The vampire Lestat is awakened from decades of slumber by the sound of a heavy metal band which he proceeds to take over as the lead singer. Achieving international success and planning a massive live concert, Lestat is approached by Marius, who warns him that the vampires of the world will not tolerate his flamboyant public profile.
Jesse Reeves, a researcher for the paranormal studies group Talamasca, is intrigued by Lestat's lyrics and tells the rest of the group her theory that he really is a vampire. Her mentor, David Talbot, takes her aside and tells her they know he is and that a vampire called Marius made him. He also shows her Lestat's journal that he recovered and is now in the Talamasca library. In a flashback to his origins, Lestat recalls how he awoke Akasha, the first vampire, with his music. Jesse tracks him down to a London vampire club where he saves and confronts her. She later goes to Los Angeles for the concert and gives him back his journal. The two spend some time together and Lestat shows her both the horrors and the perks of being a vampire. Showing him that she's not scared of him Jesse stays with Lestat as she sees how lonely and miserable he is. She asks him to turn her as she reveals that it's her dream to be a vampire, but he refuses as he won't turn her into one. Meanwhile, Akasha is awakened by Lestat's new music. She arrives and torches the club, and all the vampires inside, who want Lestat dead.
At the concert in Death Valley, a mob of vampires attack Lestat and Marius. Akasha bursts through the stage and takes Lestat with her as her new King. The two vampires then proceed to have sex in Akasha's home and mutually feed on one another, during which time Lestat becomes spellbound by Akasha and is forced to obey her. Empowered by Akasha's blood, Lestat and the Queen confront the Ancient Vampires at the home of Maharet, Jesse's aunt, who is an Ancient Vampire. The Ancient Vampires were planning to kill Akasha, to save the human world from demise. Akasha then commands Lestat to kill Jesse, as The Queen sees her both as an enemy and as food, as she is Maharet's mortal niece; Maharet and Akasha became mortal enemies before they were turned. Queen Akasha also wanted to make an example out of Jesse because Jesse dared to stand-up to her and to put fear into the other vampires. Lestat ostensibly obeys the Queen, but afterwards he quickly comes to his senses and is released from her power. He then very angrily turns and begins to drain Akasha's blood with the help of the Ancients. Mael and Pandora are killed by Akasha's power. Armand is almost killed, but is saved as The Queen's powers diminish. Maharet is the last to drink Akasha's blood, and thereby ends up becoming a marble "statue". Maharet then becomes the new Queen Of the Damned.
Lestat then turns and walks to where Jesse is lying lifeless, and cradling her in his arms, gives her his blood, turning her into a vampire. Jesse, now a vampire, and Lestat then return the journal to the Talamasca. After they leave, a scene of David reading the journal is shown as Marius's voice catches his attention, cheerfully saying, "Hello, David". The film closes with Lestat and Jesse walking away, among mortals, into the night. As they exit it is shown that they are now a couple, holding hands.Aaliyah as Akasha
Stuart Townsend as Lestat de Lioncourt
Marguerite Moreau as Jesse Reeves
Richael Tanner as young Jesse
Vincent Perez as Marius de Romanus
Paul McGann as David Talbot
Lena Olin as Maharet
Christian Manon as Mael
Claudia Black as Pandora
Bruce Spence as Khayman
Matthew Newton as Armand
Tiriel Mora as Roger
Megan Dorman as Maudy
Johnathan Devoy as James
Robert Farnham as Alex
Conrad Standish as T.C.
Andrew L. Urban as Himself
Jonathan Davis as Ticket scalper
Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to several of Anne Rice's novels—the first three Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches trilogy—after a 1988 takeover of Lorimar Productions. An eventual adaptation of Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan and produced by David Geffen) was released in 1994, although not without controversy, particularly over fan reaction to the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat, an objection initially shared by Anne Rice, which she recanted after seeing the finished film.
After the commercial and critical success of Interview, Neil Jordan began initial development of the novel's sequel, The Vampire Lestat, although this went nowhere.
As the rights to the novels would revert to Anne Rice at the end of 2000, initial story meetings to adapt one or both of the remaining Vampire Chronicles began in 1998. The decision was made early to substantially rewrite the plot, and to base most of the movie on the third book: The Vampire Lestat was considered too broad and episodic for a two-hour feature film, although the novel's setup of Lestat's awakening and career as a rock star was used. It was also decided to focus on Lestat as the primary character, and the back story of Akasha and the Story of the Twins were omitted, despite these being virtually central to the plot of the novel.
Displeased with the lack of progress, and more particularly with the studio's lack of consultation with her over the script development, author Anne Rice wrote a critical reply to a fan's question about the film in 1998:
"The key factor is that the entire vampire contract terminates in the year 2000. All the properties revert to me at that time, unless production commences—principal photography that is—before then. I don't think it is possible for Warner Bros. to develop anything in that amount of time."
"They have not been receptive to me or to my ideas at all."
