at the time that the film would be a huge success. I really hoped it
would be, but I didn't know. It was so eccentric, so extreme, so weird. I
came out in favor of it, fully prepared to sink with it if it failed, that
is, to look stupid in my praise of it. I had no other moral and aesthetic
choice. I went by the heart.
What happened on opening weekend is now history as they say. The movie made
about $35 million dollars, and broke all kinds of records to do with seasons
and ratings, etc. I don't remember all the details, but it was a luscious
American success. And I marveled then and I marvel now.
Whatever, I have not up till this date discussed the film in detail
publicly. I didn't want to program anyone's response to it. I made my
positive comments very general in order that my recommendation would not
shape the public's acceptance or rejection of any particular aspects of the
Well, over a month has passed. I have had a listed number -- 1-504-522-8634
-- in New Orleans for weeks; to receive by answering machine peoples'
responses to the film. The film is now open all over the world.
Therefore, I think it's okay now to go into detail about how I saw this
film. The film has established itself in the public consciousness. It's okay
to talk about details.
I want to do it. That's why I'm writing this. This essay or commentary or
whatever it is -- is shaped entirely by personal feeling and preference. It
doesn't conform to anyone's standards as a piece of writing. It is simply my
point by point discussion of the film. I wrote it for myself and anyone else
who wants to know how the author responded to INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE,
If this personal statement seems arrogant, please reconsider. I am striving
to make my remarks in full, and not to trust them to an editor or journalist
who might for valid reasons cut them, or quote them out of context.
Look upon this gesture, if you will, as an American gesture. I have
something to say. I say it. I do not wait to be asked, interviewed, packaged
or covered by the news.
What fuels this statement is a passionate love of the film, a marvelous
relief that it exists now in a form that can be preserved; that it was what
I dreamed it could be, and that I got through the whole experience without
being destroyed. A mediocre film would have destroyed me just as much as a
bad one. I thought IWTV was exceptional.
So here goes, point by point:
The look of IWTV was for me perfect. Dante Ferretti knew exactly what he was
doing with the sets. The costumes were impeccable. And the cinematography of
Philippe Rousselot was extraordinary. Stan Winston's makeup achieved an
eerie and effective otherworldly look. The score by Elliot Goldenthal I
found to be quite wonderful.
Minor note: The hair of the characters in the film was eccentric -- it was
not in conformity with the descriptions in the book or my script, or with
historical evidence. But it was very interesting, at times more than
beautiful, and it worked.
The opening shots of San Francisco caught the grimness of the city, the
urban mixture of desperation, poverty and affluent life. Though Brad Pitt
did not appear as "beautiful" as I had wanted in the opening scene (the
actor is incredibly beautiful actually) he was divinely other worldly -- the
Stan Winston make up had its own perfection and appeal with the blue veins
beneath the skin, and Brad spoke his lines boldly and well.
As the film plunged into 18th century Louisiana, it had the atmosphere and
feel of a pirate film -- rugged, ragged, and full of rats and candles.
Superb. This was infinitely better than the fussy Dangerous Liaisons look
which worked beautifully for that film but which would never have caught the
humid, friable, and doggedly makeshift life of the colony of New Orleans.
The shift to Paris was superb. In a few words and shots, the film caught the
unmistakable vitality of a great capitol city, and the contrast to the
colony was splendid and thrilling.
The final New Orleans scenes had exactly the right pitch. They caught the
shabbiness of New Orleans and the mysterious loveliness of its overgrown and
The art direction, costumes, lighting , cinematography and craft of the film
were sumptuous and thrillingly successful for me. I was grateful for the
uncompromising lushness of the film, for its magnificent interiors and
brutal exteriors for its relentless attention to detail throughout in
creating an immense and tantalizing and utterly convincing world, all of one
fine and infinitely varying fabric. Bravo!
Now I would like to discuss the actors and actresses. I'm using first names
not because I know these people really well or anything, but because using
last names always sounds cold to me. I don't like it. So....
ON BRAD PITT:
Brad Pitt immediately infused the despairing Louis with understandable
feeling. He played it passive and quiet, and for me and for lots of viewers
(they call me and tell me) he got what guilt was all about, a guilt
sometimes that is unattached to any one death or loss. He captured the
despair of some one who has fallen from grace, lost his faith, seen what he
cannot abide. Brad's eyes, his manner, his soft voice throughout the film
Ironically, the Louis whom Brad played on the screen is more passive than
the Louis of the novel or of my first draft screenplay (which was of course
rewritten and changed and edited and enlarged by Neil Jordan). But Brad Pitt
made this passive suffering character totally appealing and sympathetic. His
seemed to combine youth and patience, acceptance and conscience.
Favorite Brad Pitt moments for me:
Brad's soft voice saying the single syllable "No" when Lestat prepares to
give the Dark Gift to Claudia.
Brad's last real scene with Claudia, their discussion on the balcony outside
the hotel room -- another contribution from Jordan which was never in my
Brad's face when he finds the ashes in the airwell, and when he turns to
confront those who have hurt him so deeply. Absolutely masterly acting. One
of the most painful and exquisite moments in film that I have ever watched.
Brad did it without a word. Magnificent.
Brad's soft conversation with Armand, especially the last conversation,
which was not written by me, but represented, I thought, a wonderful
dramatization of the parting of these two characters. The intimacy of this
scene, its delicacy, the restraint and the love -- were all glorious to
Brad's anger with Christian Slater in their final moments. Excellent.
There were many other such moments with Brad Pitt.
I respect and am amused by Brad's recent redneck persona. I've been tempted
to write a satire INTERVIEW WITH THE REDNECK VAMPIRE just for him and
probably will. (I loved Brad in Kalifornia. I've got the story all worked
out and I think the Constitution protects satire. Who knows? Maybe Saturday
Night Live will want it. One of my dreams for years has been to write for
Saturday Night Live.) The readers calling me really want Brad in the future
vampire chronicle films. Well, Brad? Is a burrito really better than
immortality? All jokes aside, you were a delicate and heartbreaking Louis;
whatever you felt, you swept people off their feet.
ON TOM CRUISE:
From the moment he appeared Tom was Lestat for me. He has the immense
physical and moral presence; he was defiant and yet never without
conscience; he was beautiful beyond description yet compelled to do cruel
things. The sheer beauty of Tom was dazzling, but the polish of his acting,
his flawless plunge into the Lestat persona, his ability to speak rather
boldly poetic lines, and speak them with seeming ease and conviction were
exhilarating and uplifting. The guy is great.
I'm no good at modesty. I like to believe Tom's Lestat will be remembered
the way Olivier's Hamlet is remembered. Others may play the role some day
but no one will ever forget Tom's version of it.
(Let me say here that anyone who thinks I did an "about face" on Tom just
doesn't know the facts. My objections to his casting were based on
familiarity with his work, which I loved. Many many great actors have been
miscast in films and have failed to make it work. I don't have to mention
them here. Why hurt anyone by mentioning the disaster of his career? But
we've seen big stars stumble over and over when they attempt something
beyond their reach.
That Tom DID make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal
ball. It's to his credit that he proved me wrong. But the general objections
to the casting? They were made on solid ground. Enough on that subject. Tom
is a great actor. Tom wants challenges. Tom has now transcended the label of
biggest box office star in the world. He's better.)
Favorite moments with Tom:
Tom's initial attack on Louis, taking him up into the air, praised by Caryn
James so well in the New York Times. Ah! An incredibly daring scene. The
finest romantic scene in any film, and here please read the word romance as
an old and venerable word for timeless artistic forms of poetry, novels and
Romance is a divine word which has never really been denigrated by the
drugstore novels with the swooning ladies on the cover. Romance will be with
us for all time, If you want to know more about Romance, put on a video of
THE FISHER KING and listen to Robin Williams describe the deeper meaning of
romance to his newfound girlfriend. It's worth it, believe me.
Back to Tom: other great moments.
Tom's bedside seduction of the dying Louis, in which he offers Louis the
Dark Gift. Once again, Tom gave Lestat the virility and the androgyny that
made both him and the offer irresistible. He was near blinding. I would have
accepted the Dark Gift from him then and there. Only an actor with complete
confidence and conviction could have done that scene or any of the others.
Tom's angry outburst in the face of Louis' repeated questions. His stride,
his voice both loud and soft, his frustration, his obvious discomfort, and
inner conflict. Once again, Tom took over the screen, the theatre, the mind
of the viewer. Immense power.
Tom riding his horse through the slaves' fire, and then turning the horse
around so that he could face the suspicious mortals. That was on a par with
Errol Flynn and Rudy Valentino. It was on a par with the opera greats who
have played Mephistopheles. Only a genuine "star" can make a moment like
that, and I'm as confused as to why...just as much as anyone in Hollywood.
Let's close this one out with one word: Grand! (No, can't stop talking about
If I had to settle for one picture in this film, it would be that shot of
Lestat on horseback looking back at the suspicious mortals.
