As Elise Rainier in the Insidious movies, Lin Shaye goes up against the forces of evil to protect the innocent, but in Ashley Hamilton's new horror movie, Gothic Harvest, she plays the patriarch of a family who has succumbed to an evil curse for more than a century... and will sacrifice unsuspecting visitors to keep their immortal pact intact.
With Gothic Harvest now on DVD from Cinedigm (following its VOD and digital release back in October), Daily Dead had the great pleasure of catching up with Shaye to discuss her compelling role in Gothic Harvest, and the prolific actor also talked about working with her brother, Bob, on his new movie Ambition, what viewers can expect from Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge, her role as a Nazi hunter in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, and her hopes for another Insidious film.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and congratulations on your new movie, Gothic Harvest. It makes me want to revisit New Orleans, although maybe not that part of New Orleans [laughs].
Lin Shaye: I feel like New Orleans is a one of a kind city in our country. There's no other place like it. It was the appropriate place to shoot this film, that's for sure.
Yeah, I really like that it was actually filmed down there. I think it adds this authenticity to it, and in addition to starring in this, you also were one of the producers on it. How did you get involved initially? Did you know Ashley, or did he present this to you?
Lin Shaye: Well, [writer] Chris Kobin I've known for a very long time. We did the 2001 Maniacs movie, and he wrote that with Tim Sullivan. So, I've known Chris a long time, and I think he just asked if I'd be interested in doing it. And of course, I'm always interested, at least to look at something these days. I used to say "yes" without even reading it, but now I'm a little more discerning, and I read it and I thought it was a really interesting story—this idea of a family being trapped in eternity.
The only problem I had a little bit in the beginning, was I didn't really think the story was told fully enough, so that the viewer would really understand a hundred percent what was going on. It's a complicated story in that way, so I told Chris, "Would you mind? Can I work on it a little bit?" And we did. We worked on some of the dialogue and that whole little section of exposition in the middle, which had not been there, we kind of wrote together. Actually, Rachel Morgan got very involved in writing it, and we looked at it together to just spell out more for the audience exactly what was going on. I'm sure you feel the same, but when you see a film, you have to step out and go, "Well, wait a minute. When did that happen?" Or, "What was that about?" And suddenly you're not watching the movie anymore. You're trying to make the story make sense to yourself. It's crazy that also when you write it, you know the answers, so you assume everybody else does, too.
But we all know that's not the case. You have to really lay out what the story is. He was very receptive to that. And we filled in some of my dialogue in terms of what happened to me in the wheelchair. Why am I in a wheelchair? And I loved it, in that moment of, “He threw me down the stairs, but he loves me, anyway.” That's Chris' favorite line in the movie, which does a lot of stuff. That one little sentence says a lot about the past, present, and future, unfortunately—what women put up with in their lives. So, there was that aspect that was added in, and I love that Chris is open to my ideas, and Rachel as well. I think it's a fascinating story.
Yeah, it really is. Because like you said, there are all these different layers to it. I can totally see the 2001 Maniacs influence, now that you mention that. And it almost has this Texas Chain Saw Massacre feeling a little bit around the dinner table. If you combine that with the Gone with the Wind era, it's a very intriguing setup that you all presented with this. Those dinner table scenes are really interesting because there's this dark comedy that trickles through, but it's also very twisted.
Lin Shaye: The dynamic—who they are to each other and all the chaos within their family.
Yeah, it almost felt like a stage play at times. I thought that was really interesting that you took the time to put that in the story, because otherwise, like you said, we maybe don't get a full sense of who these people are. But because they've been living with each other for 200 years, they probably have this cabin fever feeling about each other. I think that's really interesting.
Lin Shaye: I'm glad that reads, because I agree. Otherwise, the more details you get of the family, the more horror there really is. Look what it's done to them over the years. It's a family with secrets and then as the secrets are revealed, they fall apart. So, I'm glad that you felt that way.
Did you get to spend any time with the cast members who play your family members in this? Did you get to spend any time to create that bond together? Or did you just find it as you filmed? Because you all felt very lived-in that way, where you all had spent a lot of time with each other before the movie was even made.
