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5 Tips for THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES Reboot

Last week we learned that Anne Rice’s seminal series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, is getting the reboot treatment. The entire package of the existing twelve books, as well as all future books in the series (including this year’s upcoming Prince Lestat novel) are in the hands of Universal, who plan to reboot the series for a whole new generation of fans.

Of course, two books of the series have already been made into films, each on the opposite ends of the spectrum of success. Interview with the Vampire, the first book in the series and arguably the most well known, was made into a Warner Bros. film in 1994 and was a big hit. It made $105 million back in the day, which translates to about $209 million in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation. Not bad for an R-rated movie with fairly controversial subtext.

Then, in 2002,  in an effort to keep the rights to the series before they reverted back to author Anne Rice, Warner Bros. quickly squeezed out a low budget sequel, without involvement from any party associated with the previous movie. The film combined elements of the two follow up novels The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned, although they were combined into an almost unrecognizable form. Character’s names remained the same, and some plot points remained, but ultimately, the Stuart Townsend starring movie version of The Queen of the Damned was to Lestat fans what Batman & Robin was to Batman fans: a big campy joke.

Now that Universal has the rights to The Vampire Chronicles, they are surely asking themselves how they can turn these books into the next Twilight (in terms of success, if not content) and not the next Vampire Academy. Here are five things Universal should definitely consider when bringing the Vampire Lestat and his cohorts back to un-life once again.

1. Don’t Chase The Twilight Audience

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The Twilight franchise made billions for Summit Entertainment, and like it or not, it is the most successful vampire movie series of all time. Of course, Universal would love to have their own giant vampire franchise, but Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are nothing like Twilight. Where Twilight’s audience was made up of teen and tween girls and soccer moms, pretty much to the exclusion of everyone else, the audience for The Vampire Chronicles is mostly very different. It has fans of all races, ages, sexual orientations and gender. The appeal is far broader than Twilight’s, if not larger in actual numbers.

Right now, Hollywood is obsessed with what they call the “four quadrant” blockbuster: big, expensive tentpole movies you can take kids, teens, adults and seniors alike to, in order to recoup the massive amount of money spent on them. Well, the Vampire Chronicles is an adults only affair, and not something that should be de-fanged, pardon the pun, to be made into something that has to appeal to everyone. There are no PG-13 versions of these stories. They are books steeped in history and deal with very grown up themes of spirituality and the nature of good and evil, and are replete with metaphors for everything from sexual identity to addiction.

Unlike Twilight (or True Blood, or the Vampire Diaries) it’s not about a mortal girl in the middle of a love triangle of supernatural creatures. Universal needs to understand this, and not water the stories down to something they’re not. The last time that happened, it was the movie version of The Queen of the Damned, and no one wants that again. In fact, maybe in this day and age, the silver screen isn’t the place for this series at all, which brings me to suggestion #2…

2. Consider Cable Television

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I’m not sure what the specifics of Anne Rice’s new deal with Universal is in regards to the Vampire Chronicles adaptation. Is it for big screen movies only? Or does it cover movies and television? If I were Universal, I’d seriously consider making The Vampire Chronicles a series for cable, either premium or basic.

It’s on television where a book series like this one can really flourish. Frankly, the more adult, sophisticated genre fare is on cable television these days, especially the properties that need a substantial amount of money to get right. Could a rebooted Vampire Chronicles work as a film? Absolutely! But it’s a tougher hill to climb than telling these stories on television, where each book could be serve as a season’s worth of episodes. If television isn’t part of the equation for whatever reason, and it does have to be a movie, then I suggest looking to what Elton John did. Yes, I said Elton John…which leads me to suggestion #3.

3. Use the Broadway Musical Structure

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A lot of people might not know this, but less than a decade ago, there was a Broadway musical based on Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, simply called Lestat, from the legendary musical duo of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, no less. The reason you probably don’t know about it is because the musical was widely panned by critics and closed after just 33 previews and 39 performances. No soundtrack album was ever even recorded for it, and the show faded into obscurity, as most short-lived musicals do. In truth, the music wasn’t very memorable for Lestat, aside from one show stopping number sung by the character of child vampire Claudia titled “I Want More” (which one can luckily find on the YouTube.)

However, the basic storytelling structure of the show worked surprisingly well. Act One was based on the second novel of the series The Vampire Lestat, which is actually a prequel to the first book published in the series, Interview with the Vampire. That book’s events make up the bulk of Act Two, except its told from the POV of Lestat and not Louis. The play was able to keep the broad strokes of both books and leave very few of the more important story beats out — all in two and half hours, which in and of itself was an amazing feat.

For the first movie that rolls out, I’d say Universal should borrow heavily from this storytelling structure. It allows The Vampire Lestat (which was skipped over for movie adaptation last time) to be made into a film properly, and also allows for a “kinda/sorta” reboot of Interview with the Vampire without actually remaking it completely. It would be a smart route to take for the first movie in this new potential series.

4. Skip “Rock Star” Lestat

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In the novel The Vampire Lestat, which was published in 1985, Lestat emerges after a decades long slumber into the 1980’s, and decides to “come out of the coffin” (to use a True Blood term) and reveal the secrets and history of the vampire race to the mortal world in the most ’80s way possible. By using his incalculable wealth to become a gigantic rock star, Lestat uses MTV to spread his music videos far and wide across the globe, enraging the vampire hierarchy.

This was kind of a genius move by Anne Rice: the ’80s were an era of the mega music star after all. Larger than life personas like Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince sold millions of albums and had their faces and songs plastered 24/7 on MTV. You could conceivably “take over the world” back then by being a pop music idol. However, today is a different story. Heck, even by 2002, when the atrocious Queen of the Damned was made, the idea that you could use MTV, already more well known as the home of The Real World and The Osbournes than any music videos, to spread your musical gospel across the planet, was already dated notion.

