Anne Rice Discusses Lestat, Twilight and Robert Downey, Jr.

Anne Rice Discusses Lestat, Twilight and Robert Downey, Jr.

Anne Rice Discusses Lestat,  Twilight and Robert Downey, Jr.

The Vulture spin-off from NY Magazine has posted an in depth interview with author Anne Rice about her new novel, Of Love and Evil, as well as The Vampire Chronicles and rumors of Robert Downey, Jr. playing Lestat.

Following are Vampire Chronicles specific excerpts from the interview:

VULTURE: How do you reconcile those themes in The Vampire Chronicles with what you’ve called your “personal search and grieving for God?”

ANNE RICE: Well, they reflected what I felt as an atheist. I was a real uncomfortable atheist. I failed as an atheist. Because I really believed in God. But The Vampire Chronicles reflect that searching. I felt lost in the dark, cursed, cast out of the Catholic Church — not that anybody had asked me to leave — but I felt that I was in a dark world, a meaningless universe, trying to be an atheist, trying to believe everything was random. And I expressed my agony and rebellion through Lestat and Louis and Armand and the other characters. I was never the cold, successful atheist that Gabrielle is, for example. I was always more the raging atheist like Louis or Lestat, saying I still believe in goodness and I want to be good and I know I’m supposed to be cursed, but there’s got to be something, there’s got to be some way to be meaningful and good. And all that reflected my own feelings, my own belief. The art itself was vampirism. The vampire was the art — let me see if I can put this neatly. The Chronicles themselves were about the search, the refusal to accept that it’s a dark meaningless world. And I’m still obsessed with this. I believe in God now, but I’m obsessed with, how do we live a good life? How do we serve God? How do we know what he wants of us, if all around us we see corruption in the churches, disagreement — I’m still obsessed with the very same things. But there came a time when I couldn’t do any more with those questions in The Vampire Chronicles, because you’re dealing in that world with people who drink blood and kill. So there’s only so much you can do [laughs] and I wanted to move out of that. I wanted to open it up and get with characters like Toby, you know, who have a real chance to do something meaningful and good, and can wrestle with the very same problems, but in a world where there are possibilities of transcendence. There never was any transcendence for Louis or Lestat or Armand. There couldn’t be.

VULTURE: Do you have a take on the way in which Twilight serves Stephenie Meyer’s Mormon beliefs?

ANNE RICE: I don’t know enough about Mormon beliefs to see it in that context. What I saw there was woman’s romance. And I don’t mean that in a denigrating way. I saw the same thing that works in the work of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, the idea of a young and vulnerable young woman falling in love with essentially an older, stronger, mysterious person. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is threatening but he’s also protective and loving, and eventually comes around to be totally subdued and tamed by Jane. And that’s really what I saw in Twilight, in the two movies I saw. Young girl falls in love with this boy who’s capable of killing people, he’s a vampire, but he really loves her and protects her. And it was the same old story. Of course, there’s been a lot of writing in the world about why that particular romance functions. Is it about a young girl and her relationship to her father, as people have argued? Is it about the weaker feminine in love with the stronger masculine? It has a lot of deep layers of meaning, and I think Stephenie Meyer hit on that again in the Twilight books. And she did this stroke of genius thing of having these menacing vampires go to high school. [Laughs.] Which, in a way, I thought was incredibly ridiculous. Because what immortal would spend his time going to high school over and over like that? Go to Katmandu or Memphis or Rio De Janiero or Rome! But it was a stroke of genius, because it gave great pleasure to millions of kids. So its’ very interesting. But I think what makes it work is that old tried-and-true woman’s romance formula, which is rooted in psychology.

VULTURE: There’s a sort of martyrdom in the Twilight vampires — the good vampires practice this sort of chastity in abstaining from killing and the pleasures of the world. So they become these near-saints, in spite of their nature.

ANNE RICE: I do think, though, that runs through all vampire literature. Any book about vampires, whether it’s Charlaine Harris’x True Blood series on HBO, or Stephenie Meyer or my books, we always have these characters struggling with their desires, abstaining, becoming chaste, that’s what makes them complicated and interesting. And the vampires in True Blood try to drink that junk out of the bottle instead of killing people. And we always applaud them, because that’s a metaphor for how we struggle with our own destructive impulses. But I see what you mean. I mean, she does it quite flamboyantly in having that good family so devoted to others and so abstaining and so forth. It’s perhaps done very clearly there for younger readers.

