Original release: November 11, 1994
Running time: 122 minutes
Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Anne Rice
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Stephen Rea, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst
As a young teen back in the early 1990’s I went through gothic and vampire novels the way other kids my age went through sneakers and hairstyles. After coming across Anne Rice’s landmark novel, Interview With The Vampire, shortly before the film opened in America, I devoured it within one night and like the child vampire Claudia after she’d fed, I wanted more.
The world she painted in my mind with her words brought places I had never been to before to life. The city of New Orleans, the streets of San Francisco, the historical backdrops and these exotic, dangerous and exciting vampires – what I wouldn’t have given for it be real…to be sitting face to face with one of them. The history they’ve witnessed, the tales they’d have to tell, and the chance to be an immortal like them, yes – that too was all part of my fascination with them.
It would be some time before I managed to get my hands on the other books, The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, but the film would bridge the gap nicely. Filled with anticipation, and against my parents’ wishes, I snuck out with my friends to Holloway Odeon for the 8.35 showing on Saturday 21st January, 1995.
In modern day San Francisco, reporter, Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) is about to interview the enigmatic Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) in a hotel room. Daniel gets his tape recorder and microphone ready, and Louis settles down to tell him his tale. “What do you do?” Daniel asks. “I’m a vampire” Louis replies. At first Daniel thinks it’s a joke, but Louis brings his face closer to his and in the light he’s able to see he’s not quite human.
Why should I lie? 1791 was the year it happened. I was twenty-four -younger than you are now.
But times were different then. I was a man at that age. The master of a large plantation just south of New Orleans…
Louis recounts how the plague claimed the life of his wife and child, and how his despair brought him to the attention of Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise), a vampire who offers him immortality. Although Louis accepts, he’s later horrified by what he’s turned him into.
Lestat takes great pleasure in his kills and tries to teach his fledging how to do it with flair and panache, but Louis is unwilling to become a monster like him and instead feeds off rodents. Eventually he gives in when the thirst becomes too strong and he ends up killing a young slave, but the guilt drives him to burn down their house with them inside.
They relocate after Lestat saves him and one night Louis comes across a young girl, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) sitting with her long dead mother, a victim of the plague. Louis feeds on her but Lestat takes it further and decides to make them into a family. He turns Claudia and hopes Louis will stay with him so they can raise her as their own child. It works, and for a time, the trio are a blissfully happy family with the two fathers doting on their vampire daughter; giving her piano lessons, buying her dresses and piling her room up with priceless porcelain dolls.
As the years pass however, Claudia begins to resent Lesat and the dolls. She sees herself as a toy for him, never aging and always dressed liked a child. Inside she has all the years she’s “lived” as a vampire, but on the outside she will always be the age she was when she died. Claudia’s also become a cold-blooded killer like Lestat, he’s taught her well. She shares a strong bond with Louis and seeing the hold Lestat has on him too, she hatches a plan to rid them both of him.
Tricking him into drinking dead blood, Claudia slices Lestat’s throat and with a horrified Louis, they dump his body in the swamp where they hope the alligators will finish him off.
Louis again tries to start a new life and looks to find others like him and Claudia. In Paris he meets Armand (Antonio Banderas) who runs a coven, Théâtre des Vampires, where humans are killed in front of a live audience who think it’s part of a show. Claudia finds herself a mother-figure, Madeleine (Domiziana Giordano), and begs Louis to change her into a vampire so she can have a mother again and Louis will be free to join Armand.
Before they can part ways, all three are abducted by one of Armand’ aids, Santiago (Stephen Rea), and Louis and Claudia must face the penalties for killing another vampire, Lestat.
Sitting there in Holloway Odeon as the film played to a packed audience, I remember how much I loved it. A combination of fear and excitement coursed through me as Louis recounted his long, soulful tale. Terror and tension rose during the scene where Lestat seduces and kills two prostitutes and the only sound outside of the film was me dropping my bucket of popcorn which tumbled down the steps beside my aisle seat.
I also remember how uncomfortable I felt watching Armand at work as he seduces and kills a woman in the theatre. They’re completely helpless in the hands of these creatures, it’s never about feeding through necessity, it’s cruel sport for them, the torture is a pastime and they have all of eternity.
What captivated me though in the book and the film was the tragedy of Claudia. Made into a vampire at such a young age, it was one of the cruellest and most selfish things Lestat could’ve done, but to die the way she did, clinging Madeline as the sun rose; it’s heartbreaking but also fitting in a way, considering that’s how Louis first found her.
The writing, direction and score all make Interview With The Vampire a very glossy, Hollywood movie but it’s one that’s also bloody, brutal and at times disturbing. Rice’s story is brought to life and with much passion, yet some actors seem miscast in their roles.
Lestat always struck me more like David Bowie kind of character than Tom Cruise, but at that time he was very much the all-American boy and playing the bisexual vampire was something I don’t think moviegoers weren’t quite ready to sink their teeth into. The biggest character change from page to screen wasn’t Lestat though; it was Armand whom we learn more about in the third book, The Queen of the Damned. Described more as a boy than a man, Antonio Bandaras was an odd choice; nevertheless it’s a role he seemed to make his own here.
Christian Slater takes over the role of Daniel after River Phoenix died just two weeks before filming began. He gives a credible performance, but I was never sure how he would manage had the films continued as Daniel becomes Armand’s companion later on. It’s Kirsten Dunst who really impresses though. As the tragic child vampire she balances innocence and sweetness with malice and contempt perfectly.
While Interview With The Vampire deals with the loss of innocence and evil being a choice, its most prevailing theme lies with Louis. Tormented by and fighting against what he’s become, he clings to whatever is left of his mortal life and refuses to let his vampire nature take over. He feels everything so much more and as a result his loneliness and anguish is intensified. He stands as the polar opposite to those he encounters, such as Santiago and Armand, making a good case for the idea that immortality isn’t as alluring as it’s made out to be.
Despite its miscasting, it’s a fascinating film and a good reminder there was vampire life long before the Cullen’s came along. Like many screen adaptations though, you’ll find the books even more enjoyable as Rice opens up a world beyond our wildest dreams and nightmares.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .