Quantcast Lin Shaye interview - 2001 MANIACS, SNAKES ON A PLANE

Actress
Lin Shaye!!!

How can you NOT love the wonderful Lin Shaye?! She's appeared in dozens of films, including her recent forey into horror - playing Granny Boone in Tim Sullivan's '2001 MANIACS' . She's also going to been seen this summer in this little movie people seem to be talking about called... 'SNAKES ON A PLANE'?! Read on for Icons Of Fright's one on one with actress Lin Shaye!!! - by Mike C. 8/06

First, we always ask, what was the first horror film you remember seeing?

“House of Wax”—not the remake! Oh my god, the original “House of Wax” in 3D scared the living “you know what out” of me. And also “Psycho”, those were the two films that left imprints on my psyche. I would love to see “House of Wax” again in 3D, unbelievably frightening.

How would you describe your experience on 2001 Maniacs?

Well, I met Tim on Detroit Rock City and we hit it off right away. He’s an amazingly energetic, bright, terrific guy. When we did that film he talked about Maniacs, but it seemed like the kind of thing where people say, “Oh, I have a project…” and it goes into the ozone and you never hear from them again. So, lo and behold, I don’t remember how many years later Tim called and said they’d actually gotten the money and would I be interested in playing the part of Granny Boone.

What is the role you were expecting to be offered?

You know there’s that part of you that goes, “A grandmother…wait a minute, I’m only 18!” Then as I thought well, “Granny” doesn’t have to be a 90 year old lady at all, that’s just what they call her. I read the script, and now keep in mind I’m not really a major horror film fan. I’m not that into the genre, I mean it seems to be a whole culture that I’ve never been a part of even though I’ve now done a fair share of horror films. Well, you read it and go “Ugh!”, but it was with Tim and Robert Englund’s always been a great favorite of mine.

You did have role in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, the teacher, right?

Right, the teacher, and I met Robert socially a few times and he’s really an extraordinary guy. A tremendous actor in his own right, let alone what he did with Freddy Kruger. People don’t know that he’s a classically trained actor who cut his teeth on Shakespeare, a seasoned pro in many ways. I was really excited with the prospect of working with him and being his alter ego.

Now didn’t “Maniacs” have a somewhat bumpy start? Were you around for any of that?

Originally Tim showed me some drawings and Granny Boone looked like The Beverly Hillbillies grandmother with the bun and glasses, and she was supposed to have a coonskin cap. That was all fine and good, and we started to have wardrobe preppings and everything, and the next thing I heard, the project was off.

I remember this, because ‘2001 Maniacs’ had been announced for a 2001 release, right?

Yes, but the money fell out. So Tim said we were on hold, and at the point you let it go, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Now the irony is the sets we were supposed to use had been in one of the big fires and the whole area was burned down. There was a weird irony to that because if we had been filming we would have been in trouble, or danger, at some point during that shoot. Then more time went by and Tim was over here for dinner and he got the phone call in my kitchen that the money had come through, there was a new set of producers, Raw Nerve, and Velvet Steamroller, a young company trying to find viable investments.

They thought this sounded like a good one. So the budget was going to be bigger, and they found this location that ended up completely inspiring the film. You know how they say everything happens for a reason? We ended up finding this living museum in Lumpkin, GA, a re-enactment museum. What they did was create a space, bring real Civil War buildings into the area and decorate them with 100% authentic dishes, rugs, bedding. It was really a fabulous place.

It makes the film look great.

Oh - you literally could not pay for those set pieces. They utilized all the real thing there to enrich and enliven what we were making. And this helped us change the concept of Granny.

In what way?

Well, now you can’t have this woman in a coonskin cap. Now we’re talking “Southern Belle” here.

So literally, on-set, the costume designer Wendy Moynihan, she was phenomenal. We walked into my trailer, we had the coonskin cap and all this stuff, and we said, “No, no! We got to look at different stuff, this woman is like a cross between Scarlett O’Hara and a black widow spider”. So, she went and found skirts and petticoats, and sewed me into this fabulous costume with drapery skirts and this sort of off-the-shoulder blouse and necklace, and the sausage curls for the hair. She created this wonderful look for the character which I think was a wonderful counterpoint to the cannibalism.

