For the release of INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, Craig had the immense pleasure of interviewing legendary actress Lin Shaye where they discussed everything from being a bit headstrong to emotional performances.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Lin. How does it feel returning to your character, Elise, who, chronologically speaking, is actually dead?
Lin Shaye: I’m grateful that people like her even though she died. It really has been a thrill and I love this new movie. I love the story and I think Leigh Whannell is a phenomenal writer. I think this one doesn’t require people to see the other Insidious movies because there is an element of it that’s very standalone. I feel like since this actually precedes the first film it’s our responsibility to make sure that the way we play this film supports who she becomes in the first film. I thought it was very clever that Leigh gave her a very dark beginning because you see her triumph over misery as a child. To be able to deal with and get over the guilt she has with other aspects of her family is phenomenal as these are the sorts of things that can simmer and debilitate people from growing or succeeding. I love that she’s able to incorporate all that and still come out a good person at the end because I think we kind of need people like that right now. We need givers instead of takers. I am really proud of the work and I’m proud of the writing from Leigh. I think it delivers the aspects of this franchise that the hardcore fans want because there are still good jump scares, unexpected sounds, and the music is Joe Bishaara who is brilliant brilliant brilliant. He has such a big heart and soul I love that he infuses that into his work even if it comes across as energized music to support the genre; it still retains a sense of beauty.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Since you’ve played this character for four movies now do you have any say in the character arc?
LS: Well it’s funny, Leigh and I were just talking about this today. When he was going to write the third one he came over to my house and we talked about any supernatural experiences that I might have had. I have had a few, but most of them have been positive like feeling signs from family members who passed on. I don’t know if any of it is real or not; whether it’s what we imagine or what we bestow upon the objects or if the objects are really empowered. That’s all very cloudy. Anyways, we were talking about the character and he told me that sometimes I do tell him, “Elise wouldn’t say that,” which I guess I have been known to say. I don’t remember saying it, but apparently I have and Leigh listened. He said at this point Elise is also mine and that sometimes he couldn’t differentiate between my ideas and his. I have gotten to the point where it something feels false to me or to the character then I certainly feel comfortable to speak up. Sometimes I can be a little stubborn, say things like, “I’m not doing that.” I do have a little bit of that in me; which has been pointed out by Mr. Whannell, but then I usually go, “Oh, all right, I’ll do it.”
Nightmarish Conjurings: Since this movie draws heavily upon themes of abuse what did you draw upon as an actress?
LS: Nothing personal because I had a very supportive family. It’s very emotional, though, when you think about what lots of children experience in their life that they are not allowed to express or have to bury. I mean maybe in some ways I really am an empath because I have a very strong sense of something about that even though I was never hit as a child, was never struck as a child, and I was never even sent to my room without dinner. I mean my parents were like “Don’t do it,” and I didn’t. I was a very good girl. I was very much the type of person who whatever my parents told me to do, I pretty much did. I was not a rebel until now; until I turned one hundred and fourteen years old and decided to be a little stubborn. Somehow I allowed in the fictional abuse experience and made it mine. It was a really emotional shoot. I think the power again of what Leigh wrote combined with Ava’s (Koker) performance really brought that out. Ava did a fantastic job; she’s a really wonderful little actress and wonderful little person too. She does look a little bit like me now; there is some kind of resemblance that we both acknowledged. The fact that Elyse is able to grow out of that situation and become who she becomes is a very powerful part of the story. It is also very different from the back story I imagined when we did the first one, so I think lee has strengthened the character even more by writing these aspects of abuse. I think it might unearth stuff in some of the young people who see the film because that stuff gets buried and people don’t want to talk about it, discuss it, or acknowledge it. The fact that this movie puts it in front of the viewer, I hope it helps unearth some of the pain so that people who have gone through this feel more comfortable to talk about it.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I know you are a mother yourself so I’m curious if your son has had a chance to see and react to this movie yet?
LS: Not yet, we have not seen it. We are going to do a very low key screening and my son will be coming with me. I’m curious to see how he responds because he is a very emotional person, but very quietly so. I watch Lockup (2005) a lot and there was a little girl on recently whose story really just hit home to me. This little girl killed her father when she was sixteen because he beat her so mercilessly. She said she got up in the morning after being beaten all night and he started beating her again, pulling her hair, and throwing her down. He had a gun that was out so she just picked up the gun and shot him nine times in the back. She said she didn’t even remember doing it and that she just couldn’t take it anymore. Nothing is excusable, but in a way it is excusable. You get what you ask for, in some respects. I know that sounds very callous and kind of a nasty thing to say, but I’m not a real forgiver. I’m not Jesus and I have no desire to be. I think there are certain things that cannot be forgiven.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Changing gears, what was it like being directed by Adam Robitel, whom you have acted with before?
LS: Adam is awesome. We’ve been friends for a long time and it’s exciting to see him sprouting or flowering; he’s got this wonderful ability. He came into this well-established franchis, was the new kid on the block, and remained very open to fulfilling the franchise demands while still bringing a new, wonderful vision to this film. He did a great job. I love Adam, he’s a good guy.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What do you do to keep the character fresh yourself?
LS: This particular story is informed in such a special way that it immediately felt new. Adam is very giving and very appreciative of the emotionality I was feeling for all of this stuff. It was a really tough shoot in that regard because of the emotional aspects. As an actor you have to be in and out of control at the same time and for me some of the shoot was very close to out of control. Adam would always honor the real feeling that was going on with me to do a take and then if needed he would say, “Keep the feelings, but let’s pull it back a little bit.” He allowed me to really experience my own feelings about all this as well as Elise’s and I thought that was very powerful. I’ve not actually seen the final cut yet so I’m anxious to see how it plays.
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY arrives in theaters nationwide on January 5th.