Ken with my interview of Dee Wallace for her new movie DOLLS. (Not to be confused with the 1987 classic that's not to be missed!)
DOLLS is directed by Cuyle Carvin, comes out on July 2nd, and is perfectly encapsulated by Dee in the interview below.
Withour further ado, enjoy!
Ken Lewis: Hello Dee, how are you doing today?
Dee Wallace: I’m doing great. How are you doing babycakes?
KL: (Laughs) I’m doing awesome, thank you. To start things off, can you give us a brief synopsis of DOLLS and your role in it?
DW: DOLLS is a very freaky film about three dolls. I play a woman who’s son had a dissociative mental disorder who is helped by the woman who lived in this house. The wowman also happened to find these three dolls who helped to absorb the negative energy that was causing him to have all these multiple personalities. Unfortunately, they keep them and her son and granddaughter come back to the house to visit for a few days and…The dolls wreak havok. (Laughs)
KL: (Laughs) That’s perfect! What was your favorite part of this shoot?
DW: Oh dear, just playing this very bizarre wacky older woman. I love these roles, where you don’t know if they’re crazy. You don’t think they’re crazy but they might be. All the different colors that allow me to paint as an actress, really rocks my boat.
KL That’s a great answer. As an actress you want to be expansive and explore your palette.
DW: Yep, the more colors and the bigger the arc, the more I like it.
KL: What was your least favorite part of this shoot?
DW: It happens on every film but the waiting around. I hate waiting around. I think It was Gregory Peck who said, “They don’t pay us for acting. They pay us for waiting.” It’s so true.
KL: I suppose the waiting piece depends on the group you’re stuck with somewhat, right?
DW: No. Basically, it’s a lot of waiting around and there’s only so much needle point and reading and then you want to kill somebody and get to work. An actor’s kind of like a race horse. You bring us to the stables. You groom us. You put our saddles on us. Then we just want to race off and run. When we can’t, we want to kick the barn doors down. That’s just the way it is.
KL: Wow, that’s a great analogy. I’ve never heard that before.
To reach back a little bit, you played the mother Mary in E.T. Spielberg was already a huge name at the time. What were your expectations going into that role and did you realize you had such an enormous hit on your hands at the time?
DW: Nope, and you never do. I don’t think any producer/actor/directors goes into it thinking – Well, this is going to be a big hit. I actually asked that of Blake Edwards when I was in 10. I asked him if he thought it was going to be a big hit and he said, “Oh honey, if we knew what made a hit, we’d have a lot more of them.” But I knew I was working with a great director. I knew I was working off of an amazing script. I knew this part so well. I was raised by a single mother most of my life. I knew who Mary was. When I went to the studio behind closed doors, It was that secretive to read the script. I called my agent and said I’m not sure what this will do for me but I want to be a part of this because I think it will do a lot for the world. I was right, wasn’t I.
KL: You were! I love that insight.
Clearly, you’ve worked well beyond the moniker but you’re one of the first Scream Queens, I’m a horror fan, so that’s my gig. I was wondering if you found the term a positive or you found it to be a hinderance?
DW: I love it! I think it’s like the quintessential crown of the horror genre for a woman. If I didn’t want to be a Scream Queen, then I shouldn’t have done all the horror movies I have. It comes with the territory. I’m proud that my fans have crowned me that. That’s the kind of genre I get off doing. Those full emotional big arc projects where I can just rip it up.
KL: I always felt the horror genre gave actresses specifically, an opportunity to play at their craft. There are tons of movies that delve into some really depth of acting and yeah...I guess I agree with you.
DW: The horror movies that I’m known for and that I do are really true to the horror genre. They take time to create characters and relationships so you actually care about what happens to them. We took a long time in CUJO to build to the danger of the dog. That’s a true horror film. Then you have the slasher films, where they show you the characters and watch how brutally we can kill them all. Those are, for me, two totally different genres.
KL: Exactly. I think using that separation you can make a case for a ton more genre’s within the horror library.
You brought up CUJO. You were Donna Trenton in that one. It’s one of the darkest pictures of its time. In fact, I have a hard time imagining anyone happy on that set.
DW: (Laughs) I have a very silly picture of Lewis Teague (Director), myself, and the stuntman in the dog suit doing a kick line.
(Editor's note: I found it!)
So there were a few light moments on the set but you’re right, not very many. It was a grueling experience physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s also the picture, I’m proudest of.
KL: You should be. You’re awesome in it. You really feel her desperation and pain at being helpless to protect her child.
