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Friday June 22nd 2018

Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles | 1994

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Oak Alley, Vacherie, Louisiana
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles location: Louis’ estate: Oak Alley, Vacherie, Louisiana | Photograph: Wikimedia / ZeWrestler

Neil Jordan’s lushly romantic yet blackly comic film of the Anne Rice novel was filmed on wide-ranging locations, including San Francisco, Louisiana, London and Paris.

Tom Cruise was the last person you would have thought of as aristocratic vamp Lestat, and though he’s not perfect, he’s far better than any of us expected. It’s left to Antonio Banderas and Neil Jordan regular Stephen Rea, though, who demonstrate the real style needed.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Market Street at Taylor Street, downtown San Francisco
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Louis spins his tale in the fictitious 'St Martin's' hotel: Market Street at Taylor Street, downtown San Francisco

You won’t be able to book a room at the ‘St Martin’ hotel in San Francisco, in which Louis (Brad Pitt) recounts his story to incredulous journalist Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater). There’s no such establishment. You can see the building used in the film on Market Street at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Taylor Street in downtown San Francisco.

Louis’ estate is the venerable Oak Alley Plantation, 3645 Louisiana State Highway 18 in Vacherie, Louisiana.

One of the chain of restored antebellum mansions between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Oak Alley, built in 1839, takes its name from the avenue of 28 oaks leading up to it. It’s open to the public most days. The house has also been seen in the 1985 TV version of The Long, Hot Summer and in 2009 TV movie Midnight Bayou, with Faye Dunaway.

Interiors were filmed at the Destrehan Plantation, 13034 River Road, Destrehan, just to the west of New Orleans. Dating from 1787, it’s claimed to be the oldest documented plantation in the lower Mississippi. Destrehan’s outhouses were more recently featured in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Paris Opera, Place de l'Opera, Paris
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: the lobby of the grand Parisian hotel: Grand Staircase, Paris Opéra, Place de l'Opéra | Photograph: Wikimedia / scarletgreen

The overwhelmingly elaborate lobby of the Parisian hotel in which Louis and Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) stay, is the Palais Garnier, home of the Opéra National de Paris, Place de l'Opéra in Paris. Described, on its opening in 1875, as looking like “an overloaded sideboard”, the opera house is now regarded as a grandiose masterpiece. Understated, it’s not.

And, yes, it is the opera house haunted by Erik the phantom in the Gaston Leroux novel Phantom of the Opera, though the only version of this much-filmed story to use the real Paris Opera as a location is the 1990 TV film directed by Tony Richardson.

The cinema, in which Louis watches a sunrise (on film) for the first time in 200 years, was the Coliseum on Coliseum Street at Thalia Street in New Orleans. Built in 1915, the Coliseum was given an art deco makeover in 1946, but fell victim to serious damage from Hurricane Katrina 2005. Although work began on the cinema’s restoration in 2006, it caught fire and was this time destroyed beyond repair.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Phoenix Finchley, East Finchley, London
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles filming location: Louis watches a sunrise: Phoenix Finchley, East Finchley, London

The cinema interior seen in the film lives on. The production was largely based in the UK, with filming around London, and the picture house interior is the Phoenix Cinema, 52 High Road, East Finchley, in north London.

Five years older than the Coliseum, the Phoenix was built in 1910 as ‘The East Finchley Picturedrome’, and claims to be the oldest purpose-built cinema in continuous use in the UK. Remodelled in the Thirties, it’s a listed building and, after being rescued by a local campaign from redevelopment, the truly independent cinema is now owned and run by a trust.

The Phoenix can be seen in another Neil Jordan film: The End of the Affair, as Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) flees the cinema pursued by Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes). It was also the ‘Southport’ cinema at the centre of gentle 1985 comedy Mr Love.

It’s widely claimed that scenes were shot at the famed Wilton’s Music Hall, off Cable Street in the East End. The grand guignol theatres seen in the film, though, are studio sets, and I’ve not been able to recognise Wilton’s, or to confirm that it was ever used at all.

Wilton’s is a film star in its own right. You can see the photogenically faded music hall in four biopics: Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin (with Robert Downey Jr); The Krays, Karel Reisz’s Isadora (with Vanessa Redgrave as the extravagant dancer); and De-Lovely (with Kevin Kline as composer Cole Porter). It ’s since appeared as the ‘Liverpool’ theatre in which the Crummles troupe performs in in Douglas McGrath’s star-studded 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby; and in Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream.

Another no-show is St Paul’s Church in Deptford. South London newspapers got quite excited when it was rumoured that Tom Cruise would be filming in the area. It never happened, but Brad Pitt did shoot a scene for Interview With the Vampire. here.

St Paul’s Church, Deptford High Street, became the interior of a ‘New Orleans’ church in which Louis attacks a priest but, sadly, the scene never made it to the final cut of the movie.

Not to worry, South London’s fans of the undead can catch the church in another vampire movie, Shimako Sato’s little-seen 1992 film Tale of a Vampire, with Julian Sands.

It’s back to San Francisco for the finale, with Lestat making a sudden reappearance as Malloy drives across the Golden Gate Bridge.