Quantcast Christie Sanford interview - SATAN'S PLAYGROUND, HORROR, DESECRATION

Christie Sanford!!!
Genre fans should recognize actress CHRISTIE SANFORD from all of Dante Tomaselli's films - 'DESECRATION', 'HORROR', 'SATAN'S PLAYGROUND' and the upcoming 'THE OCEAN'. While working with genre veterens such as Edwin Neal & Felissa Rose, Christie has proved time & time again she can hold her own, and she usually ends up being the most memorable of characters from Dante's films. We caught up with her to hear about all her experiences thus far in the horror genre. Read on for our FRIGHT exclusive interview!!! - by Robg., Mike C. 1/07

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember what scared you the most when you were younger?

Oh God! I think that most of them when I was really young scared me, but the first one I ever really remember was ‘THE EXORCIST’. I mean, to this day I still can not watch that movie. I tried to watch it again recently, but then I hear that piano music and I go out of my freakin’ mind! (Laughs) I turn the TV off and think, nope can’t do that.

You had said in previous interview that you’d gotten into acting almost by accident. Originally you went to college to focus on writing, but ended up acting as well. How’d you drift from writing more towards acting?
Well, I took acting as an elective. We had a January intersession. It was one of these liberal arts colleges in New Hampshire. You know, fun college, but not “college” college. (Laughs) I had to take an elective and they had an acting class there. I had never really taken a formal acting class before, so I figured let me give it a shot, because back in high school I’d done talent shows & skits and stuff like that. I always had fun doing that. So, I took acting and I really had a great time with it, so I decided to audition for the next semester’s big play. And I ended up getting the lead in it. It was my second year is school, I believe.

Getting the lead in that play, did you catch the acting bug to keep doing it from there?

Oh yea. And everybody said “Who’s going to play the lead in this?” It was ‘The Royal Family’. It’s an old, old classic play. So, I played that part and it was just the biggest high I’ve ever had in my life. (Laughs)

What about post-college? Did you continue trying to do acting either on stage or film, or did you try to get back to writing?

Well, I kept writing all through college. I wrote a play. But I found it was difficult to write dialogue as opposed to writing narrative. I was pretty good at narrative, but dialogue was a whole different thing. So after I got out of college, I took a job as a wardrobe dresser in Connecticut.

The Hartwich was then the Hartwin theater, so I became a dresser to all the stars that came in on these show, that were headed for Broadway. So, I got to meet a lot of people and learn about working backstage for the theater. About 2 years after working there, I met a director on one of the shows and he was an acting coach and he said “Why don’t you come to New York next year and I’ll give you private coaching lessons.” Which is how I ended up in the city.
You had met Dante Tomaselli because you’d auditioned for one of his shorts, ‘Mama’s Boy’. I know that he had made several versions of ‘Mama’s Boy’, which would later become ‘Desecration’. Were you involved with any or all of the versions of ‘Desecration’?

Yep. Every single one.

What was it like to revisit that same character frequently in newer versions of the short and then again finally in the full length of ‘Desecration’?
Well, I never knew what was going to happen next. It didn’t change drastically from short to short because I was playing the same character. We just kept fleshing it out a bit more each time. And giving a little bit more to the story each time. I think there’s a picture of this one shot on line - someone had sent it to me on My Space. It’s got me hanging off the roof of this condominium. He had me hanging on the roof of this condominium with my nun’s outfit on. I’m looking down realizing that I’m 3 stories up while he’s shooting me thru the window. And I’m thinking “Oh my God, he’s got me hanging out here for dear life on the roof!” (Laughs)

I hope you had a net or something! Sounds like independent filmmaking at it’s finest!

We had all kinds of wild things happen to us on every single shoot that we did. Dante would just call me out of the blue and say “I want to shoot this on digital video” or “I want to try this new scene”. He was always trying each time to do it a little differently. I think I’ve got all the footage somewhere on VHS. I think there are 4 different versions of the short. One’s 7 minutes, one is 4, another is 10. He kept sending them all over the place, mostly film festivals that accept shorts to see if he could get funding for a full length feature.

