One of the great challenges of making this sweeping fantasy into cinematic reality was finding actors who could immerse themselves in the secret, nightmarish world of The Undead. To the filmmakers' surprise and pleasure, they found themselves able to choose from the finest and most exciting stars in contemporary movies, many of whom were eager to play a role in "Interview With The Vampire."
For the compelling starring role of Lestat, the filmmakers chose Tom Cruise, one of the world's top box-office stars, whose fame has been built portraying heroic, decent men.
Recalls Jordan, "When we discovered that Tom Cruise was interested in the script, we knew that casting him as Lestat would surprise many, many people. What struck us after meeting with him was how passionate he was about playing someone as evil as this.
"Anne Rice describes these vampires as eternally young, with a preternatural beauty about them and an icy kind of control, particularly Lestat," continues Jordan. "There were obvious routes we could have gone with the part of Lestat, but we preferred to take someone against type, like Tom, who is a superb actor. He is someone who can take and has taken very difficult roles, like the one in 'Born On The Fourth Of July,' and not only make them successful, but unforgettable. We felt this was a braver and more daring way to take the film, and I think it needed that gesture to really make heads turn.
"After I met with Tom, I thought, 'if he's willing to do it and go the distance, we could have an extraordinary performance there,' and I think that's what we got. It was new ground for him. It's exciting to be working with an actor of his stature and experience but doing totally different things," Jordan concludes.
For the other starring role, that of Louis, the production immediately sought -- and signed -- Brad Pitt, whose magnetic screen presence has recently been augmented by a diverse series of well-received performances.
"Brad Pitt had been discussed from day one as someone we all thought would be good as Louis," says Stephen Woolley. "There is a certain vulnerability to the character which is very important, and Brad has that side to his nature."
Jordan views Louis as "an immortal with a mortal's passion, a vampire with a human heart. He's a character who's absolutely full of feeling. Brad just kind of exudes feeling, honestly projecting whatever is going on emotionally." Furthermore, Louis is the character whose journey the film follows -- from a young, happily married landowner and expectant father -- to a being damned and haunted by his very nature. "With Louis, you have a classic moral tale in many ways," Jordan explains. "Louis makes this Faustian bargain: his pact with Lestat puts him beyond pain, beyond sickness, beyond death, but it also puts him beyond humanity. So, while he's gained everything, what he's lost is far more than what he's gained."
Jordan describes the dynamic between Louis and his beguiling mentor, Lestat, as like "light and dark. Lestat is all manipulation and devious charm, whereas Louis is all openhearted emotion and doesn't really know how to deal with the world."
One of the most difficult aspects of translating "Interview With The Vampire" to film centered around creating and casting the character of the child vampire, Claudia, who rounds out what Jordan calls "the ultimate dysfunctional family."
"We started to look at six-year-olds," says Woolley, "which is about Claudia's age in the book. But the role is infinitely too demanding for any six-year-old in the world." It became clear that it would be necessary to cast someone older, someone who could better understand the range of feeling necessary as the character develops emotionally, becoming essentially a woman in a child's body.
Jordan was sensitive to the demands that the role would place on any child actor, and specifically instructed his casting directors to look for children with previous film experience. "I didn't want to have somebody who did not know what make-believe was, who might take the issues of the film, which are full of portent and potentially dangerous, as real," he says.
Says Woolley, "There also has to be a mind capable of grasping the fine points of the involved, difficult monologues and speeches that Claudia has."
The search for Claudia was intensive and long, but oddly enough, Kirsten Dunst was the first actress the filmmakers saw. Jordan recalls, "Kirsten gave a wonderful audition and reading, but we thought it was just too good to be true. So, we spent the next four months searching, and we saw thousands of girls. But, in the end we came back to Kirsten, because she's quite extraordinary."
Woolley adds, "Frankly, no one could touch her. She was definitely the best not only in terms of pure talent as an actress, but also in terms of her take on the part. She seemed to understand it implicitly."