Reason: A sensual, contemporary reinvention of Anne Rice’s revolutionary Gothic novel, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire follows Louis de Pointe du Lac, Lestat de Lioncourt and Claudia’s epic tale of love, blood and the perils of immortality, as told to journalist Daniel Molloy. Chafing at the limitations of life as a black man in 1900s New Orleans, Louis finds it impossible to resist the shrewd Lestat de Lioncourt’s offer of the ultimate escape: to join him as his vampire companion. But Louis’ intoxicating new powers come with a hefty price, and the introduction of Lestat’s newest infant, the child vampire Claudia, soon sets them on a decades-long path of revenge and atonement.
Review: Anne Rice’s vampire mythology has long had a dedicated fanbase that chronicles centuries of Lestat, Louis, and the undead. When the 1994 film version of Interview with the vampire debuted, Neil Jordan’s lush adaptation featured Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Cruise in roles unlike any they’d taken on before or since. Despite a standalone sequel (Queen of the Damned), Rice’s Vampire Chronicles has been dormant for a long time. Now, AMC’s long-awaited series based on the first novel in the series debuts with a macabre and sexually charged reinvention of Louis and Lestat that is far more faithful to Rice’s books than the 1994 film, while adding new layers to the story of a vampire who reflects on a century of change. It’s a modernized retelling that recreates much of what was removed from the previous version and sets the stage for a wider universe of Rice adaptations to come.
Following the same core structure as the novel and feature film, the new one Interview with the vampire is set in modern times and follows Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) as he interviews vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) about his life as a bloodsucker. The pandemic moves the story to the 21st century and is part of the overall narrative, while the updated flashbacks switch the origin from 1791 to 1910. Louis is now also a Creole, which adds the extra element of racism and bigotry along with the gay subtext of the vampires themselves. Lestat, played by Sam Reid, is still a petulant and foppish aristocrat, a holdover from the 19th century. It becomes immediately apparent from the start that this version of Louis is not the same forsaken squire that Brad Pitt played in his pre-vampire scenes. Anderson portrays his character as a pimp and hustler who works to support his family. When Louis meets Lestat, their relationship begins very differently than in the film.
The first two episodes, directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones), spends a lot of time introducing Louis and his family members, giving us a more layered look at the character than the sullen and grief-stricken version played by Brad Pitt. Jacob Anderson lends different styles to his present-day and flashback performances, which highlight the evolution of his character from man to monster. By aging Daniel Molloy, Eric Bogosian is able to give a more mature performance as he questions Louis, who fawns over his love/hate relationship with Lestat. The series continues over the next three episodes as the decades pass and we meet Claudia, played by Bailey Bass, who is an old version of the child vampire made famous by Kirsten Dunst. The familiar relationship between Lestat, Louis and Claudia is as demented here as ever, but somehow even more believable thanks to the greater investment in developing the relationships in this series.
While Tom Cruise was initially panned when he was cast as Lestat, even Anne Rice came to praise his energetic performance. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Cruise now, but Sam Reid plays Lestat as differently as Mads Mikkelsen played Hannibal Lecter compared to Anthony Hopkins. Reid has a deep sadness behind his performance that echoes the centuries in which Lestat has lived his undead existence. His love for Louis is palpable with the two men exuding a chemistry that was lacking between Cruise and Pitt. Reid often switches from charming and seductive to terrifying, and here the extreme violence, both verbal and physical, is not spared. The blood flows freely on screen, as do some truly graphic kills. The series doesn’t skimp on the nudity either, something I didn’t expect from an AMC series. This is a damn sexy series and brings back the erotic side of vampire stories.
If you are a fan of the novels, you will be very pleased with the world building that this series does to establish not only the world of the vampires, but also Anne Rice’s other supernatural creations. Although only the first five episodes were made available for this review, there is a lush fullness to this world that looks and feels bigger than anything else in the film. Anyone who is troubled by the queer undertones of this story is clearly not familiar with the source material that this series is indebted to and somehow manages to improve upon. Everyone in this show is better than in the film versions of Rice’s novels, and topping Cruise, Pitt, Banderas and Dunst is no easy feat. Director Taylor, Keith Powell, Levan Akin, and Alexis Ostrander all make the New Orleans of the past and the Dubai of the present look eerie and ethereal, while never making this series feel anything but alluring and hauntingly beautiful.
Playwright Rolin Jones serves as showrunner on Interview with the vampire which stands for the quality of scripts. Anne Rice herself, along with her son Christopher, served as executive producers on this series, but had no direct script involvement. While Rice died in late 2021 and didn’t get to see the finished results, I’m sure she would have been ecstatic to see such a faithful portrayal of her novel come to the screen. Even with the significant changes in time periods and characters, Interview with the vampire works far better as a series than it did as a movie. The casting is excellent and every scene drips with atmosphere. I had felt that vampires were played out, but Interview with the vampire proving that these stories are as immortal as the monsters themselves.
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire premiered on October 2 on AMC.