02/19/2002 AT 11:00 AM EST
Proving the skeptics wrong who thought the $35 million movie would go straight to video, the late R&B singer Aaliyah's movie, "The Queen of the Damned," based on the third book of Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles," will open in the nation's theaters Friday. In it, Aaliyah, who doesn't make her entrance until the final third of the movie, plays the power-hungry Queen Akasha, revived from the dead to prey on the living and do what vampires do. As the film's director, Michael Rymer, 24, told USA Today about marketing the film, which features in its posters a seductive-looking Aaliyah (who was 22 when she died): "It's a horror film, so the subject matter was touchy. But everything was handled tastefully. It was her last performance, and she wanted it to be a success, so we were behind it." Aaliyah's soundalike older brother, Rashad Haughton, redubbed parts of his sister's dialogue after she was killed on Aug. 25 in a plane crash in the Bahamas. "Everyone is very sensitive about being appropriate," Rymer says about the movie's release. (Its studio, Warner Bros., like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner.) "The studio feels her loss terribly, but they're not in the business of articulating that. And I personally believe that they were going to market the film the same way -- that Aaliyah was always the biggest name in the film." Concurred costar Stuart Townsend, who plays Akasha's lover, the vampire Lestat: "In a weird way, Warner Bros. is now promoting us because of Aaliyah, and thankfully, the family's right behind it. And now, her death might make more people see this movie . . . It's a tough thing."