Wicked Horror had the good fortune to chat with the ultra-talented and ever-versatile Lin Shaye while she was making the press rounds for her new feature film, The Final Wish. In the film, which is directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., Shaye appears as Kate Hammond. Kate’s husband has recently passed away and her son Aaron (Michael Welch), who has long since been absent from the picture, returns to pay his respects. Upon Aaron’s return, he unknowingly disrupts an ancient evil.
Wicked Horror got the lowdown from Shaye on getting into character, her unbelievable versatility as a performer, and also scored some info on her role in the upcoming remake of The Grudge. Read on for the full exchange! The Final Wish will be in select theaters beginning January 24th.
Wicked Horror: In The Final Wish, you play a character that has recently experienced a profound loss. Is it difficult to get into that type of headspace for a role or is it something you can turn on and off?
Lin Shaye: I’d say that I can’t really just turn it on and off. I have to really connect with myself a little bit in the situation. I really like that opening scene. Sometimes, you don’t really realize what you’ve done until you see it. There’s the choices that the director and the editor make in putting the film together. That opening scene where I haven’t seen [Michael Welch] for that period of time–It was fascinating because I try and create a mindset for myself of emotion and what had happened and then the reality of working with Michael and my son actually showing up sort of lit the fuse. It’s a little bit of preparation and being in the moment and then telling your story. I know we had some discussion about–I didn’t want the feel of this sort of soapy, emotional mother. I felt that even after all she’d been through and the loss of her husband, the anger that you feel about a child or a family member ignoring you for a period of time–which the story fills in that that was what he did; he didn’t come home, he didn’t come visit us, he didn’t really care. And suddenly he shows up and expects me to gush all over him. So, it’s definitely a mix of both. But, if I’m doing an emotional, quiet scene, I need to find that place for myself. And that’s hard on set because there’s so much going on. I really kind of have to draw an imaginary circle around myself to stay in the space I feel I need to be in once they call action. It’s part of the challenge and definitely part of the fun as well.
WH: I think that was a smart choice on your part to play the character like that. And that sort of leads into my next question, which is: Was the role written with you in mind? There are several sequences that I couldn’t imagine any other actor playing.
Lin Shaye: I don’t really know that answer. I didn’t know Timothy [Woodward Jr.] To be honest, I’d never heard of him. And it’s one of those situations–often people I know come to me personally, which my manager does not love. [Laughs]. Because then it becomes a personal issue as opposed to a professional one. But, in this situation, Timothy contacted Gina, my manager, and sent the script. And I knew Jeffrey Reddick from Final Destination. I don’t know if people know this but my big brother Bob Shaye started New Line Cinema and it was his company that produced Final Destination, which was Jeffrey’s film. So, I’ve known him for years. The fact that he was the writer piqued my interest, for sure. When I read the script, I wasn’t 100% sure. It was not exactly in the shape it ended up being in. There was a lot more magical hocus pocus-y stuff, which I wasn’t really thrilled about. I think the fear factor is much stronger left to your imagination, rather than showing you the monster too much or describing what it’s going to be. It felt a little too much like the genie in the lamp story to me, to begin with. So, I kind of voiced my opinion and Gina and my agent also were worried about me doing too many genre films because Insidious had just come out. I just did The Grudge which will be coming out in June of this year. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a horror actress. I’m just an actress. I can tackle whatever is put on my plate but I don’t ever want it taken for granted that that’s all I do. So, we’re kind of cautious about saying yes to stuff unless it’s really the right thing. So, we kind of went back and forth a number of times. And I guess Timothy did have me in mind. You’d have to ask him that question for sure. But he didn’t give up. He kept telling me what else he could offer and he literally kind of–I don’t like to use the expression ‘wore me down’. But he did kind of wear us down to the point where we said, ‘Alright. Let’s just do this.’ [Laughs]. And I’m grateful that he did that because if he hadn’t we probably wouldn’t have done it. He kept on it and he knew what he wanted. As a director, he’s like that, too, which gives me great confidence in him. As a director, you want somebody who knows what they want and doesn’t give up easily with how they see it happening. To literally answer your question, I would suspect I was in his mind but I don’t think the character was written for me. I think Jeffrey wrote the character and we changed it quite a bit based on my thoughts and my ideas, as well.
WH: Well, it says a lot about your prowess as a performer that you have a way of making every role that you play your own and brining a uniqueness to it that could never be imitated. That’s one of the many reasons I appreciate your body of work so much.
