I'm guessing that if you're reading this interview, you already know who the great Lin Shaye is, but in case you've recently experienced a small dose of head trauma, Shaye is the character actress perhaps best recognized for her crude comedy roles in Kingpin, There's Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber, but she's also been popping up in our genre for decades. Her flirtation with horror started with A Nightmare on Elm Street, but since then she's popped up in everything from Critters to The Running Man to Killer Pad, Snakes on a Plane and a whole lot more.

She can most recently be seen in Tim Sullivan's 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, out now on DVD and Blu-ray from First Look Studios.

Horror Squad: Before we move onto 2001 Maniacs, I'd love to share my love for a movie you did a number of years ago, Dead End. Not only is it one of my favorite roles of yours, but it's one of my favorite under-seen horror gems.

Lin Shaye: Do you know that's truly been one of my favorite things I've ever done? It has an amazing fan base and I don't even know how that happened. Lionsgate bought the film and we were hoping they would do some kind of midnight release because people loved it, but over the years it's been on Pay-Per View and various other venues and people have been eventually discovering it.
I remember watching it with my son, who was probably 14 at the time, and he said it was the scariest movies he ever saw, so I thought that was pretty cool.

HS: It is very cool. You and Ray Wise have such great chemistry in it. It's funny and creepy and heartfelt in all the right places and I really wish it had gotten a wider release.

Shaye: Well thank you!

HS: No, thank you. Well, I assume given how many you've made over the years, you are actually a horror fan, correct?

Shaye: No.

HS: Really? You don't like horror movies?

Shaye: Not at all. I don't think I used to watch them at all. I'm not a blood and guts person. I remember seeing House of Wax as a teenager in 3D. This was years ago, the original House of Wax, and that was scary enough for me that I thought I'd never see another one.

As an actor, whatever I get the opportunity to do, if it has a good story then I'm in. I thought Dead End had a great story, Nightmare on Elm Street of course was probably the first real horror film I was in. It's no secret that Bob Shaye is my brother and New Line was just getting on their feet so no one new it was going to be anything. The opportunity to work with Wes was amazing and the history of the film kind of speaks for itself.

But in terms of being a horror fan and seeking them out. I've never seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I've never seen Halloween, I've never seen any of the Friday the 13ths.

HS: That's just weird.

Shaye: [Laughs] Yep, but if you ask me to be in them okay!

HS: Other than story, is there anything in particular that attracts you to movies like 2001 Maniacs?

Shaye: Well 2001 Maniacs came about because I did Detroit Rock City and Tim Sullivan was one of the associate producers on it. Up until then, except for the Nightmare on Elm Streets, I hadn't been in many straight horror films. And we talked about me being the Granny and it was hard for me to digest the fact that I could be Granny to begin with. The biggest negative was calling her Granny-- Can't we just call her Mrs. Boone?

But once I got over the reality of what I was now able to play, he kind of described the story to me. It was a very appealing story about people revenging against war. I never saw the original even, but as Tim described it, it just sound like a really cool story. And as he first described it, he wanted Granny to be kind of a Beverley Hillbillies Granny with a coonskin hat and a [makes an imitation Hillbilly noise I could not possibly transcribe]. It was a generic hillbilly basically, but I was okay with that.

But then the movie got put on hold for some reason. I think the set burned down, actually. We were having really bad fires out here in California and were set to shoot on Porter Ranch or somewhere like that and the actual area we were supposed to shoot in burned down. The next set piece they acquired was this fabulous living museum in Lumpkin, Georgia, which is a real Civil War re-enactment museum. All these authentic buildings had been brought to this acreage and filled with actors who would play, you know, the blacksmith and the judge. They'd bring high schoolers there to learn about the Civil War.

It was beautiful and we didn't have to build anything. There was this mansion that was written to belong to Granny, a sort of old white house with big white pillars. I said to Tim, there's no coonskin cap here, this is Scarlet O'Hara we're talking.

So on the spot we sort of improvised a whole new character. I suggested a whole new costume, a lot of petticoats and what not, and I was kind of sewed into a costume on the first day. I described her as Scarlet O'Hara and a Black Widow spider. So the character was kind of born.

I also said to Tim that there needed to be a reference to these people's pain, to what they're about so that it's not just about people eating people. So there's this montage where each character speaks about their pain and I told Tim that I imagined that these people came and ate my babies, that they dismembered my children. And I have a line like that that I sort of spit out when I have the cleaver in my hand.

I think that was the first time I was really into the horror of a horror movie I was in.

HS: I've read that Tim Sullivan wasn't too happy about how 2001 Maniacs turned out and that he didn't have as much control on set as he wanted but that changed with Field of Screams. Do you find that that was indeed the case and you got to do even more improv this time around? What were the main differences between that production and this one?

Shaye: On the first one there were a lot of producers. There were also a lot of producers who wanted to be directors. I'm not naming names, but there were a lot of control issues on set and Tim was sort of caught in the crossfire. He was trying to listen to them while staying true to his vision, his vision being the term I think he coined, "Splatstick". He saw it as having more of a vaudevillian feel. But they took the film and added in some stock sequences and tried to make it scarier.

