On May 5, 1976, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was released, the author’s first work that has become a cult book … and a cult film … and perhaps a cult TV series?
But, as does the protagonist of the book itself, Louis, let’s start from the beginning, contextualizing the author and her references.
Who is Anne Rice
Born in 1941 in New Orleans, Anne Rice began writing in the mid-1970s what she thought was “a short story about vampirism”. Interview with a vampire will become, as we said at the beginning, a cult book. It was born as the first volume of The Vampire Chronicles, which will soon be followed by Lestat.
Queen of fantasy and modern gothic, which has revolutionized literature by bringing sensuality and excesses, she has moved on to historical novels with The voice of the angels, a superb story of castrati in Venice, and to eroticism with The misadventures of the sleeping beauty.
Anne Rice’s literary influences are numerous and not all of them can be cited. We find first and foremost William Shakespeare, whom Lestat mentions regularly, but also Oscar Wilde who inspired the original character of Louis. And then Charles Dickens, whose adventures as Scrooge’s character in A Christmas Carol are reminiscent of Louis’s quest for identity.
And again Dante, John Milton, the Brontë sisters or Herman Melville.
In detail we also mention Richard Matheson, in particular the short story The White Silk Robe, published in 1951, which tells the story from the point of view of a vampire child.
Returning to her beloved vampires, Anne Rice writes The Queen of the Damned and The Tale of the Body Thief, and soon devoted herself to the Mayfair witch saga, which began with The Witching Hour and continued in the meantime with Lasher and Taltos. Who knows that the characters of the two series do not end up meeting!
Her last work dates back to 2018, once again focused on the figure of Lestat.
Anne Rice died on December 11, 2021 in California.
Interview with the Vampire
Interview with the Vampire is Anne Rice’s debut novel published in 1976. As mentioned above, it was elaborated from a 1968 short story and expanded upon the death of Rice’s daughter Michelle. It tells the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac who tells his 200 years of life to an unnamed journalist.
Although the novel was initially published with mixed reviews, it spawned a series of books that rotate in the same universe, securing Rice as a classic horror novelist. The book is now in the annals of vampire lore, along with Dracula.
Louis is a young indigo plantation owner in 1791, living south of New Orleans. Distraught after his brother’s death, he meets Lestat. Lestat turns him into a vampire after making a wish for his company, and the two live on the plantation for some time. Lestat feeds on slaves (taking pleasure in this practice, but Louis is overcome with guilt and survives by eating small animals.
They are forced to leave when the slaves instigate a revolt. They set fire to the plantation to prevent vampire news from spreading. Gradually, Louis begins to feed on humans, but is bothered by Lestat’s contempt for human life. He feeds on a plague-stricken child found next to her mother’s body and begins to think about going away alone. To avoid this, Lestat transforms the little girl into a vampire to give Louis a “daughter”.
The little girl, Claudia, begins to kill easily, but as she gets older she becomes discontented. Her mind matures into a woman’s, but her body never changes. After another sixty years, she plots to kill Lestat by poisoning him and slitting his throat. Claudia and Louis dump his body into the swamp and prepare to leave for Europe. Lestat appears again and the two set a fire in the house where Lestat had presented himself, leaving him to burn and die.
In Europe and conclusion back in the States
When they arrive in Europe, they look for other vampires. In Eastern Europe they find nothing but reanimated corpses, but in France they find vampires like them. Armand, one of these vampires, and his coven, live in an old theater where they feed on living humans in front of a live audience. Claudia is disgusted with these vampires, but Armand and Louis are attracted to each other.
Fearing that Louis will leave her, Claudia asks Louis to make her a companion, identified as a dollmaker she finds in Paris. The woman, Madeleine, and the two live peacefully together for a while before Lestat reappears after surviving the fire.
His accusations lead Louis to be locked up in a coffin and Claudia and Madeleine locked up in an open courtyard. Armand arrives in time to free Louis, but it is too late to save the woman and the girl.
Louis is devastated and sets the theater on fire killing all the vampires. He and Armand leave, but they soon separate and Louis returns to twentieth-century New Orleans. He lives there in the shadows and never creates another mate again.
