27/9/2001: MOURNING FOR QUEEN BUT DAMNED IN FEBRUARY
Following our report last week about studios holding back movies with themes that
approximate the tragic events in New York on September 11, Australian director Michael
Rymer has confirmed that his film, Queen of the Damned, will be released in February as
planned, squashing rumours that Warner Bros had changed its plans following the accidental
death of Aaliyah, who plays the title role, reports Andrew L. Urban.
Two weeks prior to the terrorist attack on New York, Aaliyah and her travelling
companions were killed in a jet crash, before the young Grammy award winning singer
could finish ADR voice work on her feature film, Queen of the Damned.
Speaking exclusively from the house borrowed from Phil Noyce in Los Angeles, on his
return from Aaliyah’s New York funeral, Rymer paid tribute to the late star.
"It was a challenging role for her – to play an evil, powerful character . .
. she worked on her craft and put a lot of energy into it, from movement coaching to
dialogue coaching, to harness flying lessons. She did the entire role wearing
uncomfortable teeth (prosthetics), heavy make up, difficult costumes and contact lenses.
Not only did she deliver like a real pro, she never got grumpy and she never complained.
She set a real example.
"This beautiful, slender 21 year old girl impressed me enormously. It’s easy
to lionise people when they’re dead, but I used to say it every day during the
Aaliyah’s family accompanied her on her four month Australian shoot;
"I’ve never seen such a close family," said Rymer.
A scheduled test preview in Los Angeles of Queen of the Damned has been postponed as a
sign of respect to Aaliyah, and the finished film will be dedicated to her, Rymer said.
"The film will be released in February 2002, as planned even before the tragic
accident. It was once slotted for October, but we’ve still got some sound design work
to do, and the studios still have a huge backlog of films to get through. It’s really
hard for any of us to say how her death will impact on the film."
(Ed: Film release dates are constantly changing, in response to market forces,
marketing opportunities and logistics. That’s why our Upcoming Films listing is such a headache to keep accurate – and so popular with the media and
the film industry itself.)
Queen of the Damned also stars Lena Olin and Vincent Perez, plus Stuart Townsend as the
vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, who becomes a rock star, whose music awakens the 4,000 year
old queen of all vampires. It was adapted for the screen by Scott Abbott.
Rymer said he was pleased with the film: "I think Anne Rice fans will be happy
with it – it’s not to the letter of her book but it’s true to the spirit of
it. And I think it’s visually the strongest work I’ve done and the performances
are all very strong."
After completing post production on the film, Rymer said he plans to return to
Australia for Christmas and then start work on preparing a new Australian film based on a
Peter Carey short story, War Crimes, produced by Jonathan Shteinman and English producer
Jeremy Thomas – and re-titled Easy Peasy. Casting is underway. "I started
developing this even before I made Angel Baby [his feature debut]," said Rymer.
(Declaration of interest: Andrew L. Urban has a cameo role as a journalist in
Queen of the Damned.)