It was under a lot of time and money constraints and there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. It was Tim's first movie and he tried to be extremely accommodating, he was completely non-combative, he knew that was pointless. But for the second one, it was his baby completely. He could fulfill the comedy he wanted to, to really take it over the top with that kind political incorrectness.

HS: And oh how he did.

Shaye: It's interesting. I think because Robert [Englund] is such a fascinating person and actor, he lent an almost elegance to the first one. He was the ring leader in the circus. It almost had a classical feel to it in the way he delivered and his statute and I loved that. It gave a really strong atmosphere to the first one.

And Bill [Moseley] brought more of a cowboy to it. I used to tease him that the reminded me of Huckleberry Fin. He's a very smart guy, very intellectual. People may not recognize that about him because of the movies he does, but he's a Yale graduate and he used to be an editor for, I think, a science magazine. On the set he was always chasing bugs and taking pictures.

So Bill lent more of an odd boyishness to the character. He was a little craggier, it was just a different tone. And Tim was very smart in accentuating the difference in his two Buckmans. And for me, it was about accentuating my relationship with Buckman in ways that were only hinted at in the first one. In this one we have a sex scene!

Tim has been extremely accommodating to my thoughts and my ideas in both films. He really respected my ideas. In this one there was more freedom because the buck stopped there. We didn't have to figure out if this guy liked it or if the other guy liked it and so on and so on. There was no static.

We shot in 11 days, which is insane. Jim Ojala, who did the make-up effects, was talking about how they were trying to figure out how to make a guy's tongue melt while in a motel in the middle of Iowa. They had all their potions out and were completely wrecking the room to figure out how to make it work because it had to be there in the next ten minutes. There was a time frame and a hectic nature to this one that I think actually worked for it.

HS: Well since you were one of the few returning actors and since 2001 Maniacs, particularly this one, is so extreme in its gore and sexuality and political incorrectness...did you find you had to reassure some of the newer actors that this was all above board? That Tim knew what he was doing?

Shaye: I guess there was a certain kind of leadership I had just from my experience. I think I had the most on set, even more than Bill, because I've been around for a while. So I do think people kind of looked at me like a leader, which is not something I'm used to. I just kind of do my thing with sort of tunnel vision for the story and my role and how it fits together. I don't know if it was reassurance so much as it was that little feel of leadership, that I was kind of the matriarch on set and even found myself being kind of bossy at times. [Laughs]

I think the women that are in it, Kathryn Le and Nicole Rae, they're pretty ballsy girls. I don't think this is the first time they've taken their clothes off. I don't mean that in a tawdry way, it's just clear they were very comfortable with the sexuality. I'm the only one that doesn't take my clothes off!

I think they looked at me more about how to play the scenes. Christa Campbell was great. I think she is a very smart woman and a good actress. She looked to me in a lovely way to guide her in scenes. We have a wonderful scene together, where we're looking for Jesus, taunting him from afar. That was all stuff we came up with on set. She was very eager to take advantage of my experience, but no one really needed reassurance in terms of the content. Everyone was very comfortable.

Hucklebilly didn't want to show his butt for a while, but once he did they couldn't get him to put it away! Give them an inch and they take a mile!

There's something oddly liberating about nudity on camera. I've done nudity on stage. I've never done the kind of nudity that's in this, not at all, but there's a very odd moment where you take your clothes off and there's all these people standing around and you kind of go, "Oh, yeah, okay. It's all okay!" It's liberating because everything is so tabooed in real life and it gets rid of that taboo.

It's great to be naked actually, it feels great to accept that about yourself. It's great!

HS: Hah, maybe some day I'll try it. I don't want to take up too much more of your time, but I'd love to know what projects you're working on now.

Shaye: I've been very fortunate and really busy this year, so far. The most exciting project is James Wan's new film, Insidious. It stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey and I have a great role. It's such a great role! It's a really exciting film. It has an exciting script and it was even more exciting when we shot it. Oddly enough, John Leonetti, who was the cinematographer on Detroit Rock City, is James' cinematographer and they were really cooking. It was a wonderful experience and I have very high hopes for the film. It'll be very mainstream and A all the way. They had some constraints too, but the cast is sensational. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, I can't say enough good things about them. They were just thrilling to work with.

So there's that, but from there, and this is a ridiculous idea, but I did a Kris Kringle movie for Halmark called Farewell Mr. Kringle with Christine Taylor, who is Ben Stiller's wife. And we had a great time on it.

I did a short in 3D that a wonderful director-actor Chris Young did with me and Balthazar Getty called the Dead of Nowhere that is a precursor to a film he's trying to get made. I'm not sure what they're going to do with it, but that was crazy exciting to shoot in 3D. They built their own camera, it was two days up in the desert, it was exciting.

I just did a film called Sedona that Francis Fischer is in and Beth Grant, very nice script by a director named Tommy Stovall who did a movie I did years ago called Hate Crime that was also kind of a fest film. What else? I'm going to be doing a movie with Bud Cort which is the kind of existential exercise story. I can't understand the script at all, all I know is it takes me back to experimental theater like Becket and Jean Jeunet, it has all these quotes from Kafka and Nietzsche. It's really an exercise in philosophy. I'm not sure when that will shoot.

I'm also doing a short film with Adam Rifkin but I don't know how much I can talk about that because I'm not sure he wants to let the cat out of the bag just yet.
categories Interviews, Horror