Plus, of all the art forms, music is the most subjective. Readers of the novels could imagine Lestat’s music sounding like anything they wanted it to; hair metal people probably thought they sounded like Mötley Crüe, while New Wave fans might have thought Lestat sounded like Bowie. Anne Rice has said that in her mind, Lestat sounded like Jim Morrison of the Doors. (For the record, as a pseudo goth kid, in my mind Lestat sounded like Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.) I’m pretty sure no one ever wanted them to sound like Korn, but that’s what we ended up with.

If the “modern” portions of the movie take place in the ’80s, then go ahead and use the rock star angle. (I mean, who doesn’t love ’80s music?) But if the movie is set in the present, I say come up with another way of having Lestat come out and become famous. Just please, not via a Youtube channel.

 5. Keep Anne Rice As Part of the Creative Process

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It used to be that once a creator sold their work to Hollywood, they had to let go of all involvement with that property and just let Hollywood do their thing. However, ever since the turn of this century, studios have been wise to consult with the original creators of these properties in a big way, especially properties that have huge and very vocal fan bases. JK Rowling was heavily involved with the film versions of the Harry Potter franchise to make sure it stuck close to the novels, Marvel Studios took control of their properties for the big screen to maintain the integrity of the original comic book concepts, and yes... Twilight, love it or hate it, had the involvement of the original author to make sure the movies resembled the novels.

Fans expect a certain level of fidelity to the source material these days, and the only way to have that is to make sure that the creator of the property is, at the very least, kept on board as a creative consultant. Anne Rice wrote the script for the 1994 version of Interview with the Vampire, and although changes were made from the original novel, the book made the transition to screen in a recognizable form. Rice had nothing to do with the follow-up movie, Queen of the Damned, and the final product speaks for itself. We know that Anne’s son Christopher Rice’s script for the fourth book in the series The Tale of the Body Thief, is part of the package, so hopefully that’s a good sign of things to come.

What are your suggestions for bringing Lestat, Louis and the rest back to the screen?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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21 comments

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  • I agree that they should make any future VC into a series.  I just hate that it would be only on either HBO or Showtime.  I live in the middle of nowhere and my cable provider doesn’t provide those channels.  The thing I disagree with is, the leaving the ‘rock star’ out.  If done right, it should work.  What went wrong in ‘Queen of the Damned’ is, they catered that movie to the goofy fans of korn and manson.  Every vampire and horror movie back then catered to the numetal goth “style” that was popular back then.  They made Lestat into a boring numetal goth.  I have always envisioned Lestat as a more flamboyant Ian Astbury ala ‘Here comes the Rain’ but that’s just my opinion.

  • I saw the musical. There were more than one show stopping songs in it. There’s a reason the woman playing his mother got nominated for a tony. The show structure was good and more film-like than theatre so I agree that it would translate well to the big screen. But get your facts straight. They recorded a soundtrack. It was never released. The thing that killed the show was the horrible projections they threw in all over the place. The cast was amazing and the show was good. What killed it was the fact that the production team was trying way to hard.

  • I IMAGINED HIM SOUNDING LIKE KORN! well the vocals more like ivan l moody and david briaman. i loved the idea of him being a rock idol with a strong voice…i also love the idea of him having a rich accent like in queen of the damned. i just really with the movie had not sucked so much….

  • Cable TV for sure (HBO) and no theatrical films; go the way of Game of Thrones and Universal could have a mega-hit. The books are amazing…and could make for great TV (look at True Blood) if done right.

  • I just hope they cast someone more appropriate in the role of Lestat. I HATED Tom Cruise–too short, too old, too masculine. Lestat is tall, thin, pale, seventeen, beautiful and more or less androgynous, none of which described Cruise. I’d get excited about a high-quality series on cable or pay tv.

  • HBO or Showtime series. All of the books, no story excluded. If you put 80’s Lestat in the 80’s era, you could definitely pull it off. Stay true to the books, do not go off the source like many series do. Also, I think Anne Rice doesn’t touch her Vampire Chronicles anymore, which is a shame.

  • Only a few short months ago I thought about how a good movie based off of The Vampire Lestat would look like and of course now that it may be actually happening I’ve forgotten everything I wanted. These books really influenced me as a teenager and I just want them to have justice.

  • When Showtime did Feast Of All Saints, it was amazing – It was in two or three parts (if I remember correctly), well cast, well written, and I have always thought with the scope of her books that t.v. was the best way to really get the most out of them – as long as it was done right. 

  • If they can pull off a cable Vampire Chronicles series in a similar vein (hah!) as GoT, I’d watched the hell out of that. They would have more time to work with, not having to shunt off half the books to meet a 2hr cut, and the ability to remain true to the elements of the novels would breed more flexibility with the screenwriters.
    I heartily agree with the notion of keeping “rock star Lestat” in the time frame he was introduced, and not updating him to modern times. The era of the “rock god” has long since past and would be cloyingly ridiculous in this day and age.
    It would behoove the screenwriters to heed some direction from Anne Rice in the making of either several films or a series via cable network. To bring up GoT again, I can’t say for certain that it would be as successful without the attention of GRRM included with the production team.
    When I heard the Pern books were being slavered over, I was quietly terrified they would become Twilight 2.0. Now I’m adding my beloved Anne Rice series to that list. I can only hope against hope Universal has seen the mistakes, realizes what a gem they truly have, and in no way causes the shine to lose its luster.