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Fangs With a Flourish

November 10, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Interview With the Vampire"

The Setup: Vampires Lestat (Tom Cruise, pictured at left) and Louis (Brad Pitt, pictured at right) embark on two centuries of night-prowling bloodsucking, based on Anne Rice bestseller. After a few decades, a "daughter," Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), joins in their ravenous escapades.

The Costume Designer: London-based Sandy Powell, whose credits include "Orlando," "The Crying Game" and "Caravaggio."

The Look: Extravagant flourishes of the 18th-Century kind--deep, rich fabrics embellished with embroidery, gold thread, sequins. Without the fangs, Lestat and Louis would pass for two ordinary fops. "Sequins, actually little bits of metal, were definitely worn by men then," Powell says. The feminine frills not only magnify the story's homoerotic elements but also play a practical role. Because the vampires hunt at night, the film had to be dark--literally. (Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot worked entirely with Chinese paper lanterns.) Sparkly decorations, velvets, shot silk--two-tone fabric that changes color with the light--and silk brocades reflect what little light there is.

You Should Know: Halloweenish cliches and "vampiric" imagery a la Bela Lugosi, as Powell puts it, were avoided. A red-lined cape obviously would have been far too corny, but Lestat and Louis also shun black. The only exception: Louis attends an opera in a black top hat, tails and, yes, cape--the standard evening dress for opera-going men of the time.

Quoted: "Tom, Brad and (Kirsten) had to look like people who happen to be vampires. It's not the Hammer house of horror," Powell says, referring to the British company that produced low-budget horror movies in the '50s.

Trivia: Dressing for evil is nothing new. Powell came across a creepy insect cravat pin from the period for Lestat, and Victorian fabric depicting skulls, crossbones and poison ivy, fashioned into a waistcoat for Santiago (Stephen Rea). "I also made a fabulous vest for Lestat from a piece of old fabric embroidered with bees, but it disintegrated before we could use it," she says.

Inspiration: For the New Orleans sequences, paintings by Jacques Louis David and Jean August Ingres; for those in Paris, James Joseph Tissot.

Sources: Principals' clothing and undergarments were custom-made from new and antique fabrics at the production's workshop at Pinewood Studios in London. Painter Mathilde Sandberg embellished many pieces with hand-dying techniques.

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