That was and is my hero. That was and is my man. Lestat just won't be afraid
of anybody. He won't stand for it. He hates what he is as much as Louis, but
he cannot do anything but move forward, attempt to make existence worth it,
attempt to create. He knows the formula for success, and has no patience
with the formula for failure. That's Lestat.
Tom's rage and obvious pain in the scene with the bleeding wench and the
coffin, one scene from the book which I did not include in my script. it was
probably put in by Neil Jordan. If Tom had not given so much depth to this
scene, it might have been unwatchable. His desperation, his vulnerability,
made it work, and he made himself in it the worthy object of compassion. No
small feat! I found the scene, otherwise, to be disgusting.
The shot of Tom looking through the green shutters, and the falling rain,
knowing that Louis is somewhere out in the night. This was a gorgeous and
eloquent shot. Again, it was the actor who gave it the depth in all the
subtle ways that only he can do.
Tom's making of Claudia, and here I want to praise the entire trio...Tom,
Kirsten, Brad... The scene is directed delicately and captures the intimacy,
the blasphemy and the undeniable innocence and blundering of the human who
has a supernatural gift to give and in his pain and confusion, chooses to
give it, come what may. That's a scene for now, for our world of scientific
and medical miracles, as much as any scene in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,
and Tom pulled it off right to the last second.
Later, Tom's confusion when after bringing Claudia a doll, he sees Claudia
turn on him. About half of what I wrote for this scene in the script, or
less, made it into the film, and I liked what I saw very much. I wish they'd
gone on with the version of this scene that is in QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (see
Jesse's discovery of Claudia's diary, and the entry describing what
happened), but alas, what they did was great.
Tom's manner and expression on the dangerous night that Claudia comes to him
and offers him her "reconciling gift." Close in on those two at the
harpsichord. Tom is seated, I believe. Kirsten is behind him and apparently
offers him the acceptance he needs so desperately. Scenes like this, with
Tom, make this film work.
Every humorous scene Tom attempted was a complete success. The rat and the
glass, I adored it. The humor added apparently by Neil Jordan -- the
poodles, the piano teacher hitting the keyboard, the dressmaker biting the
dust...well, I didn't adore all that, but Tom carried it off with true wit
and style. And yes, its all right to laugh at those parts. We do every time
we go to see the movie.
There are many other great Tom Cruise moments throughout the film. Many. But
these are the ones I cherish now.
The readers calling me desperately want Tom to play THE VAMPIRE LESTAT. I
hope he does. I hope I get to write the script for the movie. Tom's power,
knowledge, skill, magnetism and artistic integrity are part and parcel of
the success of IWTV, and there is no doubt that Tom would bring power and
magic to TVL.
(Let me digress again. For those of you who haven't read TVL, it is not
really a sequel to IWTV. It's a complete full novel on its own, beginning
the Vampire Chronicles. IWTV was the truly difficult film to make. TVL will
take commitment, money and immense faith as well as talent, but compared to
IWTV, it is much, much easier to film. Lestat is the true hero of TVL. He is
entirely sympathetic. The trick, I think, will be achieving a texture in
that film that includes all of Lestat's adventures...from the snows of the
Auvergne, to the boulevards of Paris, through the sands of Egypt, and
through the visit to Marius' sanctuary, and on to the twentieth century rock
music stage. The tales of Armand and of Marius all also excursions for
Lestat essentially. I hope Tom makes the journey.)
One point: I am puzzled by what seems to be a discrepancy between the way
Tom played Lestat, and the way my hero, Producer David Geffen, and others
have described Lestat as a character. Did Tom on his own make this role a
little bigger, brighter and more complex than anyone else realized it could
be? I don't know. David Geffen called Lestat "nasty" when he was interviewed
by Barbara Walters. Nasty? I don't get it. But David Geffen is my hero for
getting this film made. No one else could have done it. So why quibble about
what David said?
There is one problem created by the compelling charm of Tom's performance,
obviously. Since he isn't all that nasty, why does Louis hate Lestat? How
can he? Well, I'll take that problem any day over a more shallow solution.
Tom his the right note. And Louis was Louis. Nothing could comfort Louis.
The film got it.
ON KIRSTEN DUNST:
Magnificent and flawless as Claudia, shocking in her soft, perfectly paced
shifts between adulthood and childish innocence. The role as she played it
is far less sinister than the Claudia of the book, and perhaps even a little
more innocent then my first draft script. But the change seemed to work
wondrously to deliver the heartbreak of Claudia's dilemma to the audience.
