An in-depth interview with actress, iconic scream queen and funny lady Lin Shaye discussing her impressive career in and out of the genre (part 3 of 3).
Editor’s Note: Our newest writer, Billy Stamper, had the pleasure to sit down with talented and versatile actress and horror icon Lin Shaye. In part three of his three-part interview with Shaye, he talks to her about her favorite roles, what it’s like making horror films, and the actors who inspire her.
Billy Stamper: Rewinding a bit to the beginning of your career…you worked with Jack Nicholson on a classic film that I know and love called Goin’ South. Can you tell me what it was like working with one of the greatest actors of all time?
Lin Shaye: That was what brought me out to California. At the time, I was living in New York. I literally flew myself out here to meet Jack Nicholson — because he had expressed interest in me when he was in New York from some picture I did. So I kinda pretended I was coming out here anyways and flew out to California. I went to meet him and got cast with one line. We went to Durango Mexico for 2 weeks with everybody. It was just wonderful, and Jack was lovely and very generous. I love the music to that movie. John Belushi and Christopher Lloyd. It was an experience I’ll always remember.
That was the beginning, and I stayed out here after it was over. It was a big moment for me. Again, I’m reminded how important it is to take responsibility for yourself. If I hadn’t come out here, my whole life would have been different. I was so excited to be in that film.
BS: Moving back to horror, I’m curious to know what making a horror movie is like for you. We the audience see it as scary, with intense moments where anything can happen. What is it like to film those terrifying scenes?
LS: It’s hard work. A set is a dangerous place you have to pay close attention to what’s going on. To create the atmosphere and environment is hard work too. I remember when we were doing the scene with the red door in Insidious 3. We’re in this big black open space, pitch black. Then that machine that blows this fog-like stuff, that’s supposed to be safe, but who knows what we’re breathing (laughs). Then, creating the tension of the scene can be hard work. I think the only thing that scares me is forgetting a line (laughs).
BS: What has been your favorite role that you’ve done and why?
LS: Well, sometimes you don’t know you’re doing it while it’s happening. But I think my favorite is actually Kingpin. I fought for that audition. It was only a 2-day shoot, and working with Woody Harrelson was totally wonderful. I was in AWE with him and still am. I think he is one of our genius actors out there. He was totally great to work with…and the Farrelly brothers as well. I had worked with them in a scene in Dumb and Dumber, which was also New Line movie. That was handed to me by my brother. If you think about it, my brother has a whole lot to do with the bread of my successes, because I would have never met the Farrelly brothers probably.
For Kingpin, they didn’t want to let me audition for it because the character was described as the “Angriest, Ugliest woman god ever let loose on the planet”. I don’t know who they were thinking of hiring, so I created that character literally in my bedroom over the course of 6 weeks. I begged, begged, BEGGED for an audition and went in dressed as that character. Literally, that woman was created in my bedroom. I bought this outfit , I did the makeup, I did everything. So I worked hard to get it, and I think it’s my favorite job ever for that reason.
BS: Your hard work paid off. That scene where you pull that flower out of your hair is hilarious.
LS: That was stuff I came up with. I had the flower in my hair, for when I was dressing up for him. So you need to go to the reality of the detail when you’re creating a character. That comes out of the theater, that comes out of my background for learning how to work. I’ve had wonderful teachers.
BS: One last question. With as many films as you’ve done, have you ever been starstruck?
LS: Yes, it was Woody Harrelson. On the set of Kingpin, I walked into the trailer. Woody was just sitting there. I was like, “Oh my God” because I’ve always been a fan of his. He’s a fantastic actor, and I mean really fantastic actor. He and Nicholson both. I was totally starstruck by Jack Nicholson too. When I walked into his office at Paramount, and he was sitting there with my resume in his hand, I was like, “Oh, oh shit.” I had gotten a huge fever blister because I was so excited. He had made a joke about it saying, “What happened to your mouth?” That was the first words out his mouth, but he was great. These were people bigger than life.
This was such a great note to end on because Lin Shaye is truly one of those great actors who are bigger than life — an enormous talent and a true inspiration. Speaking with Lin was one of the most memorable hours of my life. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to talk with such a legend, and it’s been an honor sharing this with you. – Billy Stamper
Lin’s new film, Insidious: The Last Key, will be released theatrically on January 5, 2018.