October 29, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Casting megastar Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat may indeed havecreated a monster: With shooting on Neil Jordan’s $50 millionadaptation of Interview With the Vampire just underway in NewOrleans, reports indicate that Cruise’s bark might be as vicious ashis character’s bite.Accepting his Actor of the Decade award at the ChicagoInternational Film Festival on Oct. 15, a gaunt and very blond Cruiseasserted, ”I’m terribly excited to be working with the cast (ofInterview). I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s going to looklike.” But stories circulating around Geffen Pictures suggest that ata ”tense” screening of test shots held on Oct. 9, nine days beforefilming began, Cruise wasn’t nearly so congenial.Sources claim Cruise ”was obsessing” over how much better costarBrad Pitt (who plays the vampire Louis) looked on screen. Cruisereportedly demanded to know Pitt’s height (he stands 5 foot 11, anestimated three inches taller than the star), then ordered platformheels for his boots. Also unhappy with his undead visage, he askedthat an ”eyebrow person” be retained on the set to touch up hisgold-flecked brows. Director Jordan, by one account, ”sat back andwatched the whole scene looking miserable and uncomfortable.””Neil was looking fine,” insists producer Stephen Woolley, who wasat the screening. (Woolley does, however, contradict Cruisespokeswoman Pat Kingsley’s claim that the actor never even saw Pitt’smakeup tests.) According to Kingsley, the person assigned to dyeCruise’s eyebrows was on set only for the first two days, though shewill return in two to three weeks to redo them. Cruise’s shoes, shesays, are ”designed to represent boots worn during the period of the1790s.”Kingsley admits changes have been made. ”Neil Jordan, Stan Winston(who is designing the vampires’ look), Stephen Woolley, and TomCruise all felt adjustments needed to be made in the makeup andlighting as a result of the tests. That was done prior to the startof the film, and filming has gone smoothly.”It would be hard to tell otherwise, since extremely tight securitysurrounds the production’s various New Orleans locations. Staffmembers at the antebellum Oak Alley Plantation have reportedly beenrequired to sign agreements not to speak to anyone, including familymembers, about the crew’s presence. (At press time, it was rumoredthat Geffen employees had been asked to sign similar agreements.)Meanwhile, the controversy over Cruise’s casting has yet toslacken. Promoting her new book, author Anne Rice appeared in Chicagoa day before Cruise, where an admirer gave her a button with theactor’s name and a slash through it. Many fans cling to thepossibility of another actor assuming the < part. ''People keep askingme why I didn't take the role,'' says Daniel Day- Lewis, an earlycandidate. ''I find it upsetting. These people are trying to make afilm as well as they possibly can with the choices there are. It'sabsolutely horrendous to me that they're having to deal with my namethrown in the mix.''Others are not so diplomatic. ''I can't quite see Tom Cruise asLestat,'' says Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), the actor Rice used as themodel for Lestat. ''But it's not the first time that someone got apart that I would have been much better for.''''I feel I have a lot to contribute to this character,'' Cruise saidin Chicago. ''I hope to prove a lot of people wrong.'' Some observersfeel his concern for appearance betrays nothing more thanpraiseworthy intensity. ''He's a perfectionist,'' says a screenwriterwho has worked with Cruise before. ''He's very specific about what hewants. It's about work, not about ego.''Despite the heated emotions of Rice fans, Interview is still aHollywood production, which means that preliminary judgments palebefore the bottom line. ''If the movie hits and he's a success,'' aGeffen source points out, ''he'll be viewed as a genius for payingsuch close attention to details.''

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