When he got the funding to make ‘Desecration’ as a feature length, was it a given that you’d be coming back?

I was keeping my fingers crossed! But he kept saying to me “When we do ‘Desecration’, you have to play Sister Madeline.”

You pretty much owned that character at that point.

When I met Dante, and I auditioned for that part, I didn’t know him. He was just out of film school. I had found the ad in Backstage that they needed someone my age for a short horror film. I had only made one other film at the time, which was a 20 minute short student film that was a comedy. It was a lot of fun to do, but then I thought “Wow, a horror film would be something cool to try out for.” So, when I went to meet him, I didn’t know what I was doing, I did some kind of monologue, but he liked it and he called me back to do the trailer. We did the trailer for ‘Mama’s Boy’, which is absolutely harrowing. There was this bloody baby, oh God! (Laughs) But from there, we kept doing more shorts.
When you finally got to do the full length, and you saw it complete as a feature, what did you think having lived with the character of Sister Madeline for so long?

That was my first full length indie feature and I just couldn’t believe it. I’m critical of myself, so some of it I kept asking myself what I was thinking when I did certain things. But other stuff was great. Like the scene where she’s going with the bottle to the cage. I liked that.

One of the first things I saw of Dante’s was the scissor attack from ‘Desecration’, which he showed at a Fango convention. And I was blown away by it. Such sick stuff!

Yea, that scissor scene was great, I thought. That was really good.

How soon after ‘Desecration’ did he start ‘HORROR’?

I think it was 2 years. ‘Desecration’ came out around 1999, and ‘HORROR’ was 2002, although we shot it in 2001.
Did he tell you anything about ‘HORROR’ while you were making ‘Desecration’?

No, he called me at one point and just said “I’ve got another character for you to play.”

Any major differences to the production between ‘Desecration’ and ‘HORROR’ in terms of budget or time?

Well, now I knew what I was getting into with ‘HORROR’…

No hanging off buildings this time? (Laughs)

No, no! (Laughs) But for ‘HORROR’ he had me in those really high red heels, and I kept thinking “How do I walk in these things?!” I’m trying to go up and down the stairs in those things. It was a different character for ‘HORROR’ and I’d already worked with Vincent Lamberti, so I knew him and there were a lot of people on the crew that I’d already known. It was a different location and different storyline, so that made it a different experience.

Obviously, Dante’s first 2 films are very non-linear and are somewhat tough to follow. Were the scripts for those first two films equally as tough to follow or did you pretty much know what it was going to be about?

Well, I had a good idea what it was going to be about. Yes, they are non-linear. He writes things to be surreal. Particularly in the first two films, ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’ was a little more linear then the others. It kind of skips around because to me – and I’m not quoting Dante, this is just my feeling of it – it’s like being in a dream-like state. It’s other-worldly. Other-worldly type things aren’t on the same linear path as we’re on in this perspective. The man-made idea of time.

You can dream things and sometimes it doesn’t make sense because it’s not in order…

Right, or it’s all happening at once. Or it’s spacial. It’s non-linear. So, in a way there is a sort-of beginning, middle and an end. But it kind of hops around because it’s in a dream-like state. In reality, when you watch those films, it’s not real. As far as we know, reality for this perspective that we’re in. If you were able to perceive energy on another plain, it probably would not be linear as we know linear to be. He takes a lot of images from his dreams that he’s had.

How long after ‘HORROR’ did he start talking about his next film, which ended up being ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’? Because I know now, he tends to often think of his next movie as he’s making the current one. For example, he thought of ‘THE OCEAN’ while making ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’ and now that he’s about to start ‘THE OCEAN’, he’s thinking of a film called ‘ SALEM’.

He had it on the back burner. I don’t think he had written (Satan’s Playground) while we did ‘HORROR’, but he had an outline in his mind of what I believe he wanted.

Did he ever talk to you about any of those early ideas?

