Anne Rice, Best-Selling Author of Beloved ‘Vampire Chronicles,’ Has Died at Age 80

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Anne Rice, the popular and influential author of gothic fiction, died late Saturday night, according to social media posts made by her son, author Christopher Rice. Her death was due to complications from a stroke, he wrote, noting that he and Anne’s younger sister Karen were with her at the time. She passed almost 19 years to the day after her husband, poet and painter Stan Rice. She was 80 years old.

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Rice, who chose the name Anne on her first day of school because she didn’t like her given name, Howard, will be remembered for her Vampire Chronicles series, a collection of 13 novels that began with her debut, the 1976 sensation Interview With the Vampire. In it, a Louisiana plantation owner tells the tale of his transformation into a vampire, thanks to the series’ charismatic antihero Lestat.

Rice’s books, which have sold over 150 million copies worldwide, forged new ground in vampire mythology, with Rice jettisoning old tropes and creating new ones. Additionally, her depictions of undead characters, romantic, artistic, and living on the periphery of society, have long held special meaning for fans of queer literature, an aspect of her work of which Rice was quite aware.

Interview, first written in 1973, was an expansion of one of her previous short stories and a project born out of Rice’s grief over the death of her five-year-old daughter from leukemia. In 1994, the novel was adapted into a film directed by Neil Jordan, starring Tom Cruise as Lestat and co-starring Brad PittKirsten DunstChristian SlaterAntonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea.

The film was a critical and box office success, though not without challenges. Pitt said he was miserable during the production, citing “six months in the fucking dark.” Oprah Winfrey, who was planning an interview with Cruise (no, not the couch-jumping one), walked out of the film, claiming it was too gory. She did not want to be “a contributor to the force of darkness,” she noted at the time. Initial resistance even came from Rice herself, the credited screenwriter, who criticized the casting of Cruise and Pitt. She went so far as to take out an 8-page ad in Variety voicing her displeasure.

Rice said the Top Gun star was “no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler.” But producer David Geffen stuck with the actors and pushed back against her take. When the author finally saw the film, she reversed her opinion, even calling Cruise on the phone to say she had been wrong.

Another Vampire Chronicles novel, The Queen of the Damned, was adapted into a film in 2002, with Aaliyah playing Akasha, the first earthly vampire, and Stuart Townsend as Lestat. In 2006, Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote the music and lyrics to a short-lived musical, Lestat, based on the character.

In addition to Rice’s main series, she wrote a number of standalone novels, a trilogy called The Lives of the Mayfair Witches (which featured some crossover with The Vampire Chronicles), and novels set in ancient Egypt. She also had two noms de plume for erotic fiction. As “A. N. Roquelaure,” she wrote four books riffing on the Sleeping Beauty story (in which the central figure is awakened by far more than a kiss, and “pony gear” is at some point involved). As “Anne Rampling,” she wrote the books Exit to Eden and Belinda. The former is a BDSM romance that was dramatically altered and adapted into a broad comedy directed by Garry Marshall, starring Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O’Donnell. (It was, unfortunately, a notorious flop.)

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