Bellevue author’s ‘Vampire Academy’ graduates to big screen
An interview with Richelle Mead, the author of the “Vampire Academy” novels, now adapted for the screen. Mead lives in Bellevue, Wash.
Seattle Times movie critic
When Bellevue resident Richelle Mead started writing her first book, she never imagined it might someday be a movie. “I was mostly just trying to finish the book and get it published,” she said. “You hope for a lot, but you never know.”
Now, her best-selling 2007 debut novel “Vampire Academy,” the first in a popular young-adult series, is on the big screen, starting Friday. As is typical in the movie business, it didn’t happen overnight.
“It actually took a while to sell the movie rights, because we were in the midst of the ‘Twilight’ phenomenon, and I think there was a lot of fear in Hollywood of vampire burnout,” Mead said. Development finally began in late 2012 — “a pleasant surprise.”
The filmmakers chosen by the producers were a team well-versed in teen movies: director Mark Waters (“Mean Girls,” “Freaky Friday”) and writer Daniel Waters (“Heathers,” “Batman Returns”). Mead wasn’t formally involved in the writing process, but was consulted for fact-checking. “Dan really got what I was trying to do with the book,” she said. “It was really adapted the way I’d hoped it would be.”
“Vampire Academy” takes place at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians hidden in remote Montana — but the movie was filmed in London, so the filmmakers could have access to a variety of historical architecture. Most of the school scenes were shot at University College London, and Mead was able to briefly visit the set during the shoot last year.
“It’s so surreal that they take what you imagined and turn it up a level,” she said. In the classroom scenes, for example, the production designers “filled in things that might show up visually — posters on the walls about checking out library books, handouts on the students’ desks, assignments about Romanian vampires on their desk. I don’t think that would even show up (on screen), but someone went to that much detail to have every little thing filled and ready. It’s just amazing.”
Though she had no voice in casting, Mead said that the lead actresses — Lucy Fry as blond vampire princess Lissa Dragomir; Zoey Deutch as her fierce half-blood protector Rose Hathaway — are “physically spot-on, and their real-life personalities kind of match the characters.” She’s “thrilled” with the final film, and thinks fans of the books will be pleased, despite advertising that has heavily focused on the movie’s humorous side. “I think that scared some fans, that it had gone all comedy, but it certainly hasn’t.”
A native of Michigan, Mead has lived in the Seattle area since 2001 and has a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Washington. She’ll be carefully watching the box-office reports this weekend — whether more “Vampire Academy” movies get made depends on the success of this one. Meanwhile, she’s got two new books coming out this year and a brand-new baby at home, whose schedule meant that Mead had to skip the gala “Vampire Academy” premiere in Los Angeles. “I resigned myself to (missing it) a while ago,” she said. “It makes me that much more hopeful for the next movie!”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org