Aaliyah, the 22-year-old singer who plays 6,000-year-old royal vampire Akasha in the movie version of Anne Rice's novel, had already completed her role when her chartered plane crashed last August. ''We were all in shock,'' says director Rymer (''In Too Deep'' ). ''I knew how important her work was to her, so my response was to make her look as good in the film as we possibly could.''
In postproduction, the filmmakers enlisted Aaliyah's soundalike brother Rashad to smooth out any rough patches in her dialogue. ''When we just finished [filming],'' remembers Townsend, ''before hardly anyone had seen it, there was this rumor on the Internet that [the movie] was going straight to video. So things were already kind of weird, and then Aaliyah died...''
Despite its tragic pall, ''I saw a very early cut and I think it's great fun,'' says the actor, who adds rock & roll cool to the Lestat character that Tom Cruise played in ''Interview With the Vampire.'' ''It's sort of cheesy and camp, veering into 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' territory. I vamp it up and Aaliyah is in the ultimate pop video, just strutting around, having a ball.''