No, he didn’t. But I remember when he put out the casting notices for ‘Satan’s Playground’ that he needed someone in their 40’s to play Judy Leeds. I was… heartbroken! (Laughs) I thought to myself “I should play Judy Leeds!” But I didn’t hear anything. I thought maybe he’s got other ideas. But then I did get a phone call from Dante and he said “There’s this character of Judy Leeds that I’ve got here…” And I said, “Yeaaa?” (Laughs) “You might be very good at it.” And I replied “Well, I’d be great at it!” (Laughs) So, he said “Yea, I’d like to have you play it.” He send me over the script and thought “Whoaaa, look at THIS character.” (Laughs)
You are in ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’ with a lot of people that are recognizable within the genre, yet I think you steal the movie from all of them…

Aw, thank you.

And the interesting thing is, you’re the one character that has no lines and does the majority of the acting facially. You probably have some of the scariest moments/expressions in the movie. What was it like approaching a character that you knew was going to be mute?

Well, I kind of looked at it in that this character is sort of animalistic in a way. She looks human, but she’s not really human. So, I thought if you have an animal in front of you, they don’t speak to you in words. If you have a dog or cat in front of you, they have to communicate in another way.

So, I thought this character of Judy Leeds has to communicate whatever she has to communicate in a way without using words. Even though she’s mute, later on you hear her humming a lullaby to the baby. I was watching my dog one day, and he was making all these faces. (Laughs) I kept watching him, and all these faces he was making to me was him communicating to me. I had the big ponytail and figured I’d use a lot of those expressions, what I’m thinking as the character.

Can you talk a bit about the look for Judy Leeds? She’s very child-like in appearance. Was that all Dante’s idea?

That was Dante’s idea. I had no idea what she’d look like. When they called me down to wardrobe to get dressed, I had no idea what he wanted me to look like. No clue. And I was trying to visualize in my mind, but I can’t second guess Dante ever. I don’t know. So, I just went into wardrobe and they had me trying on all these striped stockings and the big Mary J shoes. Then they had me in a bathrobe and turtle-neck and I’m looking at myself thinking “What am I doing? What is this?!” (Laughs) I just thought OK, if this is what he wants, this is what he gets, he’s the director! I went to get my hair done, and when they did the ponytails, I’m looking at myself and I realized, “Oh my God. He wants a little girl. He wants me to play it as a little girl.” So, by playing an innocent looking little girl, it became sort of creepy & menacing.

By the time you did ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’, you’d already worked with both Danny Lopes and Irma St. Paule on all of Dante’s movies. So, was it comfortable to go back and work with actors you were already very familiar with?

Oh yea. It was so much fun. I love Danny. And Irma, of course. She’s like a second mother to me. When Irma and I had some time on ‘DESECRATION’, we’d always sit and talk when we weren’t on set. We’d always get into these great conversations. She’s wonderful to talk to – very interesting woman. We just continued that on Satan’s Playground. We’ve remained very, very good friends.

Did the working conditions on SATAN’S PLAYGROUND influence the way everyone worked together? I know it was filmed on one of the coldest winters in Jersey’s history.

I think it did, because we had space heaters when we were outside & we’d have our coats on, and then we’d run to the set and shoot. Of course, they’d have to take our coats. It’d be really cold while we were shooting, so while they’d re-set the lights and prepared for the next shot, everyone had to go back in front of the heaters. We’d huddle up around them to keep warm and huddle together, so we had to interact with each other. It felt like we were all telling stories around the camp fire. It was really neat.

When was the first time you saw ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND’ complete?

Once it was finished and edited, Dante called and invited me over to see it, so I saw it with him. Dante and I watched it.

I saw it with him too, and it was very unnerving because he’s got that massive TV and he sat behind me the entire time. So, every time the TV faded to black, I’d catch his reflection on the screen right behind me. (Laughs) It freaked me out! What was it like for you?

It was great. It was more then I expected. When you’re shooting it, you really don’t know, especially as an actress, you don’t know. Because I’m not watching what I’m doing. You’re looking at what’s going on from another objective view. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing when I’m in the middle of it.

