Sometime in the 1980s, when TV writer and showrunner Bryan Fuller was but a lad, he made the decision that he wanted to be the one to adapt Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles into a film. Being a teenager and not quite the creator of cult TV he would later become, he resourcefully decided to track down the author herself and make a pitch for the show. After finding her name in the San Francisco phone book, the one and only Rice herself actually answered the call and listened to his pitch before passing on the number of the producer who actually owned the rights. Suffice it to say, he didn't get the job.
Now, in what can only be described as the most wonderful act of serendipity, Bryan Fuller is indeed working with Anne Rice on a brand-new adaptation of the Vampire Chronicles. The deal with Paramount Television will see the hugely iconic series of novels become a television series, on which Fuller will collaborate with Rice and her son Christopher. Right now, there are few details about the show—no casting, no filming dates, no directors and so on—but when it was announced that Fuller would be one of the figures at the helm, you could practically hear the gasps of joy from the geek world. After all, it's Bryan Fuller taking on Lestat and friends. Who else could pull it off?
Fuller got his start as a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but once he moved into creating his own shows he quickly carved out a niche for himself as an esoteric artist with a specific and extremely alluring sensibility. Think of the way the delightful Pushing Daisies mixes screwball romance with over-the-top murder mystery, or how Wonderfalls tackled the post-college slacker trope with a hefty dose of psychedelia. If we were to encapsulate what makes a show a Bryan Fuller show in one phrase, we’d go with “beautifully f*cked up”.
One of Fuller’s long-running themes throughout his work is death, and how that is seldom the end of our journey in life. Dead Like Me turned the ultimate spectre of fear, the Grim Reaper, into a hilariously mundane bureaucratic nightmare; Pushing Daisies blurred the lines between the living and the dead to genre-bending delights; Hannibal made it artistic in the most hallucinogenic way possible; and American Gods portrayed the diverging paths of the afterlife as dictated by your faiths and (dis)beliefs. For Fuller, death may hold more exciting potential for storytelling than life, which makes him perfect to take on the world of Rice’s vampires. His best stories show death is but a bump in the road, or even a twisted journey to greatness. He empowers his dead characters with a new sense of life. As was the case with Pushing Daisies’ Chuck and American Gods’ Laura Moon, the dead girls in his worlds don’t stay dead; they get back up and fight on, reclaiming their narratives and eschewing archaic tropes of women’s suffering being the primary motivators for men.
If you want proof that Fuller is the perfect choice to bring Lestat and company to life, look no further than Hannibal. For three seasons, Fuller managed to take what should have been a staid procedural adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels and turn it into a baroque opera of dazzling visuals, standout performances and genre-subverting bombast. Everything you thought Hannibal was going to be was quickly proven wrong in that amazing pilot, which managed to be stark in its violence but still otherworldly in its approach. It was a procedural show not of our realm: everyone talked like stoned vampires, the murder scenes were near impossible in their aesthetics and construction, the costume and production design felt halfway between Dario Argento and Armani, and at the center of it all was one of modern television’s most twisted love stories.
The relationship between the debonair sociopath cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and the damaged empath professor Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) evolved from an intellectual cat and mouse game to an enthrallingly passionate attachment of co-dependence. This was no queer-baiting or watered down subtext; this was a show where it was explicitly stated that Hannibal was in love with Will. Fuller spent a large part of his career trying to get gay romances into his work and being thwarted by network meddling, but with Hannibal he created a dark romance for the genre ages.
Everything in Hannibal feels like a demo reel for a Vampire Chronicles adaptation. The witty and mannered way everyone talks, the hypnotic cinematography, the obsession with death, and of course, the dedication to queerness. Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Interview with the Vampire is on the right wavelength for Rice—it’s baroque and gothic and just melodramatic enough—but it’s hampered by a seriously diluted approach to the homoeroticism of the novel and the miscasting of the central roles still drives some fans up the wall. The less said about the movie of Queen of the Damned, the better (Lestat as a nu-metal rocker?!)
2018 is a wildly different artistic landscape than 1994 for Hollywood. The culture can now sustain an epic multi-book saga like this in television form. It can be done without major concessions, it can be as violent and sexual as necessary, and there will be an audience, both nationally and internationally, who are eager to watch it. Fuller, like Anne Rice herself, is not one for making compromises to his vision (it’s one of the reasons he and co-showrunner Michael Green left American Gods after one season). Not only does Fuller have the vision, but he’s got the team behind him. His regular collaborators include the director David Slade (30 Days of Night), Oscar winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and actors like Gillian Anderson. Fans won’t have to worry about the books they love being bastardized or molded to fit the trends of the day.
It could be some time before we hear further news of this show, which leaves us with plenty of time to fine-tune our fan-castings (we’ll find a way to fit Mads Mikkelsen in there, just you wait). Anything could happen between now and the show reaching the shooting stages, but for those Vampire Chronicles fans out there who have been waiting a very long time for the adaptation the material deserves, it’s good to know the books are in a safe set of hands.