"Not very long ago, less than a year ago in fact, I begged the executives there to let me write a script for THE VAMPIRE LESTAT for union scale (the Writers Guild won't let you write it for free) and a deferred payment not due until release of the picture. They simply weren't interested. It was very painful for me, as I had been talking to a new director they'd hired and we were both excited about the idea.
"I felt snubbed and hurt and have not bothered to approach them since. The young director is supposed to be developing THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED which I think is a bad idea, and basically a doomed project.
During 1999, the script was developed by TV screenwriter Scott Abbott and Australian writer/director Michael Petroni. Another Australian, Michael Rymer, was confirmed to direct. Rymer suggested the film be shot in his home city of Melbourne, which would save considerably on production costs.
The first actor cast was R&B singer Aaliyah (who had made her film and acting debut in Romeo Must Die) as Akasha, the eponymous Queen of the Damned. Jenna Dewan and Foxy Brown were rumored to have been considered for the role of Akasha in addition to Aaliyah. The search for an actor to play Lestat took much longer—the idea of Tom Cruise reprising the role was considered but dismissed—although front runners included Wes Bentley, Josh Hartnett and Heath Ledger. Irish actor Stuart Townsend assumed the role in 2000, and the final cast included Vincent Perez as Marius, Paul McGann as David Talbot, Lena Olin as Maharet and Marguerite Moreau as Jesse Reeves. Australian actors included Claudia Black as Pandora and Matthew Newton as Armand.
With a large cast of international and Australian actors, Queen of the Damned began principal photography on October 2, 2000, in a former biscuit factory, converted into a studio in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans. Location filming took place around the city of Melbourne, although some filming was done in Los Angeles. For the scenes of Lestat's concert in Death Valley, over 3000 goths were recruited from Melbourne nightclubs and on the internet, then driven on a fleet of buses to a quarry in Werribee to act as extras.
The songs for Lestat's band were written and performed by Jonathan Davis, of the band Korn, and Richard Gibbs, although Davis's contractual commitments to Sony BMG meant that his vocals could not appear on the soundtrack album. Instead, the vocals were re-recorded by other musicians for the soundtrack release: Wayne Static of Static-X ("Not Meant for Me"), David Draiman of Disturbed ("Forsaken"), Chester Bennington of Linkin Park ("System"), Marilyn Manson ("Redeemer"), and Jay Gordon of Orgy ("Slept So Long"). During the end credits "Not Meant For Me" is played. It is Jonathan Davis' version although the credits credit it as the Wayne Static version from the album.
Davis also made a small cameo in the film; when Jesse arrives in Los Angeles, a scalper (Jonathan Davis) attempts to sell her tickets to Lestat’s show.
The soundtrack also contains other songs featured in the film: "Body Crumbles" by Dry Cell, "Cold" by Static-X, "Dead Cell" by Papa Roach, "Excess" by Tricky, "Headstrong" by Earshot, "Penetrate" by Godhead, "Down With the Sickness" by Disturbed, "Change (In the House of Flies)" by Deftones and "Before I'm Dead" by Kidneythieves.
The score for the film was also composed by Gibbs and Davis. Both the metal soundtrack and score were released as albums in 2002.
Frank Fitzpatrick and Rich Dickerson were the Music Supervisors for the film and the soundtrack album.
The original studio recording of "Careless" was written and produced by Davis and Gibbs, during the Queen of the Damned sessions, all vocals by Davis, keyboards by Gibbs, guitars by Munky, Head, and Davis, and drums by Vinnie Colaiuta.
By July 2001, author Anne Rice had mellowed her previous stance on the film, much as she had with Interview. When asked about the film's progress, she answered:
"Everything I hear about the movie is good. Warner Bros. is extremely enthusiastic. They are working very hard to make it perfect. I have no real news. Let me repeat what I mentioned in a recent message. I met Stuart Townsend, the young man who is playing Lestat and he was absolutely charming. He had Lestat's excellent speaking voice and his feline grace. I cannot wait to see him in the film."
By late 2001, Rice had seen the completed film and was sufficiently satisfied to allow her name to be used on promotional material, although she later became disillusioned about it and dismissed the film in 2003, stating that a television series format would be more suited to her work.
On her Facebook page, any time the subject is brought up, she repeatedly comments that the Queen of the Damned film is not something she can understand or embrace, that she encouraged them not to make the film, and that it hurt her to see her work "mutilated" the way it was.
Queen of the Damned was released on February 22, 2002 in the United States and Canada.
The film received negative reviews from film critics, with several reviewers such as Roger Ebert describing it as "goofy" or "damned". The film has an approval "rotten" rating of 17% at Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus calling the film "A muddled and campy MTV-styled vampire movie with lots of eye candy and bad accents." Despite negative reviews, Queen of the Damned nonetheless topped the box office in the weeks following its release. The film grossed $45.5 million on a $35 million budget.
In December 2002, Allan Menzies from West Lothian in Scotland murdered one of his friends. He claimed in court that it was Aaliyah's character "Queen Akasha" from the film that told him to do it.