DW: For me, it was a whole journey and statement of a woman’s love for her child. I do a lot of different types of projects that have that theme running through it. It’s a theme I know really well from my own childhood.
You worked with Wes Craven on THE HILLS HAVE EYES. It’s another particularly brutal story. I was wondering if you had a cool Wes Craven story to share, since he’s passed?
DW: Wes was one of the kindest, sweetest, calmest, non-egotistical directors, I’ve ever worked with. He was a college professor and he really carried that ambiance through into his directing. I remember he never screamed, never yelled, and on a film like that, it would have been very easy to do. It was a tough shoot. We were all down in the desert. It was a huge drive from LA but it was just inside the SAG requirements, at the time. I think that’s much smaller now, the distance you can require a shoot without putting the actor/actresses up. My husband Christoper Stone said, “Honey, you’re just too tired. You can’t keep going back and forth.” So we found a cheap motel down there, where I stayed off and on if the nights got too long. It was horribly hot during the day and really kind of cold at night. That’s the way the desert weather is. I hung out in my car quite a bit. It was tough. Fortunately, we had a lot of awesome actors that really got along and worked together very well.
KL: It’s a fantastic horror film. I really like it. I’m a horror fan, In case you haven’t been able to figure that out yet.
DW: Yes, I have. (Laughs)
KL: (Laughs) I’m a little disappointed in myself. I had a question on 10 that might have kept you off the scent and I axed it.
DW: Have you seen RED CHRISTMAS?
KL: No, I don’t think I have seen RED CHRISTMAS.
DW: Oh dude, you got to see RED CHRISTMAS. I did it in Australia about a year ago and you’re really going to like it.
KL: I love you! I literally just wrote it down. I can’t even wait to see it.
DW: Well, let me know. E-mail me and let me know what you think of it. When you watch it, do be aware that we did the entire film under three working lights. It’s brilliant cinematography.
KL: No way?! It already sounds like something I’m sorry I’ve missed. RED CHRISTMAS, that has pretty clear implications. I will check it out and let you know what I thought about it for sure!
You starred in THE FRIGHTENERS with Michael J. Fox. A lot of people don’t realize it was Peter Jackson’s first American made film.
DW: It’s such an underrated film. It was supposed to come out on Halloween but some big blockbuster wasn’t finished so Universal, in their infinite wisdom threw it out amidst all the summer blockbusters and it got lost. I keep telling Peter, I think he should rerelease it around Halloween. They should bring it out again. So many people missed it.
KL: That’s not a horrible idea. Especially with the growth of the horror-comedy genre. It really might fit in now, finally. It’s hard to call it a flop though, as the CGI he used in it, is what got him the gig for LORD OF THE RINGS. I’d say it all worked out...for him at least.
DW: You think? Another beautiful man to work with, is Peter.
KL: That was actually my question, what was it like working for Peter or with Michael.
DW: Michael was starting to deal with his illness. So he kept a pretty low profile. Also, I didn’t have very many scenes with him. My scenes were mostly with Jake Busey and Trini Alvarado. When I did interact with Michael, he was a very sweet and down to earth man. My husband Christopher died during that shoot and I went home to get my daughter and nanny and we came back. Michael was so gracious with my daughter. He and the crew would all play four square together. He would play with her and give her attention. So I have very fond memories there. Even if it is very yin and yang for me. Really fond memories of Peter and that entire shoot and crew, are what resonate with me there.
KL: You played Laurie’s mom in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN. Did you enjoy the experience filming that one?
DW: Oh heck yes. I have a ball with Rob every time we work together. He’s just so creative and such a nice guy. It’s like OK everybody, bring in your best ideas. He knows what he wants and everyone gets to bring in their stuff. Let’s them feel in the moment and then he says ok let’s do this and lean towards that. It’s just magical what happens on the set with him. I love that. Any actor loves that because it gives them the freedom to really feel like they’re contributing and bringing their creativity into what’s happening to them. LORDS OF SALEM was even more out there. 3 FROM HELL coming out in September, good god! You’re going to really have to look close to even recognize me. It’s a pretty far out part.
KL: I love that soon to be trilogy. In fact that was my next question. Is there anything you can share with me about 3 FROM HELL?
DW: I can tell you that Rob Zombie fans will not be disappointed. It’s back to his quintessential earmarked, pretty gory, pretty violent ways. Following those three characters. I love it. I had a lot of my scenes with Sheri Moon. I just love Sheri. I’ll give you a teaser line. Exploring this very strange relationship. (Laughs)
KL: (Laughs) Well, that is the definition of a teaser. Dee Wallace understand teasers. Nicely done.