She was a woman, but she was in a child's body. The actress showed
incredible intelligence and cunning, and yet a child's tragic vulnerability
and heartrending capacity to be disappointed.
Anybody who doesn't see what this is about -- all women are locked in the
bodies of dolls; all self contemplating human souls are locked in mortal and
often confounding bodies -- isn't perhaps asking enough of himself or
herself as a viewer. To say this film contained only one idea or no ideas as
Janet Maslin said in the New York Times, is, I think to severely underrate
The better part of the ideas of this film revolve around Claudia, and her
dilemma is truly one shared by everyone. That the film arouses and sustains
sympathy for her so that her inevitable fate is tragic is a great cinematic
What Kirsten did in this film has dealt a body blow to the rigid, stupid
cliche of the demonic child. Kirsten blew THE BAD SEED out of the water. She
is utterly beyond the evil puppetlike child vampires of other movies. She
drew us into her motives for violence and offered us a deeper understanding
of all the moral rules given us, or created by us. That none of her
gestures, words, or actions was prurient was a major achievement.
Favorite moments with Kirsten:
The entire transformation scene in the bed from suffering waif to glorious
When she looks down from the balcony in the Rue Royale and says, ``It
means...I shall never grow up.''
Her quiet voice in the scene where Lestat brings her the doll (again, about
half of what I wrote survived there, maybe less, but I liked Jordan's
changes except for one minor point which I'll make below.)
Her seduction of Lestat and subsequent attack on him, especially the moment
when she tumbles back on the couch next to the young boys and smiles up at
Her loving and intimate scenes with Louis in which she becomes a woman,
remaining both a daughter and a mother.
The perfect pitch of prepubescent innocence throughout. The movie isn't
about peephole sex, and nobody exemplifies that better than Claudia. It
isn't about perversion at all. It never was. It is about the attempt of all
of us to live in the light and with grace. Kirsten got the whole thing.
Her final scene.
Again, there are many, many other moments throughout the film with Kirsten.
ON ANTONIO BANDERAS:
As Armand, he gave the role an original interpretation, quite different from
mine in the book or the script, but it worked for me as an interpretation of
unique and spectacular charm. Antonio had the magnetism of a master vampire.
He had the quiet confidence and the obvious power to spellbind. He redeemed
the Theatre of the Vampires scene I think, with his sheer authority. He
embodied the mystery of Armand and Armand's particular brand of utterly
pragmatic evil. We know why he did what he did; we know it was bad; but in a
way we can understand him.
I would have preferred to see his beautiful curly hair as it appears in
HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS, or PHILADELPHIA. But he was overwhelmingly successful
as Armand, ``the oldest surviving vampire in the world.'' The readers have
totally embraced him in this part. I hope he will move into the next film
and maybe without the black wig? But he can come on any terms as far as I'm
He was in the film so briefly that I can truly say my favorite moments with
Antonio were all of his moments. But to those who have flipped over this
actor, let me recommend again HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS and PHILADELPHIA. There
you will see more of our Armand than in IWTV.
ON STEPHEN REA:
This actor was quite marvelous as Santiago, which is not a sympathetic role
at all, and in one scene Stephen makes cinema history. this is the scene
where Brad Pitt steps out of the airwell, having seen the ashes collapse.
Brad looks at Stephen. Stephen smiles. Who will ever forget the malice of
that smile? (Or the pain in Brad's face.) Incredible.
Truly one of the staggering moments of the film.
ON CHRISTIAN SLATER:
He is utterly convincing as the interviewer and he made the story all the
more powerful by his entirely understandable reactions to the tale. For me,
he was plenty young enough to be Daniel Molloy, and I hope we'll see him in
TVL too, but again, I don't know. Like Antonio, Christian is in the film so
briefly that I can truly say my favorite moments with him are all of his
All flawless as far as I'm concerned. There was never a false word from
anybody. Quite a back up for the stars. The quadroon, Yvette, seemed real
Louisiana. No simple thing. They were all good, really.
In sum, the cast of this film contained actors of undeniable talent,
charisma and near enchanting manner. The performances alone are worth the
price of admission as far as I'm concerned.
ANOTHER DIGRESSION: BEAUTY.
Over and over again, I've said these stars were beautiful. I've talked about
their physical gifts, but surely their beauty is the result of something
infinitely deeper. These actors and actresses shape their own physical
appearance with their educated brains and hearts. Beauty surrounds them and
emanates from them. They walk in it, to quote Byron. If they had not
expressed depth of soul in every word or gesture, their ``beauty'' would
have been brittle, and not beautiful at all. I want to make this clear,
because beauty is such a misused word.
