Insidious: The Last Key has officially arrived in theaters this weekend, and to get you ready for another trip into The Further, here’s our final interview from the recent press day for the film, where Daily Dead sat down for a chat with none other than Lin Shaye, who has deservedly become the franchise’s leading lady.
Over the years, we’ve seen Shaye’s Elise Rainier transform into one of the best characters in modern horror history, and during our interview, the veteran actress discussed the incredible journey she’s taken through the Insidious films, why she loves Elise so much, and being able to defy ageism in Hollywood through her unprecedented roles in this series.
Congratulations on everything, Lin. I just think it's such a remarkable journey that we get to see Elise go on throughout these different films. In the first one, you're like, "Okay, she's here and she's gone," and through these other films, we've really gotten to explore a lot of different aspects to her character. What's been your experience, just coming in from this first one and seeing how things have progressed with her story throughout all the films?
Lin Shaye: I'm gobstruck, if there's such a word. Gobsmacked is probably it [laughs]. I have no idea. I don't think any of us did. The first one, as Leigh described it this morning, they did Saw and then they made a couple of other movies that weren't received quite as well, and this was their adventure back into hoping someone would like this movie.
I met James [Wan] and he said, "We're trying to get this script done, would you take a look at it? There's a character I think you'd be great for." So he sent over the script, and it was so scary. I read it in bed. I locked it in the closet downstairs. Honest to God. I'm not a spooky person. There are things I'm afraid of, but it doesn't have to do with that stuff.
As the history has been told, we made the film and that was the end of it. I loved the character. One of my favorite moments, which since has informed a series, was me coming to the door in the first Insidious, and this was my idea, Leigh hadn't written this. I come to the front door and I both knock and ring the doorbell, and Patrick throws the door open and I go, "Oh I'm sorry, I wasn't sure if the doorbell worked or not.” Here's a woman who sees what goes on beyond, but she doesn't know if the doorbell works, which I thought was an element of her character that I love, actually.
It's funny. I don't know who put this label on, but they're now calling me Doctor Rainier, and to me, she’s no doctor. She barely cooks. I really don't know where that came from, but in my mind, she's just this simple woman who I had originally visualized as being an only child and she learned about her ability because of her aloneness and that vulnerability, she opened herself up to learning that she was able to access spirits from somewhere else, who came to visit.
That's not what Leigh wrote, so I learned in this, when I read this script—again, we went from one to two, because it was popular. We killed me off in the first one, so James said, "I'm really sorry we did that, but we'll put you in The Further," so that's where I ended up in the second one, which actually I like very much, too, and I thought it was a really good story.
And then, when they decided there'd be more, I guess the character was starting to take hold and people were really wanting to know more about her, and so then Leigh wrote this third sequel, where you learn more about Elise in the middle of her life. And then, lo and behold, Leigh said the next one's your movie, which is The Last Key.
I really am gobsmacked, which is about exactly the right expression. I never, in my whole life, thought about any of this or expected any of it. I love acting. I've been doing it probably my whole life without even thinking about being an actress, but I love storytelling and I used to make up stories as a kid, all by myself in my room. I was really one of those children that didn't have a lot of friends. I was Elise. I never thought about that, but I'm not an only child, but I lived in my own world.
To have this evolve into this, where you're reaching so many people, it's just mind-boggling. I'm beyond thrilled. I hope people love this next movie. I think it's a fantastic story. I think Leigh Whannell is a brilliant, brilliant writer, person, and actor. He's one of those guys that just has "it." He can do it all and he directed the third one, and of course, Adam Robitel came in as the new kid on the block for this one and did a fantastic job. We have a wonderful family of artists, the way I put it.
It’s no secret that women in Hollywood have it a lot harder, and there are a lot of things that have happened this year, but I think women, when you hit a certain age, it just seems like the industry forgets you.
Lin Shaye: It absolutely shuts you down.
Which is awful. How gratifying is it that one, you've been able to keep working through the years and two, now you've got this franchise that's built up around you as well? It’s almost like you're carrying this mantle for a lot of actresses who have been so overlooked over the last few years.
Lin Shaye: I know. I don't know if I've got a missing chromosome. I was saying this earlier, too, I feel genderless and ageless. I've never been “that” girl. First of all, I couldn't even if I wanted to, I couldn't be that girl. You know what we're talking about. We shouldn't be talking about this, but nobody really was hitting on me, because that wasn't the vibe I was putting out, ever. I was never presentational in any way.
I think young women are driven to be presentational because of what we're talking about, the whole genderism of being a beautiful young female who's in the world of powerful men. It's definitely complicated, but on some level, I don't know whether it was family generated, or just the fact that I'm not a beautiful girl, I'm just not. We know what we're talking about. You're a beautiful woman. We're all beautiful, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about that other “thing” here.
My parents never accentuated age or "because you're a woman, you can't do something." Never. My mother was very feminine, very sweet, but she was something else. If it's going to get done, she would get it done, and she wouldn't stop till she got it done and did it right, for better or for worse. There are people that totally can't handle that, especially in a woman.
I do feel like maybe I'm paving a little bit of a path. There are other wonderful older actresses. There's Meryl Streep and Kathy Bates and Helen Mirren, but there's only a few, it's true. I'll share this with you, because it was so exciting for me. I think it was an AP release, so it was in a lot of different newspapers, about sexism and ageism in Hollywood. This was in 2016, and it said it's even worse for women, because there's only 21% of Screen Actors Guild actors that work after a certain age, and then it said there were only three women over the age of 60 who had lead roles in 2016: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, and Lin Shaye.
So I was like, “Okay, I'll take it.” I cut it out and I blew it up. To be put in that company was extraordinary. I hope that that idea of genderness and ageism falls away soon. In fact, I'm going to be doing a film where I'm going to play a guy. I'm playing a dead uncle, and I asked to do it, because it was a really good part. They initially wanted me to play the psychic, but I didn’t want to do that. But when I mentioned the dead uncle role, they said, "That's a great idea."
Look, we all are transformational, and I think we get caught in these pockets of expectation. Yes, I want to defy those. I want to knock those out because we're all just people trying to put it together. I was saying one of the things, too, that I think people love about Elise, is that she is not about me. She's about you. She's about what can I do for you.
Was The Last Key bittersweet for you, especially since this could maybe be the end of the journey for your character, considering where she ends up at the end of the original Insidious?
Lin Shaye: You know, I didn't really put anything on it. If the series really does go on, there are places to bring other characters forward, and there's always The Further, too. That's what James said, he said, "Well, we killed you, but at least you're a ghost. We can put you somewhere." We were talking today, too, and Leigh said, "There's also when you were a teenager," and I said, "Well, then you have to CGI on my hot pants." My legs are still pretty good, but I don't know if they look like a 16-year-old [laughs]. But I do hope we do well, and I hope people love this story as much as they have loved the others.
In case you missed it, check here to catch up on Heather's other Insidious: The Last Key interviews and her review of the film.