I am actress Lin Shaye. You might know me from Insidious, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or my latest film Ouija - as well as There's Something About Mary, Kingpin, or many more. AMA!
Hi guys, I'm actress Lin Shaye. I love acting. From my comedies (There's Something About Mary or Kingpin) to horror franchise (like Insidious), I look forward to many more movies in my lifetime.
My latest film is called Ouija (http://www.ouijamovie.com/) and it's out in theaters now.
Victoria's helping me out today via phone. AMA!
EDIT: I thank everybody for these great questions. They make ME think about myself and my work in new and exciting ways, very often. I wish we had gotten to more questions about Ouija, which is a wonderful, scary and fun film to watch with friends. Go, and squeal and scream and enjoy the fear and embrace all the things that make Halloween scary and fun!
Have a safe, happy Halloween.
Oh, thank you!
The thing that appeals to me about horror movies is the thing that appeals to me about movies in general: being in a dark space (and this is especially seeing movies in the theater, which is why movies in the small screen oftentimes get lost in translation) with strangers, and you may be with someone you know, but you are in a room with all these people you don't know, and you are all experiencing this very personal experience, in a dark room on a big screen with intense sound... and it all feels very personal, like it's all for you, and yet you are in this anonymous space with strangers. There is something that can't replace that.
And horror films, in particular, can create such havoc inside of you that it's often great to be around other people, hahaha!
Lin, loved you in Detroit Rock City and 2001 Maniacs (among dozens of other amazing roles)! Could I ask if you have any idea, what's going on with Guiseppe Andrews? Any chance he'll get back into acting or is he enjoying the trailer park life too much?
Adam Rifkin, who directed DETROIT ROCK CITY, just did a film that Giuseppe got, called "Giuseppe Makes a Movie." And I think it's a documentary following Giuseppe around while he makes a film. It might be - you should look it up on google, because it will probably have a limited run in some theaters! So keep an eye out for it. They just did a screening of it, I didn't get to go, but I definitely know it's out there.
Hi Lin you'd be great on American Horror Story. If that would ever happen what character would you like to play?
Oh wow, we were just talking about it! I don't know, I would think they would have to find something. There are so many opportunities for character development, especially in the scenes they come up with. They've already done all the Freak Show episodes since all the episodes are shot in one fell swoop. I don't really know! It would depend on the theme of the season. In this particular story, Kathy Bates is extraordinary as the bearded Lady, and those are the kind of roles I am attracted to. There's no other Kathy Bates! there is only the one, and she is just exceptional in everything she does. I would love to work with her, so maybe there would be something in a future series of theirs. Maybe she's got a long-lost something, somewhere, that would have a part for Lin Shaye in it! Because i think she's just great, all the actors in the show are great, they are all one of a kind actors. And all actors i would love to work with someday.
What was it like working on A Nightmare on Elm Street and Dumb And Dumber?
A Nightmare on Elm Street was a wonderful experience. I was working with Wes Craven, and I knew it was a fairly small role, and what some people may not know is that the film was produced by my brother's film company, which was New Line Cinema. And I came in as Bobby's little sister. And hit it off wonderfully with Wes, and the payoff for me is how successful the film was, and how many people remember my role in it. It was an early, wonderful experience in filmmaking for me.
Dumb and Dumber was... awesome! I started out, let's see, let me think for a second. I met the Farrellys when we did Kingpin, and that's a VERY Long story. I mean, Kingpin I was supposed to have an audition, they never called me in for it, I called the production offices and begged them for an audition, and they knew me a little bit, but it was not - they didn't thinK I was right for the role. And i came in dressed as Mrs. Dumars, and I guess blew them away, and got the job. And it was from Kingpin that then I had the opportunity to move onto Something About Mary, but actually Dumb And Dumber was FIRST! And... let me think for a second... also! because it was a New Line Cinema project. And I got set up for an audition, and didn't even know it had to do with my brother's company until I got the job. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that come your way - the clue is when opportunity knocks at your door, open the door and walk through! It's a good lesson, hahaha. Don't go "Oh, I don't know who called me and who are they and I don't know if I should do it..." people set up all these rules for not doing things sometimes. I say "always remove your own blockades when opportunity comes your way."
