A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : DEVELOPMENT HELL : 'Interview With a Vampire' and 'Dreamgirls' Looking Good to Ascend

"Interview With a Vampire," Anne Rice's epic bloodsucker novel, and "Dreamgirls," the Broadway musical loosely based on the rise of the Supremes, are two projects that would seem to beg to be turned into movies. Both projects, owned by Geffen Films, are immensely popular, have strong male and female characters that could easily attract A-list stars and have very cinematic stories.

Why, then, have they spent over a decade in development hell?

According to sources close to both projects, those days of endless story meetings and conjecture may soon be over. Although neither "Interview" or "Dreamgirls" is ready for even pre-production, both properties are reportedly now on the fast track.

In the case of "Dreamgirls," the late Michael Bennett's Tony-winning musical of 1982 that made a star out of Jennifer Holliday, a director is firmly attached. Frank Oz, who helmed Geffen's successful "Little Shop of Horrors" and showed a natural affinity for musical material, will reportedly tackle the brassy film after directing "Swing Vote."

Oz has been in discussions with hot screenwriter Todd Graff ("Used People," "Angie, I Says," "The Crowded Room") to adapt the material. Names reportedly being batted about for the leads: Whitney Houston, Vanessa Williams and Holliday. The future of "Interview With a Vampire" is murkier. A sensuous tale about vampire LeStat, his friend Louis and the child bloodsucker Claudia, "Interview" has attracted various Hollywood players since it was published in 1976. Originally set up at Paramount (where John Travolta was at one time earmarked to play LeStat), the project bounced to Lorimar, to the networks and finally to Geffen. Earlier this year, novelist Rice wrote her own screenplay that Geffen flipped over. The project was then sent to several A-list directors (reportedly Stephen Frears and Ridley Scott), but they passed.

"The directors it was sent to liked it very much but simply thought there were too many vampire films out this year. So we're waiting for 'Dracula' to come and do its thing and then we'll go back," explained the source, who's hopeful that a director will be on board by spring of '93.

"Interview" is being labored over by yet another screenwriter (reportedly the 10th since '76). Steve Katz (the yet-unproduced "Morningside Heights" and "Shadow of the Vampire") is "enhancing" Rice's script.

Rice, who has cringed at the stars suggested for her characters over the years (at one point, in a move toward androgyny, Cher was to play Louis), is said to be partial to Rutger Hauer and Richard E. Grant. And she remains hopeful. "If anybody can get this movie made," she says, "it's David."

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