‘The Queen of the Damned’ | 20 Years of the Obscure Continuation of ‘Interview with the Vampire’

In 2022, the name of the cult author Anne Rice returned to the spotlight and her main work again attracted the attention of fans, as well as aroused the interest of new generations who were not very familiar with her. we talk about Interview with the Vampire, of course, part of the series of 13 books that make up the writer’s vampire chronicles and which in 1994 became a Warner super production, directed by Neil Jordan and starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The film became an instant success despite some controversy, particularly regarding the violence and gore; status it maintains to this day, still much loved and praised 28 years after its debut. Interview with the Vampire is the first book in the saga written by Rice, and this year it became a TV series on the AMC channel – the same network responsible for the success The Walking Dead.

Having premiered on October 2nd, the series Interview with the Vampire already aired all 7 episodes of its first season – which came to an end on November 6th. The show’s success has already secured a second season for 2023, which promises to do justice to Anne Rice’s text and who knows how to adapt the following books of the so-called vampire chronicles. However, although many may not be aware of it, Interview with the Vampire was not the only project in this universe to be taken to the big screen. Exactly 20 years ago, Interview with the Vampire would receive an obscure and failed sequel, which would quickly fall into anonymity, but which would mark the death of a promising young star.

Success and failure. ‘Interview with the Vampire’ has an obscure sequel called ‘The Queen of the Damned’.

The Queen of the Damned it is actually the third book in the Anne Rice franchise and not the second. But the idea of ​​Warner, then holder of the rights to adapt the works, was to merge the next two books (thick books, say), The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, in a single production, lasting 1h 41 minutes. And to think that The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were in vogue with everything, productions that adapt their complex books in a precise and uncondensed way, and even belonged to the same studio. Rumor has it that Warner was about to lose the rights, which would expire and revert back to creator Anne Rice – this would allow the author to negotiate future adaptations with any other major Hollywood studio. And so, Warner had to rush to get a movie off the ground.

The rush of producers to make The Queen of the Damned either way and not the right way, it began to carry a whiff of desperation that could be smelled in Hollywood. It didn’t help that tom cruise having refused to reprise the role of the protagonist Lestat – for which he received so much praise in the original film, as he completely deviated from the type of character that the actor was used to playing. Ironically, Anne Rice almost threw a bomb at the studio when she learned that Cruise would play her experienced vampire on the big screen. Rice wanted Rutger Hauer, or someone similar to him. After watching the film, she wrote a letter of apology to Cruise. The fact that the new project would not have any involvement from the producers of the original, director Neil Jordan and even Anne Rice, who adapted the script for Interview with the Vampire for the cinema, undoubtedly contributed to the star’s refusal – which in the same year, he made the right choice to star in Minority Report, a success directed by Steven Spielberg, in the duo’s first collaboration.

The little expressive Stuart Townsend would take on the role of Lestat, replacing none other than Tom Cruise.

Thus, the doors were open for a new Lestat. In the story, we learn a little more about the vampire’s past, such as the circumstances in which he was transformed into a creature of the night, who was responsible for his new condition and even his passion for music, brushed in the original in moments when he plays the piano. Here, by the way, part of what moves the plot is this passion, which makes the vampire embark on a musical career as a singer in a rock band. Really! A vampire rocker could even work, but the result in the film looks like a parody. And yes, rather than anonymity, Lestat quickly escalates to become an extremely famous music star, attracting all kinds of attention to himself. Actors such as the late Heath Ledger and Josh Hartnett were considered for the lead role, and Wes Bentley, from American Beauty (1999), was even hired but later dropped out. The vacancy ended in the hands of Stuart Townsend🇧🇷

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One of Hollywood’s unluckiest actors, Stuart Townsend he was engaged to Charlize Theron for 8 years and they separated in 2009. The duo even made three films together. What happens is that unlike his former companion, who was conquering more and more space in her field of action, starring in countless successes and even winning an Oscar (with the right to some other nominations), Townsend never took off, being stuck with the Hollywood B (or C) team. The actor was never able to truly demonstrate what he came for, and when it seemed that things were finally going to work out for him, when he was cast in some blockbuster or high-concept project, such a production ended up becoming a Homeric bomb. This was the case with A Liga Extraordinária (2003) and with A Rainha dos Condenados. Incidentally, the actor only got a place here because he was fired from another production, which he had been hired and had been filming for four days. One from The Lord of the Rings, in which he had landed the role of Aragorn. After four days, the filmmakers realized that Townsend was too young for the role (or so they claimed) and he would be replaced by Viggo Mortensen. Is he unlucky or not?

