It’s not often that you meet an ’80s legend like Kelly McGillis in the middle of nowhere, but the actress who starred opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun and with Harrison Ford in Witness–two â80s classicsâhas significantly glammed down for the role of Sister in Stake Land and while it’s hard to believe, she’s actually popping her horror cherry with the movie.
ShockTIllYouDrop.com: You don’t usually do any genre, vampire-type movies, so what drew you into doing this?
Kelly McGillis: I’ve never done one. They asked me to do it, and I really liked the script, so I said, âSure, I’d love to try one.â
Shock: Can you talk a little bit about the role you’re playing?
McGillis: I play a nun in an apocalyptic… thing, and I think she’s really kind of questioning God through the course of the film. That and religion.
Shock: This is a little different of a role than we’re used to seeing you do.
McGillis: Yes. I don’t have any makeup on in this. It’s not a very glamorous type of film.
Shock: So we don’t see you before this “breakout” in any sort of flashback scenesâ¦
Shock: So how do you meet Mister and Martin, the main characters in the film? What’s your relationship with them?
McGillis: They rescue me from men who are raping me. Yeah… So that’s how that happens. There aren’t too many decent people left. There’s these things called âsafetownsâ, and they’re all kind of in search of that – well, she is – and they can help one another. Safety in numbers, so to speak. I think it’s a survivor relationship that we have – being survivors during this terrible thing – that’s what binds them together. In the film, we don’t get much time to know one another. We’re always on the move.
Shock: Do you see this as a “vampire” movie, or do you see it as something else? There seems to be some strong messages and inferences in this film, about religion, etc.
McGillis: I see it more as an apocalyptic fable. I think it’s funny, because, it’s the part of it that I focused on – the vampire part of it – the horror part of it. When I read this script, what I really liked about it was this kind of apocalyptic and very timely tale of current events.
Shock: It seems in recent years there’s been this growing trend to apocalyptic, end of the world type movie. This undercurrent of ‘what if’. Do you see a deeper reason for that, or is it just a coincidence, in your mind?
McGillis: I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist. It seems to me that every generation has their sort of apocalyptic moment. Remember the last one (was) the year 2000. Everyone thought their computers were gonna crash and the banking system was gonna fail, and I think with the advent of 2012, which has been alluded to being this ‘major thing’ because of the Mayan calendar… I don’t know, I’m not a sociologist.
Shock: With horror not being your chosen place over the course of your career, has there been anything you’ve seen that has shocked you, as far as the effects?
McGillis: No. I mean, because it’s all pretend, when you think of it, I probably won’t (but) it’s not the type of film I would watch. Quite honestly I don’t particularly like watching scary movies. I don’t think I’ve seen one in a long, long time.
Shock: Is that why we’ve never seen you do one?
McGillis: Nobody’s ever offered me one. This is the first time I’ve ever been offered one.
Shock: So it’s your very first horror film.
McGillis: Yeah! So I really wanted to do it, for that reason. The whole “genre” thing. I look at it likeâ¦ I took almost ten years off to raise my kids, so really, in a lot of ways, I’m just starting all over. So I feel really lucky just to be able to get a job, quite honestly. I’m very grateful they wanted me.
Shock: Did you experience anything new or different filming a horror film that you hadn’t in your earlier career?
McGillis: No, it’s not vastly different. It’s all pretend anyway, so no.
Shock: The script is very sparse as far as dialogue goes. Is that something that you as an actor embraced, or found challenging?
McGillis: No, I think film is a medium where less is more. Film is a visual medium, where it’s all about the pictures that tell the story. Theater is about the words. And some pictures – its not to say that words aren’t important in both, or visuals aren’t important for both – but in film, in my opinion, the visuals are the more dominant communication tools.
Shock: Did you enjoy relying on stillness, so to say, or what was going on inside you, rather than standing and talking like in most movies?
McGillis: Yeah, well I had a great teacher for that. (Director) Peter Weir in âWitness.â I didn’t speak a whole lot in that movie. He’s the one that really taught me that film isn’t so much about the words. You can act with your thinking, and people will see into it. You don’t have to do much.
Shock: What been your favorite experience, acting or otherwise, while doing âStake Landâ?
McGillis: I think the people. The people I’ve been working with have been wonderful. I really like everyone here very, very much. That’s important to me, to like who I’m working with. You know what I mean? Gosh, you spend so much time with these people. It’s good when you all get along and I really respect everyone here very much.
Shock: This being a re-entry role of sorts, coming back after 10 years – will we be seeing more of you in the future? Do you have anything else lined up?
McGillis: I’m doing a play in England, on tour from December until April. That’s what I’m doing next.
Shock: Do you have any personal preferences over the other, theater or film?
McGillis: No, I like both of them. I just finished a play in Pasadena at the Pasadena Playhouse. I love both. I went to school to do acting, and acting is acting to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s in theater, film, or on a television show. Each one presents its own challenges and framework and dynamic, but I like all of it.
McGillis had to get back to work but she rejoined us during our interview with director Jim Mickle.