Danielle Harris is someone most genre fans know and know well. Smart, funny, and beautiful, since bursting onto the horror scene as a young child in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, she has grown to become a horror icon.
Through her voluminous film work in such movies as The Last Boy Scout, Free Willy, Daylight, Urban Legend, Rob Zombie’s Halloween films, and most recently Hatchet II, she’s established herself as a performance standard in her field. Her characters are usually deeply complex and her portrayal of them as magnificently layered and deftly subtle.
Last year, she joined the cast of Adam Green’s sequel to his wildly popular Hatchet, taking over the role of “Mary Beth” from Tamara Feldman and truly made it her own. While Hatchet II received a troubled release schedule, horror film fans can now rejoice with the film’s debut onto DVD and Blu-ray on February 1st from Dark Sky Films.
Dread Central spoke with Danielle as the film was being readied for its launch onto home video and we were not disappointed in the least. Charming, quick to laugh, and genuine in a way not a whole lot of actors are, Danielle Harris does our beloved horror genre proud.
Dread Central: You do a lot of genre work, but I’m wondering how deep a fan are you?
Danielle Harris: I grew up in this world so I’ve always been a fan of horror movies because I’ve been surrounded by them. It’s hard for me to be scared by them now because I know almost everyone [laughs] that’s in them. I’ve gotten to where it’s really hard for me to be thrown into it because I’m always looking at the logistics. I know how everything is done so the fantasy… I’m a bit removed from it. But, when they’re good, they’re REALLY good. Yeah, I’ve always been a fan. It’s a fun ride and a nice escape.
DC: I’m always curious about what people are watching at present and what they hold dear because I think you can tell a lot about a person by the things they like. What was the last thing you saw – either in or out of the genre – that really impressed you?
DH: I saw THE FIGHTER last week. Christian Bale’s performance in that knocked my socks off. It was just amazing. I also saw another movie called STONE with Robert De Niro, Ed Norton, and Milla Jovovich. I didn’t love the ending, but I thought as an actor, their performances together were good. I watched that and thought, “Yes, Robert De Niro’s back! That’s awesome.” I do get a little frustrated when I see actors sell out and do things for money. I also saw RABBIT HOLE with Nicole Kidman… Those movies took so many years to get made even with these huge names attached to them. It kind of gives me a little bit of faith that even if I struggle with getting movies made and… even though it does seem to the outside world that I work all the time, it’s hard to stay in this business and it’s hard on every level. It’s like “All right, I can keep hanging on” because it’s worth it at the end of the day if you get to make movies like that – in or out of the genre. I just did this movie called SHIVER that was this little independent movie based on a novel, a psychological thriller, with John Jarrrat and Casper Van Dien, and it was by far the hardest work I’ve ever had to do. It’s never about the paycheck. It really is all about the work at the end of the day. I just love going to movies that inspire me to keep moving forward in my career.
DC: So, Hatchet II is now available on DVD & Blu-ray. Tell me a little bit about how you came to know Adam and how you got involved I the film.
DH: Adam and I kind of knew each other through the convention circuit. We have a lot of mutual friends and I’d auditioned for the original HATCHET as well as this comedy he was doing at the time called GOD ONLY KNOWS that I’m still begging him to get involved in if it does ever happen. So we became friends when I was directing the anthology I did quite a few years ago called PRANK. I called him up and said, “Listen, I want to pick your brain about directing a bit.” He was like, “Oh, my god, of course!” and we sat down and had dinner. I picked his brain about how these movies get made since you’re the producer and the writer. I kind of wanted to know from someone who was just starting because I had only worked with big, big directors or TV directors. I was kind of getting back into the genre, so I hadn’t worked with many new, up-and-coming, aggressive filmmakers, and I didn’t know the logistics of it. Adam and I sat down and we talked about a bunch of things and he really helped me and we became friends. Then, he called me and said he was doing this thing for THE ROAD TO FRIGHTFEST for this festival in the UK and asked if I wanted to come play and I said, “Of course, I would!” So I did that with him. Then, I called him when he was doing FROZEN and said, “So, I hear you’re doing a movie and there’s a girl in it and I want to do it!” He was like, “You don’t want to do this movie. I would not put you through this. It’s going to be the most physically uncomfortable shoot. Just wait for the something else.” So, I said, “Ok.” He then called me when I was working on STAKE LAND and said, “I think that our actress may fall out and I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I really want you to be Mary Beth in HATCHET II.” I was like, “I’m so in! Whatever you need, let’s just do it. I’m in.” And it all worked out.