The beautiful, talented and missed Aaliyah steals the spotlight as Akasha, even though she only has 26 minutes on screen.

Coming back to The Queen of the Damned, much more than Stuart Townsend and his faded Lestat, the subject around the film is the title character of the work and her interpreter. The vampire Akasha is one of the most important characters in these stories by Anne Rice, because she is basically considered an entity: the original vampire, who created all the others. That is, she is practically a vampire Goddess. For an impactful role like this, some actresses who were taking off at the time and who fit the desired profile were considered, see Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rosario Dawson, Vivica A. Fox, Vanessa Williams and Samantha Mumba – who in the same year would be with the outstanding female role in another ambitious production by Warner, but which also became a flop: The Time Machine.

Ultimately, ending up with the role of Queen Akasha was an up-and-coming young hip-hop star who was on her way to big-screen success after a successful debut in her first role. Aaliyah he was 21 years old when he starred in his first feature film for Warner itself, the action film romeo must die (2000), with Chinese star Jet Li. Before that, however, he had already participated in the soundtracks of the animation Anastasia (1997) and Dr. Dolittle (1998), with Eddie Murphy; plus, of course, a singing career, starring in music videos since 1994. She was known as the little princess of hip hop. The Queen of the Damned it was her second film acting job, and one she was very excited to be a part of. Aaliyah was a big fan of horror literature and especially the subject of vampires in fiction. Other than that, she was fascinated by Egyptian mythology, which has a strong connection with her character’s origins – although in the final result of the film this is just a brushstroke.

Promising young movie star, Aaliyah passed away before the age of 25 and did not see the premiere of ‘The Queen of the Damned’.

As many know, unfortunately the young revelation of music and cinema Aaliyah would die on August 25, 2001 due to a tragic plane crash. Aaliyah can’t even see the end result of The Queen of the Damned🇧🇷 It is said that the actress had managed to film all of her scenes for the film, but was unable to do voice recordings for post-production or record additional scenes. Thus, her brother Rashad Haughton was summoned by the production to dub some of the star’s scenes, because they had similar voices – a voice mixing technology was also used to make Haughton’s voice more feminine. Of all the gaps that The Queen of the Damned left wanting without filling, one element is worthy of admiration: Aaliyah’s performance as Akasha.

The Queen of the Damned was released 6 months after Aaliyah’s tragic death and was dedicated to her memory. Despite having her name above the title, and being the character that gives the film its name (in addition to many considering her the protagonist), Aaliyah only has 26 minutes of screen time, and only appears after almost 1 hour of viewing the feature.

At the box office, ‘The Queen of the Damned’ was not a fiasco and avoided Raspberry, but was disowned by Anne Rice.

For the direction with the thankless task of replacing Neil Jordan was brought the illustrious unknown Michael Rymer, producer of successful series like Battlestar Galactica and Hannibal. Without any depth or development of these complex characters, as had been done in the 1994 film, Rymer creates The Queen of the Damned as a music video of just over 90 minutes. And maybe this was asked of him by the producers. After all, it could, since it was done in a hurry and squeezing two large books into a short film. The production favors its rock n roll soundtrack and the endless narrations of the protagonist. Visuals should be another focal point, but Rymer’s direction fails to deliver a distinct identity, quite the contrary, the result sounds like an amalgamation of any and all audiovisual pieces from the early 2000s – from the bad era of MTV.

Naturally, Anne Rice, who wanted the adaptation of the second book The Vampire Lestatdisowned the final result and spared no criticism. The Queen of the Damned premiered on February 22, 2002 in the USA (dead time for cinema, where films are released that studios have no faith in). Despite this, the feature debuted at number one in the box office ranking on its launch weekend, above An Act of Courage (with Denzel Washington) and Crossroads – Friends Forever (with Britney Spears), in addition to the other debut The Mystery Dragonfly (with Kevin Costner). With a budget of US$35 million, The Queen of the Damned made US$30 million in the US, and US$45 million worldwide – making it far from being a resounding failure.

Perhaps in honor of the memory of dear Aaliyah, the film received a few minor award nominations, tied to the horror and fantasy genres, and completely dodged the infamous Golden Raspberry Award – despite being panned by critics at the time. Currently, it has a derisory 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, despite having a median score of 52 out of 100 among the general public.

The Queen of the Damned fell short of what fans and the author herself expected from a sequel to the modern classic Interview with the Vampire. It’s as if the customer expected that refined dish in a fancy restaurant and had received a fast food around the corner. But the universe created by Anne Rice seems finally redeemed, with the maximum approval of almost 100% of critics for the first season of the AMC series. Let’s wait for the next seasons and maybe we can see the return of Akasha.

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