CS Interview: Queen of horror Lin Shaye talks The Grudge
ComingSoon.net had the chance to speak with The Grudge actress Lin Shaye (Insidious, Ouija: Origin of Evil, A Nightmare on Elm Street) about the new take on the terrifying tale from producer Sam Raimi. Check out the interview below, and click here to purchase The Grudge now!
The Grudge focuses on a house cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death. The film is a reboot of the 2004 film The Grudge, which is itself an American remake of the 2002 Japanese film Ju-On: The Grudge. It stars John Cho (Searching), Lin Shaye (Insidious film franchise), Demian Bichir (The Nun) and Andrea Riseborough (Waco). Filmmaker Sam Raimi, who produced the first two installments of the American versions of the horror trilogy, is producing alongside Rob Tapert for Ghost House. The movie was co-written by Pesce and Jeff Buhler.
The Japanese Ju-On franchise is currently at nine feature films including a “versus” movie with The Ring. The original 2004 American version of The Grudge starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as an exchange student who moves to Tokyo and finds herself tormented by spirits of the dead. Gellar returned for a 2006 sequel, but not for the third film, which went direct to home video.
Nathan Kahane and Erin Westerman executive produced for Good Universe alongside Schuyler Weiss, Roy Lee, and Doug Davison.
ComingSoon.net: It’s an honor to speak with somebody with such a renowned Hollywood legacy as you. We really appreciate you reaching out to us and taking the time to talk to us today.
Lin Shaye: Thank you. I appreciate you wanting to hear anything I have to say. Believe me. Most people don’t want to listen. Anyway, nothing’s off the table. Whatever you ask, I’m happy to try to answer.
CS: Okay, that’s great. Let’s talk The Grudge. You’ve been in a lot of horror films over the years. What do you think is the difference between the modern-day horror film and a film like The Grudge?
Shaye: You know, fear is fear and they’re trying to make people think about, to frighten people, which is kind of somewhat the goal of horror films, not entirely because it’s hopefully about story and just telling a good story. I think we’ve become a little more immune to stuff as time has gone on. Different things are scary, perhaps now than were scary. There’s more on the plate that’s scary. And I know when Nick made The Grudge, and this was maybe part of the “problem” that some people had with the film, because Nick didn’t want to do a remake of Ju-on. Ju-on is a perfect film on its own, it’s almost like watching kabuki, in my opinion. And what Nick tried to put his focus on was what’s scary today.
And so, his story, even though it fulfills a lot of the elements of the original Grudge in terms of format, there being a house, there being these three people that are ghosts that are going to inhabit others, he really made it about three women. Speaking of the women’s movement or whatever, it’s three generations of women. Faith, my character being the oldest, and Andrea [Riseborough] being a career detective without a man in her life any longer, and Betty Gilpin’s character being a young pregnant woman who had a decision to make about her unborn baby. So, it’s really very serious issues that he was bringing forward and with elements of fear that are, I think far deeper than just somebody going boo in the night to you. It’s fun for an audience to be jolted, for those kinds of scares. And he put those in there. But I feel what’s really fearful for me about The Grudge, which is different than the old versions, is it’s about that. It’s about three women who are suffering, basically, and who are vulnerable to being infected. And so, I think it’s become a little more, not quite so visceral, and a little more psychological than it used to be. And I feel very proud of the film for that reason as well, that Nick took on that challenge.
CS: It certainly adds a more realistic dimension to it, because your character, Faith Matheson, she has dementia in the film.
CS: That’s a unique element that you could point to as a reason they’re seeing these ghosts. Was that one of the elements that really drew you to the film?
Shaye: Well, there’s actually a scene which is going to be in the Blu-ray, I think it’s going to be on the extended version. They release it with all these different formats. I can’t even remember all the different names, but [the scene] was not in the original film. I asked Nick about it because I thought it was very important. And the scene was this, which kind of addresses what you’re asking. It shows me and Frankie Faison, my husband and I on a day when my dementia is quiet, because often with dementia and Alzheimer’s, people have very lucid days or very lucid moments, where they do remember and they seem very normal for a few minutes.
And this was one of those days, and it shows me and my husband on the couch, my hair is pulled back. He’s putting nail polish on me, which was my idea. I said, maybe when I was younger, when we were happily married, he used to be my beautician, you know, he would do my hair. Because there are men and women who have that kind of a relationship with their husbands, who like to sort of dress them up a little bit. And it’s a beautiful scene because it also was about us reminiscing about a day in the country at the lake that we had shared together. And there’s this beautiful little monologue or remembrance of a bird that had flown into the house. And Frankie’s character, my husband, had to try to get the bird out. So he dressed up and he grabbed a cowboy hat and a raincoat and he tried to not hurt the bird and get it out the door.
And so, it’s a very loving memory of normalcy. And so, I kind of thought that was important because when you meet Faith in the film as it is, she’s already gone. You don’t know anything about her other life. And to prepare for it, there’s a vacancy that we all possess, where you kind of move off into, I don’t even know how to describe it, really. You move off into almost another dimension. And I mean, you can sort of feel it when you grow empty inside. And we can all find that place, because we all have it. And that was kind of what I looked for, were those moments of pulling in so that the vision visually, you’re looking out, but you’re not seeing anything.
Shaye: And I felt that worked pretty well. I mean, when I saw the film, I was pleased with the representation that I was able to provide for what that might be like. It’s a scary place because you kind of pull in and out at the same time, and yet you see nothing on the outside. All you see is what your memory is or what your thought is.
CS: That adds another layer of horror to the movie, because not only are you dealing with the dementia elements, but also the supernatural bits as well.
