Anne Rice turned the vampire from a horror to a fantasy. It didn't happen all in one book; Wendigo says the change had been accomplished by the end of her third vampire novel, The Queen of the Damned. The first novel, published in 1976, hints at the social theme but remains focused on an individual vampire's guilt-trip of alienation and damnation. You can see some of Rice's own thoughts at the time in the interview clipping to your right. Louis' character arc makes Interview a horror novel in Wendigo's opinion. Rice adapted it for film, but by the time Neil Jordan directed, it 18 years after the novel appeared, the lavish production, more than anything else, turns Interview from the horror the novel was into the fantasy the sequel novels became.
Brad Pitt as the Interviewee, with the back of Christian Slater's head.
Rice inevitably has to telescope events to fit the novel into a two-hour screenplay, but she also foreshadows future stories and imports a resurgent Vampire Lestat from a later novel so that Tom Cruise can take a final bow and Jordan can give viewers a final scare. Strangely, for a film that I presume was meant to be a tentpole or a launch for a Lestat series of films, with or without Cruise, Rice and Jordan eliminate Lestat's role in ratting out Louis and Claudia to the villains of the Theatre des Vampires in Paris, which keeps Cruise off screen for nearly an hour. The entire Paris episode is streamlined (as is the larger European tour of the novel) and the romantic angle between Louis and Theater impresario Armand is downplayed to the point that it's unclear exactly why Claudia feels jealous. Leaving Lestat out of it undercuts the character's villainy. In the original novel, Wendigo tells me, he's a real hateful bastard who you'd want to see destroyed for the ways he torments Louis. In the film, he ceases to be a bad guy by a certain point simply by being absent, reappearing in 1988 as a pathetic character whom Louis has clearly outgrown -- though Wendigo informs me that the characters would enjoy a happy reunion later on.
Rice probably inherits some of her sensibility from Southern Gothic literature, which leads her characters in intimately strange directions with slaves (above) and one another (below).
Rice herself originally protested Cruise's casting, -- when she wrote the book, young Rutger Hauer was her ideal Lestat -- though she recanted quite publicly before the film came out. As Wendigo notes, Cruise is really playing the more rounded, developed Lestat of the Chronicles series as a whole than the villain of the first novel. As such, Wendigo thought he was at least as satisfactory as Pitt, though he notes that both men were really too old, already, for the characters they played. That aside, Wendigo was impressed by the range Cruise showed, especially in the 1988 scene in which Lestat is a frightened, confused wretch. I thought he made a good effort, too, though I felt he slipped into Tom Cruise-ness whenever the character had to become angry and shrill. Because I respect Brad Pitt now as a character actor and a comedian, I find him dull here in the straight role, and I find myself wondering strangely how the film would have worked with the lead roles reversed.
We didn't realize that Lestat's death scene was played by an animatronic robot until we saw the DVD documentary. Is that a tribute to Stan Winston or an insult to Tom Cruise?
Perhaps surprisingly, Wendigo is most disappointed with Antonio Banderas as Armand. The character is supposed to be beautiful like the other vampires, and Banderas may have seemed more natural casting than either Pitt or Cruise. But Wendigo felt that he lost all his advantages once saddled with wig, red robe and heavy makeup. As an actor he did the best he could, but for Wendigo he's too palpably uncomfortable in his costumes to give the kind of performance the character requires.