EXCLUSIVE: Anne Rice on The Vampire Chronicles films, casting Lestat, and more

Just a few months after Anne Rice fans got the news that she would resume The Vampire Chronicles with her first vampire novel in 11 years, Prince Lestat, more good news arrived. After years of trying to get her blood drinkers back on the screen, Rice finally found a home for The Vampire Chronicles on film: Universal Pictures. The studio optioned Rice's entire vampire canon for Imagine Entertainment back in August, and new films are developing now, with Rice's son Christopher closely tied to the project as a writer. 

So, for part two of our exclusive interview with Rice -- part one, which covers Prince Lestat and the future of her vampire novels, is HERE -- we talked about the new movie deal, what it takes to play Lestat and what she hopes to see onscreen in the coming years. 

Blastr: There's a deal now with Universal Pictures. Are there any new developments there?

Anne Rice: It's pretty much in the same place as when it was announced. It looks good, but it's still in the works. I's have to be dotted and T's crossed, but it looks very good. 

Blastr: Part of the deal was that your son Christopher's draft of Tale of the Body Thief was going to be a part of it. Is he still involved?

AR: Very much. One of the reasons I'm able to sleep at night is that he's involved. He's not only a terrific script writer, but he's a co-owner of the franchise, to put it crudely. He inherited half the Vampire Chronicles when his father died. I mean, they're my books, but we're very close and he wants this to succeed in Hollywood as much as I want it to succeed. And he is a great script writer. He always has been. He's more of a natural script writer than I am. I can write a script, and I did get sole credit on Interview With the Vampire, and that was a wonderful experience, but I'm not the natural script writer that Christopher is, and I'm convinced that he will do a great, bang-up job of relaunching this franchise.

Blastr: I was about to ask what made you trust these particular producers, and it sounds like a lot of that was Christopher being involved ...

AR: No, they were interested all along. They had stepped up and shown themselves to be very interested and willing to deal with the slings and arrows, and they've been quite good. It's Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins [of Imagine Entertainment], and they've been very, very good. I think they truly want to make great movies out of this. They convinced me over time that they did. When I brought Christopher to the table, they were completely open to it, but they were there before.

Blastr: What book would you like to see adapted first? Do you have any preference?

AR: I think what I want, and what everybody wants, is Lestat. They want that character more than anything, and they want the movie that will deliver that character and his story best, and there are many possibilities. There are many ways to do that, but that's what they really want the most. They want the film that's going to deliver his story and him as the hero and why he's endured. It's been a wonderful experience creating this character. I can't say I planned it. That would be stupid. Nobody could've planned something like this, but when the news broke about the new book coming out, it made headlines all over the world. It was amazing. I could see them popping up on the Internet everywhere, and over and over again they were showing pictures of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and over and over headlines said "Lestat Coming Back." And I just felt so grateful. I was in awe of this. But what I'm driving at is: It's him. It's that character that made this what people call a franchise. Nobody ever comes up to me and says "I love the clever twists in your books. I want to see one of your suspenseful tales on the screen." What they come up and say is "Where's Lestat?" It's Lestat that they want. So, whatever that first movie has to be, it has to be a movie that delivers him. They've been there, done that with Louis in Interview With the Vampire. I don't really think they want a remake of that, and I don't either. That's a beautiful movie. Neil Jordan did a magnificent job. We don't need a remake of that. They want to see Lestat, and they want to see him rising. 

Blastr: Speaking of Lestat as a character in movies, around the time that this movie deal was announced, you mentioned a few names of actors on Facebook, names like Stephen Amell and Chris Hemsworth, as people who looked a lot like Lestat. Apart from the physical resemblance, what do you think an actor really needs, what qualities does an actor need to really get Lestat right onscreen?

AR: Well, I think Anson Mount is probably the best embodiment of that, because he's got a look in his eye, and a way of carrying himself in [AMC drama series] Hell on Wheels that to me is Lestat. He's a real strong character. He's tortured, but he moves forward. He acts. He resolves. You see Lestat in Anson Mount, and I love that, and I think that strength has to be there. The second ingredient which has to be there, which I do see in Stephen Amell and Chris Hemsworth, is the mischievous quality: the imp, the guy that would make a child vampire just to see if it would work. I think my hero is a really bad person in a lot of ways, and a really good person in a lot of ways, and so I would hope the actor would be able to get both. I think a great actor like Robert Downey Jr., for example, could get both. He could get all those characteristics. I think Anson Mount could get them. There are many actors today that I think could do it, and of course I hope that when it comes to casting, Universal will cast somebody for more than one movie, somebody that will go with the franchise. And that may mean a younger actor than I have in mind, but it's somebody who can age with it. But again, it's a combination of will, gravitas, and impishness, mischief, the bad boy, Brat Prince type of personality. He can't be some maudlin, dark vampire. Tom Cruise did a great job. He got all that. He got plenty of the humor. He got plenty of the impatience. He got a lot of it. It's interesting now that all these years later pictures of him pop up all over the world when this is talked about.

Blastr: The Queen of the Damned film was not as well received as the Interview With the Vampire film, and a lot fans were disappointed. What do you think that the filmmakers who approach this material now can learn from something like that?

AR: I think everybody knows pretty much that Queen of the Damned killed the franchise in Hollywood, that it was not well received and its big mistake was that it did not respect the fanbase. It was not based on the books. It was a fiction created by the studio using the names, and there just is no market for that in today's world. Now, people didn't know that as much back then as they know it now, but now you see movie after movie that's almost scene-by-scene faithful to the book. I just watched The Fault in Our Stars, and I read the book. The movie is faithful practically page by page. There are only a few deviations near the end, where scenes are different from what's in the book. I'm reading Divergent. Again, the movie I just saw with Shailene Woodley is just very faithful to that book. I think The Hunger Games, same thing, and certainly Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter books, and George Martin's Game of Thrones. These are faithful, and that's why they've been huge successes. They galvanize the literary fanbase, and it carries them into the public sphere with a huge amount of power. I don't think producers today will do what the Queen of the Damned people did 10 years ago, or 12 years ago, whatever it was. They won't just make an irresponsible fiction using the names. That would be a complete waste. I think Hollywood has learned from the success of all these different, what would you call them, fan franchises? They've learned that the fans know something here. Don't go against them. Don't make them mad. Don't disgust them. Look what happened with True Blood. Didn't it pretty much peter out when they deviated from Charlaine Harris' books? I think it did. People lost interest. There's a lot to be learned there, but Hollywood is very upfront about learning from success. They may not learn so much from failure, but they learn from success, and I'm hoping when they look back on Queen of the Damned, they will see not the failure of Queen of the Damned, but the success of Lord of the Rings.

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