He’s my neighbor and we go bowling on Sunday nights and hang out. I went to his house for Halloween and we watched HALLOWEEN 4 together because he’s a big dork and watches it every year. I made a joke and said, “I’ll come over and do live commentary for you.” And he said, “REALLY?!?! You would do that?” [laughs] I said, “Of course, I would, but I’ll give you the really gritty… the hardcore stuff that I can’t quite say on the DVD without getting in trouble.” He said, “Oh, my god, that would be amazing!” So I went to his house for Halloween and that’s exactly what I did. I’m getting my Horror Gal website together – I have been for a while now – that’s the kind of stuff I’ll probably have on there.
DC: It reminds me of the story from the filming of Pulp Fiction that Quentin Tarantino sat John Travolta down and they played the Welcome Back, Kotter board game and Quentin insisted that Travolta play as Barbarino. [laughs]
DH: Oh, my god… [laughs]
DC: Tell me about Adam as a director.
DH: One of the things I love about doing movies in this genre is that I feel like every director that I’ve worked with has written and is directing their own projects because they are fanboys. You don’t find that outside of the genre. I doubt Garry Marshall is a romantic comedy fanboy. He’s just really good at that and that’s what he directs. That’s what’s so amazing about this little, tight-knit community… these are guys who know exactly what fans want because they themselves are fans. So, I trust in their opinions and their writing is always kick-ass. I mean, I see these kills and I’m like, “Oh, my god… I never would have thought of that!” But I’m not a crazy fanboy. I’m a fan of the genre, but I don’t think like that. These guys sit down and fantasize about what the coolest ways to kill people are. With three quarters of the scripts I read, if not all of them, I go, “Meh… seen it before. All right, whatever. This might be fun. I don’t know.” But reading Adam Green’s stuff… The types of things this man thinks of are so cool and so much fun to watch as an audience member and fun to play as an actor.
And he’s great with actors, too, and he gives you a kind of freedom and he hires people that he trusts – from the crew to the cast – so you know you’re going to show up and everything is going to run accordingly. He really runs a tight ship and also keeps it really simple and really real. Nobody who’s working on any of his movies doesn’t want to be there and no one’s working for a paycheck. Everyone truly wants to be a part of it. That says a lot about him and everybody that’s worked with him continues to do his movies over and over again. The same group of people from cast to crew. He’s pretty awesome.
DC: Tell me about your relationship with the other actors.
DH: I didn’t know Tom Holland before this, but we’ve become very close. I’ve sort of adopted him as my uncle/father figure. I go up to the house. I talked to him and his wife. We’ve swum in the pool and played tennis. I helped him produce this music video that he directed over the summer and then he asked me to do a short film called TO HELL WITH YOU with William Forsythe. We just became really, really close. A.J. Bowen and I have become crazy close, too. He’s always harassing me on Twitter, writing crazy things. I just brought A.J. onto a short film that I did a few months ago with Michael Rosenbaum from SMALLVILLE called FADE INTO YOU. He was looking for someone to play my boyfriend and I was like, “What about A.J.? He’s perfect.” So I kind of dragged A.J. into that with me.
All these guys though are super cool. Tony Todd, I love. I’ve been friends with Tony for a while through the convention circuit. Kane, I worked with on a few different things. It’s funny… I always think of it in terms of when I’m dating someone, [laughs] having to bring them around these guys to pass the test… it’s gonna be awesome. I don’t have a dad, so… I always think about how that would be really scary to say, “Come with me and meet my friends at the bar” and there’s R.A. Mihailoff, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Bill Moseley… All these men I’ve become friends with that are scary horror stars that are actually really cool. I’m like their little sister, so… I just love them. I’m kind of a lucky girl to have these guys around me.
DC: When you went into the project, was there already talk about a sequel?
DH: No, there really wasn’t. I mean, I knew from the end of the first film that it was obviously left open. And, if Victor Crowley really is what the Reverend Zombie character says he is, which is a repeater (that he comes back and you can never really kill him), then there would be another sequel. But Reverend Zombie’s character was kind of all over the place and you don’t really know whether or not we’re supposed to believe him. So, it kind of leaves it open. I just knew that if there was going to be a sequel, I would be coming back. It also depends on who’s directing it and what the script was like because… you never know. I loved playing that character though and I felt like such a badass by the end of the movie. I had not been given an opportunity to play a lead in a very, very long time, in any of the movies that I’ve done. Maybe even since the old HALLOWEENs did I really have to have shown up for work every day and bust my ass. So, I curse Adam and give him big hugs and kisses for doing that to me at the same time.
Hatchet II – Blu-ray and DVD Trailer
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DC: Do you know of any plans for a third one?
DH: The only thing I know is from Adam and he said he was sure there would be talks of it soon because it’s doing so well. I’d be surprised if they didn’t take a step back and go, “Wow, we really need to get on this.” Whether or not he is going to be involved, he said to me, “I don’t know what I want to do next” and I said to him, “Well, you better be the one writing it and directing it or then I don’t know what I want to do next.” I think things are just sort of being talked about right now, but I haven’t gotten any calls yet. I’m waiting and hoping and praying.
DC: When you prepare for your roles, I noticed in Hatchet II specifically that there was a slight affect to your voice, like you had worked on an accent and had tried to make the character whole. How much prep time do you do and what does that involve?
DH: I didn’t have much time. From the time we closed the deal and we were on set was only about a week, but I’d seen the original HATCHET quite a few times. I went and saw it in the theaters. I actually sat behind Parry Shen through the entire movie and I thought, “Oh, my god, there’s the guy from the movie!” I had seen it probably three or four times just as a fan, so I knew the character because I’d also auditioned for it and didn’t get it. I like to bust Adam’s balls about that. Any chance I have to bust his balls, I will. So, I wanted to stay as close to Tamara Feldman’s accent as I could, but I found in certain scenes that mine sounded a bit stronger than hers was. I’ve been asked how it felt to take over someone else’s role a lot. I feel like I didn’t really do that because I wasn’t going back and re-doing what she did. I got to take it from where she brought it to and then bring it from that point on. She’d started it and had gotten to this place of hysterics and I started at hysterics and then went to losing it, pulling it together, going back to seek revenge, and kicking his ass. I think it was a nice little arc.
For me though, it was about bringing it every single day and building these relationships with these people and not phoning it in. Being a fan myself and knowing that I had so many fans out there who would know when I was phoning it in, I had to bring it every single day. And every day I was in hell. I was an emotional wreck. I remember there was one day where we had all the voodoo shop scenes where Reverend Zombie is gathering the group to go back into the bayou and I was so relieved because I didn’t have anything to do except sit there all day. I was like, “Aaaah! This is the best day EVER! I can just sit here. I don’t have to be running or hysterical or killing anybody or crying or screaming!” It was really, really nice because most of the other movies that I’ve done, there are only a couple of days where I have to endure hell. With HATCHET II, because I get thrown in at the very beginning into where she left off, it started at sixty-five and then I had to bring it to a hundred and twenty. I didn’t get to start at zero. It was a little exhausting, but so well worth it.
DC: I understand there was a lot of flu on the set. Were you one of the ones that fell victim to it?
DH: You know, I didn’t get what they got – which I’m shocked because I get sick all the time – but I did end up with pneumonia. We had a little teeny break in between finishing up at the ranch and then going to New Orleans. I got pneumonia because I did the water stuff and it was in like forty degree water and it was freezing outside and it was January or February. So, I got really sick, but thank god I had a week or so I had pneumonia and then went to New Orleans. It was good because I had to work in New Orleans and everybody was out partying, getting their strip club thing on, and I was like, “Good night, guys… I’m going to bed.” It kind of helped keep me out of trouble on Bourbon Street.
DC: And what about injuries? It looked like a pretty physical shoot.
DH: I had bumps and bruises. Tony Todd’s hands are giant, so just from him pulling me out and struggling, I had some bruises on my arms and shoulders and stuff, but I don’t even think about that stuff. I’m so used to getting manhandled by giant men in the movies that I do. It’s just par for the course, I guess.
DC: I’m curious about what you’re doing next because I have a list of stuff I’d like to ask you about.
DH: Oooh, let me hear what the list is.
DC: First… Stake Land which is pretty awesome.
DH: Isn’t it great? I love it and you know, I didn’t really have much to do and I was talked into taking it because I thought, “God, three weeks in the winter in upstate New York with all exteriors. I’m going to miserable.” And there’s not much dialog, so you’re like, “Oh, great… I’m a glorified extra. I’m just going to be there every day. I don’t even get to do anything.” But, while I didn’t have much to do, that character was so soft and so strong that it was such a nice balance to the boys. That’s how I am in real life. I’m sort of the caretaker of a bunch of reckless guys. So it felt the most like me. It sort of showed where I am in my life and I think the movie just looks stunning. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.
DC: What about Night of the Living Dead 3D: Origins?
DH: We did facial captures a couple of months ago and the stuff that I saw looks so ridiculously amazing. It’s going to blow your mind. I’m not a techie person, so I don’t really understand how all of that stuff works, but the little things I’ve seen look great. They’ve got the people who worked on AVATAR involved. It’s a Simon West (THE MECHANIC) production. The script is amazing. It’s Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, and I. I know what you’re going to be getting as far as voice and as far as performance. I’m just really excited to see it. I’ve felt that the last year and a half I’ve worked so much and I haven’t seen anything yet, so this year, everything’s coming out and I get to take a step back and watch it unfold in front of me. I’m quite excited about it.
DC: Is that a fully CG rendered thing like Beowulf or a videogame cut scene?
DH: It’s kind of like AVATAR, but it looks more realistic… if that makes any sense? It’s 3D and it’s CG animation. I didn’t do the actual body movements, but everything on my face… Barbara looks like me… kind of. She has my eyes and my nose, my mouth, the shape of my face. That looks like me, but my hair is blonde and my body is different. Obviously, I did all the voice work. I think the performance comes through the eyes anyway. So, it was very much me, but everything else is a bit different. It takes place in New York City in 2012, so… with what they can do, there’s never been a zombie movie quite like this. I mean, you can’t shut down New York City and throw three thousand zombies into Times Square. It just doesn’t work, but you can in this movie.
DC: Ok, what about Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2?
DH: Rob Hall and I did FEAR CLINIC together and became really good friends. I was a fan of the original and he said, “I think I’m going to be doing this movie. Would you want to do something?” I said, “I would totally want to do something. I just don’t know if I want to be a good guy or a bad guy.” He was like, “Ooooh, ok. That gives me some ideas” because he was writing it. So, he wrote for me and I pretty much showed up and I got to do a bunch of stuff with Brian Austin Green who I had never worked with before, but had known for a while. It was pretty cool. Again, I’m super supportive of my friend’s projects. Whatever they are, I just feel like we have to make our own shit happen. I’ve got my list, but this year has really been a year of working on supporting my friends and their endeavors.
DC: So, if people want to follow you, you’re on Twitter and Facebook and all of that?
DH: Yes, I’m @halloweengal and my posts are pretty retarded, so that’s always fun to follow me on that. I’m still working on the Horror Gal web site, getting that up and going.
I have a website, DanielleHarris.org , and an amazing fan named Logan runs that and I’ve asked him to help me get Horror Gal up and running. My schedule’s been so crazy that I really need someone that knows how to do it because I’m totally computer illiterate and he’s going to help me do that. So, DanielleHarris.org has a great forum and all that stuff. He’s going to run Horror Gal as well. I have my own Facebook page, but there’s someone else who’s been kind of handling it for me, so I think Logan is going to handle that for me as well. I read all my fan mail. I was on this morning looking at my IMDB page reading messages. I’m always kind of in the loop about what people are talking about… even the bad shit.
I do Google Alerts so I know when people are talking about me and I look it up. So, there was someone who was saying some shit about, “I met Danielle Harris at this convention and she was such a fucking bitch to me. She’s a great actress, but she’s a horrible person.” I really have to stop myself from writing back to these people, but I’m also noting the fans that chime in with, “You’re crazy! I’ve met Danielle ten times and she’s the nicest person at these conventions” and “Screw you!” So, I just want my fans to know that I read EVERYTHING and I know all the good and I know all the bad and I’m keeping track.
DC: You’re like Santa Claus. [laughs]
DH: Yes! [laughs] Exactly!
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