Lin Shaye: Oh, thank you. That's really a wonderful comment. The one contribution, if there is one that I felt that I made in terms of my own character, in the beginning at the dinner table scene, when we were going to do it, they had the dad sitting at the end of the table, and me next to him. And I said, "Oh no, no, no. This woman is also at the head of the table." I don't sit next to the husband. So that opening scene, which I really love, where you see the back of my hairdo, in the wheelchair, you don't really know what's coming. I'm wheeling myself into my spot. That occurred because we changed the blocking. That's the thing that was magical about the whole process. Sometimes you have an idea that's character-driven, and it actually changes the dynamic of the whole relationship. So that changed my relationship to my husband kind of immediately.
The actresses, all of them did a really great job. They really brought to life the frustration and the need to break out. Everybody's trying to break out of this web. I think a lot of that just happened on set. We really worked well together, but we didn't really spend time discussing anything, or really time together, other than being on set together.
I also loved the house that you filmed in. Was that a real house that you had access to down in that New Orleans area? Because it had that almost classic, Gone with the Wind feel to it. And it lends that authenticity to everything.
Lin Shaye: It was incredible, and the barn in the back was also there. Those weren't set pieces, that porch or the house. I don't know how old the actual building is, but it's old. It's been there a really long time. I think they've used it in other films. It's a real gold mine of a place, because I believe it would hold energy, and whatever's gone on in there—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It definitely has an atmosphere, and it's cold and drafty. I thought the whole set decor was really fantastic, too. I thought the set design was really wonderful and added very much. The atmosphere of it very, very, very much added to what we were able to bring to it.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It feels like the place that Elise Rainier would have to investigate at some point.
Lin Shaye: We'd have a field day, totally. And Sofia [Mattsson] did a fantastic job—everybody did. And Thomas Murphy played my husband. He's in Mindhunter, and Bill Moseley of course, who's an old compadre of mine. So again, going back to your original question, we all come from similar experiences, and were able to meld very quickly together. But to go back again to the house, it became a character in the film.
Yeah, it's always nice when you can actually film in the location that you're telling this story in. It makes it that much more real for the viewer. And I really like your character and her arc. It almost seems like this would be good for a sequel. Has there been any discussions about maybe another Gothic Harvest, or where the family would go next?
Lin Shaye: Well, that's actually very good. I'm glad it was provocative like that. It hasn't been discussed if that would be a possibility. I'm sure Rachel and Chris, they'll probably dive in at some point.
The way that the movie ends, it almost looks like a painting. I think that's a very nice note to end it on. I also have to mention that I just talked to your brother, Bob, a few weeks ago about his new movie, Ambition, and you appeared in that one, too, right? Did Bob bring you in for some scenes?
Lin Shaye: Well, here's what happened. Bob had done the film, and by the way, I'm so happy for Bob, that this film is getting out and that he's gotten new projects he's trying to do. He's overdue for some new wonderful press and recognition for what he's done in film. I think Bob is one of the greats in our business. I really do. And I was very honored that he called and said, "We wanted to add some footage, and we're wondering if you would like to play a ghost character?"
If it wasn't for Bob, I probably wouldn't have much of a career. He's the one that said to Wes Craven, “Put my sister in your movie.” He's the one who said to Charlie Wessler, from Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin and There's Something About Mary, “Put my sister in your movie.” He always pretended he didn't do anything, but that's Bobby. He doesn't let you know the good stuff he's doing.
But I'm very grateful to him in many regards, in many respects, for my career. I wouldn't know the Farrellys. There would've been no way. And so when he had this, when he told me he was doing this movie, and that they were doing these reshoots, I knew it was a bunch of young people, and Bob has always been very supportive and protective of me actually, in terms of the work. So I had the idea that the ghost should define or mimic the woman that we see at the beginning of the movie, who we meet.
I said, “I'd like to be her in some regard.” So, we looked for a wardrobe that kind of mimicked that dress, rather than just being a scary ghost, a homeless woman, or someone on the street that was in tatters who had no real connection to the story. And Bob was very enthusiastic about dabbling, and got very excited about it. So we looked for the wardrobe, and I tried to do my hair like her, and create aspects that were her. I don't know if the audiences will get it, but the line about, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" was of course me. That's an old joke, right?
