One of the most elaborately staged sequences in the picture is the burning of New Orleans, much of which was shot from a boat in the middle of the Mississippi River. The effects crew placed enormous propane burners and fired them off in sequence behind the sets. The orange haze on the night sky was enhanced with computer imagery so that it appears as though the entire city of New Orleans is ablaze.
Computer-aided effects were utilized throughout "Interview With The Vampire" to help the filmmakers re-create what doesn't currently exist. "With computer technology, the special effects are seamless," Jordan explains. "It's really the biggest advancement in film since color. We used it to build landscapes, vistas and towns that existed in other time periods that you couldn't possibly photograph today."
From the rural plantations, the production moved into New Orleans' famed French Quarter, where Royal Street was transformed from a tourist thoroughfare to a dirt road, and the usually tumultuous Jackson Square was converted to a barren expanse, deserted except for a few horses, a carriage and a young vampire waiting for her first kill of the night. The company also filmed in the infamous Pere Antoine Alley, reputed by local police to be the site of more violence than any other street in New Orleans.
Ferretti scouted New Orleans for atmosphere and found no locations that would fit perfectly into the 1791 portion of the film without appointments recalling the period. "What you find there now," says Ferretti, "is about 100 years old, and not nearly old enough for us. But this is a night movie, almost a nightmare, and you can invent something with a different kind of vision. So I invented my own kind of reality."
That reality, New Orleans about to be turned back from the Spanish to the French prior to the territory's sale to the United States, was strongly influenced by the Caribbean culture of the West Indies and the African slave trade.
Present-day New Orleans, with its streets full of tourists reveling throughout the night, proved to be a challenging choice of locations for the filmmakers. Since they wanted to keep the special make-up effects secretive, scrupulous attention was paid to shielding the production from naturally curious passers-by, particularly in the French Quarter, where streets are populated around the clock.
Unique on-set demands were commonplace with the production. Appropriately, being a movie about vampires, almost all of the exterior shooting took place at night, with crews reporting at 4:00 in the afternoon and working until after sunrise the following day.
From New Orleans, the production went to San Francisco, where a location on Market Street, a section of unused freeway and the Golden Gate Bridge served as locations. Shooting then moved to Pinewood Studios near London, where interiors were shot on several large stages, including a re-creation of the elaborate Theatre des Vampires.
The film's final locations were shot in Paris and included the Rue St. Jacques, Rue Hirondelle, the banks of the Seine under the Pont Neuf, the Palais Royal, Pere Lachaise Cemetery and Charles Garnier's magnificent Paris Opera, which began construction in 1861 and opened for the first time in 1875. The Opera's gallery served as the cafe where Louis and Claudia waltz, while the rotunda underneath the auditorium doubled as their Paris hotel lobby.
Ferretti conceived of Paris at the end of the 19th century as "an enormous tomb," with its sets of catacombs, graveyards and the Theatre des Vampires. "The atmosphere is gloomy, creepy and heavy, yet opulent," says Ferretti, who abandoned his strong Caribbean colors of post-Revolutionary Louisiana for the shiny black, gold and silver of Napoleon III's Second Empire.
One of the most demanding scenes shot in Europe occurs as Louis attempts to destroy all of the vampires in the Paris crypts. The choreography of the scene required three "stunt vampires" to be set on fire and fly across the massive chamber while suspended on wires above a crypt floor full of other burning vampires scurrying madly about. Stunt coordinator GREG POWELL ensured that the cinematic vision of flaming, flying vampires combined live action and fire effects into a cohesive and safe whole.