Legendary actress Meg Foster plays Margaret Morgan in the new Rob Zombie film, The Lords of Salem, which hits theaters on April 19. Foster was kind enough to sit down with Dread Central and talk about her role, the film and working with Rob Zombie.
Foster began by filling us in on just what we can expect when seeing The Lords of Salem. “It’s about Heidi, mostly,” Foster said, referring to Heidi Hawthorne, the lead character played by Sheri Moon Zombie, “and her co-workers, played by Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree, who are DJs at a radio station in Salem, Massachusetts. Heidi receives a record which is on vinyl, and it’s strange and it has, in my opinion, absolutely fabulous music. It’s this haunting tune which sort of casts a spell on some people. Heidi has stopped doing drugs or alcohol and she’s dealing with that, and the music on this record, when she plays it, affects her. And one comes to find out that there was a coven of witches in 1692 that were burned at the stake by a certain magistrate of Salem and there was a curse that was put on the ancestors of the people who perpetrated this. I play Margaret Morgan, a witch who’s the head of the coven that was burned.”
Foster was absolutely blown away by the completed product that The Lords of Salem became but always knew she was helping create something special by the work and detail that went into making it. “I feel that the film is really wonderful,” Foster said. “I saw it at Sitges in Spain even though I normally don’t see films that I’ve done. I’m in the 1692 part of the film and recur throughout in bits and pieces as we are haunting Heidi. [The film] has so many layers. It’s brilliantly shot by Brandon Trost, and the art direction is by Jennifer Spence for the witches in 1692. And everything, of course, is overseen and chosen by Rob Zombie. What the art department created for the witches in 1692 was really quite extraordinary. The artistry that went into it and the environment that was created by the makeup and the costumes was really such a gift.”
Foster continued, speaking on the mysterious aspects of The Lords of Salem as well as the depth of the movie. “The film is about what happens to Heidi,” Foster said. “You follow her, but one doesn’t really know if this is real. Is she really being haunted? Is it the result of stopping the drugs? Is it her mind? Is it a fantasy? There are some other people who live in the building where she lives who get involved also. It’s really about so many things. As a viewer I wasn’t sure which way to turn; every character spoke to me, which I thought was brilliant. The visuals are extraordinary. There’s this wonderful 1970’s feel about everything. And being from New England (they did their exteriors in Salem), I loved it. I was very personally reminded of when I grew up in the 1950’s. And for the 1692 witches, Jennifer Spence created this incredible hovel out in the wilderness and it was so beautiful. There were chickens and birds that came and made nests. It was just extraordinary.”
Foster feels that Zombie seriously delivers with The Lords of Salem, getting into the psyche of the audience. “People will have their own particular experiences,” Foster said. “It’s an amazing vision that Rob has given us, and it’s a film I want to see again and again. I went so many places, personally, as an audience member, which is what I love to have happen to me. I followed Heidi into her depths. And the film moves at a very haunting pace. While I was watching it, I just kept feeling heavier and heavier and more foreboding. I was very uncomfortable. I was so moved. It’s an amazing tale. One doesn’t know…are they witnessing a nightmare, are they witnessing the demise of someone…and it’s so beautiful. I got all these sensory feelings, and I really felt like I was entering a labyrinth where I encountered each character and had an experience with each of them, but I followed Heidi. I followed Sheri Moon because I think all of us, in our lives, have things occur and they’re very personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a child and a friend is cruel to you or if there’s prejudice going on or if it’s a breakup of a marriage. One can get lost. And so Heidi’s descent could have manifested itself in me in many ways. It took me to places where I began remembering my first nightmares. It’s quite surreal in a very beautiful way.”
One aspect The Lords of Salem that was particularly powerful for Foster was the relationship between the lead character, Heidi, and Whitey, played by Jeff Daniel Phillips. “They have the most wonderful relationship,” Foster said. “In the midst of all this confusion and pain for her, he’s a friend. He’s so tender with her and she’s having such a difficult time. It’s really like he’s holding her hand through all the hauntings and confusion and her trying to figure out what’s happened to her, or what’s happening to her…there’s this ally and that relationship was lovely.”
And Foster could not say enough good things about Rob Zombie as a director and a person. “I’ve never worked with someone so generous,” Foster said. “He holds space for his actors. It was an absolute gift to work with him. I worked with the coven witches but we didn’t have a lot of dialogue. My presence was very different. But working with Rob Zombie was…I felt so safe and it is due to his interior goodness and generosity. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and I don’t know if it had to do with playing the witch; it certainly had to do with Mr. Zombie. I adore his films. Rob’s so brilliant. The Devil’s Rejects is one of my favorite films. My favorite horror film, if you can call it a horror film. Rob incorporates so much into the characters of the film and how he casts it. You can say you’re watching a horror film, but they’re like novels. They’re epics. They’re epics of characters. They’re so specific, the characters he created and the actors he’s chosen to embody them so beautifully. He is gifted in that way. He’s gifted to the sensibility of mankind and the frailty and the strengths and the horrors and the vulnerabilities and the violence; it all mixes into one. Some horror films are horror films, and others aren’t. The Lords of Salem is a romance, in my opinion, as an audience member watching it. There’s the romance, there’s deception and some evil.”
Foster spoke on the effects and makeup used in the film. “I wore a wig and my body was painted,” Foster said. “We all had dirt put on us, and at one point I had my body painted as if it was burned. But there are some special effects that go into the whole of the film that are really quite extraordinary.”
Foster was absolutely impressed by the cast, crew and entire experience of creating The Lords of Salem. “There are wonderful, wonderful actors in it,” Foster said. “In my part, it was really just us in the coven and Sheri, but I got to know a few of the actors I didn’t know before. And Rob Zombie… he writes, he directs, he produces, he’s an incredible musician. And he has such a respect for everyone’s input. It was really a gift to be able to work with him.”
As for The Lords of Salem, Foster says, “It’s something to see again and again. It’s haunting and beautiful.”
The Lords of Salem opens in theaters on April 19.
Heidi, a blonde rock chick, DJs at a local radio station and, together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster), forms part of the “Big H Radio Team”. A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, “a gift from the Lords”. She assumes it’s a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords’ record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma. Later Whitey plays the Lords’ record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with listeners. The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H Team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon Heidi and her cohorts find that the gig is far from the rock spectacle they’re expecting: The original Lords of Salem are returning, and they’re out for BLOOD.
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