Over the last few years it seems that actress Lin Shaye’s career has come back around to the ways of horror, and because we’re such nice people we welcome her with open arms. Lin got her start in our ranks with rolls in films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first two Critters movies, and The Hidden. <!– zoom:/img/story/ –>
But you’ve never seen her like you will in Tim Sullivan’s 2001 Manics, which is coming to DVD on March 28th (pre-order it now!). In the film she plays Granny Boone, a matriarchal crazy woman who makes the lives of some unlucky travelers very uncomfortable… for the brief amount of time they’re allowed to keep them, that is!
I spoke with Lin recently about working with Tim, what kind of guy Samuel L. Jackson is, and why you don’t want you film to get the Curse of the South. Enjoy!
Johnny Butane: How did you get involved with 2001 Maniacs?
Lin Shaye: Well, let me see… I met Tim Sullivan on Detroit Rock City, which was the first thing he was involved with as an associate producer. When we did that film, he was talked about Maniacs, but you know how that happens in this business; everyone chats about stuff they want to do down the line. Sure enough, though, about 2 years later he called and asked if I was interested in doing the project and I said yes.
So we were just about ready to go, we’d done wardrobe fittings and it was set to be shot here in California, then the money fell out… I think. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I know it was put on hold and no one was sure what was going to happen. Then a very strange thing happened, when the location we were supposed to shoot at burned down.
JB: Yeah, I remember reporting about that…
LS: Right, it was very strange. So I believe after searching online, Scott Votaw, one of the producers, found this wonderful new location in Lumpkin, Georgia, which was kind of a living museum where they did Civil War reenactments and had original Civil War buildings. So it’s just like they all say; everything happens for a reason, as cliché has it sounds it really proved itself to be true on this film! (laughs)
So they got money from other sources and decided to shoot it in Lumpkin, Georgia, and it really worked out well because this location was really something else. Since the places were real you really did a sense of something eerie. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s something about a real place that has inhabited real people… It was certainly loaded in that way.
JB: Did that make it easier for you to get into the character’s head?
LS: Actually it did. Originally Granny Boone was in a wardrobe that was kinda like Granny from “The Beverly Hillbillies” and, eh… I just didn’t want to do that. Anything that’s like anything else, don’t even say it, cause I don’t want to go there! Anyway, the way I work is to start from the bottom up, I get clues about the character from how they act in the script. Especially when we saw the mansion, this beautiful white home that was a real Civil War building, I said, “We have to make her a Southern Belle. We can’t make her a hillbilly, that’s ridiculous”
So wardrobe came in and played around. Wendy Moynihan, who did all the costume design, did a spectacular job, completely on the fly; all of a sudden finding petticoats and draping my skirt, and find boustiers… we really went from one extreme to the other and created this really wonderful costume, I think.
We did the same thing with hair and makeup, too. I realized she really needed to have curls. I kind of wanted her to be a cross between Scarlett O’Hara and a Black Widow spider; just a very insidious, crawling woman who was also caught in this world of being the charming head of the household.
I’m kind of digressing all over the place, but for Tim this was really a project of passion, and he proved himself to be a man of his word. He talked about it at one point and all of a sudden there it was and he was fulfilling his promises. I just love Tim; I think he’s a very original, creative, kind hearted, big-hearted person. And he’s so sweet; we just have a wonderful friendship, both on and off the set. It was an auspicious meeting on Detroit Rock City, a film has taken on a cult status all it’s own…
JB: What kind of weird or interesting stories do you have from the shooting of the film?
LS: Oh, gosh, there were just tons of interesting things, which we usually attributed to the ghosts that were in the area. There were a lot of weird things that went on, yeah. Tim got bitten in the neck these hornets, which were all over the grounds where we were shooting, and he went into some form of shock. His neck blew up, it was really scary.
Also, on the first day of shooting one of our ADs fell off the steps of one of the honey wagons and had some sort of seizure; he had to bow out of the shoot and the producer Scott Votow, who I mentioned earlier, took over for him.
Wendy Kramer, who plays Peaches, passed out during the Guts and Glory Festival finale and had to be admitted at the hospital for a day. She had been doing this whirling dervish thing with her character and she just hyperventilated…
But the one thing we all kept harkening back happened right after filming started. This place had all these Civil War re-enactors, all these people who live in or around Lumpkin who dress up as Civil War soldiers and would do these re-enactments for tourists. So we were going to use them in the film, which would’ve been perfect.
They wanted to see the script first, of course, so Tim sent it to them. Well, needless to say they weren’t too happy and sent this scathing letter back, calling it pornography and all sorts of things, and they wished the Curse of the South on us. It still chills me to talk about it! I mean who knows? There’s so little we know the supernatural, but there definitely was an aura of trouble on the set.
Oddly, I felt very safe the whole time, and I don’t know why. Either somehow I had made friends with all these ghosts in another life (laughs), or maybe they figured a little Jewish girl from Detroit was harmless (laughs)!
JB: Wow, sounds like a very strange set! I think that’s the first I’ve heard about a curse. We’ve been covering it for a long time now…
LS: I can’t believe anyone’s talked about it! I hope Tim still has the letter, it was literally wishing us failure and that the demons would come to get us! But the film is slightly pornographic if you think about it…
JB: Of course, but in the best possible way! Speaking of it’s content, had you read the script before you agreed to take part in the movie?
LS: I never say yes 100% until I read the script, but I knew I wanted to work with Tim for sure. Plus I was very familiar with the original project, and I just love the premise. It’s not superficial at all, it’s about the unrest of the spirits of people who feel like they’ve violated and you wonder how much is actually in the atmosphere. I just felt there was a lot of integrity to the original material, so I was pretty sure I would like what I read, and I sure enough I did!
