Not many horror movies boast such a big-name cast as Interview With the Vampire. Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, the high profile adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel was one of the most talked-about films of 1994, and still has a cult fanbase today. Here are some things you might not have known about it.
20. It had an unusually large budget for a horror movie
Interview with the Vampire was given a budget of $70 million budget by Warner Bros, an unprecedented amount for a horror movie about vampires.
Director Neil Jordan was well aware of this fact, saying in a 2014 interview with the Belfast Telegraph that “it’s not very often you can make a complicated, dark, dangerous movie and get a big budget for it.”
“Vampire movies were traditionally made at the lower end of the scale,” he continues, “on a shoestring, on rudimentary sets. David Geffen [the producer] is very powerful and he poured money into [the film]. I wanted to make it on an epic scale of something like Gone with the Wind (1939).”
Even director Francis Ford Coppola’s celebrated 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, noted for its lush Gothic aesthetics, was made for the comparatively small sum of $40 million.
Of course, $70 million is bordering on a pittance compared to modern blockbusters, with Avengers: Endgame (2019) racking up a truly gargantuan $356 million budget (albeit becoming the highest-grossing film of the time in the process.
Interview with the Vampire returned a highly respectable $223.7 million at the box office, and in the 21st century might have been considered franchise material. For now, at least, it’s a glittering gem of a film that stands up on its own.
19. Brad Pitt’s character was almost re-written as a woman, with Cher considered to play the part
Interview with the Vampire was Anne Rice’s debut novel, and was published all the way back in 1976. Remarkably, the film rights to the novel were sold even prior to its publication (to Paramount for $150,000). But the rights went unused for decades.
Since Rice also wrote drafts of the screenplay, you won’t be surprised to learn that the novel has a similar temperament to the film. But importantly, the novel leans further into the erotic nature of the relationship between Louis and Lestat – and this seemed to be a sticking point for getting the film made.
Hollywood’s record on LGBTQ+ characters, and their representation in general, has been poor. In order to circumvent these issues, Rice considered writing the part of Louis as a woman, with Cher in mind for the role.
In the end, director Neil Jordan made several changes to the script Rice presented, changes that included amping up the tension between the two male leads. It’s hard to make a great vampire film without that eroticism!
As for Cher, she recorded a song titled Lovers Forever that was going to be included on the soundtrack, but was rejected by producers.
Featuring a vampiric refrain of “Surrender to me now / And we’ll be lovers for all time,” the song was eventually released on Cher’s 2013 album Closer to the Truth.
18. The book’s author wanted Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise to switch roles
A number of actors, including John Malkovich, Peter Weller and Jeremy Irons, were considered for the role of Lestat de Lioncourt.
In the end, though, Tom Cruise signed on to play the part – and was considered a seriously controversial choice.
It was even suggested that Pitt and Cruise switch roles, with Anne Rice saying: “I tried for a long time to tell them that they should just reverse these roles, have Brad Pitt play Lestat and Tom Cruise play Louis. Of course, they don’t listen to me.”
It’s worth noting that Rice had originally envisioned someone like Alain Delon in the role, a French-Swiss sex symbol of the 1960s, meaning she was keen to have an actor with serious sex appeal carry the part.
Even though Tom Cruise is considered a major sex symbol nowadays, in the early 90s he was more of an all-American bad boy, and there was little confidence from Rice that he could be a refined blood-sucking aristocrat.
Brad Pitt in the role of Lestat, on the other hand – well, those cheekbones speak for themselves.
17. Anne Rice was vocally opposed to Tom Cruise starring in the movie
- Credit: Philip Gould/Corbis
Despite Tom Cruise’s fame, few thought the superstar actor would make a good bad guy when he was first cast as Interview with the Vampire’s Lestat.
Because Anne Rice was so against Cruise taking on the role, she very publicly said the casting was “so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work.”
Cruise’s casting was one of the first moments at which Rice had to confront the fact she didn’t have complete control over the project.
According to the Anne Rice Reader, “It disturbed her that no one from [David] Geffen’s office had consulted her, and she felt that the vision for the movie had definitely changed.”
- Credit: Heather Paul via Flickr
As for Cruise’s voice, “I don’t think I’ve ever fallen under the spell of an actor when the voice wasn’t a big component,” says Rice in the book, and “Tom Cruise… does not have that kind of distinct voice.”
In the end, like the rest of us, Rice was thrilled at Cruise’s performance. She even took out a two-page ad in Vanity Fair and the New York Times to call his work “a masterpiece.”
