1976: Anne Rice conjures Lestat, launches a vampire craze
In May 1976, a 35-year-old New Orleans native named Anne Rice published her first novel. Adapted from a short story, it centered on the relationship between two adult male vampires — Lestat and Louis — and a young girl they take in. Titled “Interview with the Vampire,” it would become nothing short of a sensation, spawning movies, a book series that has reportedly sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and touching off a craze for both vampires and New Orleans that, like the book’s bloodsucking characters, shows no signs of dying.
In addition to many unrelated works, Rice has since written nearly two dozen vampire novels, including as part of her 12-book “Vampire Chronicles” — which was started with “Interview” — and a spinoff series, “New Tales of the Vampires.” She and her novelist son, Christopher Rice, announced in November 2016 that they intend to develop a “Game of Thrones”-style TV series inspired by “The Vampire Chronicles.”
- Anne Rice wrote “Interview with the Vampire” after the death of her 5-year-old daughter from leukemia.
- Rice grew up on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Philip Street in New Orleans. She later owned a home at 1239 First Street and St. Elizabeth’s, a former orphanage and boarding school, now converted to luxury condos.
- Although she has spent much of her adult life in San Francisco, she moved her family back to New Orleans for a time starting 2000. “I needed to walk the streets and see the details of the columns, the wrought-iron railings, the flagstones, the bricks, all those different things,” she said in an interview with The Times-Picayune.
- Asked in 2001 if she would become a vampire if given the chance, Rice said the promise of immortality might be too great to pass up. “The truth is, if Lestat walked in here now, and he said, ‘Do you want to do it?,’ I don’t know if I could resist,” she said.
- To mark the release of “Memnoch the Devil,” her 1995 installment in “The Vampire Chronicles,” Rice staged her own jazz funeral, arriving in a coffin delivered via horse-drawn hearse to the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, to the delight of the more than 1,000 fans who met her.
- The 1994 film adaptation of “Interview with a Vampire” was shot partly in New Orleans. Scenes were filmed in the French Quarter and at Jackson Barracks, as well as at Oak Alley, Home Place and Destrehan plantations.
- Rice took out an eight-page ad in Daily Variety after the film’s release with her reaction to the movie and its reception. She specifically praised the performance of actor Tom Cruise, who she had previously said was too “mom and apple pie” to play the vampire Lestat. “I like to believe Tom’s Lestat will be remembered the way Olivier’s Hamlet is remembered,” she wrote.
- A sequel to the film version of “Interview” was made in 2002, titled “Queen of the Damned” and based on the second and third books in “The Vampire Chronicles.” It was met with negative reviews, including from Rice.
- Gallier House on Royal Street is the model for Louis and Lestat’s home.
- Anne Rice isn’t the author’s given name. She was born Howard Allen O’Brien, named after her father.
- Over the course of her career, Rice has used pseudonyms including A.N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling.
Even before Rice’s “Vampire” writings, the specter of the occult has been as intrinsic a part of New Orleans as sprawling live oaks, Garden District mansions, sticky, hot summers, and a laissez-faire attitude. She tapped into that, though, and into something deeper — and perhaps darker — in her readers. In the process, it’s been said she’s done more for vampire mythology than anyone this side of “Dracula” author Bram Stoker. Her contributions to the image of New Orleans might be just as great. “Part of what makes New Orleans such a great resource is the fact that it has this absolutely Southern Gothic haunted ambience. I mean, it’s fantastic,” Rice once said. “People from the outside can see it more clearly. The place is positively spooky .. in every regard.”