LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with the legendary actress Lin Shaye about being part of The Horror Crowd
By James Whittington, Wednesday 9th September 2020 Lin Shaye is an actress that need no introduction. Her screen work over the last few decades has seen her appear in countless movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters or more recently the Insidious series of movies. Here she chats about her career and her why she appeared in Ruben Pla's superb doc, The Horror Crowd.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actress?
LS: No, I never had the dream. Ever. I had the need to tell stories and from a very young age and my dad, when he tucked me in a night we would tell what we would call "Candyland Stories" and they were stories about a little girl named Linda, and they would start when she was just falling to sleep and she would hear, "Tap. Tap" tapping at her window and it would be a little horse with silver wings who would fly through the window and put her on his back or her back and fly out of the window and fly over the oak tree and over the Goldman's house and he had this whole story about Candlyland and we're Jewish so there was a Delicatessen with corned beef sandwiches on trees (laughs) and dill pickles, it was hilarious when I think about it. He taught me about storytelling and as a little girl I had a lot of time by myself and I used to make up my own plays actually with my stuffed animals and my dolls, this was in the 50s, and my parents left me alone and I had no devices such as computers and mobile phones, what I had was my imagination. That is why I'm an actress because I have a need to express my thoughts through story.
HC: Can you recall how you felt the first time you walked onto a film set?
LS: Yes, I do. When I was little, I used to be in school plays, and being backstage...there is still nothing like that. Even in film there is still nothing like that experience of listening to an audience. They can't see you yet, and you can hear them you have this whole story to unfold for them, so I have a vivid memory of that first experience of being backstage. The very first set I was on was a movie I did in New York. It was a television movie (The Woman Rebel) on the life of Margaret Sanger and Piper Laurie played Margaret Sanger, people don't remember Sanger and who she was now but she was a powerhouse. I remember coming on set and I was an immigrant woman and it was a very powerful, dramatic show the idea of crawling into this bed with all these lights...there was something very automatically very personal experience of getting into bed. So, there was a real sense of reality and the dramatic experience of being on set that merged. It was a very exciting time and it still is very exciting.
HC: How did you become involved in Ruben Pla's documentary, The Horror Crowd?
LS: I think I met Ruben at Jason Blum's house when we did the first Insidious and he had a wrap party and he's so gregarious, you know, he's always laughing, always bigger than life and very ambitious in his own way in a very positive light. He's an ideas person and he loves expressing himself to anybody and everybody that will listen and I think that's a really positive trait as you never know who is going to help. That is where we met and we became friends and he asked me to do this and he said can we come to your house and always a little reticent about that because your house if your private spot. We sat outside and there's a great shot of us, a still of me holding my dog and we're both sort of laughing and that's a perfect representation of what the experience was, very familiar, very homelike, very warm, and congenial. I was very happy being part of it. And I love to talk, as you can tell (laughs).
HC: You come across very natural in the doc, and you joke that you don't want others to get your roles, has there been anyone you have helped such as actors, producers, directors etc?
LS: I've never really mentored anybody particularly but of course if anyone asks me to help them I will always try and come up with people. So I think in general, whatever mentorship I have, happens when we've already made those choices and we're on set together. I'm happy to be as helpful as I can and I've sort of gotten into a producing role a little bit as I have such strong ideas how a scene should unfold or if there's something in the dialogue doesn't seem right so I've gained confidence in participating and in that way sometimes, a young director I'm inadvertently mentoring his ideas just by my experience. I'm not that helpful (laughs). I think I'm probably more of a taker than a giver as much as I hate to admit that! (laughs) I live in my own world because I can and that can be both good and bad. I have to remember to think like the other person although though as an actor it's good to have interior monologue with yourself which comes through. I love other actors; I love the community of what we have as film makers and artists, so I feel very much a part of the group and love trying to support that community.
HC: The Horror Crowd is a great community; I've been a horror fan all my life. I watched old Saturday night double-bills with my dad and things like that. What's it like to now be part of this? People love the work you do and can't wait to see what you're attached to as you don't get that with any other genre do you?