16. John Travolta was originally earmarked for Lestat
In hindsight, perhaps Rice was lucky to have Tom Cruise, at least compared to other actors who had been tipped for the role.
When the film was first optioned, producers were keen to have the sex icon of the day: John Travolta. It’s easy to forget, since Interview with the Vampire hit cinemas in the 90s, that the Hollywood landscape was completely different when the film was first being mooted.
Travolta had shot to stardom with Saturday Night Fever (1977) and truly hit the evergreen big-time with Grease (1978). But then production on the film dramatically stalled, probably because of an overabundance of vampire films that filled cinemas in the late 70s.
If you thought there was a vampire craze in 2008, try thirty years earlier: Dracula (with Frank Langella), Nosferatu the Vampyre and Love at First Bite all premiered in 1979, and audiences weren’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of yet another high-concept take on the genre.
Ultimately, when it finally came time to make the film, Travolta was dropped (as was one-time Lestat Rutger Hauer) for being too old. That’s the trouble when you’re playing ageless beings!
Not that missing out on Interview With the Vampire hurt Travolta professionally: 1994 saw his career come back on track in a big way thanks to Pulp Fiction.
15. Tom Cruise had some strange methods for playing a vampire
We don’t need to tell you that Tom Cruise is a bit of an oddball. After all, he’s long been an advocate of a certain religious organisation that has a lot of money and a lot of lawyers. And, for what it’s worth, we think that religious organisation is great, especially when they aren’t suing anyone.
But for Interview with the Vampire, some of that classic Tom Cruise strangeness was on show, with rumours that his behaviour on and around set could be a little strange.
For one thing, it’s been said that Tom Cruise prepared for his starring role as a brutally bloodthirsty vampire by watching videos of lions devouring their prey, like zebras.
Secondly, Cruise apparently demanded a private tunnel by which he could access a closed-off set, so no one would be able to see him in his vampire costume.
A generous analysis would suggest Cruise wanted to avoid photo leaks from the set, spoiling the big reveal of him as a vampire.
Another possible reason which has been suggested was that Cruise wanted to stay in character by avoiding sunlight throughout the shoot.
14. River Phoenix was cast in the movie but died four weeks before production started
River Phoenix was originally cast as reporter Daniel Molloy, but he tragically died just four weeks before production on the movie began.
Phoenix was known as one of the most talented actors of his generation, and one of the first teen heartthrobs, winning acclaim in Stand By Me (1986) and My Own Private Idaho (1991).
With his long blonde locks and acting chops, Phoenix seemed a perfect choice, and it was exactly the point in his career when he wanted to diversify the parts he was playing.
Sadly, Phoenix passed away from drug intoxication in October 1993, when the film was just about to begin principal photography.
Christian Slater was later cast in the role, subsequently donating his salary for the film to charity.
The movie features a dedication to River Phoenix’s memory after the end credits.
13. Brad Pitt was ‘miserable’ the whole time he was making the movie
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Brad Pitt admitted he was “miserable” during the Interview with the Vampire shoot, and even tried to buy himself out of his contract at one point.
It’s not uncommon for actors to balk at creative differences and multiple takes, but Pitt’s objections were far more basic: it was “six months in the f***ing dark,” he says in the 2011 interview.
While he enjoyed shooting in New Orleans, “London was f***ing dark. London was dead of winter. We’re shooting in Pinewood… There’s no windows in there. It hasn’t been refabbed in decades.”
The actor explained, “You leave for work in the dark – you go into this cauldron, this mausoleum – and then you come out and it’s dark. I’m telling you, one day it broke me.”
Pitt was so utterly in despair about the film that he asked Geffen if he could buy his way out of his contract. The response? Geffen demanded $40 million. No prizes for guessing what Pitt ended up choosing.
After the success of Interview with the Vampire, there was buzz about a sequel, and the two leads were ready to sign at the dotted line. Asked why he was keen, when he hadn’t enjoyed working on the film, Pitt had a pithy reply: “Louis is only in the next book for about five minutes.”
12. Oprah Winfrey thought the film was evil
- Credit: Flickr
Roger Ebert she may not be, but it’s hard to deny that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential people on the planet – worth billions, with a blockbuster talkshow that ran from 1986-2011, and the kind of motherly good nature that can be very persuasive. So, all things considered, you’d prefer to have Oprah Winfrey like your film.
Unfortunately for Interview with the Vampire, Winfrey drew the worst possible conclusion: that the film was evil. Attending a screening in Los Angeles, Winfrey walked out after only ten minutes, lamenting the goriness of the movie.