I would also like to say that the beauty of the players seems to work for
the audience nationwide, regardless of gender or age. The men calling my
machine to voice their opinions are straight as well as gay. They are young
and old. They were captivated by the spectacle. Lestat has fans among truck
drivers as well as brain surgeons. They don't relate Lestat to gender or to
Same with the women. They have responded wholeheartedly to what they have
seen on the screen.
And even if I speak for this woman alone, allow me to say that a feast of
gorgeous men is much appreciated, and rather long overdue. Women are starved
for the sight of beautiful men. They are hungry for stylish and profound
scenes with beautiful men. Before IWTV, I had seen precious little of the
male beauty I craved. Tow examples are Tom Berenger in LAST RITES when he
takes off his Roman collar and makes love to the girl in the sacristy of St.
Patricks. Another would be the scene where Madeline Stowe caresses Daniel
Day Lewis in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, a scene largely focusing on her and
her feelings about the man in her arms.
Let me add again that straight men are in no way turned off by such scenes.
Why should they be? They watch Kurt Russell, Tom Cruise, Tom Berenger, Brad
Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Jeremy Irons, Aiden Quinn and all the other
beautiful men for their own reasons. And why not?
But it's a relief to have lived long enough to see movies begin to seriously
consider the erotic taste of the female audience as well as the male. Men
are highly romantic, and they crave romance and they always have. What could
be more romantic than a Ludlum novel or a James Bond thriller or a film like
BACKDRAFT? Now Hollywood seems to get it -- that this kind of romance and
JANE EYRE are really the same. Maybe we're seeing the whole concept of the
romantic film reexamined. We are seeing a renewed commitment to emotion, to
heroism, a new abandonment to passion. Again, it's about time!
ON THE GENERAL DIRECTION BY NEIL JORDAN, THE CINEMATOGRAPHY, AND THE EDITING
OF THIS FILM.
I'm lumping all this together because I truly don't know how to separate a
director's contribution from that of the cinematographer and the editor. I
don't know enough about film making. I don't know how much David Geffen
influenced the film scene by scene. I wasn't there, and I don't have that
experience on any film.
So, let's talk about the film as a film: Once again, the entire look of the
film was perfection. It caught the dimness, the filth, the fragile handmade
luxury and ornate aspirations of the 18th and 19th centuries; it caught the
mud on the hem of the garment.
Over and over again, the viewer was brought in close to the faces of the
characters, to hear them speak softly, to watch their eyes, their mouths.
This was superbly and fearlessly intimate. Yet the camera moved back to
Lestat the room to be magnificent; Brad Pitt was mercilessly pursued by the
camera in prepubescent beauty and appeal were utterly respected. The
handling of all players was masterly.
The pace of the film for me (and most readers calling in) was terrific. The
film is genuinely thrilling. It is entertaining! You walk out exhilarated.
You feel good and you want to go back. Many, many readers call me to say
that they have seen the film over and over again. There is no lag for us in
the second half of this film, and there is no conspicuous absence of
anything. It was an extraordinarily satisfying film.
The film achieved the Dickensian goal of being meaningful and fun; of being
deep and interesting and fun. No small feat in an age in which ``realism''
has become synonymous with "serious" and we are told that films about
everyday life should command our respect over everything else.
The film's moral themes came across to me as clearly realized: we can
conceive of immortality, but we're mortal. Inside each of us, regardless of
outward grace, there is a misfit. That misfit at times feels like a monster.
That misfit may at times behave like a monster.
Whatever Neil Jordan's comments to the press, he seemed to believe in that
and to make it work on the screen. The film is one which the audience starts
talking about, discussing, arguing before they ever leave the theatre. The
film invites analysis. It invites a return viewing. It makes a difference to
the people who see it.
The boldness of the scene with the whore and coffin is deeply disturbing in
and excellent way. It makes you think about what you might do if you were
Lestat. It makes you think about things you've done for entirely personal
reasons. But it is disgusting.
The two panoramic scenes in Paris -- Claudia dancing with Louis at a ball;
Claudia twirling in her new adult dress before the dressmakers -- both were
appropriately immense and unstinting. (Again, the hair of the characters is
eccentric. Louis with that long flowing hair in a 19th century Parisian
ballroom? It make me think of the wild west. But I loved it!)
Neil Jordan's humorous scenes were a true comic relief. Though I would never
have recommended them or written them -- killing poodles, letting the piano
teacher fall dead on the keyboard -- I liked them and felt they were handled
cleverly. They worked. And the shift between seriousness and humor worked.