What was it about Tim Sullivan that made you stick with “Maniacs” for so long?

Tim is just like a puppy with a rag in his mouth—once he gets a hold of something his passion is completely contagious. And his intellect too, in terms of what he was creating and wanted in terms of this movie, he really is a horror film aficionado.

He exudes that and you catch it, not like a disease, but absolute ease, because as soon as you catch it you’re on the train with him. I have tremendous respect for him. When you know what really goes into making a movie and the journey to get it on board—it’s insane. How does any movie ever get made? And yet here’s this guy who had this idea, along with Chris Kobin, and they just refused to let it die and let it get them down. It’s so attractive to work with that kind of a package.

Where there any particularly fun scenes for you in the film?

Well, they all were really fun, but I think the dinner scene where I throw the biscuits and say the blessing (which was my idea and Tim was very open to that). We even came up with lines every once in a while which were hilarious. I love the scene where we “put Ricky on a stickie”. I would say everything was fun to film. Robert was a dream to work with.

What is Robert like on the set?

Full of energy, ideas, goodwill. Completely professional. Non-stop energy and a talker. The thing is everything he says is really interesting. He’s had a lot of experience in his career, and a lot of opportunities because of Freddy, which he’s eager to share with everybody, and with young actors. A real team player, always ready to go.

He seemed really into it, I think this is one of his best horror performances he’s done in a really long time. It was good to see him dig in as Mayor Buckman.

Well, it was a really grand character, it’s Shakespearean in size. He’s like the ringmaster, and I hate to say broad, because people think broad means big, but it’s grand.

But he never really went over-the-top with it, which could have been so easy to do with that character.

I felt so too, and he’s very skilled with that and that comes from years of training and talent.

How about working with the rest of the cast, including a lot of young and new talent?

Well, Giuseppe I worked with on Detroit Rock City, and he’s a one of kind. He’s on his own plain, he’s a really good actor. He played it very interesting, very straight. He was the handsome leading man of the town. I thought Wendy did a great job, a very brave performance. She’s lovely. I think all the younger actors did a really amazing job. I mean, we had to reign them in a bit sometimes in terms of we being the older folks and the more experienced on-set, because they were all so excited to be there.

What were some ways you were able to help those guys out, being so experienced?

I think just focusing. They saw how much we focus and I think that helped them automatically. There’s time to be frivolous and fool and joke around, but then it’s time to focus and do the scene. I think everyone really achieved that. There were no real “fuckups”. Everyone tried their hardest to bring everything they had to for the scenes.

Do you know anything about some of the conflicting views on what the final cut of the film would be like?

A little bit, I mean, I think being that there were 3 different producing companies involved everybody had different considerations. Tim’s idea was to create a vaudevillian horror film, slightly tongue in cheek. I think there was some difference of opinion on how funny the film should be, and how scary.

Everybody put their two-cents in so it took a long while for the film to get finished and edited appropriately. They did end up shooting some additional footage after we came back from Georgia which I think ended up being extremely useful. That was a fight scene between Jay Gillespie and Robert Englund. But you know, conflict never creates—differences of opinion is very creative, but conflict can be just destructive and cause some bad blood.

Speaking of doing some re-shoots, I see you’re credited with “Snakes on a Plane”, which just did some re-shoots.

Ah, yes! It’s going to be the biggest hit of 2006! It’s just a behemoth—it kept growing and growing.

I think the second anyone hears about it they instantly want to see it. What’s your role in it?

I actually have a wonderful role. I play the Senior Flight Attendant, her name is Grace, and she’s kind of the one who’s seen-it-all/done-it-all and slightly cynical about everything, but you love her. I end up being a heroine, saving a baby from the snakes, and I end up getting it and I have wonderful death scene. I don’t think I’m giving anything away, I mean, that’s what it is, right? Let’s just say I’m not the only death scene!

Were you working with real snakes?

Oh yea! There were and I gotta tell you… they are fabulous creatures and I’m not afraid of them. I find them very fascinating and beautiful. The little squiggly ones are kind of weird, but the bigger ones, wow. They had this 600 pound python named “Kittie” that was on set, Burmese python. It took 10 people to hold her, and was probably one of the most beautiful living things I’ve ever seen. We had a fabulous snake wrangler, Jules Sylvester, one of the foremost reptile experts in the world in terms of what he does.