Hi Lin! I absolutely loved your work in Insidious. What was it like getting into the headspace of her character? Were you shocked when you found out her fate at the end of Part 1? What was it like working with James Wan? I'd love to see you in The Conjuring 2!
Hmm, hahaha! that's a lot of questions.
I loved working on the Insidious project, and it was mostly James that attracted me to the project to begin with. I met him through a mutual friend, and he asked me if I was interested in reading a script and I said "Sure" and when I read the first Insidious, I made the mistake of reading it late at night, haha ! in my bed! And I literally - after I put the script down, I took it downstairs and locked it in a closet, hahaha!
Well, Elise is a - we really did develop her obvious in the first one. She's a calm, ordinary woman who loves people, loves her life, but has this ability, which can sometimes even frighten her, as we see later in the franchise as well. It was wonderful to find the light moments for her as well - I remember the opening of the first one, this was an idea that I came up with that James really liked, where I was at the front door of the Lambert house, and I remember I rang the doorbell and then knocked also, and then when Patrick opened the door, I remember saying I wasn't sure if the doorbell worked or not, which is kind of a great moment for a psychic who's supposed to know everything! But she only knows the IMPORTANT things. She probably can't ever find her purse, I'm imagining. She's that person who is tuned into the otherworld in such a strong way that sometimes the real world gets by her. And they were just lots of fun to make, because the people involved have been just wonderful. James and Leigh (who now just directed the 3rd one we just did) are just top, top top people in every way. They are kind, smart, funny, ambitious, they are ruthless in terms of the work and gentlemen in terms of the people and how they live their life. They are two of the best people I know and I adore them both.
If you could be a Golden Girl, which one would you be?
Oh, I'd probably be Bea Arthur, because she's the one with the mouth on her.
Lin, loved you in Nightmare on Elm St and Something About Mary.
Could you please share an anecdote on the making of There's Something About Mary, one of the very funniest comedies of the 1990s? Of all the actors involved with the making of that film, I would suspect that your role was probably the biggest stretch between real life and role.
You are right about that! the makeup took 4 hours every day. There is a great anecdote which is that the scene where Puffy gets thrown out the window, I remember it was the scene with Cameron and I, and of course they did not throw the REAL dog out the window, they threw the FAKE dog out the window, and as the dog sails out the window, the shot was me and Cameron looking out the window and yelling "PUFFY!"
So I went to the window to look out - hahaha - this is a typical kind of practical joke that the Farrellys love to play - there was a big round naked butt STARING Us in the face! That belonged to Bobby Farrelly! And so that scream you hear from me and Cameron was looking at Bobby Farrelly's big naked butt starting at us from the fake window.
And that was the take they used.
Hi Lin! I guess my question is... what scares you the most? If there was a horror movie written just to scare you, what would it be?
I think I'm most scared by things emotionally and mentally. I'm not so much scared of horror or ghosts, I've made my peace with ghosts, I guess you could say, Haha! I actually feel I have, I'm very accepting of the spiritual world and definitely think it exists.
Both the good and the bad.
One of the scariest movies I remember seeing was a movie called "Repulsion" by Roman Polanski. It was with Catherine Deneuve, who was one of the most beautiful French actresses who ever lived, and it's a psychological horror film, and I always - I used to, I couldn't tell you exactly what the theme is even, or what the story is about, but it left an imprint on me on some level that still exists.
I also thought Glenn Close, a wonderful movie with her and Michael Douglass, FATAL ATTRACTION, I thought that was a brilliant modern horror film. "Repulsion" is from the 1950s. And i gotta say that Insidious was a wonderful horror film in its own way, because it had heart. And I think also, people are scared by different types of things, and even a movie like "Ouija," our film, has sort of classic images that - I think images become classic when it's clear that generally all people are frightened by them - like feet hanging from something, you see something hanging you know it's not good at the top! I think there are classic photographic images that scare people.