After listening to his story, the reporter begs Louis to make him immortal. Louis is infuriated that the reporter has learned nothing from his story and leaves. The reporter goes to track down Lestat in hopes that the vampire will fulfill his wish.
Themes in Interview with the Vampire
The issue of immortality is one of the main themes of the book. Louis nearly goes mad after his brother’s death seeking death himself. When he finds Lestat, he agrees to become a vampire, a choice he doesn’t fully understand and that haunts him throughout the book. He recounts his last night as a human with a bittersweet desire. And finally he tells the story to a human to warn others of the consequences of the quest for immortality.
He also struggles with having to “consume” humans to live. He avoids this for a long time, but ultimately he is unable to continue feeding on animals. Even after he begins to feed on humans, his guilt consumes him, somehow undermining his existence as a vampire.
Dissatisfaction with existence is another heavy issue. Louis is dissatisfied with his decision to become immortal to the point that he agrees with Claudia’s plot to kill Lestat. He believes that moving to Europe will cure what makes him suffer, but in truth he will never escape his sense of dissatisfaction.
Lestat is to some extent dissatisfied. He is a bored immortal who finds pleasure in nothing more than killing his prey. Also, he sees humans as stupid animals destined only to please vampires and sate their hunger. He wanders the world believing he is a superior being, but is unable to escape his feelings of emptiness.
Claudia is also dissatisfied with his existence. She is a woman in the body of a little girl and in the first place she blames Lestat for creating her. She becomes so dissatisfied with Louis’s fascination with Armand and the French vampires that she asks him to create a mate for her. Eventually, she is destroyed by her intrigues and sentenced to death.
After the release of the book Interview with the Vampire, the rights to adapt the book are bought very quickly by the Paramount studios, but no film will be made in 10 years.
Upon expiry of the contract, the rights were acquired by Lorimar Production, a group which was in turn acquired by Warner Bros in 1988.
Producer David Geffen got the rights for $ 500,000. It was finally Warner Bros that produced Interview with the Vampire in 1994.
Directed by Neil Jordan, the cast reunites Tom Cruise in the role of Lestat, Brad Pitt in that of Louis, Kirsten Dunst in the role of Claudia, Antonio Banderas for Armand and Christian Slater, who plays the journalist, a role he played after his death. by River Phoenix, originally slated for the film.
At first, Anne Rice was not very keen on this parterre of over-handsome men but she agreed to write the script anyway. Rice initially disagreed with Tom Cruise as Lestat (she hoped to see Rutger Hauer in that role), but once she saw the final version, she even went as far as spending $ 7,740 for a double-page spread in the Daily Variety praising Tom Cruise’s performance and apologizing for doubting him.
The film was a resounding success and was nominated for and won numerous awards. It even relaunched sales of the novel which ended up on the world bestseller list.
Interview with the Vampire: the TV series
Since an excellent first adaptation was clearly not enough, from 2016 there was talk of re-adapting the famous Chronicles of the vampires, the cult literary saga of Anne Rice, in serial format. Pushed at the time by the late writer and her son himself, the project nevertheless experienced a chaotic preamble, populated by various and various ups and downs.
Bryan Fuller, who was initially entrusted with the project, abruptly broke away from it in 2018. Subsequently it was the Hulu distributor who abandoned the series, which had been taken over by the director. The coup de grace will come in December 2019, with the cancellation of the series even before filming could begin. Finally, all the rights will subsequently be acquired by the AMC Networks chain which, due to the pandemic, will wait more than a year before starting development on the series.
However, it seems that the project is now on the right track: after a shy and furtive first taste in a promotional video of all its projects, the AMC channel has therefore unveiled the first images of the series.
We therefore discover in the role of Sam Reid, the Lestat previously played by Tom Cruise, while Jacob Anderson takes on the role of Louis.
Ordered for an eight-episode first season, which is expected to air this year, the series does not yet have a date for our screens, but is expected to arrive by the end of 2022.
Thus we will have the opportunity to rediscover Interview with the Vampire, even though Neil Jordan’s little masterpiece has stood the test of time very well, as have its protagonists.