Interview with the Vampire (movie)

“Beautiful to look at and dripping with atmosphere…”

–          Scott Nash via Rotten Tomatoes

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Even if you have no idea who Anne Rice is, even if you have never read a page out of the Vampire Chronicles, you still know about Interview with the Vampire. You will have been there when it was released, you will have heard about it when mentioning Twilight (in not-so-subtle admonitions of “whatever, you’ve obviously never watched Interview with the Vampire”), people will have instructed you on its depth, its gore, and its romance. And you will have been told that it was simultaneously the most romantic and brutal vampire film ever released. That people were appalled by its content, despite being titillated into whispering about it and lavishing affection upon its A-list cast.

“Most of all I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it, a release from the pain of living. My invitation was open to anyone. Sailors, thieves, whores and slaves… but it was a vampire that accepted.”

–          Brad Pitt as Louis de Pointe du Lac, Interview with the Vampire

In 1994, Neil Jordan finally released his on-screen rendition of Interview with the Vampire, a full eighteen years after the first publication of the novel. Aside from sporting an all-star cast, which included names such as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas, Interview with the Vampire had what few films based on novels ever do, a screenplay by the author herself, and her seal of approval. The movie followed smoothly from Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, which initially lifted the demonic character of The Count into a romantic role, in which he played a lothario, rather than a demonic overlord. And in a way, Interview did much the same.

As far as films are concerned, this one has to be considered as one of the most exquisite adaptations from any novel. The studio went above and beyond in creating a unique set and filtered environment which lowered the mood and tone of the film to such a degree that the audience was drawn in from the opening credits. Even the score seemed to loop around the viewer, tying them in with this dark and riveting world where vampires are possible, but where their existence is one of misery, strife and, ultimately, suffering.

Sadly, no movie can ever outshine a novel. Those of us that read the torturous pages of Interview with the Vampire first, will easily be able to pick out a myriad of problems – discrepancies even. All simply and astutely explained away, but a source of agony for the die-hard fan, nonetheless.

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“…For all its visionary brilliance, the movie version of Interview never lets us close enough to see ourselves in Louis. We’re dazzled but unmoved.

–          Peter Travers via Rotten Tomatoes

Perspective:

In films, telling any tale from a single perspective character’s POV is difficult. And it is plain for the viewer to ascertain when watching this particular adaptation, that the film was intended for an audience that already had contact with the subsequent novels in the series. This became fairly obvious in the character of Lestat.

Tom Cruise performed the role on a level so far beyond acting that it felt as though he had learnt some secret about Lestat we could never have understood if we had only read Interview with the Vampire. He portrayed Lestat in a manner which brought to light the character’s loneliness, his own pain, and his affections. In the novel, at least until the last few pages, these are things which did not become blatantly clear to the reader. As I have said in previous articles, Louis blinded us when we read the novel, he skewed our opinions with his own prejudices, and we loved him for it. But as we do not feel as close to him as we should, in the film, our vision is not altered as if we view the world through his eyes.

Rather we extend our panoramic view to see into the hearts of other characters. Facial expressions, moments alone, these things allow us an insight into outside influences we would not usually have understood.

The most adequate example I can offer, the moment in the movie which still stands vividly at the forefront of my mind, is the scene when Louis runs from the rooms he and Lestat inhabit when they first reach New Orleans. There is a single shot of Lestat standing alone at the window, watching him leave with a ponderous, sad expression on his face. This is the Lestat I recognise from later novels, not from the first in the series.

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“Interview with the Vampire promises a constantly surprising vampire story, and it keeps that promise.”

–          Janet Maslin via Rotten Tomatoes

Plot:

I have few issues with the plot of this film. I think the novel’s story was eloquently transcribed to screen, and for that reason, I adore it. Perhaps I could simply say that, firstly, I loved Louis’ background originally – his history with his brother, the question of faith. I felt it unnecessary to alter that situation. Although, that being said, the loss of a romantic interest and a child is far more relative. An audience would rather not be faced with deep, moral questions and philosophical standpoints this soon into a film. Something to which it can relate may have been called for here.

Secondly, I thought that cutting Lestat’s involvement with the Theatre des Vampires was an ice-pick in the heart of the tale. The image of Lestat clutching Claudia’s little, yellow dress still burns bright in my mind. I would have liked the inclusion of that scene. However, a caveat may have been needed to paint Lestat as less villainous, and also to shorten an already very long film.

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“A satisfying and gloomy romantic vampire story, well directed and with elegant lines written by Anne Rice, evoking a sensual gothic atmosphere that makes us want to know more about those dark creatures. Still, the film suffers from some miscasting – except Dunst, who is pretty good.”

–          Carlos Magalhães via Rotten Tomatoes

Casting:

Sigh. I fear treading on toes here.

Primarily – and most importantly – the characters of Louis and Lestat were portrayed immaculately by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise:

Pitt has the right facial features for Louis. He succeeded in ridding his expression of its hint of gaiety which he achieves in other films such as Fight Club, and manages to express a pained, put-upon Louis who wants nothing more than to die, but is too afraid to rid the world of himself.

Cruise did the research. And as I have said, he astounded the audience. He gave a performance which no one had been expecting from him when he was originally cast in the role, not even Rice. He understood Lestat (though there may have been one or two interviews with him later where it seemed he just tripped onto the correct answer) in a way that few other actors would have been able to achieve. And for that he deserves immense credit.