According to the Anne Rice Reader, she was particularly distressed about the scene in which the vampires drink blood from a rat. Along with others who had walked out, Winfrey formed a prayer circle for the souls of those still inside.
“I believe there are forces of light and darkness in the world,” Winfrey was later quoted as saying, “and I don’t want to be a contributor to the force of darkness.”
Winfrey considered cancelling the subsequent interview she’d had booked with Tom Cruise, but decided against it.
The audience on her show reacted hugely negatively to the film, leading Cruise to throw his hands up and dismissively say “It’s a vampire movie!”
11. There was a semi-sequel in 2002
The initial plans for an Interview with the Vampire sequel fell through, but a sequel of a sort was made eight years later.
2002 saw the release of Queen of the Damned, loosely based on Anne Rice’s book of the same name, the third in the Vampire Chronicles.
Directed by Michael Rymer, best known for his work on the revitalised Battlestar Galactica TV series, the film also incorporated plot elements of the second Vampire Chronicles novel, The Vampire Lestat.
In the film, Lestat is played by Stuart Townsend, who would go on to play a vampire-adjacent character, Dorian Gray, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the following year.
The film stars 90s pop singer Aaliyah as Akasha, the vampire queen of the title, in her final film role before she was tragically killed in a plane accident.
Sadly, even her talents weren’t enough to save Queen of the Damned from being savaged by critics.
10. Kirsten Dunst thought kissing Brad Pitt was gross
Amidst all the furore about Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, you might have forgotten that Interview with the Vampire also stars a young Kirsten Dunst in her film breakthrough.
She earned a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award nomination for Kirsten Dunst, the future Spider-Man star who was barely in double figures when she was cast as Claudia.
Reflecting on the intensity of her first film, Dunst has admitted she felt uncomfortable having to kiss Brad Pitt. The conceit of the film is that Claudia is maturing into a woman, though she’s trapped in a child’s body. For a ten-year-old girl, however, that distinction doesn’t really wash.
“He had this long hair,” Dunst said of Pitt in 2013. “He was just a hippie- ish cool dude.”
“Everyone at the time was like, ‘You’re so lucky you kissed Brad Pitt,’ but I thought it was disgusting. I didn’t kiss anyone else until I was 16, I think. I was a late bloomer.”
Dunst would go on to further explore the travails of adolescence in The Virgin Suicides (1999), Sofia Coppola’s feature debut.
9. Dunst auditioned twice in a row
Dunst would lose her first Golden Globe nomination to Dianne Wiest, for Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, but still garnered acclaim for her performance. Roger Ebert marvelled that Dunst “is somehow able to convey the notion of great age inside apparent youth.”
But while you might reasonably consider Dunst a wunderkind, she didn’t exactly blow the competition away at her audition. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“I was with my coach,” she recalls in an interview with fellow actor Rami Malek. “He was outside of the room. He listened on the door to hear, like, what I was doing. And he knows I didn’t nail it.”
“And I walked out,” she continues, “and he was like, ‘No, you go back in there.’ He’s like, ‘Apologize to the casting director.’ He’s like, ‘She didn’t do what she can do.’”
Luckily Dunst went back in and got the part, otherwise the film would have turned out very differently. Another contender for the role born in the same year was Anne Hathaway.
Christina Ricci, who had not long since found fame as Wednesday in the Addams Family movies, was also up for the part of Claudia.
8. Nearly everyone misremembers the title
This poster for the 2012 movie Byzantium contains the claim that it is ‘from the filmmakers of Interview with a Vampire.’
This might seem absolutely fine, until you remember that the movie is actually called Interview with the Vampire!
You’d really think that ‘Interview’ or ‘Vampire’ are the operative words in the title – and, since there are clearly multiple vampires in the film, ‘Interview with a Vampire’ seems to flow much more nicely.
But this isn’t just about the vagaries of the English language. It’s also about the vagaries of the French and German languages.
In France, the film is titled ‘Entretien avec un Vampire’, and in German ‘Interview mit einem Vampire’.
In fact, there are nearly 1.5 million Google search results for Interview with a Vampire specifically, compared to nearly 5 million for Interview with the Vampire, proving there’s a real contingent of indefinite article enthusiasts!
7. It’s the highest grossing R-rated vampire film of all time
You might recall that we mentioned a glut of vampire films that debuted in the 70s, and the trend continued into the 80s with Once Bitten (1983), The Lost Boys (1987) and Nicolas Cage’s Vampire’s Kiss (1988).
But all of these pretenders to the throne were brushed aside by Interview with the Vampire’s stonking box office performance.
