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Queen of the Damned

Promotional poster
Directed by Michael Rymer
Produced by Jorge Saralegui
Written by Scott Abbott
Michael Petroni
Anne Rice (Novel)
Starring Aaliyah
Stuart Townsend
Marguerite Moreau
Paul McGann
Vincent Perez
Lena Olin
Music by Richard Gibbs
Jonathan Davis
Cinematography Ian Baker
Editing by Dany Cooper
Studio Village Roadshow Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros. (USA)
Village Roadshow Limited (non-USA)
Release date(s) February 22, 2002 (2002-02-22)
Running time 101 minutes
Country Australia
United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Gross revenue $45,479,110
Preceded by Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Queen of the Damned is a 2002 film adaptation of the third novel of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles series, The Queen of the Damned, although the film contains many plot elements from the latter novel's predecessor, The Vampire Lestat. It stars Aaliyah in the title role and Stuart Townsend as the vampire Lestat. Queen of the Damned was released six months after Aaliyah's death and is dedicated to her memory.



The vampire Lestat is awakened from decades of slumber by the sound of a rock band, which he proceeds to take over as lead singer. Achieving international success and planning a massive live concert, Lestat is approached by Marius, and warned that the vampires of the world will not tolerate his flamboyant public profile.

Jesse Reeves, a researcher for a paranormal studies group called the Talamasca, is intrigued by Lestat's lyrics and tells the rest of the group her theory that he really is a vampire. Her mentor takes her aside and tells her they know he is and that a vampire called Marius made him.[1] He also shows her Lestat's journal that he recovered and is now in the Talamasca library. In a flashback to his origins, Lestat recalls how he awoke Akasha, the first vampire, with his music. Jesse tracks him down to a London vampire club where he confronts her, and she follows him to Los Angeles for the concert, where she gives him back his journal. Shortly after they leave London, Akasha, awakened by Lestat's new music, arrives and torches the club, and all the vampires inside, who hate Lestat.

At the concert in Death Valley, a mob of vampires attack Lestat and Marius. Akasha bursts through the stage and takes Lestat with her as her new King. Empowered by Akasha's blood, Lestat and the Queen confront the Ancient Vampires at the home of Maharet, Jesse's aunt, who is an ancient vampire herself. The Ancient Vampires were planning to kill Akasha, to save the human world from demise. But Akasha then commands Lestat to kill Jesse. Lestat ostensibly obeys but then turns and kills Akasha with the help of the Ancients. Maharet is the last to drink Akasha's blood, and thereby ends up becoming a marble 'statue'. Lestat runs to where Jesse is lying lifeless, and cradling her in his arms, gives her his blood and turns her into a vampire. Jesse, now a vampire, and Lestat then returns the journal to the Talamasca, and walk away, among mortals, into the night.


Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to several of Anne Rice's novels — the first three Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches trilogy[2] — after a 1988 takeover of Lorimar Productions. An eventual adaptation of Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan and produced by David Geffen) was released in 1994, although not without controversy, particularly over fan reaction to the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat, an objection initially shared by Anne Rice which she subsequently recanted after seeing the finished film.

After the commercial and critical success of Interview, Neil Jordan began initial development of the novel's sequel, The Vampire Lestat, although this went nowhere.

As the rights to the novels would revert to Anne Rice at the end of 2000, initial story meetings to adapt one or both of the remaining Vampire Chronicles began in 1998. The decision was made early to substantially rewrite the plot, and to base most of the movie on the third book: The Vampire Lestat was considered too broad and episodic for a two-hour feature film, although the novel's setup of Lestat's awakening and career as a rock star was used. It was also decided to focus on Lestat as the primary character, and the back story of Akasha and the Story of the Twins were omitted, despite these being virtually central to the plot of the novel.[3]

Displeased with the lack of progress, and more particularly with the studio's lack of consultation with her over the script development, author Anne Rice wrote a critical reply to a fan's question about the film in 1998:[4]

"The key factor is that the entire vampire contract terminates in the year 2000. All the properties revert back to me at that time, unless production commences-principal photography that is-before then. I don't think it is possible for Warner Bros. to develop anything in that amount of time." "They have not been receptive to me or to my ideas at all. "Not very long ago, less than a year ago in fact, I begged the executives there to let me write a script for THE VAMPIRE LESTAT for union scale (the Writers Guild won't let you write it for free) and a deferred payment not due until release of the picture. They simply weren't interested. It was very painful for me, as I had been talking to a new director they'd hired and we were both excited about the idea. "I felt snubbed and hurt and have not bothered to approach them since. The young director is supposed to be developing THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED which I think is a bad idea, and basically a doomed project. "In spite of their showing no interest in me as the screen writer, they have not been able to find one themselves for this bizarre idea of THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. I'm not too surprised. I think any respectable script writer would be crazy to tackle that novel without having fully developed the background story of Lestat. Anyway, that is where it is."

Over the course of 1999, the script was developed by TV screenwriter Scott Abbott and Australian writer/director Michael Petroni. Another Australian, Michael Rymer was confirmed to direct. Rymer suggested the movie be filmed in his home town of Melbourne, which would save considerably on production costs.

