Lin Shaye is an actress that you will always notice when she appears in a film. Whether it's a comedic performance like the elderly neighbor "Magda" in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY or a dramatic turn such as the heroic psychic "Elise" in the INSIDIOUS franchise, Lin Shaye always delivers a note-worthy performance full of humanity and grace.
I recently had a chance to sit with Lin to talk about her career and a wide variety of topics. She had just been announced as the ambassador for the "Scream Fest" film festival concluding tonight in Los Angeles with the premiere of her latest film THE FINAL WISH. Which is where our conversation starts.
I had a wonderful time speaking with Lin and I hope you enjoy our chat.
Lin Shaye: Hey Matt.
Wheels: Hi Lin. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today, ma'am. I greatly appreciate it.
Lin Shaye: Aww, thank you for wanting to talk to me.
Wheels: Of course, I love your work.
Lin Shaye: Thank you very much.
Wheels: Of course, so let's go ahead and get started. So, I am talking to you today, because you are involved with Scream Fest (https://screamfestla.com/). You are the ambassador for the festival. What does that mean for you to be involved with an event like this?
Lin Shaye: Well, I'm really honored, because I think it confirms my fan base and people who have appreciated the work I've done. I am happy to support all these filmmakers who have achieved a big goal which is [being] selected by a festival that gets many, many submissions and also I'm a part of the horror film genre world. It means a lot.
Lin Shaye: So, I feel very proud to be selected to support them.
Wheels: You have a film premiering at the festival, THE FINAL WISH, correct?
Lin Shaye: Yes, yes I do.
Wheels: Unfortunately, I have not seen it yet. Can you tell the AICN audience a little about it?
Lin Shaye: It's basically a story of a young man who is ne'er-do-well and who has separated himself from his family. Not been a very good son according to the family and who has this opportunity, his dad has passed away, and his parents were in the antique business. There's an item that he acquires that has powers he is not aware of and it begins to change the course of his life.
It's a really interesting story I think. I love the role I have in it. I play a grieving mom and a grieving wife. It's about how elements that are beyond your control in some ways can change the course of your life, but at the same time, we realize that we have choices also and if you make the wrong choices you have to pay the price. It is a horror film, after all. [Laughs]
Wheels: I think that's a great thing about horror films and genre films they can be used as allegories for everyday life.
Lin Shaye: Exactly, that's really a good point.
Wheels: So, you have been involved in so many beloved films, especially films in the comedy and horror genre. If you had to pick a genre out of those two; comedy or horror, which one do you personally prefer?
Lin Shaye: Well, I consider myself a storyteller and not so much... I'm not as concerned with the genre as I am with character and story. So both appeal to me for different reasons, but also for the same reason, a good story. Which is when I pick projects that's what I look for in terms of is it a good story? Is it a character I find fascinating on some level? Do I feel like I can add something to it as a creator?
I would say I love both equally. I'm interested in both. I would pick if there were two films one was horror and one was a comedy and the comedy was a better story and better character. I probably pick that. If the other also has a strong story, I'll probably want to do both of them. [Laughs]
Wheels: Well, to stay in that vein for a moment. You have had so many wonderful roles over the years. Do you have a personal favorite role that you played?
Lin Shaye: I actually do, KINGPIN.
Wheels: Really! That's one of my all-time favorite comedies to be honest with you. It such a fun and silly movie, I never would have expected you to pick that one.
Lin Shaye: Well, I mean, gratefully, I have been a part of so many different kinds of films. The reason why I say KINGPIN is the journey I was on to try to get the audition. It was just an early point in my career before SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. I had played a lot of smaller roles. Getting that role, to me, represents my tenacity as an actress and a person.
The character is described as the angriest, ugliest women God ever let loose on the planet, but as an actress, I just thought I had to play this part and they didn't want to see me for it. So, there was this huge struggle over a course of weeks; where I created that very character, and that very wardrobe, and that very makeup in my bedroom [Laughs] sitting on the floor in front of my mirror.
Lin Shaye: Yes, really and finally I convinced one of the producers to please, please let me just show you what I've come up with because they all said no. So, I say it is my favorite not just, because of the content of the story. I love her dearly because she was a no-nonsense woman [Laughs] and she helped me grow as a performer.
In this day of age, I find her even more beloved, but I think it has resonance not only because of the Farrelly brothers and fun of the film but of my own endurance and my own drive to persist with something I really, really was hoping I'd get to do. It worked out in my favor, but I had many wonderful [roles].
“Elise”, for example, with my last go at the INSIDIOUS franchise probably was the most powerful experience I had as an actress because it was very emotional and very intense and also had a lot of ... I had to answer a lot of questions in terms of carrying the franchise forward. So it was hard and, but I love everything I do, to be honest, Matt. I never really had a bad experience. Some has been more difficult than others [Laughs], but nothing really bad.
Wheels: That's wonderful to hear and I have to personally say KINGPIN is one of those movies that can always cheer me up if I'm in a bad mood. It was surprising, but it was wonderful to hear you say that was your favorite and it's wonderful to hear that story.
Lin Shaye: It still holds up it's one of their funniest movies, I think.
Wheels: What are some of your memories working with the Farrelly brothers on that film?
Lin Shaye: Pete and Bobby are a terrific team. Bobby was more behind the camera at that time, when we shot it. Pete was the one that will work mostly with the actors. They were delighted with what I came up with, so for me, it was a real affirmation of being a creative actor. For me, it was just a journey in terms of character and they were so supportive of the ideas that I came up with.