And I think we all have our own private fears, which then we superimpose on what we see. And so for me, I'm never sure what those things are until they have impacted me, so I couldn't list you what scares me as much as what sort of lingers in your unconscious almost. It's not always conscious what scares you. I think the things that truly scare you are unconscious.
And we often don't know what scares us until it's already lingering...
How did you learn to wear such an extremely scaried expression in the Insidious films?
Um, I don't really think about what my face looks like, to be honest! If I did, I probably wouldn't be an actress, hahaha! I try to stay as inside of myself and experience the experience that is presented to me, even though it is a pretend experience, to try and experience it from the inside out. So I never think about what my face is doing. And often when I see myself on screen - that's scary, because I really don't know what i look like! But I don't want to know, I leave that to the movie-goers and hopefully it will have an impact on the story.
My dad absolutely loves Goin’ South. What was it like to work with Jack Nicholson?
In the Farrelly Brothers films, was there ever a scene that took so long to shoot because you guys couldn’t stop laughing?
Oh oh oh - Jack is a force of nature, which he is the first one to tell you he is! He's a wonderfully humble, funny, supportive, fabulous man, and Goin' South was my first adventure coming to Los Angeles. I'd been a theater actress in New York for many years -it's quite a long story, but I flew myself out to California because I knew he'd left NY and was out here, and i told him I'd be out in Los Angeles for a short visit, this was a lie because I'd just packed dirty laundry! And the next morning, I had a meeting with him at Paramount, my photo was up on his board, and he couldn't have been more gracious. And within a few days, he said "This is a very important movie to me, I want some of my favorite people in it, and I would love to have you join us in Durango, Mexico." So even though it was a very small moment in my film career, it was very important.
And Mr. Nicholson is a total force of nature, for real. And as gentle and kind as you can get.
The scene with the dog took a fair amount of time! However, I remember when I saw the expression on Cameron's face, and the crew were trying NOT to laugh during the take, when the dog was kissing me, I knew we had cinema gold, so we were all able to contain ourselves enough to get the shot, we discovered that was cinema gold in the movie, and we enjoyed ourselves at every turn in that film, every frame we had fun shooting. Puffy and I were life-long friends!
What is it like to be involved in so many horror movies?
I'm not really a horror movie fan, haha! But I love character, and I love acting. And for me it's not about the genre as much as story, and character. So fortunately, I feel the horror films I've been allowed to do have very interesting and rich characters, and that's what attracts me to them. I never approach it as "Oh, that's a scary person." I approach it as I do every role, what does the character need, want, what's missing in their life, breaking down scenes - I have had a rich education in acting from Miss Uta Hagan, Lee Strassberg from the Actor's Studio, and Stella Adler, who are three monsters in the business. They are 3 of the finest teachers that ever lived. So they taught me how to work! And i approach every character on that level. And the only characters i'm not interested in doing are ones that are not supported by the story, and that have no backbone, that don't go anywhere. Every character goes somewhere in the story, for a reason, and I like to be the one to fulfill that reason. That's in horror, comedy, or drama.
Hi Lin. What TV show (or movie series), would you love to appear in the most?
Oh! Right now, I am a big fan of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. It's a really chilling, extremely well-done piece of work, totally unnerving. The acting is spectacular from every single person in it. And that is very appealing to me, to work with wonderful actors, a wonderful story, and a wonderful director. So those are still the elements that appeal to me, whether it be TV or on a big screen. Television is a little bit different, because it's changing now a bit, but doing series TV is very very very difficult. I remember i worked with Julianna Margulies, who is a wonderful actress. She did a series called "ER" for YEARS. And I remember her describing to me how hard it was, they work 15 hour days all week long, and then come home and have a day or two to learn the next episode.
She said it was very very difficult and she came out like a champion on it, I always thought she was one of the best things about the show.
And it's changed a bit now, with the formats of Netflix and DirecTV, I actually just did my first series ever for DirecTV called "Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight."