(Laughs) I rely on my own creativity and the director’s direction. If he asks me to do something a different way, I’ll do that and hopefully give them what they want to see. When I went to watch the film, it was more then I expected all the way around. I had no idea he had a helicopter there for that shot in the beginning! That shot was fabulous.

I caught it at the Two Boots Pioneer theater in NYC for the premiere. I know you were there and it was sold-out. Actually, I had brought my friend Pete and he isn’t too big on horror films because they really do scare him. All he’d known about Satan’s Playground was from the 5 minute extended trailer that I showed him. And as soon as you popped up in it, he made me turn it off. (Laughs) So, I drag him to see the movie, and since it’s packed, we had to sit all the way up front. I remember it was just about to start, and the only seats left were the few seats next to us, and you come walking in with your daughter and sit a few seats away in our row. So, I poked him and pointed you out saying “Look who it is!”, and it totally freaked him out. (Laughs)

(Laughs) That’s funny! We were late to that screening! My daughter and I had trouble getting into that show. I didn’t realize it was going to be as packed as it was. But I saw Danny around outside with his entourage and he told me that they weren’t letting any more people in. I think they had saved a few seats for Danny and he just let me go in with my daughter since he’d already seen it a bunch of times. It was a fun screening and the party afterwards was fun.

The DVD has finally been released by Anchor Bay Entertainment & Dante’s done a lot of press for it on the internet. But I’ve noticed that usually a lot of images of you as Judy Leeds have popped up all over the place. Your image seems to be very identifiable with ‘SATAN’S PLAYGROUND. What’s that like for you? Is it kind of weird? Or flattering?
I’m glad, it makes me very happy! I love Dante, and I love the films and I love doing his films. It’s something I’d always want to be a part of. It’s in my heart and it really is a part of me. I didn’t expect it, but I’m happy about it. Felissa was so great, and Ed Neal. To watch the stuff they’ve done and have them in the movie and be a part of it all is just so wonderful.

Speaking of Ed (Neal), he’s a wacky fellow and he’s always got plenty of stories. I know that you’re a fan of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. What was it like being a Chain Saw fan and then meeting and working with Ed?

Wow. Well I never knew he was the way he is. (Laughs) He’s crazy and so much fun. I can talk to him for hours! The stories he’s got and the things he’s done. Oh my. In fact, it was Irma, Ed, my daughter and myself and we just sat around and talked. We must’ve talked for 3 hours the 4 of us. My daughter was fascinated by Ed. She’s fairly young so you wouldn’t think so, but she was fascinated by the things Ed would talk about.
Have you read ‘THE OCEAN’ yet? What are your initial thoughts?

I can’t wait. I think it’s a great script. I’m not technically inclined, but I have no idea how he’s going to do the underwater shots. I know the beautiful locations he’s got picked out, I’ve seen stills and they’re great. But how he’s going to do everything for it is beyond me! I guess it’ll involve some special effects. That’s a whole other story. It’s very excited. He keeps saying “I hope I don’t drown doing it.” And I think “Oh my God!” (Laughs)

Are you excited to work with some of the current names attached?

Oh yea. Well, Margot Kidder is attached, I think? I can’t wait to work with her. It’s going to be wonderful. I keep hearing Tom Atkins too, which is great!

Is there anything else you’re working on outside of Dante’s next film?

Actually I was supposed to start work on an indie feature, a comedy called ‘Clarity’. But that got pushed back, so I’m not sure when that’ll happen. Doing indie stuff is tough, because people need the funding and that’s the major part or it all. And there are a lot of investors out there that don’t want to invest!

Overall, what are your feelings towards independent filmmaking and the independent filmmaking scene?

I think it’s the best thing going on. I love independent films. I think they’re some of the best films made, because people’s hearts and souls are in them. It does have a money thing with it too, but not like a big-studio project, with all these executive producers attached. They don’t have ANY creative input, it’s always a money thing to a lot of them. Mainstream movies don’t always have a lot of story. I love to go to see independent films and I love the independent movie channel. It’s my favorite thing in the world to see independent films.

Visit: SatansPlaygroundTheMovie.com
and TheOceanMovie.com

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