Lin Shaye is, quite frankly, a horror legend at this point. While it may not seem like she needs an introduction given her contributions to the horror genre, many might not know her name prior to Insidious. However, her title of ‘scream queen’ is well-earned, having had roles films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters, Dead End, 2001 Maniacs, Amityville: A New Generation, Ouija, and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. The list is lengthy and, honestly, I could go further in how much she’s done. Lin Shaye continues to expand her craft further into the horror genre with her latest role in THE GRUDGE.
For the home video release of THE GRUDGE, we had the chance to chat with Lin Shaye where we discussed everything from playing a character with dementia to Nicolas Pesce’s terrifying script.
You play the character Faith, a woman who is going through the late stages of dementia. For you, what was it like transforming into her?
Lin Shaye: It’s always exciting to find the truth of what it is you’re doing. There is a scene that’s in the original script that didn’t make it to the final cut but will be in the extended version. What was great about it, and one of the reasons I was excited about the character, was it showed me on a good day with my husband, William (Frankie Faison). It was really touching. I guess with dementia and Alzheimers you’re not out to lunch all the time but there are moments of lucidity and moments of actual intellect. This [scene] was one of those days where I’m feeling good. We built in this thing where William had my hair fixed, pulled back in a little bun and he’s putting nail polish on me. I thought of the relationship as him being one of those guys who loves to dote on his wife – and there are men like that. He’s one of those very helpful, old-fashioned guys that displays love in a very literal and old-fashioned way.
Nick Pesce, the director, and I got along great and he was so open to all my ideas and all my thoughts even though I never know where they are going to come from. In this scene, you hear [William and I] reminiscence about our past together which gives you a notion of who Faith and her husband were when they were a normal, young couple. That place is only in that one scene and then it goes away and there’s sort of that vacant spot. I tried to find that place of where anything that is happening is happening in my interior but there’s nothing on the exterior – I’ve totally cut out the outside world. I tried really hard to find a real representation of something that I only know about in hearsay but also have an inclination of from the way we grapple with reality. It was a challenge but I felt good when I saw that was there.
Speaking of Nicolas, did he help you prepare for the role with any type of specific research or did he give you the freedom to mould the character into how you envisioned her?
Lin Shaye: He really let me go. We didn’t discuss research and I didn’t do extensive research. There was one segment of 60 Minutes that I, strangely enough, had kept because I thought it was really fascinating. They charted this woman for 15 years who had dementia. They showed her during the very early signs of it and visited her every few months to ask her simple questions, what her relationship with her husband was like, and it was just heartbreaking. I remember watching and just sobbing at the end of it. It wasn’t like your body is changing cause you are in your 90s, her body was changing because she had given in and given up and was gone. It’s really, really heartwrenching. I thought about that and rewatched it several times. I manifested not so much the physicality because there’s so much physicality in what I end up getting to do. Nick was very open and if something didn’t feel right to him he would mention it but he pretty much trusted what I brought to the table. When I saw the film, I was happy with the representation. I thought it was honest and wasn’t going to be humiliating to anyone who had a family member or anything like that. That’s very important when you’re portraying an illness or a departure from reality.
Earlier we mentioned Frankie Faison who plays your husband, William. What I love about your interactions with one another was how genuine and loving it was, which allows the viewer to become more emotionally invested in your story. What was it like working so closely together?
Lin Shaye: He was awesome. That first scene I was describing to you was the first time I met him. Right away he’s just this embracive, giant man – he’s like 6’4″ and I’m pretty small. There was just an immediate envelopment from him physically – real hugs and a real appreciation of each other as actors and as characters. He was totally open to any of the stuff that I brought in, he was all game and brought his own turn to it as well. I really thought the relationship was beautiful and I adore him. We became very good friends, also.
I had read that one of the reasons you did the film was because you found the script to be terrifying. What was it about Nicolas’ vision that scared you?
Lin Shaye: It’s just a very scary story. I was telling another interviewer as well that it’s scary in different ways than the original Grudge. The original Ju-On I really loved but what Nick did is he updated and sort of up the ante of the fear element but not in the traditional way people were expecting. The “scare-boo’s” are fun for an audience but he made it really scary, I thought, in a very particular way. He is dealing with three generations of women – I’m the oldest one and Andrea Riseborough‘s character, Detective Muldoon, is a single mom/career woman whose husband has died and Betty Gilpin‘s character, Nina Spencer, is making choices about an unborn baby – these are scary issues for these three different women. When I read the script I really saw into that and found it very unnerving. Nicolas did a film called The Eyes of My Mother which is just brilliant and scary in ways that you also don’t expect. When you know what’s going to happen and you’re like, “No, no, no don’t do it, don’t go through the door, god dammit you went through the door!” and you’re not disappointed because what was on the other side is as scary as you thought it was going to be. Nicolas is a very complicated guy, very funny, very, very keen, witty, clever sense of humor, and also extremely generous of spirit and very open. He said to me, “I don’t usually let actors do what they want, but with you, you can do whatever you want.” That was a big door opening for me (laughs). All in all, it was great!
You got to do some wild practical effects, one of which was cutting your own fingers off. How was that experience?
Lin Shaye: Hard (laughs). It’s so technical and timing is so important and, because of the budget, we only had three sets of fingers that we could use. If we didn’t get it right on the third one we were fucked so there was a little bit of pressure to get it right. It has to do with coordination between the special effects guys pumping blood while I’m supposed to be cutting/chopping. The question was, how hard is it to get through the layer of skin and the actual bone of the finger – do you have to chop it or can you cut through it? There were also elements of trying to make sure it was real enough while having the blood gushing at the right moment. It was really a little bit of a ballet, you really had to be on the same page and make sure the timing was correct. It was actually very, very fun to do and it photographed great. Making films is so much fun but also so hard. I am always amazed at how hard it is. Each time we actually finish a film successfully it’s truly somewhat miraculous and I think Nicolas really pulled off a beautiful, beautiful film.
Lastly, out of all the scenes you did, was there one in particular that you enjoyed doing the most?
Lin Shaye: This is crazy that I love doing this but we were discussing how Faith had been in that house all that time not and had killed her husband and was probably not eating. I said to Nicolas, “She’s probably eating her own shit”, so we sort of played with that idea. You don’t see it as much in the way it’s shot because it’s shot in a lot of darkness. Basically, when Detective Muldoon comes into the house, I’m literally holding my crotch and putting my hands in my mouth. It’s really pretty gross but I had fun doing that (laughs).
THE GRUDGE is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. For more on the film, check out our review here.