Lin Shaye: And so long story short, I haven't actually seen the finished film, so I'm excited to see it. I think people are excited to see what Bob has created, and I'm imagining this will be a resurgence in his career as a filmmaker. I'm very honored he asked me to participate in it. I hope I did a good job. That's about the bottom line.
You mentioned that you're staying really busy these days. You have a ton of projects coming up in addition to Gothic Harvest, including the new Grudge movie and you're in the new Penny Dreadful series [City of Angels] as well. Is there anything you can say about your roles in those?
Lin Shaye: Yeah, Grudge was one of the [most] serious movies I was ever a part of. What was shot? Bloodcurdling. That to me, is the truth. And it's a wonderful character. The new Grudge has storylines that cross over. There's pockets of storytelling that then all intercept. My story is basically me and Frankie Faison, a wonderful actor, he plays my husband, and I had never met him. And just visually, I'm this little tiny white woman, and he's this big, beautiful, handsome black man. And that in itself sets up a wonderful dynamic of energy in terms of the relationship.
Nicolas Pesce, who directed it, is a master. I actually wrote him a little note and said he reminds me of the Salvador Dalí and the Magritte of filmmaking. He juxtaposes images that are familiar in a new way. The Eyes of My Mother was his first film, and he's only made a couple of films. The Eyes of My Mother was in black and white, and that was what this felt like. I know he was very involved, obviously, in the final edit, so he's made the movie, and I'm very excited to see that.
Penny Dreadful is going to be a whole new experience for me in many respects. I've never done a series. Showtime is a wonderful organization. John Logan, who produced and wrote the first three seasons was done. And then with our new administration, he decided there were some things to talk about again, and he wrote incredible theories.
It takes place in Los Angeles in 1938. It was a harrowing time here. People don't really realize that, but it was infused with Mexican American folklore. There is all this social tension between the Mexicans and the Americans, actually. It was pre-World War II Los Angeles. The first freeways were getting built and being driven through neighborhoods and demolishing neighborhoods.
There was lots of espionage action from the Third Reich and from the Germans. Hitler wanted Los Angeles. He couldn't get New York because [Fiorello H.] La Guardia, who was a jew, was on to him. But he wanted Los Angeles. Nathan Lane and I play sidekicks. Nathan Lane plays a fantastic role of a detective. You don't know too much about me. I'm this little woman, named Dottie, and I'm a Nazi hunter along with him. I'm really old. Playing quite a bit older than... not that much older [laughs], but in the cinema world, a lot older than what I usually play. It's some of the best writing I've ever been a part of. I'm so excited about it. And I'm a recurring character, so I'm in six out of the first ten episodes.
And who knows what lies ahead That's always the question. There's a lot of nice energy around my life and my career right now. And I just hope I don't screw it up [laughs]. I want to stay in the middle, and hopefully I never get old, in a sense of, that people are sick of me. I hope I always have some new energy and twist on a character that continues to keep me current. That's what's so exciting about my career. I'm more current now than I've ever been, which just means more work will come my way and that's what I hope.
Absolutely, yeah. It's fun to watch your career. And whenever you're playing a Nazi hunter, that keeps things interesting.
Lin Shaye: You would never know it if you saw her. That's all I can say about her. You would never know it if you saw her. And that's what's so engaging about the character, too. And Nathan Lane, oh my God, I've been a fan of his forever. This is a serious role for him.
Before I sign off, I have to dip my toes into The Further and ask if you've heard anything about any potential new Insidious adventures? Or if you just have any hopes for the future of Elise Rainier? Our readers just love Elise and that franchise so much.
Lin Shaye: Well, first, thank you for that. And the answer is yes. I've heard rumblings. There's no script as far as I know. [With] Elise, The Last Key pretty much completed my story as a character. I'm now in The Further. There's no more prequels. Everybody knows more about me than I knew. I kind of have an idea what the story might be about, and that I don't feel comfortable talking about, because nothing has been brought out into the open. But as far as I've heard, there will be another one. And it'll be sort of a different setup in a way, of some of the same characters from a couple of the past episodes, too. It's an exciting idea that I've heard, but I don't have any information about it. There's no script as far as I know yet. And there's been no date in terms of beginning photography or anything. It'll probably be in the next year or so, because Blumhouse is a little busy, as we all know. But I've got my fingers crossed there will be one more, I hope.