And we had 12 days to shoot ten 30-page episodes. So instead of doing one episode a week, we did the entire season in 12 days, which was really hard. And they seem excited about it, so that's good, but I'm kind of all over the place with my answer. So in terms of TV in general, with things like AMERICAN HORROR STORY, they shoot all those episodes at one time, so you don't sign a contract for 5-7 years anymore for these shows, I believe, and that's also a bit of a deterrent for me from television, because I don't want to play the same character for 5-7 years. I prefer lots of different kinds of characters and experiences, although people that have done those shows say it creates a family that is undeniable. I mean they are really close and forever part of each other's lives, I think.
So there are pros and cons to everything, I think. I prefer film because I like immersing myself TOTALLY for that period of time in that character, and then move on to something new.
I really enjoyed "Snakes on a Plane". Can you tell me about working on that one?
Yes! Sam Jackson is also a NATIONAL TREASURE, haha! He is funny, smart, prepared, bigger than life, gentle, kind... supportive, one of the BEST people I've worked with ever. LOVES his work, which is evident in everything he does. This was also a New Line Project, so I am not embarrassed to say that some of my wonderful opportunities have come through family connection, I guess you might say! But I always had to audition, and that made me always feel better - I mean nobody ever handed me stuff, I always do my best and did my best.
So this was a New Line project also, and we shot it in Vancouver. The exciting part was the snakes. They had a snake room, actually, where they kept the real snakes, and the room smelled like something I'd never smelled before - I can't explain it. It wasn't a good smell, but it was such a FOREIGN smell - you wouldn't know what it was. It didn't really smell dead, but it didn't really smell alive either.
And it was cages of some of the snakes in the film - some of the snakes were CGI, but there was one giant python named "Kitty." And she was about 20 years old, yellows and browns and blacks, and she must have been 18 feet long. It took 12 people to hold her. And she was - and we had a wonderful wrangler, his name is Jules Sylvester, and he is still considered one of the top herpetologists - he is from Australia and is one of the top snake handlers in the world. And Kitty was, I guess, his? I think she belonged to him. And he was the one who handled all the live snakes. And he did take me one day into the snake room, which is where I had that wonderful experience with the smell, and he asked me if I wanted to feed the snakes, hahaah!
So I was worried what that meant, haha! But he had frozen rats, that were already dead (obviously), and we would put them on the end of forceps - they were pretty much defrosted - and we would have to sort of taunt the snake with it, like sort of move it around and pretend it was alive for the second, I know, it was weird, and the snake would grab it off the forceps and swallow it down. So THAT was quite an experience. And it was a really fun shoot. And actually, Julianna Margulies was in that as well, so that was how I got to know her!
So it was a great cast, her and Sam Jackson, and again, he is one of the most generous actors. And we had a wonderful director named David Ellis who directed it, who since passed away. He was a young guy, had been a stuntman, he directed the first FINAL DESTINATION, wonderful director and great guy. So it was a wonderful experience all the way around - and snakes, what could be better!
Hi. What can we expect from Insidous: Chapter 3?
Insidious Chapter 3 is what they are calling a prequel. And takes place - it starts in 2008, I believe, is the year. And it's Elise's story. It starts with Elise, and it's a wonderful story. Leigh Whannell wrote it and directed it, and Leigh wrote all 3 Insidiouses, but this is the first time he directed. The part for Elise was a dream to play, and without any spoilers, you learn a lot about where I started and how I come to help the young woman and the family in this particular episode, and how i grow through their experience as well.
How is James Wan as a director? How does he work with actors?
James Wan is CLASS A in everything, in my opinion. He is a great listener. He is very clear about expressing himself. He knows 100% the film he is making, but within that is open to your ideas and suggestions, and he has a brilliant eye as a director. I love him to pieces, he is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, but he has an edge to him - it's about perspective, it's never anything nasty, and his comments and perspective are fabulous.
Hey Lin !
What are you going to be for Halloween ?
Just going to be me with my doggy! I'm not going to do a halloween thing particularly, because i am leaving tomorrow morning for New Orleans for a film for 2 weeks. So today is going to be a running around day. I love Halloween though because I like watching everybody else. And I dress up for my living! So in real life, I'm more of a people and character watcher.
When I was little, I dressed up as a panda, flapper from the 1920s, that was a favorite, and a ghost. Those were my three costumes I remember the most. Oh, and what I called a hobo. I actually have a picture of myself from Halloween as a hobo, it's a great picture. I could send it to you, hahah!
