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

film.

 

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,

THE FILM.

 

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

neglected gardens.

 

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

were magical.

 

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

original script.

 

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

behold.

 

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

film.

 

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

it.)

 

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

it.

 

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

accomplishment.

 

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

child killer.

 

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

Lestat. Perfection.

 

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

concerned.

 

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

moments.

 

MINOR PLAYERS:

 

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

sex necessarily.

 

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

it.

 

(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

book.)

 

FILM CHOICES

 

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

liked them.

 

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,

for instance.

 

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.

 

QUIBBLES.

 

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

different.

 

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

nasty?

 

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

different.

 

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

wonder...

 

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

are?

 

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.

 

With love,

 

Anne Rice

New Orleans, Louisiana

1994

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