Dread Central’s next final girl, Jill Schoelen, was one of our busiest final girls working in the horror genre. The actress appeared in Wes Craven’s Chiller, The Stepfather, Curse 2: The Bite, The Phantom of the Opera, Popcorn, and When a Stranger Calls Back, firmly cementing her place as a beloved final girl of modern horror history.
The ironic part of it all is that Schoelen’s acting career was kind of a happy accident.
“When I started off in the business, I came in as a singer,” explained Schoelen. “Then from there, I’d get asked to audition for singing parts that had a little bit of acting. That turned into acting auditions that had a little bit of singing, and then it turned into full-blown acting.”
One of Schoelen’s first roles was in one of this writer’s favorite cult comedies of the 80s: DC Cab. Directed by Joel Schumacher, DC Cab featured an amazing cast that included Adam Baldwin, Gary Busey, Mr. T, Bill Maher, and Paul Rodriguez. The actress spoke about what made that experience so special for her.
Schoelen said, “DC Cab was my first real film role. I was so green and new to the business, I didn’t even know it was a movie when I got hired. I didn’t know it until I got onto the set. I feel silly even admitting that. DC Cab being my first movie was a great initiation into the entertainment industry. Since half the people were comedians, then you have guys like Mr. T and Gary Busey, it was just a hilarious set and a fantastic experience,” Schoelen added.
After DC Cab, Schoelen got her first taste of working in the horror genre on the set of Wes Craven’s Chiller in 1984. Soon after that, Schoelen took the role of Stephanie Maine in the now cult classic thriller The Stepfather (to hear Schoelen talk about her work on The Stepfather, check out the video below).
After The Stepfather and her next horror film, Curse 2, Schoelen put her vocal talents to work when she was cast as Christine Day in the classic story The Phantom of the Opera.
With influences stemming more from the novel by Gaston Leroux than the popular 80s musical penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this bloody version of the tragic love triangle of a young chanteuse, her lover, and an operatic genius that connected to the singer through their mutual love for singing was criticized for being too dark and for focusing heavily on the gore factor rather than the story.
I asked Schoelen to discuss her feelings on the direction of this version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4, Deep Blue).
“I felt a couple of different things with this version of the Phantom story,” said Schoelen. “I loved how it was more in line with the actual novel. My only thing was, well, it’s the horror genre so they want to appeal to the fans with a lot of gore. I personally think less is more so I guess I would have liked less blood But I think that if you have a story there, and with Phantom of the Opera you have a story with the horror built into it already, so I don’t think they needed to go the excessive route. But I still like the movie a lot,” Schoelen added.
Schoelen went on to discuss her Phantom co-star Robert Englund, who was in the midst of his Freddy Krueger heyday.
Schoelen said, “Robert was fantastic as the Phantom. A lot of people may not be aware that he is classically trained as an actor. The Phantom wasn’t difficult for him to pull off because he’s such a brilliant actor. I don’t think his Freddy thing is really that easy too, being that kind of character in makeup takes some serious acting chops.”
After Phantom, Schoelen went on to take on the role of Maggie in Mark Herrier’s highly underrated cult flick Popcorn. Turns out, Schoelen wasn’t the original actress in the role of Maggie. She spoke about her experience walking into a production that was already under way.
“I wasn’t able to build up that camaraderie, but I loved the idea of the movie within a movie idea and it was still a fun movie to be involved with. I’m really proud of it,” said Schoelen.
The actress continued talking, discussing what she liked about the Popcorn script, “Popcorn felt like a throwback movie but also wielded back in some classic horror feelings, and it still managed to be a little ahead of its time. It had a lot of intelligence to it that wasn’t typical at the time. We had a really great story going on with that one.”
Schoelen left Hollywood in 1996 so she could focus on being with her family. The actress said it wasn’t a hard decision to walk away from being in front of the camera.
“I am comfortable with being away from being an actress because I wasn’t comfortable ever being in the industry,” said Schoelen. “Since I came into the business on accident, it wasn’t a big deal for me to just walk away. I got pregnant, and it was very easy for me to want to focus on my children. I’m also pretty comfortable at this time with not returning to acting either.”
Turns out that one passion Schoelen did recently rekindle was her love of singing.
“A few years back, my best friend Kelly passed away. That inspired me to return to doing something I loved — singing. So I recently recorded my first full-length CD, and I am just focusing on doing music now. It’s been really great,” Schoelen said.
For more on Schoelen’s CD, “Kelly’s Smile”, you can click here or order it on Amazon via the link below.
Check out our video interview with Schoelen, wherein the actress speaks more about her experiences with The Stepfather and Popcorn, her feelings on The Stepfather remake, and her role in When a Stranger Calls Back.
A special thank you to Jill Schoelen for taking time to talk with Dread Central and to Chris Roe for arranging the interview.
Tune in on Friday for Dread Central’s next final girl, Amy Steel!
Jill Schoelen (Final Girls)
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