The first actor cast was R&B singer Aaliyah (who had made her film debut in Romeo Must Die) as Akasha, the eponymous Queen of the Damned. The search for an actor to play Lestat took much longer – the idea of Tom Cruise reprising the role was considered but dismissed – although front runners included Wes Bentley, Josh Hartnett and Heath Ledger. Irish actor Stuart Townsend assumed the role in 2000, and the final cast included Vincent Perez as Marius, Paul McGann as David Talbot, Lena Olin as Maharet and Marguerite Moreau as Jesse Reeves. Australian actors included Claudia Black as Pandora and Matthew Newton as Armand.


With a large cast of international and Australian actors, Queen of the Damned began principal photography on October 2, 2000 in a former biscuit factory converted into a studio in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans. Location filming took place around the city of Melbourne, although some filming was done in Los Angeles. For the scenes of Lestat's concert in Death Valley, over 3000 goths were recruited from Melbourne nightclubs and on the internet, then driven on a fleet of buses to a quarry in Werribee to act as extras.


The songs for Lestat's band were written and performed by Jonathan Davis of the band Korn and Richard Gibbs, although Davis's contractual commitments to Sony BMG meant that his vocals could not appear on the soundtrack album. Instead, the vocals were re-recorded by other musicians for the soundtrack release: Wayne Static of Static-X ("Not Meant for Me"), David Draiman of Disturbed ("Forsaken"), Chester Bennington of Linkin Park ("System"), Marilyn Manson ("Redeemer"), and Jay Gordon of Orgy ("Slept So Long"). During the end credits "Not Meant For Me" is played. It is Jonathan Davis' version although the credits credit it as the Wayne Static version from the album.

Davis also made a small cameo in the movie. When Marguerite Moreau’s character arrives in Los Angeles, a scalper (Jonathan Davis) attempts to sell her tickets to Lestat’s show.

The soundtrack also contains other songs featured in the film: "Body Crumbles" by Dry Cell singing by Chester Bennington, "Cold" by Static-X, "Dead Cell" by Papa Roach, "Excess" by Tricky, "Headstrong" by Earshot, "Penetrate" by Godhead, "Down With the Sickness" by Disturbed, "Change (In the House of Flies)" by Deftones and "Before I'm Dead" by Kidneythieves.

The score for the film was also composed by Gibbs and Davis. Both the rock soundtrack and score were released as albums in 2002.

Frank Fitzpatrick and Rich Dickerson were the Music Supervisors for the film and the soundtrack album.[1]

The original studio recording of "Careless", the long hidden, never-before-heard recording from 2000 is being sold for 99 cents on the iTunes music store. Written and produced by Jonathan Davis and Richard Gibbs during the Queen of the Damned sessions, all vocals by Jonathan Davis, keyboards by Richard Gibbs, guitars by Munky, Head, and Davis, drums by Vinnie Colaiuta, percussion by Paulinho da Costa.

Release and reaction

Anne Rice's reaction

By July 2001, author Anne Rice had mellowed her previous stance on the film, much as she had with Interview. When asked about the film's progress, she answered:[5]

"Everything I hear about the movie is good. Warner Bros. is extremely enthusiastic. They are working very hard to make it perfect. I have no real news. Let me repeat what I mentioned in a recent message. I met Stuart Townsend, the young man who is playing Lestat and he was absolutely charming. He had Lestat's excellent speaking voice and his feline grace. I cannot wait to see him in the film."

By late 2001, Rice had seen the completed film and was sufficiently satisfied to allow her name to be used on promotional materials[6], although she later dismissed the film in 2003, stating that a television series format would be more suited to her work.[7]

On her Facebook page, any time the subject is brought up, she repeatedly comments that The Queen of the Damned film is not something she can understand or embrace, that she encouraged them not to do the film and that it hurt her to see her work mutilated the way it did.[8]

Public and critical reaction

Queen of the Damned was released on February 22, 2002 in the United States and Canada. Critical reaction was lukewarm to poor, with several reviewers such as Roger Ebert describing it as "goofy" or "damned"[9]. The film has a rank of 14%, certified "Rotten" at[10] Despite bad reviews, Queen of the Damned nonetheless topped the box office in the weeks following its release.[11] The sudden death of the film's leading star Aaliyah six months before the film's release cast a shadow over the production, but some reviewers speculated the tragedy may have contributed to the film's greater-than-expected gross.[12][13] The film was a Box Office hit grossing 45 million on a 35 million budget.

Allan Menzies

In December 2002, Allan Menzies from West Lothian in Scotland murdered one of his friends, ate part of his head and drank his blood. He claimed in court that it was Aaliyah's character "Queen Akasha" from the film that told him to do it.[14]


  1. ^ In the novels, an alchemist named Magnus is Lestat's creator.
  2. ^ Anne Rice answers Salon readers' questions,, August 23, 1996.
  3. ^ Debra Campbell: A chat with the producer,
  4. ^ Coming Attractions: Queen of the Damned, Corona Productions.
  5. ^ Complete Message Archive,
  6. ^ Saralegui, Jorge: On Anne Rice's Involvement with the Project,, 2001.
  7. ^ Interview with Anne Rice, The Art of the Word, October 2, 2003.
  8. ^ Rice, Anne: Wall - Just Fans,
  9. ^ Movie Reviews: Queen Of The Damned, IMDB Studio Briefing, 22 February 2002
  10. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: Queen of the Damned
  11. ^ Aaliyah's parents sue over plane crash, BBC News, 14 May 2002.
  12. ^ All that glitters is not gold, The Age, March 11, 2002.
  13. ^ Film of the Damned - the Tragedy Behind "Queen of the Damned", BBC Online.
  14. ^

External links

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