Behind The Scenes

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE - "Lestat bites Rat" Test

Special Creature Effects man, John Rosengrant, shows how Tom Cruise, as the Vampire Lestat, bites a rat on screen in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.

Jan 15, 2013

THE INSURMOUNTABLE ADAPTATION

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994) is Neil Jordan’s film version of Anne Rice’s hugely popular novel, the first in her Vampire Chronicles series.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE tells the story of an eighteenth-century plantation owner, Louis de Pointe du Lac, who, in contemporary times, grants an interview to a journalist, recounting his transformation at the hands of the vampire Lestat. As popular as the book had been upon its publication in 1976, the complexity of its narrative, which spanned many decades, and its host of vampire characters had proved insurmountable obstacles to its film adaptation for nearly twenty years. The appropriate creative forces required to make the film a reality finally joined together when Jordan brought on Digital Domain to execute visual effects shots and Stan Winston Studio to create vampire makeups and effects.

 

Pictured above: The coveted role of Lestat finally went to Tom Cruise, whom concept artist Miles Teves depicted in all the character’s various forms: blond and handsome; sick and wasting away; burned and scarred in a fire; and, finally, as he appears when he arises from a swampy grave.

DIRECTOR, NEIL JORDAN ON WORKING WITH STAN WINSTON

"When we were working on INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, Stan came over to Ireland and we went through the whole script, acting out the roles again and again. It was like two guys
wrestling in a room. It demonstrates the great thing about Stan: he always comes at it from the dramatic side — the actors and the character. His work is all in support of that. We did some
very subtle things in Vampire, to the point where it was difficult for the audience to tell where the actor’s work ended and Stan’s began. He also built some prosthetics and armatures, which he approached as if they were actors in the film. They had to perform. That’s the genius of Stan.” 

Pictured above: The effect as conceived: John Rosengrant takes a bite out of a rat to drain its blood for a vampire cocktail.

JOHN ROSENGRANT COMES TO STAN WITH AN IDEA

It was John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan, both huge fans of Rice’s book, who initially brought the project to Winston’s attention. “Shane and I were very gung-ho about this show,” Rosengrant said. “Not only were we big fans of the book but we saw this as an opportunity to do a serious horror movie, in the tradition of the Hammer films. It was also a chance for us to do something completely different than Jurassic Park. We didn’t want to get typecast as the studio that only did big animatronics.”

Pictured above: Holding the fake rat in his hand, John Rosengrant, receives some help strapping the control cables and blood delivery tube along his forearm.

NOT JUST 'THE DINOSAUR GUY'

Winston said. “When John and Shane came to me and said they heard that Neil Jordan was going to do Interview With the Vampire, I was interested. I hadn’t read the book yet, but I was a big fan of Neil Jordan as a director. So I put a call in to him, asking that he take a meeting with me regarding the film. And he was shocked to hear from me — shocked — because, to his mind, I was the ‘dinosaur guy’. He would never have thought of this studio for the makeup effects for Interview With the Vampire. I literally had to sell this studio and myself to him. I had to convince him that we did makeups, that I’d started doing makeups. Because I’d done dinosaurs, I had to fight to get that job.”

Pictured above: Tom Cruise, as the Vampire Lestat drains a rat's blood into a glass as a cocktail for his friend, Louis, played in the film by Brad Pitt. No animals were harmed.

IN DESPERATION, A VAMPIRE MAY DRINK ANIMAL BLOOD

In a key scene that echos a simliar scene in the book, Lestat shows Louis a trick for using rat's blood poured into wine in order for the vampire to appear to eat normally. Lestat reaches to the floor and picks up a live rat, bites its neck and drains its blood into a wine glass for Louis. For the shots of the rat on the floor, a live, trained rat was used. But when Tom Cruise, as Lestat picks up the rat, the creature effects designers at Stan Winston Studio created a moving rat puppet that could be controlled via cable so it appeared to be wiggling.

Pictured above: Tom Cruise as the Vampire Lestat with a mouth full of blood. Fake blood comes in many varieties, including non-toxic, edible "mouth blood." 

HIDDEN CABLES AND WIGGLY PUPPETS TRICK THE EYE

As John Rosengrant shows in our exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, the impressive effect is achieved by taking advantage of the eighteenth-century billowy shirt that Cruise wears as Lestat to run the operating cables (similar to bicycle cables) as well as a thin, blood-delivery tube along the actor's inner arm. As Lestat seems to grab the rat and raise it to his mouth, puppeteers use the cables to make the rat appear to struggle and the blood tube to spray a bit of non-toxic fake blood around his mouth. 

- David Sanger with selections from THE WINSTON EFFECT by Jody Duncan