Queen of the Damned
In 2000, friends and I flew to Melbourne to take part as unpaid extras in the filming of Queen of the Damned, the shambolic sequel to Interview with the Vampire. We filmed the concert scene in a quarry on December 1. This is the report I wrote for The Courier-Mail newspaper.
Is Death Valley really this cold? The Goth girl in the PVC skirt and halter top is freezing, her exposed flesh goose-pimpled as she shakes in her boyfriend’s arms. Then the music starts and she gratefully turns back to the stage and resumes dancing, embracing the action and the warmth it brings. It is 4am and the vampire Lestat and his rock ‘n’ roll band are lip-synching their way through their canon of two songs for the umpteenth time. Thousands of fans are gathered at the foot of the stage, huddled under the flood-lights, hands raised in adulation as they sway to the crunching beat, mouthing the words to the familiar chorus.
Hundreds — thousands — of blackclad faithful gathered from across the nation with a single purpose — a chance to be famous.
After all, what self-respecting Goth wouldn’t want to be in a vampire movie? Especially the sequel to Interview with the Vampire, the Anne Rice yarn that made folk wonder if there wasn’t more to Tom Cruise than a nice smile after all.
No Tom here tonight. His role has been taken by Stuart Townsend. No Death Valley either, for that matter. Not even California.
The faithful are mostly Australian, who have travelled from across the continent to be unpaid extras for a night on the set of Queen Of The Damned.
The Death Valley concert is being filmed in a quarry near Werribee, a market-garden town south-west of Melbourne with more cabbages than cacti.
It is a strange landscape — lunar white dust and rocks and waist-high thistles; an alien landscape made even more other-worldly by the undulating column of blackclad pilgrims winding towards the beckoning floodlights.
Most have caught buses from a rendezvous in Melbourne, been plied with coffee, soft drink and fast food at a circus tent before the sunset march across to the movie set.
There are more tents, cranes, a stage no bigger and somewhat less spectacular than most you’d expect at an outdoor concert. Two columns of chimneys occasionally belch fire, a godsend in the early hours when the temperature plunges towards zero.
The production has been set up here for the past week, shooting with some 500 paid extras the climatic concert scene. Queen of the Damned is named after the third book of Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles that began with Interview With The Vampire, but is
largely also derived from the second novel The Vampire Lestat, in which the vampire becomes a rock-music idol until he attracts the ire of others of his kind who resent the sudden publicity.
That final confrontation is being filmed this week in studios set up in an abandoned factory in Melbourne, again with the paid extras who form the backbone of the concert scenes. Some of them are expecting to “die” this week, caught in the crossfire between the warring undead. Or at least, that’s the rumour.
“The don’t tell us anything,” said one paid extra, sporting fangs and a full-length coat of purple velvet, to a group of envious unpaids. “Still… I would have done it for nothing. Getting paid is a bonus. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”
There were no arguments from her rapt listeners, who came from Queensland for this single night. They and the hundreds of others responded to ads on the radio and the Internet.
From sunset to sunrise they stood under the floodlights in that alien world, stamping feet and cuddling against the cold. Moving left, right, forwards, backwards, to fill out the camera angles with black velvet, PVC, leather, nose rings, white faces, bizarre contact lenses, fangs. Dancing on cue, fists raised, screaming out a chorus they’d been taught only hours before. Looking enviously as the actors and the stunt people are wrapped in blankets between takes. Making an exodus for the coffee urns and port-a-loos during the two breaks.
It will probably be a year before the movie is released and the pilgrims can see on the big screen whether their dreams of immortality have been realised.
“Yeah, that’s me, down there by that girl in the pink hair, just behind that fellow waving a plastic pitchfork…”