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'Interview With the Vampire': Ann Rice's casting quibbles

The delicate art of making books into movies — and casting them correctly

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Anne Rice makes no secret of her unholy outrage over the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat, the undead antihero of her 1976 best-seller, Interview With the Vampire. According to Rice, Cruise ”is no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler.” Does she have a legitimate gripe? In Vampire, Lestat is described as ”a tall, fair-skinned man with a mass of blond hair and a graceful, almost feline quality.” Hmmm. Oh, well, one out of two ain’t bad. When The Firm went celluloid, John Grisham had no beef with Cruise in the role of conspiracy-busting attorney Mitch McDeere. According to Grisham, ”Mitch is 25…nice-looking, in great shape, and looks sharp in a dark suit…Tom Cruise looks the part.”

Actually, Grisham could give Rice some lessons on how to bypass the casting dilemma altogether: Simply create a protagonist with an uncanny resemblance to a No. 1 box office draw. Take, for example, Darby Shaw, the summa cum laude siren of Grisham’s The Pelican Brief. With her ”long legs,” ”dark red hair,” ”perfect teeth,” and penchant for ”baggy sweaters,” she’s the spitting image of pretty woman Julia Roberts, who just finished portraying her in the movie, due in December.

And the page-to-screen nepotism may not end there. In the midst of writing a new novel, Grisham reportedly talks weekly to director Ron Howard, who bought the film rights for an estimated $3.75 million. Who knows? Maybe Grisham is sharing information about his latest fictional attorney, giving Howard a head start on the casting. Anne, are you taking notes?