VULTURE: Do you think a vampire story can be told without some kind of aspect of religion?

ANNE RICE: No. I think the material is inherently about salvation, about damnation, even if your vampires are total atheists like mine, it’s about how do you be a good person, how do you transcend? I could never get away from it; I think it’s built into the material. Even if you take out the magic of crosses and holy water, as I did, and say that doesn’t work, you’re still left with the vampire being a human monster and wanting to be human. My vampires, you might say, were secular humanists, and they were struggling with how to be good on those terms.

VULTURE: I heard that Universal was looking into rebooting The Vampire Chronicles as a film franchise.

ANNE RICE: I hope there will be, but I don’t have anything firm to report. A lot of interest, a lot of talk. The rights are all mine; they don’t belong to a studio anymore, they belong to me. It’s been a long struggle, but we have a lot of interest and there’s a lot of talks going on, so we’ll see. I’m hoping. I’m hoping that I will have something to announce soon.

VULTURE: You had strong feelings about who should play Lestat in the 1994 film. Do you now?

ANNE RICE: No. I want to see what they come up with. We have so many new actors today that we did not have then. There are so many brilliant actors coming out of Australia and Britain — Richard Armitage and Matthew McFadyen and Simon Woods — they’re just everywhere, really brilliant wonderful guys who articulate beautifully, who are physically beautiful themselves. There’s a time in America when that wasn’t so. There were not that many who could play roles like Louis and Lestat and Armand. Because our great actors were dominated by people like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel. And they were wonderful, but they were so associated with New York street life and vernacular that it was hard to imagine them making a transition to this kind of material. But that’s no longer the case thanks to BBC. All you have to do is turn on BBC to see these guys walking through Little Dorritt and The Way We Live Now and MI5 and all kinds of shows. So there’s so much talent. Like Louis, right now, he could be portrayed easily by Richard Armitage or Matt Bomer, the American actor. Matt Bomer is a beautiful, beautiful guy. He could play Louis. Armand could be played by that young actor, Max Records from Where the Wild Things Are. He’s just about the perfect age — 13 or 14 — he could play Armand. He’d be wonderful as Armand.

Now Lestat, there are a lot of people who could play Lestat. What the readers really, really, really want is they want the personality and beauty of Lestat. That’s what they want. And they get very upset when it’s not, and let’s hope the moviemakers realize how important that is, that the work doesn’t work if you don’t deliver a Lestat. I’d tell you who I think would be wonderful as Marius is Matthew McFadyen. I don’t know if you saw The Pillars of the Earth. Oh he’s wonderful — he’s in MI5 as the head spy. He’s just great. I think his voice and his eyes — that’s Marius. All he needs is a blond wig. And Ioan Gruffud and Benedict Cumberbatch — they were both in Amazing Grace. They’re both terrific. I’d love to see both of them in The Vampire Chronicles. Jamie Bamber, he’s terrific, I was just watching him last night in England’s Law & Order. I’d seen him on Battlestar Galactica, but I’d never seen him unleash that beautiful diction. So I think there are many, many actors.

VULTURE: Do you have any thoughts on the one name that’s been floated?

ANNE RICE: Robert Downey Jr.? That would be wonderful. He is a great actor. He would bring the gravitas and the wit and humor and all of that to the part, and I don’t think he’s too old. I think if he had a blond wig and makeup, he would be a wonderful Lestat. Lestat has to have the gravitas of a 200-year-old man and Robert Downey Jr. can do it. He can do anything. He’s just incredible. That would be wonderful. But I don’t know whether he’s really interested and I don’t know if that will work out. I hope so. I hope the rumors are true.

VULTURE: What do you think Lestat’s band would sound like now?

ANNE RICE: Well, it always sounded to me like Jim Morrison. That was the band I based it on — Jim Morrison’s voice, physical beauty, and the sound of that band in a song like "L.A. Woman." That’s how I imagined Lestat’s band sounding. I don’t know a lot about rock music right at this moment; I haven’t listened to a stadium band in a while. I don’t know the latest stuff. I really don’t know. The main thing in emphasizing Morrison is that I’m emphasizing hard rock. It’s really acid rock. It’s not lightweight rock music and there has to be a good voice at the helm. Morrison had an exceptionally good voice for a rock singer. But modernizing it? Sure, whatever. Bring it on.
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