You may know her as Jamie Lloyd or Annie Brackett from the Halloween franchise, but right now actress and filmmaker Danielle Harris is providing viewers with another enthralling performance with her role as Amy Barrett in Christopher Lawrence Chapman's new film, Inoperable. A mind-bending experience that blends psychological Twilight Zone-esque scares with gory hospital horror, Inoperable is out now in select theaters from Zorya Films and Millman Productions, and Daily Dead recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Harris about her unique new role and the ambitious approach to filming Inoperable, and she also shared her hopes for the future of the Halloween franchise.
Hi Danielle, and congratulations on Inoperable. It feels like a mix of Groundhog Day and The Twilight Zone, but it still has its own personality. Watching it for the first time was such a mind-bending experience, so what was it like when you read the script for the first time?
Danielle Harris: You know, it actually was easier to understand it on paper. It was easier to comprehend because I think I can just go back and reread stuff and put the pieces together, or certain things stuck out in my mind when I was reading it. Now, when you're filming it, that's a whole other story, because I think we shot it in order. You know exactly where you came from, or how long it had been since I had reset, but there were still a lot of questions from me on set. I probably drove the director crazy by asking, "Do I see them now? Do I not see them now?" It wasn't very clear to me when things start to shift.
So you directed it sequentially? What we see at the beginning is really being filmed at the beginning of production?
Danielle Harris: Yeah, absolutely. Day one is literally my eyes opening in a hospital bed. That's the first scene on the first day. I've directed that way, but I've never actually as an actor been in something that way. This movie would be very, very difficult to do if you're filming out of sequence, and trying to remember how much time has passed or how many times you've reset or where you are—it definitely could've been very complicated.
Where was this filmed? It looks like a real hospital when you're running through all these hallways.
Danielle Harris: Yeah, it was actually a real hospital. It had been abandoned, it was condemned, so we were dealing with asbestos and rodents and bats and mold in the ceilings. We had a lot of people sick from mold spores. I was doing my makeup in a room for a few days inside there and I was like, "God, I just have this cough. I just don't feel well." I would look up and I'm like, "I'm pretty sure that's black mold. Maybe we shouldn't be filming in here". So, we'd move and I'd be like, "There are bats everywhere, guys!" But that's par for the course. We're making horror movies. I've filmed in some of the creepiest, most disgusting, disturbing places in my life. I'm definitely not filming in resorts in Hawaii. I would love to make a movie in Hawaii, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.
Inoperable has such great movement to it because of the way Christopher shot it. It's like the camera is moving with you down the hallways. It seemed like it was almost gliding with you.
Danielle Harris: Yeah, it's actually a rig called a "Ronin," and it's a pretty hardcore handheld steady-cam kind of thing, and our DP [director of photography, Giorgio Daveed] is just a genius. He lit the entire floor of the hospital before we showed up, so everything was all ready. The ceilings were already rigged to do what he needed to do before we even set foot on set to start production. And then he was making it up pretty much as we went along and getting as creative as he possibly could, and he did an amazing job. He would run after me. He would be right on top of me with the camera, and I was fast. So he would be running after me and jumping hurdles over moving objects and dodging things. He definitely was super in shape and thank God. I've never seen anyone do what he did on this movie. It's pretty impressive.
And at the same time, you had to memorize where you're running, and it's almost like you were going through a maze. Did you have to know the setup of this hospital like the back of your hand?
Danielle Harris: Oh yeah, and there's no time, so we had so much to do and I was in every setup of every scene. I didn't get one minute to stop. I would come to set and say to the DP, "All right, what do you want me to do?" And he would say, "All right, here's what I'm thinking," and we would just by ourselves go talk about, "Okay, show me where you want me to go, where am I starting, where am I ending? Okay. And turn here, and there, and then speed up here and then pull that down—okay got it. Let's just do it. Ready to go." And we'd say, "Okay, we're ready!" And our first assistant director Ashley [Eberbach] was awesome and we would just knock it out. There was a definite marriage between the DP and myself that we had to know how to communicate really well because it really was just him and I.
As someone who directs as well as stars in movies, was it a really enriching experience for you to learn more about filmmaking from this process?