The film raked in a massive $223.7 million, crowning it the highest grossing vampire film of all time. That record would stand for a full decade.
Interview with the Vampire would ultimately be dethroned by the PG-13-rated Van Helsing, which took just over $300 million in 2004.
Van Helsing would itself be staked by the vampire craze that kicked off in 2008: Twilight. All five films made in that series are the highest earning vampire movies of all time as of 2021.
Today, Interview with the Vampire and Van Helsing are the only two films in the top ten highest grossing vampire movies ever which aren’t part of either the Twilight or Hotel Transylvania series!
6. The film inspired a real crime
What would you do if you went to see Interview with the Vampire with your significant other, and then the next day they turned around and said “I’m going to kill you and drink your blood”?
Naturally, you’d assume they were kidding – but unfortunately for Lisa Stellwagen, her long-time boyfriend was being serious.
According to a contemporary article in the LA Times, “Stellwagen, 23, woke early the next morning to find Sterling in bed staring at her.”
That evening, Daniel Sterling stabbed her seven times in the chest and reportedly drank her blood for several minutes.
Thankfully, Stellwagen survived, but only after convincing her (presumably immediately ex-) boyfriend to get help, saying that if she died he’d go to prison.
Sterling, according to the article, “in jail on an attempted murder charge, said he believes in vampires but would not want to be one.”
5. The actors had to hang upside down during makeup application
Avoiding the sunshine and dressing in old period clothing wasn’t the only measure the actors took to look the part on Interview With the Vampire.
In true vampiric fashion, the actors were required to hang upside down for up to thirty minutes during makeup application.
This was to force blood to rush to their heads and cause the blood vessels in their faces to bulge.
This allowed the makeup artists to trace over the veins, creating the translucent, pale glow typical of a vampire.
Sounds like a pretty horrendous technique, doesn’t it? And to make matters worse, it wasn’t just a one-off that the actors had to ensure.
They would have to repeat this process several times due to the fact that the blood would quickly drain from their heads.
4. The tagline is never actually used in the film
The line ‘drink from me and live forever’ is perhaps the first phrase that pops into our head when we think of Interview with the Vampire.
This is because the memorable phrase was used as the tag line on the film’s poster.
However, despite common misconception, the line is never actually said by any of the characters in the film.
The words ‘Drink from me and live forever’ would later be used in the chorus of Transylvania by Malice Mizer.
This 1996 song by the Japanese Goth rock band is otherwise entirely in Japanese, except for that one line in the chorus.
Popular in their home country, Malice Mizer favoured lavish historical costumes whilst performing, before disbanding in 2001.
3. Santiago’s dance was inspired by Fred Astaire
We just couldn’t get enough of Santiago’s moves, and as original as they might seem, this isn’t actually the case.
The dance actually takes inspiration from iconic actor and dancer Fred Astaire.
It was one dance in particular that caught the director’s attention: when Astaire danced to You’re All The World To Me in the 1951 film Royal Wedding.
In the scene, Astaire defies the laws of gravity, dancing on the walls and ceiling.
In order to achieve the grace and elegance of Astaire, the film crew made use of a rotating set.
Santiago is portrayed by Stephen Rea, a regular collaborator of director Neil Jordan on such films as The Company of Wolves and The Crying Game.
2. Louis’ mansion is reportedly haunted
The home of Brad Pitt’s central vampire Louis is set on a plantation which actually exists in real life.
The location is really the Oak Alley Plantation based in Vacherie, Louisiana, where it has stood since 1837.
- Credit: Michael McCarthy via Flickr
Oak Alley has been featured on various other films, too, including The Long Hot Summer, North and South, and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.
Although the film’s cast and crew didn’t report any eerie happenings, visitors to the plantation have some disturbing tales to tell.
Reportedly, a group tour once witnessed a candlestick inexplicably flying across the room, whilst staff have reported hearing wailing from within the walls.
Other visitors claim they have felt a strange presence in the area, with some seeing a spectral figure of a thin woman with long hair.
1. It took 18 years to adapt the novel
Anne Rice, the author of Interview With The Vampire, initially sold the rights to the movie back in 1976.
However, it would be years before the film actually came to fruition, much to her frustration.
- Credit: David Shankbone
The script remained in development for several years, with studios failing to secure a writer.
The rights were then sold to Lorimar and later to Warner Bros., who eventually approached Neil Jordan (above) with a view to directing.
Jordan (red-hot in Hollywood after the success of 1992 thriller The Crying Game) agreed to work on the project, and the film was finally released 18 years after the rights to it were first bought.