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A sneak peek at Aaliyah's final movie

The producer of ”Queen of the Damned” reveals what fans can expect

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Aaliyah
Aaliyah: Joy E Scheller/London Features

”The Queen of the Damned” doesn’t open until Feb. 22, but devoted Anne Rice fans are already burning up the message boards on the film’s official website. To help separate the facts from the rumors, ”Queen” producer Jorge Saralegui tells EW.com who’s really singing for Lestat, which beloved characters have been dropped, and how Aaliyah’s death on Aug. 25 has affected the film’s promotion.

Why was the relatively unknown Stuart Townsend (”Wonderland”) cast as the Vampire Lestat? What happened to Josh Hartnett (”Pearl Harbor”) and Wes Bentley (”American Beauty”)?
Most of the hot young stars who were rumored to play Lestat ultimately passed on the project. ”Wes Bentley told us he was exhausted and not up to the challenge of the role at that time,” says Saralegui. ”Heath Ledger was doing ‘Four Feathers’ and Josh Hartnett couldn’t get out of his Miramax options.” Hugo Weaving was also considered for the role of Marius (played by Vincent Perez), but he wanted to take a breather before diving into back-to-back ”Matrix” sequels.

Why skip over ”The Vampire Lestat” to make ”Queen of the Damned”?
”The Vampire Lestat” was just too complicated to be trimmed down to a feature-film format, according to Saralegui. ”Interview with a Vampire” director Neil Jordan found that out the hard way after he tried and failed to pull together an adaptation of the book. Since Warner Brothers’ option on ”Lestat” is set to expire in two years, fans will have to make do with the next best thing: ”Queen of the Damned” incorporates a few elements of the book into the movie.

In light of Aaliyah’s death, how will the film be promoted?
Plans for a premiere are on track, but expect Warner Brothers to pass the publicity ball to costars like Stuart Townsend, Vincent Perez (”I Dreamed of Africa”), and Lena Olin (”Chocolat”). The soundtrack will also receive a major push. ”But is [the project] the same [as if Aaliyah were still alive]? No, it’s not,” Saralegui admits. ”On a lot of levels.”