Actress Jacqueline Lovell discusses her work in cult, horror and adult cinema
LA born actress Jacqueline Lovell made a substantial splash in the living rooms of lonely lads and lusty ladies for her work in direct-to-video ’90s softcore films like Exotic House of Wax and Femalien, as well as key works in the repertoire of erotica overloard Zalman King. But more eccentric film fans will forever treasure her for her appearance in a string of horror films, chiefly 1996’s underrated and outrageous Southern Gothic trash noir Head of the Family.
In Head, Lovell owns the screen, no mean feat considering she’s charged to share space with an evil deformed psychic patriarch whose head is the size of really, really big beach ball. Her Loretta is a trailer-park princess, sexed-up to oblivion and simply looking for a way out of her dead end life and her marriage to her loutish husband. She thinks she finds that exit in the arms of another man, but soon their secret super-shagging leads them into the deranged world of the Stackpoole family, the “head” of which is just that…a head!
In Head of the Family — as well as another Charlie Band comedy horror film, 1997’s Hideous! — Lovell not only showed her lovely physical form but revealed her brilliant comedy timing, a side of her we would love to see more of on screen.
Here’s Lady Lovell…
ComingSoon.net: You were prolific in the ’90s making adult films under the name Sara St.James. What was the adult entertainment industry like at that point? Do you regret any of it?
Jacqueline Lovell: I have no regrets in life. I enjoyed my time in the adult entertainment industry. My father died when I was 16-years old and my mom ran off to Canada to get married and live there. My sister was pregnant at 15 and ran off with her boyfriend to Oregon. I was left alone in Los Angeles and the adult film industry took me in, becoming my new family. I played by my own rules. I never had sex with anyone on camera. I did softcore porn for three years, which is more of a teasing sister as opposed to hardcore porn. I am a tease by nature, it is my personality. Getting paid for it all was a huge perk. I spent the typical ‘college years’ in the adult film industry and by the time I ‘graduated,’ I was already pursuing mainstream acting classes and bigger budget films.
CS: The softcore films pioneered by Zalman King sparked a boom in these erotic direct-to-video films you were making. You also starred in King’s Red Shoe Diaries series…
Lovell: I remember my agent called me up saying I was going to be doing a featured background job on a Red Shoe Diaries episode in April of 1995. I had been in softcore porn for about a year as Sara St. James and wanted a mainstream acting name to use for SAG union gigs. I knew of Zalman from the movie 9 ½ Weeks with Kim Basinger. I arrived to set and was told it was a bordello scene and a few naked girls were lounging around, sensually touching each other. After the first take, I suggested that the girl I was fooling around with pour candle wax on my breasts. The AD brought this suggestion to Zalman and he said yes we could shoot the scene again that way. This got me noticed and I was asked to return to audition for a featured role in another episode of Red Shoe Diaries the following year. When I came in to audition for ‘Caged Bird,’ I was prepared after having taken JoAnne Barron/DW Browns Acting classes for the past year. Zalman loved the way I read for the role in my southern accent and I was asked to stay after and have a cold read for the lead role of Dakota. I nailed it and became one of Zalman’s favorite actresses whom he used in multiple projects for the next few years. It was on the film A Place Called Truth that I met my husband who ran Zalman’s production office at the time.
CS: You’re a revelation in Head of the Family. Who did you model Loretta after?
Lovell: When I prepared for the role of Loretta, I was watching the film Nadine with Kim Basinger. That was how I discovered my southern accent, but I did not model Loretta after anyone specific. I created her out of a mix of comedy I grew up watching Lucille Ball, Carol Burnet and Tracey Ullman.
CS: Did you empathize with Loretta at all? Is there any good in her? On that note…is there any good in ANYONE in Head?
Lovell: Yes there is good in Loretta. I think there is good and evil in everyone and it is about finding the balance. I empathize with Loretta, because a lot of women suffer in abusive relationships and find themselves being controlled and question how to escape the pattern. I think Loretta was just doing the best she could under her circumstances. Loretta gets caught up in fantasy and I think that can be healthy. No one is perfect; we make mistakes and learn from them.
CS: What was the fan response like to Head? Do you still get people reaching out gushing over your work?
Lovell: When Head of the Family was released, the fan response was fantastic. I was really surprised when Charlie (Band) did not go forward with the sequel. I still have people to this day contact me about how much they love this movie.
CS: Hideous! is almost as deranged as Head and your character is almost as out there as Loretta. What are your memories of that weirdo film?
Lovell: it was really cold in the Romanian winter we spent shooting there. I spent a lot of time in front of heaters since I was scantily clad. My nipples hurt by the end of the shoot because they taped the vest to me every morning and the heat and then cold forced my nipples to pull at the tape and form abrasions. Thankfully we shot the gorilla mask scene early on before my nipples were affected by the adhesive tape. Charlie was always compassionate and invited me to warm up in his trailer with his personally made espressos.
CS: As a woman in the film industry, what sort of challenges have you encountered? And how have you navigated them?
Lovell: As a woman in film I have faced a lot of criticism and negative judgment for my three years of work in softcore porn when I was age 19 to 21. Mainstream Hollywood can be unforgiving and the Internet makes sure no one forgets. I have navigated it by doing Background and Stand in work because my name is never used in credits and so the mainstream projects do not care if I work in these aspects since my name won’t be associated with their ‘clean’ image. There is so much corruption behind the scenes that it is all a laughable joke to me, but I do not let my past stop me from doing what I am supposed to be doing. I feel driven, as my life calling, to work on set. I hope some day the stigmas attached to porn will diminish and I will be given opportunities for bigger roles in mainstream projects, but I am not holding my breath. I take it day by day and enjoy whatever blessings come my way.