You have a habit of selecting some very unique roles and projects that suit you very well. How did you first get involved with ‘Stake Land’?
Thank you! Ya know, for this project, they kinda signed me. I wish I could say that I could go out and look for these awesome movies but I have been really lucky about having some really rad people contacting about doing these unique projects. It is kind of an interesting story. I was on Fangoria Radio when I was promoting ‘Halloween II’ and the group that was online with me was Larry Fessenden and Jim Mickle. I didn’t know who either one of them were at the time but we were all chit-chatting. I hung up the phone and a few weeks later I got a call from my manager saying that I had an offer for this independent movie called ‘Stake Land’.
They wanted to book me out for five months because there is a big break in the middle and wanted to start in August and not go back until November and then in December. Which was totally taking me out for getting any job for the second half of the year. But when I read it and thought, “Wow! Belle is throughout most of the story but doesn’t really have much to do.” I had three scenes or three lines. I was thinking, “What the hell am I going to do in Upstate New York, freezing my ass off and looking like a fat ass because I am pregnant in the film. Do I really want to do this movie?” [laughs] But I loved the script and I loved the relationships but there was so much that was left unsaid. It was really all about Jim Mickle and Nick Damici and how open they were to creating that as we went. From there, I decided to watch their film ‘Mulberry Street’. I called Jim to see if he was going to use the same DP as he used on that film because what the film looks like was going to play a major part in the story. It was such a big deal because if it didn’t look as beautiful as it does, I mean the film is fantastic, but the look is such a big part of it. He said that he was indeed using the same DP and as I talked to him I just said, “Ya know what? I want to do it! I have never played a character that was so much like me!” In all of the movies that I have done before I play a bad-ass or a sassy girl or a girl who has a real edge to her and, while that may be a part of who I am, I am actually a bit more like “Belle” in real life. I am kinda the mom, the caretaker, the nurturer to everyone. I felt like no one had ever really seen that side of me on film. I felt this film was a great opportunity to showcase those aspects.
I told Jim I would do it and before I knew it I flew off to Philadelphia and I stayed at Jim’s friends guest house and met the rest of the gang. We sort of created the characters as we continued because we kinda shot it in sequence, due to the changes in seasons and the weather changes. We became a family and I think that it shows on screen because you can really see the relationships starting to build as the movie progresses and I think that it has a lot to do with what was really happening behind the scenes as well, in real life. It is really fun for me to watch because I remember all of those days and having to work fast and furious and freezing our butts off!
It sounds like you had a lot of great experiences in making the film. Any that spring to mind that you can share with us?
I remember day one where one of the scenes we are climbing down some mountain and I am afraid of heights! I am also wearing a dress and cowboy boots, I have a big belly and a backpack and a gun! Jim was like, “We’re gonna start here and cross this waterfall and climb way down there!” I looked at him and said, “You are kidding right?!!!” [laughs] And he was like, “No.” So, I was just like ,“Oh shit! Okay!!! Here we go!” [laughs]
My favorite scene in the movie for me is a scene where Belle just can’t go any further. She sits down on a rock and has that moment. “Mister” comes and swoops her up and she says, “My daddy used to carry me like this when I was a little girl.” and says, “I’m not your Daddy, kid” and we have that little hard ass line. I didn’t know how it was going to work. The first time it came out of my mouth, I just got hysterical and started crying. And then Nick started crying. I just thought, “Oh my god! This is magic!” because we had found “it!” Originally, Belle was supposed to be Mister’s love interest. When I got to set, it just didn’t work. It just didn’t feel right. There was something about it that didn’t mesh. We started to nix that and started to figure out the question of: “If she isn’t Mister’s love interest, who is she?” I sorta became the daughter, the mom, the sister, the wife, kinda fitting all of the feminine shoes and I was able to play all of those women in one and show a very soft side as well.
And I have to say that I don’t think that I have ever looked better on film! Not to toot my own horn! [laughs] I just don’t think I have ever looked better! I have never had more dirt and shit and horrible clothes and no makeup and no sleep and freezing my ass off and all of those things that you have to really be OK with yourself as a person to look that way on film! I mean, I am not an actor that gives a crap about that anyway. I mean, you have seen the movies that I have done before! I never get to look glamorous or be pretty in a movie! [laughs] Well, not for long anyway!
So, all those elements helped to show a very vulnerable side of me that I have never been able to do before. I don’t have a dad in real life. He passed away when I was little. I think that if my dad was around he reminded me so much of Nick because my dad was from Brooklyn and kind of a hard, edgy, chain smoker, with a kinda quiet bad guy type edge. I think that it was there from the very beginning, so since I didn’t have a real-life relationship with my dad, that I was able to create that on film with the Mister character and in that scene, you can see it a little bit. It came from love and I think that is why this movie is so close to my heart.
You are regarded as a horror icon at this point in your career. What does your experience with the genre allow you to bring to a project like this?
Ya know, not with Jim. Jim is such a visionary. He is just so smart and talented. He knew exactly what he wanted. Working with Nick for as long as he has and knowing that they are so passionate about it, I didn’t really have to do anything but show up! They were so open with what we wanted to do and letting us create and play. I have been so lucky, having done so many horror movies, that most of the directors are usually, if not always are fan-boys. They have grown up loving this industry and the genre and know it better than I do, even though I have been living it my whole life! They are just so excited to a) be making a movie and b) to have me on set. So, it is rare to have an opportunity like ‘Stake Land.’ It was a great playground! There is definitely nothing that I could teach Jim! We all did these short films that will be online in the coming weeks that tell the back stories of all the characters, because the movie just throws you into the middle and you don’t know where anyone has come from. That is something that I really love. There is no exposition, it just is what it is and where they have come from is not important, it’s about where they are going. We did want to explain a little bit of that.
