On October 2nd, AMC will release an eight-episode adaptation of Interview with the Vampire based on Anne Rice’s celebrated gothic novel of the same name. For vampire fans, this is genuinely thrilling news: Interview with the Vampire is the first in a series collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles. The universe is vast and extraordinarily detailed, packed with blood-soaked stories of dozens of undead characters and boasting a worldwide army of fiercely passionate fans.
AMC holds the rights to the whole shebang and should the first season prove a hit, there is a staggering wealth of material to draw on.
We’ve already seen two film adaptions of Rice’s vampire novels. In 1994 Interview with the Vampire was brought to the big screen with director Neil Jordan evoking the lush, claustrophobic atmosphere of Rice’s eighteenth-century New Orleans, although casting was deemed controversial. Anne Rice, who wrote the initial screenplay, called the appointment of Tom Cruise to the production “bizarre,” an assessment first shared by fans. Brad Pitt took the titular role. The film omitted key scenes from the book, changed the ending and removed the erotic subtext of the novel, but nonetheless remains a firm fan favourite. A rushed 2002 production of Queen of the Damned, a mash-up of successive novels, was less successful. It was notable only for a strident soundtrack from Korn’s Jonathan Davis and the tragic death of its star, R&B singer Aaliyah a mere six months after the principal photography wrapped. Since then, hot rumors of new adaptations have teased hungry fans for decades.
So, what are The Vampire Chronicles and why should we be excited?
Back in the 1970s, vampires were heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula. The horror was rooted in the fact that the vampires lacked humanity. From the creeping contagion of 1922’s Nosferatu to an outright feral Christopher Lee in Hammer’s 1958 movie Horror of Dracula, vampires were the epitome of a predatory evil that lurks in the dark.
In 1976, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire. In the tormented voice of the conflicted interviewee, Louis de Pointe du Lac, the old tale is told from the monster’s point of view. While the novel retained key elements of the traditional vampire, it depicts a complex and secretive world where the vampires are as richly realized as any mortal. Rice went on to pen a raft of further novels which mostly follow Louis’ laughing nemesis, Lestat de Lioncourt, the flamboyant villain of her first tale. Set in a variety of characterful cities such as New Orleans, the books cover thousands of years of darkly alternative history and feuds, mostly in the form of flashbacks from the present day.
At the heart of the books are beings with magnified passions and an infinite capacity for conflict, manipulation and high drama — all of which makes for great TV. Ricean vampires don’t settle for blood. They can gobble up whole lives, supping delicately on their victim’s dirty little secrets, or massacre hundreds at a time with a single nihilistic thought. Some revel in destruction or build secret vampire societies that worship art and evil.
The first novel introduces this vibrant universe through the existential struggles of naive but entitled businessman Louis, who has never come to terms with his choices, his transformation and his very identity as man and vampire. He is star-struck by the seductive maniac, Lestat de Lioncourt, the vampire who comes crashing into Louis’ mortal life just as it really starts to unravel. That will be the starting point for the first season of AMC’s new series, which will reimagine a swathe of Louis’ mortal life before giving him fangs and an entire set of new problems.
Rebel immortal Lestat carries a lot of immortal baggage, and it’s here where a rich seam of material is waiting to be explored. Lestat’s brash and seductive narration spans several more novels, starting with the magnificently epic romp that is his biography. Wherever there are rules to break, Lestat delights in flouting them. He meets satanic vampires, immortal artists, human tricksters, an order of esoteric scholars, and even a being who claims to be the devil himself. Other characters are just as iconic and many get their own twisted biography.
Anne Rice herself died during the filming of the new series, so we will never know what she will think of the newest incarnation of her characters. She penned 13 novels in the series — 15 if you include the so-called New Tales of the Vampires — which have together sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Time will tell which of these hedonistic tales might make it onto TV, but if justice is done, we’re in for a bloody treat.