I think Tim did a great job with the story. One of the things that I really was pleased with was how believable and likeable the main characters were. You really got the feeling that these were real friends from college, you know?
JB: Definitely, the non-Maniac characters were great! Did you have any participation in the DVD?
LS: I know we did some EPK stuff during the shoot that will probably be on there. There are deleted scenes, and I really hope there’s one in particular, which had a line I improvised. It was about 3 in the morning and we had to literally stop filming because everyone was laughing so hard, but they cut it out. I’m pretty sure that will be back in. I don’t know if you want me to tell you about it…
JB: If you’d like to…
LS: Well, the scene took place in the kitchen, which I should add was a real Civil War-era kitchen in an old stone house. Everything that was in the space was authentic Civil War dishware, pots, pans… it was really something!
So the scene… well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you so as not to spoil the experience on DVD, it is a surprise….
JB: Yeah, I actually want to see it for myself.
LS: All right, then I won’t tell you. You’ll know it when you hear it (laughs)! It was great because Robert and Rufus picked up on the line I said and it became this really raunchy scene about this cat…
JB: Why would they have cut it, do you think?
LS: Well, there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, as I’m sure you know. Everyone had a different idea as to how the stew was supposed to taste! They felt it didn’t really fit in, sequentially it just didn’t work, but you know what? In this kind of movie it really shouldn’t matter! The scene was really in line with the tongue in cheek feel of the film, but I think the other guy s had a much more serious approach to how it should be as a horror film, where Tim’s idea was always this sort of vaudevillian, bigger than life, really broad comedy. Mayor Buckman is really the ringmaster of this whole circus, and that’s all Tim.
But I think that element really got toned down quite a bit because of all the different opinions as to how it was supposed to go.
JB: What other projects have you been on recently that you’d like to talk about?
LS: Oh, I had such a rich year last year. Not as financially rich as I would’ve liked (laughs), but for me it’s all about the work! I love working as much as possible.
There was a film called Vegas Baby, which may be coming straight to DVD. That’s about a very cute movie about these five guys who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. I play an inept lap dancer named Casandera!
JB: Wow, that is great!
LS: Yeah, it was! It was a great script, which was written by Eric Bent who also directed.
I did another horror film called Hoboken Hollow, which we shot in Menard, Texas. Talk about the armpit of the country…I’m not kidding. Everything is closed down; there was one restaurant and two “antique shops”, which was basically the junk out of someone’s garage. A very strange place!
The movie is based on a true story that took place in the 80’s, it takes place on a torture ranch that existed. This woman ran this ranch, and she would find transients and bring them into the ranch as a kind of slave labor, then they would murder them and sell their blood as blood bait, make beef jerky out of their remains. It was horrible; one of the most gruesome stories I’ve heard in while.
Dennis Hopper has a cameo, Bobby Carradine, C. Thomas Howell are all in it…
JB: Wow, what a cast!
LS: Yeah, it was a great cast. They’re still working on it now, so I’m not sure when it’ll be out. It was a first time director, who used to be a minister, and he has this ranch in Menard, Texas that they use for hunting wild turkeys… that’s another long story, there (laughs). It was a very interesting experience.
Then, what else… I did a big film over the summer called Snakes on a Plane…
JB: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that…
LS: It has more pre-release buzz now than anything else I’ve been involved with; there are already places marketing it online . We’re actually doing some inserts at some point this week from the snake’s point of view!
Samuel L. Jackson is the star, and he’s just a prince of a person. He’s exactly what you see; bigger than life, handsome, kind hearted, bright man. He’s just fabulous. So I was up in Vancouver for two months, which was really fun.
Let’s see, there’s a film called Unbeatable Harold, which is going to be released at the HBO Festival in Aspen. That also has an interesting cast with people like Henry Winkler, Dylan McDermott, and wonderful young actress who passed away named Nicole DeHuff…
JB: Oh, that’s too bad…
LS: Yeah, she was a great, great girl. I play a hula-hoping waitress, which was great because I had to learn the hula-hoop again!
JB: I wanted to ask you about another one in specific, if you don’t mind; Hood of Horror?
LS: Right, how could I forget that one! Snoop Dogg plays the devil; he narrates the three different pieces.
JB: Which one are you in?
LS: I’m in the last one, I play a security guard… the whole anthology is about people having a chance at redemption but they don’t take it and end up in hell. It’s an interesting take on it, because you really root for them to redeem themselves. The character I play has an oddly motherly quality to her, cause I’m really rooting for this kid to make the right choice. I spoon feed him the right answers and he still doesn’t get it.
JB: Did you get to work with Snoop at all?
LS: I didn’t, no. As I was leaving he was bringing in his people and his trailer, a city block long, so I kind of saw him moving about but I didn’t have the opportunity to work with him, no.
JB: What’s the tone of the overall film, do you think?
LS: It’s definitely got some pinches of humor, but more or less I’d say it’s your usual “Twilight Zone” kind of series, a bit of Hitchcock, with a very gruesome twist to it.
That was more or less the end of the interview, though we did spend some time talking about another role I absolutely loved her in; the mother from Dead End, a film which she loved as much as I did and wished would have gotten more attention than it did. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you fix that double quick!
Of course huge thanks to Lin for taking the time to chat with me over her morning coffee, and to Tim Sullivan for allowing us to make the connection in the first place! As you know, 2001Maniacs is out on DVD March 28th, so be sure you click here to pre-order the disc. You can also see the trailer here and visit the official Maniacs site here. And hey, if you’re in Toronto, the Rue Morgue crew is showing the film on March 16th (details here), and if you’re in or near L.A., you should hit Dark Delicacies on the day of the disc’s release to meet pretty much everyone involved with the film!
That’s a lotta links! Stick around for more 2001 Maniacs interviews over the coming weeks!