Director: Neil Jordan
Screenplay: Anne Rice, based on her novel Interview with the Vampire
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea
Running Time: 122 minutes
Genre: Horror, drama, epic, supernatural
Summary: San Francisco, present day: Malloy (Slater) conducts an interview with Louis (Pitt), who claims to be a vampire. Louis narrates the story of his existence as one of the Undead, beginning in Louisiana, 1791, when, suicidal after the death of his wife in childbirth, Louis is attacked by a powerful vampire, Lestat (Cruise). Lestat teaches Louis how to survive and hunt for blood, while the conscience-stricken Louis turns to feeding on animals in order prevent having to take human life. Fearing that Louis will leave him, Lestat turns a young orphaned girl, Claudia (Dunst), into a vampire, believing that their new "daughter" will encourage him to stay. However, as time passes, resentments between the three grow stronger, with Claudia in particular growing to hate Lestat for trapping her eternally in the body of a child, while Louis becomes pre-occupied by the search for other vampires that might explain their condition.
Opinions: This film is one of the most visually lavish horror films ever made. A full-blown gothic film it revels in the sumptiousness and decay of 18th and 19th Century New Orleans and Paris. Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series of books, which currently totals ten novels in the main sequence and two in the linked but sepearate New Tales of the Vampires series, have been bestsellers worldwide, and the novel Interview With the Vampire, first published in 1976, was the first in the series. The film mostly follows the book very closely, and manages to eep the novel's strong homoerotic undertones largely intact.
Initially Anne Rice was very vocal in her objection to Tom Cruise playing Lestat (claiming that he was "no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler"). Her choice for the role was Julian Sands, but the studios wanted a bigger star for the role. After seeing the film, however, she was happy with Cruise's performance, and apparently wrote him a letter of apology. The original choice to play the interviewer, whose name is never mentioned on screen but who is referred to in the credits and in the books as Malloy, was River Phoenix who tragically died four weeks before filming began. Christian Slater, who replaced Phoenix, donated his fee for the film to Phoenix's favourite charities, and there is a dedication to Phoenix at the end of the film. Brad Pitt has the lead role of the tortured Louis and although he never manages to convey Louis constant inner torment, he is suitably melancholy throughout (apparently he hated making the film). The big revelation in the film is Kirsten Dunst, who was twelve years old when the film came out, as the vampire child Claudia. She gives a great performance with a difficult role of a character who, while physically a child has the mind and feelings of an adult.
The movie is slickly directed and has enormous style. The thing is that while it is beautiful to look at and has plenty of gory thrills it is rarely particularly scary. it also moves at a fairly sedate pace. However it is powerful and involving enough to keep the interest of viewers, and not just horror fans. It also has a strong seam of welcome humour.
The film, in keeping with the book, depicts the vampires as dangerous but also glamorous and seductive and not necessarily evil. The main conflict in the story is Louis reluctance to feed on and kill humans versus Lestat's whole-hearted embrace of the vampire state. The Vampire Chronicles really popularised the concept of the darkly romantic, ambiguous and tormented vampires which have become so familiar from Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series and Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries (which were the basis for the TV series True Blood).
Kirsten Dunst, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire