Actress Danielle Harris has had to face off against quite a few horror icons over her illustrious 24-year-long film career in Hollywood. She’s taken on two incarnations of Michael Myers, Victor Crowley in Hatchet II and even a lesser degree- a crazy, revenge-seeking Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legend. But now Harris is gearing up for a new chapter in her career, which kicks off this week when Jim Mickle’s Stake Land hits theaters this Friday.
Recently, Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with the ever-busy Scream Queen to talk all things Stake Land, the evolution of her career and why 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for the actress.
Even though Harris has made a name for herself in the horror genre in both studio and independent films, Stake Land took a little more consideration than usual for the actress, especially since she wasn’t able to see Mickle’s ‘big picture’ plan for the film at first.
“The first time I read the script for Stake Land, I was kind of worried because there was really nothing for me to do in the movie,” explained Harris. “Belle didn’t have a lot of dialogue so I was really worried how I would end up looking in the movie. But then as soon as I spoke to Jim about my character for the first time, I realized I was in good hands because the movie was going to be so much more than just words on a page. He just told me to be myself on camera, just act like I normally would if I was around friends, and he’d take care of the rest.”
“My biggest concern initially was the amount of time that we’d need to make the movie. We were going to shoot the first part of Stake Land in Pennsylvania in August and then we were going to need to wait until the seasons changed before we could finish shooting in New York. That meant I had to block that entire time off my calendar until December which can be scary because I still have to pay my bills too. So I asked to see Mulberry Street before I signed on and when I saw it, I knew I had to do this movie with Jim. Screw the rest- I knew it would work out and it really has for the best,” added Harris.
Even though Harris has an impressive horror pedigree, it wasn’t necessarily the fact that Stake Land was a horror movie that caught her interest. She recognized that Mickle was far more interested in story than flashy kills and copious amounts of gore.
Harris said, “So many movies are just about the kills these days and those are fun, but I wanted to do something else that would challenge me. Genre movies that focus on the relationships between characters are kind of few and far between these days. As soon as I read the Stake Land script, I immediately knew this was the kind of challenge I wanted to take on as a performer.”
When production began on Stake Land, Harris discussed how her and her fellow cast members became like an actual family while shooting and how those real-life bonds translated on camera.
“One of the days I realized just how close we were all becoming was the day we shot our scenes hiking in the woods,” explained Harris. “Belle, who is about nine months pregnant at that point in the movie, just can’t go on any longer walking because she’s beyond exhausted. So Nick just comes over and picks me right up and starts carrying me through the woods.”
“So then I start saying the lines about how my daddy used to pick me up just like he was doing and I start hysterically crying because in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about how I didn’t really grow up with a father, which I guess hit me really hard. But I look over at Nick and his eyes are welling up too and it was just such an emotional moment for both of us. You can’t write moments like that and that scene ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the entire film,” added Harris.
As a performer who has literally grown up right before our very eyes on camera, Harris spoke about wanting to evolve herself as an actress that is more than the girl who is always being chased down by countless slasher after slasher.
“I’m kind of known now for always playing the sassy badass tough girl that seeks revenge, but that’s not who I am at all,” said Harris. “I’ve always had a lot of fun playing those girls but I wanted to play someone more like myself, and Belle was that opportunity to come into my own as both a real woman on camera and as a serious actress.”
“I think because I’ve done a movie like Stake Land now that I’m getting offers finally for different kinds of roles now. I did a grindhouse style movie called The Victim with Michael Biehn where I play a troubled stripper named Mary and I also get to be on the bad guy side in Laid to Rest 2 which was fun. So it seems like now my career is taking a different path than before and I’m getting offered a lot of cool and different roles to play now,” Harris added.
In fact, Stake Land is just one of many projects Harris will be celebrating the release of this year. “I worked my ass off last year so it’s great to finally see the fruits of my labor this year. Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D comes out this year which has been a long road so I’ll be happy to see how it turns out. Then, I also have a thriller coming out later this year called Shiver and I think it may be the best work I have ever done as an actress. Another movie also coming out later this year too is called Nuclear Family where I get to finally play a motherly role which I loved because that’s another first for me.”
And even though she has an impressive amount of feature films being released this year, that doesn’t mean the actress is looking to rest on her laurels anytime soon. We spoke to Harris about her possible involvement in two recently rumored projects- Hatchet III and the feature film adaptation of the FearNet web series Fear Clinic.
“I have spoken to Adam (Green) about Hatchet III. He called me to tell me that Hatchet II was a go and that his intention was that I would be coming back as Marybeth for the next movie. I joked with him at the beginning of part two that he had to make sure I didn’t die so I could come back for another sequel,” said Harris. “I haven’t officially heard anything but I would definitely be excited to play Marybeth again because I don’t think her story’s done being told.”
“I did hear that they were hoping to make Fear Clinic into a feature film which I think would be pretty cool. I haven’t been approached yet for that one either but I’d be game to come back and work with everyone again, especially Robert Englund. It was such a dream to work with him so making Fear Clinic would be a lot of fun,” added Harris.
Our thanks to Danielle for taking the time to speak with us. For more visit the Stake Land viral site On to New Eden. When you’re done there, be sure to visit the new official Stake Land page on Facebook.