LS: I guess not and also, it's a world that's still not mainstream. Like when I watch the Academy Awards or whatever and I go "That's a different world to which I live in" I mean I'm still and actor and I understand that idea of being on set and that process but it's a different world. The horror crowd and the community of the horror world is very strong and very giving, there really is a group of people who hang together and Jason Blum sort of capitalised on that with his company and has obviously been wildly successful in terms of expanding the horror community and expanding the horror world for the layperson who is not necessary a horror fan so I feel a very strong part of being in that community and very happy to be in it. I like it a lot.
HC: Its 10 years since we saw you as Elise Rainier in the first Insidious movie, how has the industry changed for women over those 10 years? Has it become better for women?
LS: I think everything has become better for women in many respects, some things will never change and I hate to say that but that's really what I think as much more opportunity and inclusion women are having now there's still a bit of a stand-off and whether people are less likely and more reluctant to expose that. I have a sense of genderlessness with myself which I think is really a good thing. I was never really told by my family you're a girl so you can't do this or you're a girl and you can't do that, society kind of laid those lines out along the way. I've sort of, in my own interior, I've never really been part of that, I mean I'm not a lesbian though I love lesbians, I'm not gay but I love women and I love men and I love people that can communicate and are kind to each other and to me that is genderless, that's humanity and I think we get stuck sometimes in these roles of men and women which eats away at the idea that were are all... our brains are a little different we know scientifically we're a different but we're not. We all want the same things in life!
HC: Can you recall the first time you were recognised on the street?
LS: I don't remember the first time, it's always surprising a little bit, less so now because I recognise I'm recognisable. People recognise my voice. I'll be at the market or something and I see somebody kind of turnaround and they kind of look at me as they don't really know who I am because I look like a wreck (laughs) especially lately (laughs) then you'll see them trying to figure out where they know me from. My favourite moments of recognition usually are at Ralphs, a supermarket. There's usually a bevy of young girls between the ages of 12 and 14 and I hear them go, "ELISE!" This little pack that runs and they love me, it's like I'm their mom. They physically embrace me and that's really thrilling in a way because I've become a sort of role model for these young women. Elise is a wonderful character. I didn't know how much gravity her personality would have in the terms of the big picture.
HC: Do you think we've seen the last of Elise?
LS: I think that's a yes. There was an opening at one point where I know James (Wan) had a scenario which would be a good next step in terms of storyline, possibly showing, going back to the first story of the Lambert family and what happens later for them. It was never flushed out, there was never a script or anything. Everyone has gotten extremely busy; everyone has gotten big careers out of Insidious as well and I don't know. You have to be careful with that, I was shocked there was going to be a fourth one, and I was thrilled cos I thought I was going to get killed, literally. What was funny on the first one, James said, "What if there's a second one? We shouldn't kill you!".
HC: That was a great twist thought wasn't it?
LS: That was crazy. They realised Elise became such a popular character. I'm so pleased with that and so honoured. People ask why and I don't know 100% but I think Elsie is a giver and we are a world of takers and I think that there's something so refreshing about a personality who is really about helping other people and is not about me its about you and of course the energy of the horror itself, the story of the ghosts which I just think was just a phenomenal story and creating "The Further" was brilliant so I'm thinking that has to do with the popularity on some level.
HC: You obviously love that character?
LS: She cares for everyone else and she will giver herself. She's really a selfless person in the best sense and not in a gooey way, she's not a martyr, she's a selfless person with real good. She fought for the people she loved and the cause of goodness.
HC: What's the best thing of being recognised as a "horror actress" even though you've done loads of other things what's the best thing of being part of The Horror Crowd?
LS: I think the crowd, so to speak, is a very comforting place for me as I have a place in it. The world is a big place and you're rejected in many ways and in many experiences that you have on a daily basis, there's a lot of doors that close even when sometimes you don't realise it. And there's something about being in the middle of the warmth of a crowd that you know cares and I am surprised as I am by myself and I like it but I also like the anonymous warmth of knowing people like and recognise and appreciate my heart and soul which is what I put into my work. I take it very seriously, very seriously, comedy as well as drama so the fact that I am being appreciated for that fact is priceless.
HC: Lin Shaye, thank you so much.
The Horror Crowd received its world premiere on 29 August at FrightFest Digital Edition 2020.
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