That for me it was real, a real affirmation of being a creative actor. Actually Pete right now... I'm giving him a plug. He's got a new movie called, GREEN BOOK. That is killing it in on the film festival circuit. It's a drama that has some comedic elements, but Pete is back and I'm so thrilled for him.
Wheels: So, to talk about the other character you mentioned... What are some of your memories of working on the INSIDIOUS franchise with James Wan? He has gone on to do so much now in the industry.
Lin Shaye: The most exciting thing for me is that James has not changed except that he's grown as a filmmaker. I mean he is the most wonderful person. He is so tuned into other people, their feelings, their creativity, their input. He is a true cinephile. He was created in my mind to make movies. My experience with him was nothing but a delight. He gave me ...I met him through another director friend Tim Sullivan, who I have done a couple of horror films, the 2001 MANIACS films.
Wheels: I know Tim, yes.
Lin Shaye: Tim is a great guy to and he was friends with James. He introduced me and not long after James I gave him a copy of DEAD END, which was this little horror film I did in 2002. That he was a fan of that which why he wanted to meet me. Not long after that, he said that, that he and Leigh [Whannell] had this film they were trying to get done and he thought there was a role for me. So, he sent me the script [for INSIDIOUS]. it was so scary I locked it in the closet [Laughing] and low and behold working with James he's a real problem solver. He really understands the camera and many aspects of filmmaking. Being a good director has so much detail that you got to be on top of. James is on top ... in my mind was on top of all of it.
He now has AQUAMAN opening in December, which is like a bazillion dollar movie [Laughing] and we made the first INSIDIOUS for ...I think SAW also was made for $800,000 which is what INSIDIOUS was made for. So, he has definitely sharpened his teeth, gotten even better and risen in the ranks by his talent and he has remained the same wonderful, humble really amazing person. I adore him. I just adore him and Leigh Whannell so much, but those two have been a great team together and a great help to me.
Wheels: That's so wonderful to hear. It is always nice to hear that people in film that you admire are good people. So...
Lin Shaye: And he really is.
Wheels: So, to turn the questions more back to you. What do you think the secret of career longevity is because you have had such a long, varied career. What do you think the secret of success over a long period of time is for an actress?
Lin Shaye: That's a good and a hard question. I really think tenacity. It depends on how much you want to do it. It never occurred to me to give up, because that's where I feel like I have my best offering. Not to say I think I am really talented, but I think I have an ability to be able to step into another person's soul in a way and investigate and amplify it so that people feel it and I think that is a talent and I don't think it is something I manipulate or have control over. I think that's one of those things that kind of got given. It's part of my genetic make-up in a way. I think the longevity comes from seriously from not giving up.
You get “no” all the time, all the time, all the time, all the time. It doesn't matter. No doesn't mean "no" it just means move on to the next thing. My dad had a saying, “You just put the fish back into the wagon and you move on to the next house”.
Wheels: I love that.
Lin Shaye: He said, “Even when it starts to smell a little”.[Laughing], so that's the way I have always operated. It's not that I feel rejected when people say no. I get disappointed, but I don't feel rejected and I think that people that take it personally that is a deterrent to moving forward.
Wheels: That's an amazing answer. I don't think it could be put any better. So I got just a couple more questions. I know our time is running short. What do you love most about acting?
Lin Shaye: Finding the soul of another person, because some ways we are all the same and in some ways, we are all different. It's a really interesting process to me and then everything you think about intellectually goes out the window once you're on set because then you have to be a good listener. Often something you plan and you really think is the right answer you get into the scene and into the story with other actors or in the environment that you been given by the designers and something new will evolve and something new will come forward. It is such an exciting process, so I love all of it and I'm also always scared. I'm always terrified.
Lin Shaye: Yes really, I'm scared talking to you. [Laughing]
Wheels: Aww! [Laughing]
Lin Shaye: Fear is a feeder, in my opinion. You can't let something stop you. You got to use what you're feeling to make steps forward and I think that is in everything you do. Listen, horror is based on fear, right?
Wheels: That's true.
Lin Shaye: You got to basically channel that energy. It is energy even if it's fear or laughter, or even sadness ...whatever it is. It's important to embrace the reality of what you're feeling and to then move it forward. So, I try to use everything around me to create what I'm building. It's a magical experience. It's really is that moment of sometimes you feel something move through you, because of the elements you created around yourself, and yet the actual experience has its own life. I find that totally thrilling and that's what I search for and aim for when I work... that experience.
Wheels: Just so you know I'm nervous for every one of these interviews I do.
Lin Shaye: Well, good, and look how good we're doing. [Laughing}
Wheels: [Laughing} Exactly! I know our time is almost up. I just want to say this was absolutely delightful. Thanks for being so honest. Again, I just love your work and I wish you nothing but success.
Lin Shaye: We're all in the same boat, Matt and I hope that we sail a long way together. [Laughing]
Wheels: Do you have any advice or parting words for the AICN audience?
Lin Shaye: Just love what you do, embrace your fear. If you are fearful of something, don't worry about it don't worry about being afraid because that doesn't have to stop you. You can translate that and transform it into success. So just be true to yourself don't be a liar not to yourself and not to other people.
Wheels: That is a wonderful place to end, Lin. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Lin Shaye: Again, good luck with everything. I hope we get to meet again sometime in the future. Wouldn't that be cool... or "Ain't it cool" [Laughing] there ya go we ended it on AIN'T IT COOL NEWS. [Laughing]
- Matthew Essary