The last scene involving Lestat: I was glad to see him, glad to have him
back. When he said, "I feel better already," I loved it. When he pulled the
lace out from under his sleeves, I was overjoyed. So all that worked for me.
It was enough in keeping with the ending of my script and the book for me to
be happy, for me to see the possibilities of a sequel. But I didn't write
(I see no problem in moving from this Jordan created scene into TVL. None
whatsoever. There are all kinds of ways to do it and be true to TVL, the
made by Jordan and others, perhaps. This movie obviously did not go into the
heads of the vampires. It really didn't go into the swoon as they experience
it in my novel or script. It didn't really show the distortion of the senses
of the vampires. It made, however, a very interesting substitution.
In victimization scenes, the camera focused tightly on the eye of the
attacking vampire; it gave us a portrait of the attack which had tremendous
visual power. Jordan seemed utterly unintimidated by the plethora of bad
vampire movies and vampire scenes that came before him. Perhaps this close
up on the eye of the vampire, this attention to the choreography of the
victimization scene, was trying to make us feel the swoon. I don't know. The
film very successfully used a levitating scene as a substitute for the swoon
in the first instance. Whatever the reason, over and over again, the film
presented the moment of attack and submission as potent and worthy of
serious treatment. I found these choices extremely satisfying.
There's no doubt in my mind that vampires are a metaphor for the predator in
all of us, and that Louis and Lestat and Claudia speak directly to the
ruthless part of us...especially to those of us who live in affluent
twentieth century America, surrounded by luxury and miracles, and yet
painfully aware of what goes on in other parts of the world. The film never
shied away from this. Again, I am confused by some of Jordan's statements
about it. But I found these ideas to be eloquently embodied in the film.
I have only just begun to think about some of the questions the film posed:
how far will we go not to be alone; how much will we sacrifice morally in
order to attain our definition of magnificence, greatness or independence;
the nature of dependency and love. The film isn't talking about mere
survival; it's talking about the possibility of grand achievement as well as
endurance-- it's talking about reaching for the sublime.
These camera shots of killing over and over were rooted in these elements. I
THE FILM'S POINT OF VIEW.
As far as I can tell, this film is shot from our point of view, the point of
view of the reader of the book or the viewer of the movie. This is not a
criticism. It is a comment on something I find very intriguing. What I mean
is this: We are being told the tale by Louis, but the camera doesn't show us
what Louis sees or how he sees it. The camera stays at the footlights of the
stage, as though this were all a play -- an acting out of the book.
Over and over the camera lets characters enter from left and from right as
they would on a real stage; it brings them together for medium shots in
which they speak their crucial lines. It draws back on panoramic scenes,
well beyond the tactile sensations being experienced and described by Louis.
There are scenes in which Louis isn't present: Claudia's attack on Lestat,
There is as far as I can tell only one point of view shot in the whole film.
This occurs when Claudia and Madeline are being carried down a passageway.
You get one shot of the faces of those carrying them. I'm not sure whether
it's from Claudia's point of view, or Madeline's. If there are other such
shots I missed them.
Again, this isn't a criticism. I find this an interesting approach on the
part of the film makers. Perhaps it is most effective as showing the scope
of the story, which is essentially small and gigantic simultaneously. It's
several people talking about salvation and damnation amid spectacle that
rivals the most high tech modern extravagance.
Whatever, I'm delightedly puzzled over it. It worked well, but why was it
that way? What would have happened if we had seen things more consistently
from Louis' point of view? For example, when Louis first comes upon Claudia,
what would the scene have been like if we had drawn in close on her as he
sees her, rather than in close on both of them? What if we had heard her
heart the way Louis hears it? What if we had gone into his head for the
swoon? What if the sudden entrance of Lestat had been hazy?
I'm not suggesting any of this. The film is immensely effective the way it
is. I am simply pointing out that this was a choice that the film made, and
one that worked, though I never expected it and can't fully explain it.
I suspect that the full impact of this "stage footlights point of view" was
to make the contents of the film appear highly significant, which of course
I believe it is. I liked it. There is something classical about making a
film this way. The story is supposed to be subjective, but the drama is
presented as though it has important meaning for us all.
Loving this film as I do, I hesitate to say anything critical really. But
there are a few things that struck me as not so good. Mostly they had to do
with editing, or with the unfolding of the story. They are the kinds of
things that can be fixed.