Now, I went into the snake room, which had this very peculiar smell and there were just cages and cages of snakes. He asked me if I wanted to hold one. I’d touched one before, and they’re not slimy, they’re like silk. They’re so beautiful. So I put my hands out and he laid the snake in my hands, a corn snake, it’s not poisonous. He said their biggest fear is falling, and you have to make them feel safe. So, you end up almost doing tai-chi, they wrap around your arms and you have to lengthen your arm so they don’t fall down, and they seek warmth. It wasn’t creepy, it was very pleasant. It was a real education and really very fun.
What’s the feel of the film? Is it going to be tongue in cheek like Maniacs?

Well, what they realized is that they had this fan base going, so with the re-shoots they turned into a hard “R”, so it’s going to be much gorier, much scarier. David Ellis who directed it is a master of the scare. He knows how to do the “boo”, and of course it’s going to be funny. Some of these characters are ridiculous. It is going to be a great time.

Have you seen any of the fan “marketing”?

Yea, Wendy Kramer sent me a link with posters, cartoons, and that whole, “Hey it’s like Snakes on a Plane” vernacular, it’s very cool.

I want to touch a film you did a few years ago I thought was overlooked called “Dead End”.

Yea… another great one, really. Unfortunately the distribution companies don’t want to be creative in terms of their marketing. That could have been a gem of a sleeper and doing midnight runs. I think it would have sold.

It was very interesting and I think you’re right about the whole marketing, I’d seen the DVD and it never caught me until I saw it on television. How did that film come to be?

It was written by two French guys, from Paris and they decided to make this little horror film. I went in and read for it, I was so taken with the character and the script. We shot it for 3 weeks in Franklin Canyon, all night shoots. It was made on a shoe string budget, but it’s so stylish. My son, who is 16, told me it was one of his favorite scary movies. When we saw it with audiences, they literally gasped, it makes you jump out of your seat. So, I’m thrilled it’s getting around and developing a cult status.

I always recommend to people, I think it will find its audience.

I think it will too. I mean, interesting, I used to be known for “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin”, now it’s Lin Shaye who did “Dead End”. It’s great. It’s starting to build its own steam. It did win a ton of awards in Europe. It won the Audience Award in San Sebastian, and in total about 4 best of show awards.

Were you nominated for anything because you and Ray were fantastic in it.

Yes, I won Best Supporting Actress in Belgium at a festival.

Now, how did you come to work with those Farrelly Brother’s so often?

I had a tiny role in “Dumb and Dumber”, Miss Neugeboren. I was sort of given the role, and it was the first thing they directed. I mean, Pete was so funny he didn’t even know to say “Action!” in the beginning. He just liked my ideas. I came in thinking this woman looked like a French Poodle, and he loved it. Then I auditioned for “Kingpin” and again for “Mary”. That was how that relationship came about. I mean, they put me on the map. I’ve been acting since 1974, and the problem I run into occasionally still is being a “character actress”.
The Farrelly’s hired me to play Magna and Mrs. Neueboren, and I can safely say there’s not another director in this town that would have hired me for those roles. The reason they said, Pete says, is I was the most creative actress who came in to read. Usually it’s “what does she look like”. So, often it’s “nurse”, “teacher”, all those things is like, “Well, we want to use Lin somewhere, what do we got. Well, she’s not the ingénue, she’s not the leading lady, but maybe I will be at some point because I think I can carry my weight.

You did a great job in ‘2001 Maniacs’ and ‘Dead End’, those are leading roles.

Thank you, those are leading roles. I think people are just getting to know the range I have. ‘Dead End’ was probably the most screen time I ever had.

Is there anything else you’ve got coming up that you’re particularly excited about?


Snakes is probably the most exciting. I did an episode of “My Name is Earl”. I’m going to be on the season finale. I did another thing with Jason Lee and Crispin Glover called “Drop Dead Sexy”, that’s coming out on DVD. I hope that some of these films will find their way into a specialty theatrical release. Those are the two I’m most excited about.


Special Thanks to Tim Sullivan!!!

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