Interview With the Vampire is director Neil Jordan’s 1994 gothic horror film based on novelist Anne Rice’s 1976 novel of the same name. The film grossed over $200 million on a budget of $60 million, propelled largely by the star power of its two male leads, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was also revolutionary for its time in that the relationship between the two male vampires had strong gay undertones that were never explicitly stated.
The “vampire” in the title is Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), who relates his sensational story of life as a vampire to reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) in modern San Francisco. He tells of how in the late 1700s, as a wealthy Louisiana plantation owner mourning the loss of his wife and unborn child, he became a vampire after being bitten by the vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) late one night while drunkenly ambling around the New Orleans docks.
Louis attempted to divert his drive to kill by drinking animal blood, but during a pandemic he was forced to feed on a little girl named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) whose mother had died of the plague. To lure Louis into staying with him, Lestat turns Claudia into a vampire, and they agree to raise her together.
Claudia—who is cursed to be stuck in a little girl’s body forever—eventually convinces Louis to flee Lestat. In the late 1980s, Louis finally encounters Lestat again, who is sick and decaying in New Orleans.
Here are 32 odd facts and fascinating trivia items about this landmark film in the vampire horror genre.
1. Anne Rice’s novel Interview With the Vampire—her first—was originally published on May 5, 1976. By the time it was released in a film version, the book had been reprinted 48 times.
2. Rice says she based the character Lestat—full name Lestat de Lioncourt—on her husband, Stan Rice. She also gave Lestat her husband’s birthday of November 7.
3. Rice initially wrote the character Lestat with actor Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher) in mind.
4. Film rights to Anne Rice’s novel were sold even before the book was published, with John Travolta slated to play Lestat.
5. In 1978, when John Boorman was scheduled to direct, he wanted Jon Voight to play Lestat.
6. The film was shelved in 1979 amid an unexpected surfeit of vampire movies that year such as Dracula, Nosferatu the Vampyre, and Love at First Bite.
7. Actors who were considered to play Lestat at various points in development include William Baldwin, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant, John Malkovich, Sting, Christopher Walken, Peter Weller, and Alexander Godunov. Jeremy Irons turned down the role because after filming The House of the Spirits (1993), he says he didn’t want to play another part that required hours every day in the makeup chair. Tom Hanks was offered the role of Lestat but turned it down to play the title role in Forrest Gump (1994), for which he won an Oscar. Daniel-Day Lewis was then scheduled to play Lestat but backed out only weeks before filming began.
8. According to Rice, “I tried for a long time to tell them that they should just reverse these roles—have Brad Pitt play Lestat and have Tom Cruise play Louis. Of course, they don’t listen to me.”
9. Anne Rice was originally so appalled at the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat—variously stating, “I was particularly stunned by the casting of Cruise, who is no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler,” calling it “the worst crime in the name of casting since The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work”—that she withdrew from the production.
10. After filming was completed, Rice finally viewed the cinematic adaptation of her novel when a producer mailed her a VHS tape. She was so pleased with the final product, including Cruise’s performance, that she took out two-page ads in Vanity Fair and The New York Times calling it a “masterpiece.” She personally wrote Tom Cruise a letter of apology and also recorded a short video endorsing the film that was included in VHS releases during the mid-90s.
11. Tom Cruise says he mentally prepared to play Lestat by watching hours upon hours of videos of lions attacking zebras.
12. At Anne Rice’s insistence, Tom Cruise dyed his hair blond to play Lestat.
13. Cruise—whose official height is listed at 5’7” but who is rumored to be much shorter—was placed on an elevated platform during some scenes so that he’d look as tall as the other vampires.
14. Tom Cruise famously complained during filming that Brad Pitt practiced poor hygiene which led to overwhelming body odor.
15. Just like vampire bats, the actors playing vampires were forced to hang upside down for nearly a half-hour before their makeup was applied. This was intended to force all the blood to their heads and allow makeup artists to trace over their bulging veins, giving their skin a distinctive, almost translucent look. Tom Cruise reportedly spent over three hours every day having his makeup applied. Brad Pitt was so miserable with the makeup process that he pleaded with producer David Geffen to be released from the production.
16. Louis is 185 years old in the novel but 200 in the movie; his age was altered to fit in with the film’s setting in the 1990s.
17. In the book, Armand is a 17-year-old Russian with curly red hair; in the movie, he is older, Spanish, and has a long black mane.
18. In the beginning of the film, Louis is depressed because his wife and child died. In the book, he never had a wife or child and is depressed because of his brother’s death.
19. Anne Rice feared that her novel would not be adapted as a film because of the gay undertones in Louis and Lestat’s relationship, so she temporarily rewrote the character of Louis as a woman, hoping that Cher would take the role.
20. Although the vampires in Anne Rice’s novel shed tears made of blood, in the film they cry normal tears.
21. The film credits read “Screenplay by Anne Rice based on her novel,” although director Neil Jordan claims to have almost entirely rewritten the script.
22. Although the character of Claudia is described as five years old in the novel, it was changed in the film to twelve years old to accommodate the casting of actress Kirsten Dunst.
23. Other actresses considered for the role of Claudia include Leelee Sobieski, Cristina Ricci, Julia Stiles, Erin Moore, Dominique Swain, Natalie Portman, and Evan Rachel Wood.
24. Dunst, who was 12 at the time of filming, was forbidden from watching the movie by her parents, who thought it was too “scary.”
25. Years after filming, Kirsten Dunst—who shared an onscreen kiss with Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire—says that everyone told her at the time that she was lucky to have kissed such a legendary Hollywood heartthrob. But she said, “Kissing Brad was so uncomfortable for me. I remember saying in interviews that I thought it was gross, that Brad had cooties. I mean, I was 12.”
26. Every Christmas, Tom Cruise still sends Kirsten Dunst a coconut cake with white chocolate chips, which she refers to “the Cruise cake” and says never lasts a day.
27. Interview With the Vampire was released in Finland as Blood Prisoners.
28. The film was dedicated to River Phoenix, who was scheduled to play the character of Molloy but died before filming. He was replaced by Christian Slater, who donated his salary to two of Phoenix’s favorite charities.
29. At around the 20-minute mark when Lestat tells Louis that eating rats will keep you alive if you’re “in a ship for a month at sea,” this is a sly nod to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, in which the Count survived as a stowaway by eating rats on a London-bound vessel.
30. Oprah Winfrey famously walked out of the film’s premiere during the opening reel, saying the entire affair was too bloody and gory.
31. Interview With the Vampire would become both the first LGBT-themed film and the first vampire film to gross over $100 million at the US box office.
32. A grisly case of life imitating art: On November 17, 1994, shortly after the film was released, a man named Daniel Sterling and his girlfriend Lisa Stellwagen watched the movie together. The following day, Sterling stabbed Lisa seven times in the chest and sucked the blood from her bleeding wounds. She survived, and Sterling was arrested and convicted of attempted first-degree murder.