Kirsten Dunst did a superb job, though I feel she was too old for the role. But here is the inherent problem – casting a six-year-old would have been both impossible and, quite possibly, unethical. Dunst still receives acclaim for her role today, and she damn well deserves it. She was an excellent addition to the cast.

Antonio Banderas is engaging. Any audience can verify this. He has a smouldering glance and a beautiful face. But he was just not suited to the role of Armand. Aside from the fact that his ethnicity is off, as is his age (by a good few decades), and his hair colour (a small point, but still one that has aggravated true Rice fans for years)… He was too ‘cunning’ for the role he was cast in. Yes, Armand is cunning, but he never seems it to others. It is only ever after the fact that any character begins to understand they have been manipulated by him.

Christian Slater could not have been cast better. He achieved the cocksure jaunty expression of a guy who is certain he is far more sane than his interviewee at the movie’s start, and then followed it with well-timed jitters and an awe-filled expression which grew ever-more manic as the film progressed. To this day I still picture him as Daniel.

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All of the above having been said, none of this detracts from the quality or the enduring nature of the film. This is a point which can, legitimately, be argued, but Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire is still the best vampire film available to viewers, as well as the one film which portrays the novel it was based around with as much reverence and respect as any author could hope for.

“It’s about seduction, and either you succumb to its inky entrapments or you resist. When its mojo was working, I was happy to be had.”

–          David Ansen via Rotten Tomatoes

I could not agree more.

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16 Comments

  • Reply Amanda March 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I loved this movie. I have read all of Ann Rice’s Vampire chronicles. Yes, there were some things that they left out, however, this movie stayed true to form and was mind blowing. If only the movie made of “Queen of the Damned” was as good. I wish they would make more movies of the Vampire Chronicles (made as well as “Interview with a Vampire”) I would go to see them all.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      Yes, I do have a desperate little hope that more movies will be made of the Chronicles. But only time will tell.

    • Reply Morgan March 10, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Interview with the Vampire is one of the best novel to film movies, although there was some things left out. Queen of the Damned was awful though. Alot of people who haven’t read the novels don’t know that Lestat is the same Vampire in both movies. I also agree with what was said about Armand. Bandara’s did not fit the way he was described in the novels. But, would love to see the Chronicles make a come back and show all these new Vampire movies and shows up. Would be cool to also see the Mayfair Witch trilogy made into movies!

      • Reply Lafaeyette March 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        Anne Rice is quite fond of Banderas in the role of Armand, but I felt it was a sort of a weird racial stereotype and a complete balls up (pardon the inflection) on a character of whom I am incredibly fond. It would be bloody brilliant to see another Chronicles adaptation, but after the horror of QOTD, what might they do to it?! Eeep!

  • Reply Donna Hayes March 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I love the books and I love the movies, I wish there was more.

  • Reply Mike Franklin March 10, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I loved this, after watching it. I insisted on reading the novel. Wow, ….I was Not impressed W/ the Queen of the Damned adaptation. MY Hope is to see “The Vampire Lestat”. This is the novel I could Not put down.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 10, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      After Queen of the Damned, I’m terrified of what hollywood will do to another Anne Rice film. I don’t think my heart could take it if they ruined another one 🙁

  • Reply Catherine March 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I loved interview with a vampire and all of the vampire chronicles. It is to bad that they could not have made Queen of the famed a better movie, I mean they left out a lot of stuff, it is my favourite one of all of the books too. I would like to see a movie made of The Tail of the Body Thief also, that would be interesting.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 13, 2013 at 8:12 am

      There were talks about Tale of the Body Thief being made into a film… But I’m starting to suspect that that’s all it is… Talk.

  • Reply Horror Movie Medication March 23, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Great review. You shed some new light on this movie for me. But personally, this movie just didn’t do it for me. The plot lacked direction in general and left me feeling unsatisfied. I will say the vampires were classy and suave, but I don’t think that’s enough to make a compelling movie.

    I also got the chance to review this film on my Horror Movie blog. I could always use some feedback from other critics if you get the chance. But keep up the good work.

    http://horrormoviemedication.blogspot.com/2013/03/interview-with-vampire-vampire.html#view

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 23, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Thanks for the feedback, I’ll pass a look at your blog.

  • Reply Jestin Hoffman April 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Great review! Beautifully put. I loved the movie and hadn’t ever read a book with the exception of one in school. Was 18 when I first read Interview with a Vampire, with an immediate start on all the rest of “the Vampire Chronicles” and haven’t stopped reading since. Thank you Anne Rice:)! This is an excellent website as well, another thanks to A.R. for seeing it on her Fb. Keep it up.

    • Reply Lafaeyette April 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks Jestin :). I appreciate it and I’m so very glad you found the books! Vast improvement on the movies 😉

  • Reply Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    “An audience would rather not be faced with deep, moral questions and philosophical standpoints this soon into a film.” This sums up the festering moneysucking eyesore on the ass of the world that is Hollywood. That they assume they audience is mentally retarded.

  • Reply enki December 6, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I liked Queen of the damned more than Interview with a vampire, OST of Queen of the damned are too good.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique December 11, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      The OST may have been inspired, but, the movie was lacking in too many aspects.

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