Seeing that I am trying to direct now and I am trying to get some projects together, mostly in the horror genre because that is where I want to stay for a while, because this is what I know and I love! There are no females that do this and all the leads are female most of the time, which I know because I am the lead most of the time! [laughs] Anyway, they offered me the opportunity to direct one of the back stories for “Lily”. I wrote it, directed it, shot it and loved it! It was amazing but like any other first time director, there were things that I just needed an opinion on. I called Jim and said, “I need you to watch this. Something is just not working and I need your help!” He did and between himself, Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick, who edited it along with doing the sound design for ‘Stake Land’, who is brilliant, we were able to figure out what the issue was and we fixed it. It is unbelievable now! So, if anything, I learned from these guys! It is the Adam Greens and the Rob Zombies and while I may have worked on more movies than they have, I learn from them!
That is great! It is exciting to hear that you are taking that step to be behind the camera!
When we spoke last year, I know you had been working on an autobiography to chronicle your life in the industry. I wanted to touch base with you on that and find out the status of that project.
I had hired a writer and we wrote quite a bit together, because I am not a writer. I am a great storyteller and a great reviser but when telling your own story, it is kind of hard to take yourself out of it. We worked together for a while on it but when I got the outline of what each chapter was going to be about it just didn’t sound like my voice. It was more about who I knew in Hollywood growing up, in the industry and my generation. Ya know, I am kind of in between River Phoenix and Lindsay Lohan, in that little group. In real life, my boyfriend now is Corin Nemec, you know from ‘Parker Lewis’ and ‘Stargate’ and a bunch of genre projects as well. We went to Corey Feldman’s house a couple weeks ago for his house warming! So, as you can see, I live in this weird little world but these are my friends. I think that what was happening was that I wanted to tell the real story about my life and my struggles and me as a person but all that was coming up was these kind of “Hollywood” or “What would sell in a book” for someone that didn’t know anything about the horror series. That isn’t really what I am interested in writing. I think that is why I have had such great success and have fans say that they love reading or hearing what you say and we are fans because “you keep it real!” With me, there is no bullshit! I don’t want to sugar coat my life.
In my life, like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t grow up with a dad because he died when I was a little girl. He was in the mafia. My parents sold drugs. I have this really crazy story that I want to tell because it is really important to me. It just didn’t read well. I thought, “this is just garbage.” I am not going to write a book just because I am trying to sell something. That is not me. So I nixed it, until I can write it myself or find a writer that wants to keep it real. I don’t care if five people buy it but for me to sell 5 million copies it has to be “Hollywood crap” and I just don’t want to do it.
I also read that you had an animated series of sorts based on your life. What can you tell us about that?
That is with the guys at Halo 8! We go back and forth! Poor Matt Pizzolo can never track me down! [laughs] That all started with me being sort of fascinated with animation side and graphic novel side of things which I haven’t really tapped into except for when we worked on ‘Godkiller’. Matt is so creative and I thought it would be so cool to do something else together. I wanted to present the idea of what it is like to grow up in the horror genre and be with all my other little friends in that genre or who grew up on TV shows and show what our real lives are like. I mean, it is kind of funny, I went to New York City for ‘Hatchet II’ and there was this whole big party at Planet Hollywood and I brought a hatchet with me. I was posing on stage with this hatchet and there are about eight people who have come to see me! It is just kind of funny to me! This is so ridiculous that this is going on the wall! My hatchet! It’s kind of like that or the conventions that I do where there are a bunch of has-been ‘80s actors, who are actually very talented, working genre actors, mixed in with porn stars or wrestlers! [laughs] So, I kinda want to incorporate all of that kind of stuff into an animated series for Adult Swim or an adult oriented animated show like that. But I have so much going on that it sometimes takes a back seat.
What’s happening with Horrorgal.com?
I am still trying to get that up and running. I have so much video and footage for that but I just take on too many things at once and nothing ever gets done! [laughs] I am trying to tackle one thing at a time right now.
What other projects are on the horizon for you?
I will tell you what I have already finished that will be coming out this year. I have ‘Night of The Living Dead: Origins 3D’ with Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses) and Tony Todd (The Candyman). That is a CGI, 3D animated film for Sony. I play “Barbara” and it is set in current day New York City. From what I have seen, it looks out of this world! Literally, so bad-ass! I also have have ‘The Victim’ with Michael Beihn (Terminator) and Jennifer Blanc. They are two very good friends of mine and you can check out the film at www.grindhousethevictim.com. I play a coke-head stripper which is something that I have not done before! [laughs] So, that was kinda fun, especially since Jennifer is one of my best friends and it was great to be able to work with her. My favorite work as an actor so far is a film that I finished at the end of last year called ‘Shiver’ with John Jarratt, who I adore. Julian Richards directed the film. It is a role that I had a really hard time with emotionally. It is a really dark and horrible, psychological thriller and it is quite fantastic! I have never worked harder in my entire life! That is saying a lot for all the people who have seen what I went through in ‘Hatchet II,’ it literally almost killed me! [laughs] I am really proud of all that work! I am in a movie called ‘The Trouble With The Truth’ with John Shea and Lea Thompson, just the opening scene and it is not a horror movie! I am obsessed with ‘80s movies so I had to work with the two of them! ‘Hatchet III’ has been greenlit and I just signed on to do a movie called ‘Unbroken’ with Tony Todd, who is a buddy of mine. It is a small part in an independent movie but I love the script and really want to be part of it!Thanks for you time, Danielle!
Be sure to follow Danielle Harris on Twitter at www.twitter.com/halloweengal. Also, check out our exclusive interview with Jim Mickle and Nick Damici about the creation of ‘Stake Land’ at this location. >