Lestat has been a divisive character since his inception in Anne Rice’s novel Interview with the Vampire, which was published in 1976. A romantic, a rock star, and an abusive monster all in one. For a time, the 1994 film adaptation of the same name reigned king of homoerotic gothic horror. Tom Cruise as Lestat, with Brad Pitt starring alongside him as the would-be romantic interest Louis – if the film hadn’t shied away from it. This film has become iconic, not just for the actor’s fame, but the storytelling and visual language of the film itself. That is, however, until the AMC adaptation of Interview with the Vampire completely blew the original out of the water. With two very different adaptations of the source material, who was able to capture the essence of the vampire Lestat the best, Tom Cruise or Sam Reid?
Where Tom Cruise’s strength’s lie are making his Lestat deliciously creepy. From the iconic dinner table scene where he kills a rat and pours its blood into a glass for Louis, to late in the film when we return to him in his withering, monstrous form. That is where, unfortunately, most of the positives end for this Lestat (and the adaptation as a whole.)
The 1994 film may have been one of the most iconic vampire films of the last few decades, yet it feels rather hollow in returning to it. The production is fantastic, and the cast looks great. Yet Tom Cruise is seemingly miscast in the role. He doesn’t bring enough to the table to fully do Lestat justice on the big screen. Where the biggest problem lies is probably in his rage and intimidation. Not once does it feel like Lestat’s anger is true, or that his threats are real. Even if they do come to fruition within the narrative, it still feels like Tom Cruise playing a vampire, instead of him disappearing into the role. Of course, not everything is his fault. He has to juggle a two-hour film where he is missing for a large portion of it, so Cruise does not get as much screen time to play around with. They’ve stripped away most of the romance between Lestat and Louis; the only thing left are hints towards it. That alone is a major disservice to the story, characters, and Anne Rice. This isn’t to say Cruise’s performance is terrible, but it could have been a lot better, both on his part and the script. The film is still undoubtedly a classic, probably due to its all-star cast, but Lestat especially leaves a lot to be desired coming off this film.
On the opposite end, and twenty-eight years later, Sam Reid is an absolute vision to behold as Lestat de Lioncourt in AMC’s production of Interview with the Vampire. In this reboot of The Vampire Chronicles, we get an updated setting in both the past and present sections of the narrative, richer storytelling, and incredible performances across the board. It is no wonder why AMC was so confident in this show a season two was greenlit before the first season had even aired.
Sam Reid gets to disappear into the character of Lestat, perhaps becoming the quintessential version of the character everyone will remember in the future. Reid does have a technical leg up on Cruise simply because this is a series and not a film. Reid gets much more screen time to develop his Lestat, across all seven episodes. He does not have to deal with an absence like Cruise did, at least not yet, because they have not gotten that far within the story. Instead, Reid gets to slow burn Lestat’s descent into madness, or at least the reveal of it, as we meet him though Louis (Jacob Anderson) and their romantic connection. So much of this version of Lestat is his allure, and in the beginning his subtle control over Louis. It was really important to nail his charisma, so it is easier to overlook his more negative aspects in the beginning. That is what makes the later episodes so heartbreaking, as it becomes clear that he is an abuser, and in each episode it gets elevated. It is not just abuse in their relationship, but also towards Claudia (Bailey Bass) who is essentially their daughter.
Reid Excels Where Cruise Failed
Sam Reid’s best ability is where Tom Cruise failed to excel: Lestat’s anger and violence. Where, at times, Cruise seems to be almost playing a caricature of Lestat, Reid’s ability to tap into rage for Lestat’s later violent moments makes a huge difference. Reid’s Lestat is terrifying, dangerous, and a seemingly unstoppable force of terror, and he feels real. All behind his menacingly handsome face. Reid himself will become the iconic Lestat within time, if he isn’t already, simply because he took (and was given) so much time and effort in making sure to flesh out the character with his wonderful performance. Reid leaves you craving more of his performance of Lestat, even after all the ghastly things he does in this first season. He’s just that good in the role.
AMC’s Immortal Universe is just getting started, and with Interview with the Vampire already being renewed for a second season, look to see more Lestat in the future. While it’s clear the story is heading in the same direction of the novel, and Lestat could potentially take a backseat role next season, we are not done with him. Lestat has a huge future ahead of him, and one that only Reid can follow through with. Before he becomes the iconic rock star he is in the novels, he still has to go through his horrific journey, one that brings him near death, only feeding on animals (which is hinted at in one of the final scenes of the season), before he eventually regains strength and joins a rock band. A far cry from the more serious aspects the series has taken on, but if anyone can take this role with sincerity and care, it’s Reid.
In just a short comparison of both Lestats, it’s clear that Cruise’s interpretation lands nowhere near Reid’s careful and precise performance we have today.
Interview with the Vampire (1994) is currently streaming on HBOMAX and AMC+ streams their Interview with the Vampire series.