Shaye: Right, exactly. You know, I’m in the new Penny Dreadful, which is going to be airing on April 26 on Showtime and it’s an extraordinary story. The reason I’m mentioning it is it also incorporates the supernatural with the real horror of reality. And you know, who knows what’s real? It’s very confusing. I’ve gotten more confused the older I’ve gotten because there really is all those old philosophers that you read about in the ninth grade, like Descartes, who talked about what is real and what is. And that’s of interest to me. It all feels very, very dream-like, and I think that does come with getting older, because I mean, it’s really fascinating. And I have gotten older, and I was just talking about this today with another woman. I’m tired of trying to pretend I’m not. I mean, because you do learn something about that, about those different dimensions, sort of intuitively, as you do get older.
I find all these questions about fear and about reality, I mean, they’re all very amorphous. There really is no real answer. I think you hope that your life reveals portions of that to you. You know, I have this hope that when you finally die, I hope there is that — Steve Jobs kind of talked about it a little bit. And then, they said when he actually died, he went, “Whoa, whoa!” And I mean, it will be really, pardon the expression, I mean really shitty if we don’t get to know some kind of answer at the very last moment of consciousness. So, and making movies and trying to stimulate those thoughts in people is, I think for me as an actress, is really what I like doing and what I want to do. And that doesn’t mean everything has to be serious. Comedy is pretty provocative, too. But I’m not sure where — I think I over-answered your question.
CS: No, I think that’s great. You’re giving me a lot of really great material here. That’s one of the questions I was going to ask, because you have been in a lot of comedies as well as a lot of the horror films. Which would you prefer, if you had your choice? Obviously, there’s a difference in making each one, but are there any similarities?
Shaye: Right. The tone on set is usually very different. When you’re doing something, although, when we did The Grudge, believe me, there was much laughter. But the core of what it is you’re doing has a very sad and serious underpinning to it, which we have to honor and you can’t be silly before you go in to do — at least I can’t. I mean, I’m preparing for a scene, I do prepare. I need to put myself mentally and physically as close to where I want to begin the story as I can when I’m in a scene. But comedy is not easy, but it’s totally fun. I just did a thing the other night. The Farrelly brothers were honored for their inclusion of disabled people in their movies, which is true. And that’s just them. From the very beginning, they have friends who are wheelchair bound, very good friends. Something About Mary and Kingpin both have this one actor, I forget his name now, who has since passed away. But they were irreverent in terms of having them be mean. I mean, they’re just people.
And so, doing comedy, it’s all kind of an aspect of the same thing, in a way. Do I prefer one over the other? Actually, I just auditioned for a comedy today, which was pretty interesting because the energy in the room is of course completely different when you walk in. And rarely are there real people in the room anymore. If you go to audition, it’s you and the casting director and a tape recorder and I hate it, and I mean, a video setup. I hate it. I don’t want to do those. They don’t do anything for me. Those aren’t jobs you end up getting. I need to talk to the people involved. And today, I had that opportunity. It was one of the few times. It was for a comedy. And it was a room full of maybe 10 people, I mean, producers and writers. And we had so much fun. It adds a whole ‘nother dimension to the stressful process of trying to get a job, which is always horrible. It’s much more fun to be offered a role. And if you’re offered it, whether it be drama or comedy, I think the tonality has to a bit maintain itself into what the story is you’re telling. I don’t prefer one over the other. I think they’re both of great value, as long as you’re telling a valuable story.
CS: You’ve been labeled the Queen of Horror. Does the moniker ever steer your decision making in any direction, as though you have a reputation to live up to?
Shaye: I don’t make any decisions based on that. I must say. I make decisions sometimes based on the uniformity of something. In other words, if it’s a story I’ve already told, a character I’ve already kind of investigated, unless they’re going to pay me a really lot of money, I mean, I won’t. There’s no reason for me to go there. My decisions generally are just made on story, character, and the people I’ll be working with. I mean, those are key factors for me. I’m always — listen, to be appreciated, I appreciate being appreciated more than you ever would imagine. I still am shocked that people know who I am. I mean, because like, what? Wait. I mean, what? People go, hey, how are you? And I give them the answer, “Well, I’m great. How are you doing?” And then they say, “Oh I loved you.” And it’s so overwhelmingly joyous and fulfilling for me. It really is. I feel like one of the luckiest actors on the planet. I have a wonderful fanbase of truly loving people. The horror community is spectacular. They’re loyal and they’re effusive and they’re funny and they’re irreverent and they’re all of the things that I feel like I am and I love.
And at the same time, people who have seen my comedy, I mean, it’s crazy how many people from Kingpin and Something About Mary and Detroit Rock City. Those really are the three biggest comedies that I’ve had real roles in, that I was in the first Farrelly brothers and then Dumb and Dumber and Mary and Kingpin. But so I don’t really prefer one over the other. I don’t make choices based on that. I love working. I take it very seriously. I work really hard. I’m always terrified, and that’s the truth. I was so nervous this morning for this audition, I thought, what’s the matter with me? I mean I’ve only been doing this 49 years. You’d think maybe it would be time to like, not be so nervous. But that wasn’t the case. I walk in that room and it’s like the first time I’ve ever walked in a room.
And I’m grateful. I’m really grateful for that. I’ll never be ho hum, never, by anything.
CS: This was a real honor. I really appreciate you talking with me. I’m excited to see you in Penny Dreadful. That’ll be fun.
Shaye: Oh, it’s really great. I have a wonderful character in it. It’s just recurring, so I’m in six of the 10 episodes, but there’s no one like her in the show, and that’s what’s exciting for me. There’s no one like her at all in the whole show. Nathan Lane, oh my God. That’s a whole other conversation. One of the most extraordinary actors and performers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.