Lin Shaye: You’re making me feel so good. That’s such a beautiful thing to say. The one thing that’s sort of hard for me is to say no to things–being a Libra, I see various ways and I immediately sort of enter the world of that character and try to figure it out, even before I’ve said yes to the job. So, I feel very fortunate that I have that drive. Once I commit to a character, I’m hoping that no one else could do it but me. I sort of feel–for me, it is me. It becomes me. That’s a great compliment you just gave me. You hope as a performer that you create that world for people and that’s very special.
WH: Well, it’s the truth. Now, you are an actor who can tackle serious films and comedic offerings alike. You’ve also found great success with the Insidious franchise where the series’ serious tones are sometimes infused with comedic elements.
Lin Shaye: That’s Leigh Whannell, he’s one of the funniest people you will ever meet!
WH: He certainly seems to have a knack for fusing horror and comedy. What I find interesting is that a lot of performers seem to struggle with mastering multiple genres. Some actors are great at comedy or great at drama but you are so flexible. You can really do any number of different things. How have you become so versatile as an actor?
Lin Shaye: That’s a great question. I really approach everything the same way, to be honest. I don’t even think about genre at all when I tell a story. I’m aware peripherally, obviously, that it’s a drama and not to find too much humor but there are always those moments of reality that are funny even in dramatic situations. I really try to follow the thread of the character. I think I’ve also gotten fairly good at knowing what’s missing in writing. I’ve gotten very savvy at dialogue adjustments or changes, even if it’s a word. There’s a film I just did that’s called Jackson’s Hole. The role was written for a man. The character is a bear trapper. The director’s name is Juri Koll. He’s a wonderful guy. He does a lot of UPM-ing as well as directing. There was a word where my character talks about someone being a rabid dog. And that offended me because I like dogs. [Laughs]. I thought what about if he is just vermin, infected vermin. And we thought that really felt right. That’s really disgusting and scary. Somebody that could bite you but means to bite you. A rabid dog is sort of a sad dog in many respects. So, he agreed with me and we used infected vermin instead of rabid dog and I knew it was a better choice. I sometimes look for those kinds of places where I can ask how the character would say it, not how would the writer say it. That makes it a little more unique to the person I’m creating, which is really fun. As I’ve gotten older and also have worked so much, I feel more confident in recommending those kinds of changes to the writer and or director. I don’t know if–you know, even if it was Steven Spielberg, I’d probably feel comfortable at this point in time. It’s important to follow your own creative thread in terms of the character. Everything is approached from story and character and the physicality of the person. Those are all tools from training. I was lucky that I got to study with Uta Hagen, Stella Adler, and Lee Strasberg. I’m a member of The Actor’s Studio. I have real tools for how to create what I’m looking for. You’re always at sea, a little bit. Everything changes once you’re on set. No matter how many choices you’ve made. Suddenly you’re laying on a bed instead of standing at a bus stop. Suddenly you’ve got a pillow to deal with and a soft bed to deal with. How does that make you feel? It has to have its own reality, even if it’s different than what you’ve imagined. I think when you can incorporate that, that’s what creates the life of the character.
WH: That’s a terrific answer and it’s really neat to get some insight into your process. I’m grateful for that. Thank you.
Lin Shaye: You’re welcome.
WH: Okay, last question: I read an interview where you refer to your role in Grudge as the scariest part you’ve ever had. I know you can’t talk a lot about the film at this point. But without giving too much away, was it the scariest part for you to play or do you anticipate it will be the scariest for your fans to watch? Or both?
Lin Shaye: I think a little bit of both. It was really scary to play. It was so intense. There’s one scene in particular. We went all the way. That’s all I can say. There were no holds barred. Nicolas Pesce, the director, is a brilliant young director in the vein of David Lynch and Cronenberg. He’s even darker than that in some ways. And he’s just the sweetest person and most available director that I’ve worked with in some respects. His sensibilities are so dark and disturbing. He did a movie called The Eyes of My Mother on Netflix that is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. It had to do not so much with story or characters but with the juxtaposition of all those things put together in a very uncomfortable and disturbing way. I literally felt like I couldn’t sit and watch the film. I had to stand up. It was that kind of discomfort. And the character I play–you’ll see. It was very difficult to do because it dealt with things that I physically and personally have never experienced and yet again, going into the heart of the character, how do you portray that? What do you need to show other people to let them feel the way you feel? So, it was a real challenge. I have very high hopes for the film. It’s already got a huge following. The Grudge was a hugely popular film. There are going to be a lot of naysayers. We know that. I love people like that. So, I think it’s gonna be a very impressive and disturbing film. For me, it was very scary for sure.
WH: Well, I think we’re just about out of time but thank you so much for talking with me. It was such a pleasure and an honor.
Lin Shaye: Thank you!
The Final Wish will be in select theaters beginning January 24th.