What is your favorite horror movie?
DW: I have two. THE EXORCIST and DON’T LOOK NOW.
I think I have three now, because I loved A QUIET PLACE. I was on the edge of my seat. The performances were brilliant. I just loved the whole concept of you have to be quiet, because all we want to do when we get scared is scream or run. You couldn’t do either of those things there. It was a brilliant concept.
KL: It absolutely is. That’s why you see all these films coming out very similar. I think DON’T BREATH came out before all of them, but BIRD BOX, THE SILENCE, they’re clearly following the same pattern.
DW: I don’t think any of them did it as well as THE QUIET PLACE though.
KL: I agree, the acting in that movie is key to everything. I didn't like the visuals of the monster. It doesn't matter though. Everything they’re selling absolutely hinges on the acting.
DW: Without good acting, all movies suck.
KL: I mostly agree. I think you can get away with it in certain movies. CONAN THE BARBARIAN didn’t really need good acting. It’s essentially an action set piece.
DW: I still think you need a good actor. I think if you’re not passionate and in the moment and really on the ride as close to true as you can be, the audience doesn’t feel the way they’re meant to feel it. They just don’t.
KL: Not to go back and forth. I agree here but I still think you can enjoy a flick without good acting. However, we’re human and our connection to that character is the entire point of a movie. We’re able to put ourselves in that situation, if we connect. It makes it all hit you that much deeper.
DW: Yeah. The audience experiences it through us. If we don’t believe we’re in jeopardy. If we don’t get truly angry. We’re really not in fear. There’s that level of frequency and vibration that I believe an actor has to go through to hone their performance, so the audience gets the best ride they can get. That’s my job. If I don’t’ do it, I’m not doing my job.
KL: 100%. You have segued into a successful public speaking and self help author gig recently. I was wondering if you had some general life advice or a thought you could share?
DW: I do!
None of us are taught to love ourselves and none of us are taught that we can have anything we want. Why would you give yourself what you want if you don’t love and respect yourself?
I think and I know that the more we value ourself, the more magnificently we allow ourselves to experience our inner being. The more we create the life we want to live. When you love yourself, you can’t be an asshole to somebody else because it damages your own energy.
KL: That’s poignant and kind of timely for me. Not that you need to know or care but….
DW: I do care!
KL: You’re beautiful! I just switched to looking at things with a positive light where as before I tended to go the negative route and it’s no exaggerated statement to say, it’s changed my life. So I love that and I might even print that out. Thank you
DW: Thank you. You can find all that kind of work on iamdeewallace.com. There’s one more thing. I would be so grateful if you would let your audience know my daughter's book is coming out, I believe June 27th. It’s about her journey through divorce and abandonment. Going to Europe by herself and soul searching. It’s a great read and it will help a lot of people. It’s called, EAT PRAY AND FML. (Laughs) The tagline for it is, this is not Eat, Pray, Love, it’s Eat Pray and Fuck My Life.
KL: (Laughs) That’s a fantastic title.
DW: I would love my fans who support me, to support her. They probably know her anyway. She’s done a lot of horror films as you probably know. We just did AWAIT THE DAWN together, out in September and CRITTERS is coming out on Sci-Fi in October. It will be a big horror Fall for Dee.
KL: I’m anxious about CRITTERS. You already got your shout-outs in but what can our readers look forward to from Dee Wallace next?
DW: There’s so much coming out right now. I have a beautiful family film called RENOVATION OF THE HEART/IT’S A FIXER UPPER, which will be out the first of the year. AWAIT THE DAWN we just finished shooting which is a sci-fi/horror film. I have two things in negotiations right now but I can’t talk about them because they’re not finalized. I’m also all over the country speaking and I have my free call-in radio show every Sunday morning at 9:00 AM PST. And I have lots of awesome stuff that could maybe change your life, on my website. I’m up to all of that dude.
KL: I really appreciate you Dee. You’ve been one of my favorite interviews so far. Thank you for your time.
DW: Thank you for your support. I truly appreciate it.
KL: Absolutely. I won’t forget either, RED CHRISTMAS!
DW: OK, you need to let me know.
KL: I promise, I will. Thanks for your time today Dee.
DW: OK honey, thank you. Good bye.
Til next time Kids
Ken Lewis (AKA: Freddy Beans)
See all me writings @www.freddybeans.com
Contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org