Danielle Harris has been on the scene for quite some time, working steady in the film industry from an early age. Learning from Hollywood notables like Tony Scott when she was in her teens, she’s now sort of become horror’s new go-to gal, working with Rob Zombie, Jim Mickle, and Adam Green to name a few.
She’s been on countless movie sets throughout the years and is probably about as seasoned as it gets for an actress her age. After promotion wraps up for her latest, Hatchet III, you’d think it might be time for Harris to take a much needed sabbatical from the genre that made her a household name (well, at least in certain households). However, she has no plans to stop developing as an artist, and with her directorial debut, Among Friends, arriving on DVD in August, she’s ready to put all of that knowledge to good use.
Dread Central: I remember actually meeting you a couple of times at horror conventions, and you were always really warm and cool with everyone. How often have you been attending horror conventions over the years, and do you find that, in addition to meeting the fans, it’s also a good way to network? I’m sure you’ve gotten to know Caroline Williams, Kane Hodder, Derek Mears, and people like that at conventions. Is that correct?
Danielle Harris: Yeah, these guys are family, and it’s more from the convention circuit than it is from us working on films together. I mean, I’ve been sitting next to Kane signing autographs for the last, I don’t know, five years I would say? And after Hatchet II, I would always sit in-between Tony Todd and Kane, and then before them, Tyler Mane. You just create a family. It’s the same people. The genre is so small that it’s the same group of us that work over and over and over again, and I’m kind of the only girl. You know, there’s women, but I’m kind of on the younger side so I have all these big brothers. I’ve got the Bill Moseleys and the Sid Haigs… I mean, you name it and they all look out for me. So it’s definitely a good way to… well, we don’t really network. I mean, maybe we’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m doing this movie, there may be this thing, I’ve gotta get you in on that.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh great, that sounds good.’ But normally we just kind of fuck with each other. I went to a couple when I was younger, and then I didn’t really do them for maybe twenty years, I would say. I didn’t want to do them because I wasn’t doing horror movies. I didn’t want to still be talking about Jamie Lloyd from 1989. There’s a little something that’s shifted over the last year or so, where there’s a little bit less of a line drawn or a boundary. I’ve decided after this year to take a little bit of a break and let things mellow out a little bit.
DC: Yeah, you’re right, that’s understandable. There’s a big difference between being a fan and being a nuisance. You’re obviously no stranger to sequels; when you’re on a familiar set again like Hatchet III, is it hard to not just go through the motions because you know the drill at that point, or did director BJ McDonnell inject enough energy into the proceedings this time around?
DH: It’s so easy the second time around, [but it can be] hard to get back into it, especially because you’re starting from one hundred miles per hour and then you have to go from there. So there’s no ramping up into it or finding your way again. Just do it. How do I get back into what I was? But I’ve changed and Marybeth has changed. She’s gone through so much that she’s just changed as a person from what she’s experienced in the last twenty-four hours. So I could use that to my advantage. With BJ [McDonnell], like most directors in the genre, I don’t really get directed. I kind of already know what to do. Maybe I’ll get small adjustments. BJ’s good with that. But Adam [Green] really sort of helped me find Marybeth in the second one and I was able just to carry that over into the third. And we’re all family. We were back on set and went right back into it. It didn’t feel like I had been away for a couple of years. I put those clothes back on and was like, ‘All right, here we go. She’s back.’
DC: It is interesting that you say that you already knew what to do. It seems like the actors tend to have been on more horror film sets than the filmmakers a lot. A lot of times it can be first-time filmmakers or people that have only done a few films. So it’s interesting, that dynamic.
DH: Yeah, most of the movies that I’ve done are like that. Most of the movies that I’ve done, especially in the last twenty years, I don’t think I’ve worked with one director that’s worked as much as I have. Obviously, I’ve worked with people like Tony Scott and Rob Cohen, some amazing directors, so I’ve seen the big dogs at play. It’s exciting to experience being on someone’s set for the first time, and there’s definitely times where I will not make it so easy for them because I kind of want to break them in a little bit. I’ll challenge them a little bit just to make them think on their toes for a minute. And then, of course, I just shut up and do my job. What’s interesting and funny to me, too, is that there’s a little bit of fanboy in every horror director. They’re all fans. They’re not just directors, they’re literally all fans that grew up watching me and they geek out a little bit behind the monitor watching me do a scene. It’s just the weirdest thing. I know they’re looking at me and imagining me as Jamie Lloyd! There’s just that little thing in their eye. Not BJ because he’s got the camera and the cinematic background, but the Adam Greens and the Rob Zombies and those guys, they geek out behind the monitor a little more than BJ does. BJ would geek out over getting an amazing shot; Adam geeks out on a scene being acted out and me being covered in blood.
DC: You’re actually now making your directorial debut with Among Friends. Why do you think it took this long for you to want to direct? That’s coming out later this summer on DVD, right?
DH: Yeah, it comes out on DVD in August. You know, I think it’s just time for me to make that transition. I’ve worked so much in the genre as an actor, and it’s hard for me to get a job out of the genre. The times have changed, the industry’s changed. And unless I go back and audition again – I just really hate auditioning – it’s hard to get cast in stuff. Period. They want to make their money and they want these people that are on television shows. They want people that are on ABC Family or the Selena Gomez types or it’s Disney stuff. It’s not about being a good actor and getting cast. I don’t really have a desire to be famous or be on a TV show. That’s not where my heart is. I’ve kind of done it; I’ve had such amazing roles and opportunities as an actor. I’ve done so many types of roles, especially in the last couple of years, that I think I just needed to learn something else. I learned so much. I could show up on a horror movie set with my eyes closed. There’s nothing that’s new to me. I just feel like I’m opening parts of my brain that haven’t been accessed in such a long time, and it feels really good. So I think it’s a chance for everyone to see a side of me that they may not know. Because I’ve been accessible and I’ve been doing it for so long that I think everybody thinks they know me. But there’s a whole other side to me that I’d like to show, and directing really allows me to do that.
DC: So you really did enjoy it and it sounds like you’re planning on doing it again.
DH: I just want to be in a post house. I want to go out and shoot for six weeks and then spend a year in a post house: working on color, working on editing and our score and our music. I just love that process. I can just show up in a baseball hat and my sneakers and a T-shirt and just sit there all day and get to pick frame by frame. I love that.
DC: And it’s in a nice air-conditioned room. You’re not on set being attacked by mosquitoes.
DH: Exactly! You got it.
Check out our Hatchet III reviews!
HATCHET III opens today in New York City’s Cinema Village and in Los Angeles at Laemmle Music Hall. Opening week will feature special appearances by cast and crew, followed by Q&A’s at each location. Look for the flick on VOD as well.
Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder return in HATCHET III and are joined by Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th 2009), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), and others.
HATCHET III continues the tale of the now-iconic villain Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). As a search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and carnage left behind from the first two films, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) hunts down the true secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left the ghost of Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.
The sequel, which was filmed outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, from late May to mid-June, 2012, is a co-production of MPI/Dark Sky Films and Hatchet III writer/executive producer Adam Green’s Los Angeles-based ArieScope Pictures.
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