LOS ANGELES: When budding pop diva Aaliyah died in a plane crash last fall, Warner Bros. found itself with a marketing dilemma for its film Queen of the Damned, in which the chanteuse played the living-dead title role.How do you find the proper balance between over-hyping Aaliyah's presence in the movie, thus offending fans, or under-hyping her role, thus offending fans? And how do you avoid seeming macabre, promoting a deceased actor in a vampire horror flick?
"The most respectful thing we could do for Aaliyah was to market the movie without paying considerable attention to her passing,
explains Dawn Taubin, Warner Bros.' head of marketing.
That meant continuing to market the picture with Aaliyah's image front and center, even though her actual screen time doesn't kick in until the last half of the movie.
But despite Warner Bros.' best attempts to be non-exploitive, Aaliyah's presence in the film has caused quite a controversy - especially between online cadres of fans for author Anne Rice's vampire chronicles, and Aaliyah's devotees.
Thousands of postings debating the issue clog the official website. Angles range from whether Aaliyah should have been cast at all (hard-core Rice fans say her character, Akasha, is described as "marble white
in the book), to whether Warner Bros. is making money off her death. Fan interest has been so intense that producer Jorge Saralegui has reportedly spent up to three hours a day answering fan questions.
"Aaliyah's fans are very passionate and possessive,
Saralegui told the Los Angeles Times. "Honestly, I'm doing it to generate goodwill ... I had no idea it would be this much work."