The film watcher in me really wanted to know:
Why didn't the vampires, Louis and Lestat, smell the decaying human body
under Claudia's dolls? If I lived in that apartment, I would have smelled
it. Certainly they would have. Why and how did the human body remain
undiscovered? Do these characters have powerful senses or not? I'm puzzled.
Why would dead blood affect a vampire? Why did Lestat get so hurt by
drinking "dead blood?" I don't get it.
Did Lestat receive enough wounds from Claudia to really disable him? I don't
think so. It should have been a much more violent attack with much more
rents in the flesh. Lestat is a very strong guy. I don't get it.
How the hell did Lestat survive the fire in New Orleans?
Why wasn't Lestat in Paris? Shouldn't he have been there to show us 1) that
he had survived and 2) to climax the dreadful kangaroo court trial of those
who had attacked him? I missed him in Paris. I don't think the film lagged
-- I cherish the discussion between Brad and Antonio in this portion of the
film -- but Lestat's appearance would have been highly effective for me.
This doesn't mar my enjoyment of the film. I just wish it had been
I thought the shot of Superman on the theatre screen, as seen by Louis, and
the shot of the theatre marquee saying TEQUILA SUNRISE as Louis walks off
were unforgivably indelicate and stupid. To throw up the words TEQUILA
SUNRISE at that moment blew the mood utterly. I winced. When I watch the
film now, I close my eyes at that part!
Why did the vampires break so many necks and spill so much blood? Aren't
they too powerful to be so unskilled? Why were we treated to the scene of
the prostitute with her legs sprawled apart with blood gushing down her
dress? In the context of the film, does Lestat really go for that sort of
thing? I know, I know, Janet Maslin thought this was the central image of
the film. I didn't.
Why did the vampires so brutally bully the girl on the stage of the Theatre
of the Vampires? I don't get it. Why did they push her and shove her? They
are immortals. They are very strong, and she is very weak. Why the
indignity, the vulgarity? Why wasn't she thoroughly and mercifully enchanted
at the end the way she was in the book? Why was the scene so gratuitously
Why was the final exchange between Louis and Lestat so brief? Good grief!
Didn't Louis have a few questions? Didn't he have more to say to Lestat
after all that time? I don't get it. How could he just walk out of there? I
couldn't have. Again, it was beautifully done, but I wish it had been
How did Lestat get to his position at the very end of the film? How?
Couldn't there have been some indication of how he managed to be where he
was in his last scene? The overall effect would have been stronger for me if
there had been some clues. Again, I love the film, it worked. But I
Once again, why didn't the vampires cry blood tears!
My last question: why was this film an R rated film? Couldn't it have been
just as significant and just as thrilling without being an R rated film? I
am assuming of course that the R rating had to do with the nudity and the
misogyny in the film, the sadism towards women with heavy sexual overtones.
If I'm right, then why was that necessary?
Vampires don't have sex. They transcend gender. Vampire gore appears in
comic books, cartoons, and PG movies, doesn't it? what's with the rating
system? And what's with the gratuitous cruelty to women in this film? Why? I
think the film could have kept all of his philosophical and psychological
complexity and been PG or PG-13.
I'm raising this point because the Vampire Chronicles have thousands of very
young readers. For them, the books are extremely accessible. They read the
books in school. They talk about them with their teachers. They write papers
on the books. They call me with questions and write me wonderful letters.
I've been asked to speak at schools about these books, and I have.
I have spoken at an elementary school. I have spoken at a college. I have
been interviewed in school newspapers as well.
Couldn't the film have been just as accessible to the young as the books
I hope kids and their families disregarded the R rating. I hope the young
readers got to see the film or that they will when it comes out on
videotape. I think it says important moral things, and it is enchanting and
spectacular. It's a banquet of images and words and colors and movement. I
hope kids overlooked the vulgarity and the brutality of some of the scenes.
If they can overlook prime time TV and cable, why can't they see this film?
These nasty and mean scenes didn't ruin the movie for me, and I would let
any child go to see it. The film has a redeeming moral context and
undeniable splendor that kids are entitled to enjoy. But I don't like the
handling of those anti-female sadistic parts. And I would have softened
them, tried to transmute them with style, or -- to put it bluntly -- done
them in such a way as to achieve a wider audience rating.
We cannot make only that art which is acceptable to children, but we must
remember that MOBY DICK and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, and HAMLET can all be
read or viewed by children without risk. Consider the appeal of THE RED
SHOES and TALES OF HOFFMAN. Consider perhaps that the kids who did get to
see IWTV may remember it in the way my generation remembers THE RED SHOES
and TALES OF HOFFMAN.
There is a venerable tradition to making the most serious statement in a
form that can be understood by an eight year old. I respect that tradition.