Danielle Harris: Yeah, definitely. I always feel like I learn more from directors that are new, and I also am able to understand how much I really do know about filmmaking when you work with directors that maybe don't have as much experience, so you're able to sort of take the reins. I know how to do these movies, I've done so many of them and have learned from new directors who are usually willing to try new things and are more open to allowing someone like me to kind of come in and just do what I know how to do. But I definitely, as far as DP stuff, learned some really cool ways to shoot stuff that I've never seen before using equipment that I had not seen before, which was pretty awesome.
Was this role exhausting on a physical level? Because you're constantly fighting for your life the whole movie. There's no real buildup because you're already on a time clock from the moment you open your eyes.
Danielle Harris: It wasn't too bad because I didn't actually get touched by anybody. I didn't really have any fight scenes where I had to physically fight someone off like I do in most of the movies that I do, which is always a nice deciding factor on taking something like, "Okay, what do I have to do? Do I die, how do I die? How much am I gonna have to fight?" I am 40, so I think that over the years it can wear on you physically and emotionally a little bit. You have to kind of figure out where you are in your life and how much you're willing to take on during that time because it sticks with you after for a bit. So, this movie I had no real physical encounter with anybody. It was just me kind of running from people, so it was more in your head. The most challenging part was trying to make each scene as interesting as I could. How do you keep the audience interested to go along on the ride with you when it's kind of the same thing over and over and over again? That was probably the most challenging part.
We have a lot of readers who've been following you since Halloween 4 and 5 and Rob Zombie's Halloween movies, and you just shared a really nice video on Facebook commenting on the Halloween franchise and where it's going and letting everyone know what you're feeling, and I was curious, as a Halloween fan and someone who's been a part of four films, is there anything you want to see in that franchise moving forward? Will you be watching next October when the new movie comes out?
Danielle Harris: Yeah, I'll absolutely go to the theater and see it for sure. I'm a fan first and foremost. I am looking forward to them bringing it back to the way I think it needed to be. It kind of took a pretty intense hard left I would say, so I am looking forward to seeing it. I'm hoping that it goes back to the old school with Carpenter involved. I'm assuming that that's going to be where they go with it. I always believe less is more, so maybe it'll get a chance to do that and I really would love to see Michael back and in his original mask, and see Jamie Lee [Curtis] back up there.
I mean, I am bummed that I'm not a part of something that could be super cool, especially if it's the last one—that's just so sad that it's done—but I've done four movies. I'm more than happy with what I've had from that franchise so far. Maybe one day I'll meet Jamie Lee [Curtis], we'll see, but I definitely 100% will be at the theater checking it out.
Awesome. Looking back at it, I'm a big fan of H2 and what you did with Annie in that movie.
Danielle Harris: You know, that movie is a really good movie for what it is. I've always felt that in Halloween II there were three movies going on in one. I always felt like the stuff that I do with Annie and Sheriff Brackett [Brad Dourif] was really true to Halloween. Some of the other stuff was a bit more of Rob Zombie's style that maybe wasn't necessarily Halloween-esque, or as much like the first one, which I thought was awesome. The remake was just so great and then it took kind of a funky twist, but I think it needed to be spiced up. I'm looking forward to seeing where they take it now. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they really fu** it up with this franchise, I'm telling you. Either they get it really right or it's horribly wrong, so I'm hoping they get it really right this time.
And before I let you go, I know you have some really cool stuff on the horizon like Camp Cold Brook. Is there anything you want to tease that's on the horizon?
Danielle Harris: There are a lot of movies that I'm just signing on to right now, a lot of really cool things that are coming up that I can't name. And there's a couple of other cool things that I'm hoping that will be closed and I'll be able to announce at the beginning of the year, but it should be a pretty busy year next year for me, which is awesome.
Camp Cold Brook is rad and Andy Palmer's an amazing director, and to have Joe Dante give his stamp of approval, I mean, Gremlins is like my favorite film of all time, so I was super excited to have that, and the movie is so cool and so in the vein of what he would be proud of. Chad Michael Murray is great and I'm excited about my character because she's really funny and different than any of the girls that I played in the past, so it's nice to have a bit of a sense of humor and sass. There was some really cool stuff that we did that I'm very excited about, so I'm looking forward to that one for sure.