I love watching, the kids are the best part of Halloween for me. I probably won't hand out candy, though, because my neighborhood isn't set up for that, and there aren't many kids in my neighborhood. If anybody comes, though, I'll find something to give them, some M&Ms stashed away!
Who were your immediate contemporaries in the 80s? Were there actors you would be up for the same parts against, or see at the same auditions all the time?
Actually, Mindy Sterling and I used to see each other a lot at auditions. She's a wonderful actress, she made her mark in the AUSTIN POWERS films, and sometimes you wonder, because we are very different, but we will do character actors versus leading lady actors - I still don't really know what that all means, I think acting is acting - I think it's the leading lady who is always pretty and then there's us. But in many ways I've learned to embrace my anonymous looks, I guess they transform very easily, and I can disappear into different roles - because that's why I like acting! And someone like a beautiful Charlize Theron, who had to go do a role like MONSTER to gain 35 pounds and put fake teeth in to show people she could act - I never had that problem! So in kind of a way, it's a blessing in disguise to be able to be disguised and disguise yourself. And with other actresses who are classified as character actors, we each have our own individual stamp - our insides are what come out on the outside, eventually.
In terms of competition, you can't think too much about that because we each bring something very individual to our characters and to the process of working. And i have great respect for all of us, all of them, for all the people who are my "competition." There is only one of each of us, and we are hired for various reasons - we can't say "Oh, gee I should have gotten that" because if it's hers, it's hers, and if it's yours, it's yours, and it's that way for a specific reason. And it's all good, because we all love what we do.
Did the introduction of home video change things in lower budget filmmaking in the 80s?
I think it did. I think home video changed a LOT of things though. I still believe that going to the movies is the way to see a movie - having the experience with a bunch of strangers in a dark room and hearing a story that will affect all of you slightly differently, and seeing a story that affects you slightly differently, is part of the experience of film. Putting it on a small screen definitely changes the impact of the story and the experience. Even though it makes it more accessible to more people, that I think something is lost in translation with the experience.
Huge fan of Insidious and I want to see Ouija.
My question: Do you do any sort of special mental preparation for your horror roles? I always wondered what it was like to be part of the movie instead of just watching it, and if there was anything particular or odd about playing a role in which you have to act scared or determined against demons, ghosts, etc.
Also, are you involved in any way with Insidious 3?
I guess, first part: yes I am VERY involved with Insidious 3, it's very much Elise's story, as told through a case that she has to help solve.
In terms of mental preparation, I'm always being prepared mentally for scary things! haha! I think there is some element of... it kind of has to do with what I was saying about not stepping outside of yourself? That I'm able to pretend, is really what it is, that I am in that experience, and it's interesting that your body does not know you're pretending. Oh my god, adrenaline is both your agony and your ecstasy I must say. In INSIDIOUS 3, there are some highly emotional scenes after which, for a moment, I kind of did not know where i was, haha! I had to sit for a second, and often, technically, they are going "Ok we are going to reset and go again" and I would ask "Leigh - I just need a minute for my emotions and brain to re-set."
You're just keeping going - but so you can start from the top again, so you aren't starting the scene at the END of the scene, which is, emotionally, where you are now. So it's a bit of a challenge, because you have to be quick on your reset since everyone is on the clock, but you have to put yourself in the beginning of the scene, especially if there is any kind of emotional crescendo.
And it's... just a fascinating process. Because there are all these technical things you have to do, as well as enter this emotional place and tell the truth. For me, acting is about telling your own emotional truth, and it's up to both the director and you to shape that process so the character is not one dimensional.
Horror films really really scare me, how would you suggest I make it through this Halloween unscathed?
Way to make it through Halloween unscathed: Just say home. But your home may be scary too, so that might not be the right answer!
(that was partly a joke)
Fear is from the inside out, and the only thing to be really be afraid of is fear itself. I think that was said by a very famous person. Thank you FDR, I believe!
What is it about horror movies that appeals to you?
Also thank you very much for taking time to do this. You're awesome, really.
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