That kids read my books gives me joy. I'm proud of all my readers, the very
young, the very old, the seemingly mainstream, the eccentric, the cerebral,
the whole crowd. I ought to be. I'd be a fool not to be proud of being a
"popular" and "mainstream" writer. It feels great.
ON OTHER CRITICS AND THE CRITICAL RESPONSE TO THIS FILM.
To echo the offhand remarks of Saturday Night Live's Brooklyn characters,
"Forget about it!"
As for TIME and NEWSWEEK, I think we as readers and film lovers have to
reconcile ourselves to the fact that these publications have become
virtually worthless in covering books and film. The magazines are obviously
fighting a losing battle with television and computer networks, but they
aren't putting up much of a fight. Their reviewers seem shallow, stupid, and
unforgivably uninformed. Let's kiss them good-bye.
TIME and NEWSWEEK, you no longer play a significant role in covering the
news surrounding the arts, or in covering the arts themselves. You could
turn this around. You could start writing reviews which are actually
intelligent essays; you could return to commentary with perspective and
validity; you could do your homework on the context of the films and books
you review. Eh. I've given up on you.
The success of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is only one of many, many proofs
that these magazines are no longer major cultural players. It is sad.
On the NEW YORKER, Pauline Kael, I miss you. Tina Brown, why don't you open
up the NEW YORKER to teams of reviewers of films and movies? Give us a real
controversy of criticism -- review more books, more films and publish more
reviewers. I'd love it, but I read the magazine every week no matter what.
On Janet Maslin in the New York Times, though I cherish her great praise of
the film, I disagree, as already stated, with the dismissal of the ideas of
the film and her dismissal of the richest, most complex and most thought
provoking films I've ever seen. People will be viewing it and talking about
it when we are no longer here.
On Caryn James, I treasure what you wrote in the New York Times.
On LIZ SMITH and her very frank and brave questions as to whether or not
IWTV was a gay allegory, and her question as to why people just don't make a
gay film, and why do gays have to be disguised as vampires -- Here's my
answer. Ms. Smith, the gays are us. That's all there is to it. There is no
disguise. Gay allegory doesn't exist apart from moral allegory for everyone.
This is now evident.
PHILADELPHIA made the statement in a very direct way. Tom Hanks in that film
played a man that could be any one of us for any number of reasons! Years
and years ago, a gay allegory was made called BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. For
most of its artistic life, people have been totally unaware that this film
is a gay allegory, and with reason. IT DOESN'T MATTER. If it's about gays,
it's about all of us, the secrets we carry, the traits which set us apart
individually from others, the burdens we bear, the rage we feel, and the
common condition that binds us.
The characters of IWTV aren't gays disguised as vampires. They are us. They
are us in our loneliness, in our fear, in our spiritual and moral isolation.
They are us in our ruthlessness, and in our desperate quest for
companionship, warmth, love and reassurance in a world full of gorgeous
temptations and very real horrors. They are fallible beings with the power
of gods; and that is exactly what we are, all of us.
In sum, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is bigger that a gay allegory, and so is
almost any gay allegory.
Gender influences everything but determines nothing! Vampires transcend
gender. We as a modern people transcend gender, though we can never escape
it. Ours is a time for which there are no precedents with regard to gender
and freedom. Look in vain to ancient Rome. Look in vain to the Middle Ages.
There has never been so much affluence, scientific knowledge and so much
common awareness of violence and injustice. There has never been so much
real wealth for so many, combined with instantaneous media confrontation of
poverty and suffering. Some of us see life as a horror story, but a horror
story with great, great meaning.
ON THE HORROR GENRE:
If we learn anything from this period in film history, let us learn this:
that fantasy and horror can speak to the ordinary and the most eccentric;
fantasy and horror can embody and reflect the most common and the most
dreaded pain we all share; fantasy and horror can speak to the addict, to
the celebrity, to the gay man, to the gay woman, to the housewife, to the
working man or woman, to me to you, to the truck driver, to the brain
surgeon, to the monk, to the nun, and to the child. Poetry thrives in
fantasy and horror books and films; so do great visions of truth. The
ambition and the potential of these genres is limitless.
Finally, let me describe another aspect of this unique time. Today, what we
share is more important than what sets us apart from one another. What we
have in common is infinitely more important than what divides us. It has
never been that way before, and the possibilities as well as the
responsibilities are endless.
This is the full meaning of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Kinked? Yeah. Weird?
You got it. Universal? Most certainly.
New Orleans, Louisiana
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