From the Vault: Anne Rice Reminds Authors How to Keep it Real With Hollywood
The novelist James Ellroy, a man who knows from both successful and unsuccessful screen adaptations of his work, is fond of saying that money is the gift no one ever returns. But in Hollywood, anyway, that doesn't mean you can't complain about it being the wrong size, the wrong color, redundant or any litany of other common gripes by authors who stand by as their darlings are shredded at the movies. And few ever did it better than Anne Rice right here at Movieline.
Stephenie Meyer owes more than just the trajectory of her genre to Rice; she owes her leverage as a novelist with at least some veto power over The Twilight Saga to her predecessor's awesome, candid rages during the development of 1994's Interview With the Vampire. Rice's complaints over everything from casting to script to you-name-it (she did initially like Neil Jordan's selection as director, however) were well known at the time, but they're especially fun to remember 16 years later -- particularly her bitterness over the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat and the suitable alternatives she had in mind:
I think John Malkovich could have done it. Peter Weller I thought could make an interesting Lestat. Alexander Godunov, who was in Witness. They needed an overpowering person like that, very blond, very tall, very athletic, very full. I think Brad Pitt would be a fabulous Lestat. I tried for a long time to tell them that they should just reverse these roles--have Brad Pitt [who is cast as Louis] play Lestat and have Tom Cruise play Louis. Of course, they don't listen to me.
Rice went on to insist that Arnold Schwarzenegger play the title role in any adaptation of her novel The Mummy ("You've got to watch his films. The guy has this great sensitivity. The voice is beautiful. The mystery of that voice, and the compassion in his face, and the gentleness at the core... that's what does it."), profess her adoration for Tom Berenger (!) and explain why Cruise's voice undercut his authority as Lestat.
Finally, asked, "Are you a loose cannon? Are they trying to tell you to shut up already?", Rice kept it real, son:
No, I got one call in the very beginning. Actually, my readers had been screaming for several weeks before I started. Some people were blaming me. "How could you let this happen?" So finally, when I was contacted by the L.A. Times, I said what was on my mind. After about three weeks of trying to live with it, I was sitting at my desk and I realized I was just so angry at Neil Jordan that he'd let this happen, that I couldn't contain it any longer. I finally erupted in a conversation, but it had already blown like Vesuvius. It's not my doing. [Producer] David Geffen doesn't know who Louis is or who Lestat is. Perhaps David's never even read Interview With the Vampire. I didn't ever get the impression that he had. Maybe at some point somebody read it to him, or he's heard the tape. They want you to believe in Hollywood that you need them, that they can change your life, and I think they're afraid of writers in some ways because they think they can't control us. There's a point where we can walk away. We don't need them, you know. If they say to me, you'll never eat lunch in this town again, my answer would be, do you promise? I don't want to ever eat lunch in this town!
So to recap: Money is the gift no one ever returns, but lunch is negotiable. Or at least it used to be. Good times. Thanks, Anne.