His Sister's Keeper

  • Share
  • Read Later
JIM COOPER/AP

Aaliyah poses for a photo May 9, 2001

When singer-actress Aaliyah died in a plane accident in August of 2001, fans and entertainment insiders wondered what would become of "The Queen of the Damned," a Warner Bros. movie in which she was cast in the title role. "The Queen of the Damned," it turns out, will make it to the big screen after all, and it is currently set for a release in February of 2002 — with a little help from her family. TIME has learned that Aaliyah's brother, Rashad, recorded some of Aaliyah's dialogue in order to see the film to completion.

"The Queen of the Damned" is a much-anticipated release — it was based on the book by horror writer Anne Rice and it is the first cinematic follow-up to the 1994 box office blockbuster "Interview With a Vampire," which starred Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Aaliyah, who plays a 6,000 year-old Egyptian vampire named Akasha in "The Queen of the Damned," had all but finished her role when she died in a plane crash in the Bahamas.

But partly because Aaliyah plays her role with an Egyptian accent, some dialogue touchup was required for some of the lines that she recorded to make them clearer for the audience. Rashad, her older brother, speaks in the same smooth, serene tones as his sister and so, according to a representative of the family, he re-recorded a small number of words and stray lines of Aaliyah's dialogue. Aaliyah's voice will not be completely replaced — Rashad's was mixed in with his sister's to give the lines more force and clarity.

The move is not unprecedented. When James Dean died in an auto accident in 1955, his movie "Giant" had yet to be released. A friend of Dean's, Nick Adams, recorded a few lines of the actor's dialogue to complete the picture. More recently, in the 2000 movie "Gladiator," when actor Oliver Reed died with a few scenes left to film in his part, director Ridley Scott took the more radical step of using special effects to paste Reed's face onto another actor's body.

The trailer for "The Queen of the Damned" is already showing in theaters and is also available to watch online at queenofthedamned.warnerbros.com. (Warner Brothers is owned by AOL Time Warner, parent company of TIME). Aaliyah, at the time of her death, also had a role in the sequel to the hit sci-fi movie "The Matrix," but hadn't done much filming for the project yet, so it seems unlikely that her work can be salvaged. However, a spokesperson for Warner Bros., which is also behind "The Matrix," says there's no official word yet on whether Aaliyah will appear in "The Matrix" sequel in some way or whether her part will be recast.

Christopher John Farley is the author of the new book "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman."