Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Lestat?

Rumors abounded on the internet for the last few weeks that the studios owning the rights to Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles were going to start all over again. Not bad news as far as it goes. While Neil Jordon's Interview was wonderful, the follow-up Queen of the Damned was (let us be kind) a "mixed success."

But then the kicker. The actor said to be negotiating to play Lestat was none other than Robert Downey Jr.

Now, I admire Mr. Downey. He is a gifted and exciting actor, who rarely fails to startle and move with his performances. Among other things, I eagerly await his take on Sherlock Holmes later this year (despite the fact that the late Jeremy Brett remains Holmes in my own mind's eye). But -- he is too old to play Lestat, by twenty years or more. He also lacks that oddly androgynous nature inherent in the character, which was quite well-capture by both Tom Cruise and Stuart Townsend.

Fortunately, Mr. Downey's representatives confirmed that he is NOT in any such negotiations.

Still, it summons speculations to mind, does it not? Given the success of such things as True Blood, might not The Powers That Be consider such a re-vamping (sorry about the pun). In which case, what actor might play the "Brat Prince in the Kingdom of Darkness"?

Honestly, the first actor to come to my mind was Jamie Campbell Brower, best known as Anthony in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. He is young, slender, somewhat catlike, is (or can be) blonde -- and showed an unusual flair in making what is usually a boring Dudley-Doright-type into a genuine person. One scene that stuck in my mind was his first reprise of "Joanna", and his reaction to being beaten bloody for glancing at this lovely girl. Not discouraged at all, his eyes burn like lasers as he vows to steal away the girl he loves -- mocking those who'd keep them apart. From that moment on, I was hooked and totally invested in that love story. The biggest problem might be that he's very busy as an actor these days. Not only will he perform as Grindelwald in the next two Harry Potter movies, Brower will be Cassius in all of the upcoming films of the Twilight saga.

Another choice, a bit obvious for fans of undead story-telling is Kyle Schmid. For unfamiliar with his name, his best-known role was as the vampire Henry Fitzroy in the late, very-lamented t.v. series Blood Ties. In terms of physical type he (like Brower) is pretty much perfect. In fact, were someone to make a live action version of Tolkien's The Silmarillion (now there is a day dream of epic scale!) I'd suggest uniting these two actors with Jonathan Rhys Myers and Stuart Townsend to play the Sons of Feanor! More to the point, he's the right age. Much, much more to the point -- he demonstrated during that show a wide range of acting ability. Fitzroy, fortunately, is in most ways a very different role from Lestat. One is far more self-assured, the other many times more inquisitive and mercurial. Just as one very much participates in mortal life around him, while the other functions as a voyeur.

Another obvious choice -- at least from a movie producer's POV -- would have to be Hayden Christiansen. Yes, Annakin Skywalker himself. For my own part, I've little to go on to judge his acting abilities. All I've seen him do is The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. Somebody (and I've zero idea who) once quipped that George Lucas as a director has the uncanny ability to pull a sow's ear out of silk when it came to his actors. I totally agree. One would never imagine watching any of the Star Wars films that Alec Guinness, Natalie Portman, Harrison Ford or Samuel Jackson could act their way out of some very wet paper bags. Never having seen anything else by Mr. Christiansen, I refrain from judging him.

But I will add a wild card into the bunch. A gifted young actor who has proven himself willing and even eager for challenges. He is handsome as well, almost pretty. Physically, he suffers from two drawbacks. One is height. Simply, he is not a tall man. On the other hand, neither is Tom Cruise and he could act opposite Brat Pitt as Louis, making it quite believable. The other is coloring. His very black hair might make even giving him hair like tarnished gold problematical. Or not. I leave that up to the specialists in such things. On the other hand, methinks Elijah Wood could play either Lestat or Louis. He might be an ideal choice for Armand as well. No complaints about Antonio Banderas in the film, but the character is supposed to be quite young and look rather like a cherub. Mr. Wood fits that bill better than Mr. Banderas.

A friend of mine offered another startling choice, one intriguing enough to include. Macauley Culkin! One can hardly deny the age and physicality are right. Anyone thinking of him merely as the boy from Home Alone should also take a gander at some of his other parts, especially the bisexual narcissist lead in Party Monster. Methinks the biggest issue for using him is whether audiences can get past their image of him as a child actor. On the other hand, it isn't as if other actors haven't succeeded in breaking their own stereotype before now. Look at Tom Cruise and what the part of Lestat did for him (these days it is a little tricky to recall how folks saw Cruise before Neil Jordon cast him in that role -- and just how enraged fans at the time were, including Rice herself, at least until she actually saw the film).

One last, truly wild possibility. How about casting a woman? Not changing the role to make Lestat female, but cast a woman in a man's part. Certainly one could do worse if you wanted to go for androgyny. As as it happens there is a very beautiful slender blond actress who has shown herself willing to go to extreme lengths in terms of makeup for a role. What about Charlize Theron? When discussing this with some co-workers, she was the choice among some for Gabrielle, i.e. Lestat's mother. And she'd be excellent in that role. I merely offer her as a possible Lestat to shake things up, think outside the box, etc. Not least because she is by virtually any standards a fine actress -- and it amuses me to think she would then share a role with her significant other, Stuart Townsend!

I'm amused easily sometimes.

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