You know her, you love her and the horror industry wouldn’t be the same without her — she is legendary scream queen Danielle Harris. This brunette bombshell has grown up right before our eyes on television and the silver screen, establishing herself as on of the most dynamic actors in the business. Never afraid to experiment or to follow her keen instincts when it comes to a role, Danielle continues to surprise her fans with each new project. Her latest endeavor is no exception to that rule, as she closes out the wildly popular ‘Hatchet’ franchise alongside creator/writer Adam Green and director BJ McDonnell. ‘Hatchet III’ continues the tale of the now-iconic villain Victor Crowley, played by genre favorite Kane Hodder, and ramps up the action to bring this epic tale of terror to a close. The film As a search and recovery team heads into the haunted swamp to pick up the pieces and carnage left behind from the first two films, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) hunts down the true secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left the ghost of Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.
The action doesn’t stop there for Danielle as prepares to unleash the next exciting chapter of her career! In her directorial debut, Harris has enlisted some of her very talented friends. “Among Friends,” written by Alyssa Lobit and produced by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and Athena Lobit, is a twisted tale of horror focusing on a dinner party gone wrong. Set against an 80s backdrop, the good time takes a dark turn when one in the group hijacks the evening in an attempt to help the others come clean about their secret betrayals against one another–and is willing to cut through the bone in order to expose the truth. Collectively this group of very talented women has decades of experience in the film industry and they are excited to be bringing fans and audiences everywhere a roller coaster ride of fun, intensity and, oh yes… blood.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Danielle Harris to discuss her her role in the ‘Hatchet’ franchise, her experiences on set through the years and the challenges of bringing her first feature film to the big screen!
You have been a big part of the ‘Hatchet’ franchise. To put it into perspective for our readers, how did you first get involved with this awesome series and what are your recollections of first meeting it’s creator Adam Green?
I had actually known Adam for a while prior to working on these films from being on the convention circuit. There were a couple of short films that Adam had done and we were on the convention circuit in the UK. I had done a short film for him there and we became friends from there and discussed wanting to work together. I actually auditioned for him for the original ‘Hatchet’ and I didn’t end up getting it. He brought me in on another film he was planning on at the time but ended up not doing. It was an amazing comedy called ‘God Only Knows’. I still want to do that one day but I think I am too old to play the character now. The genre is very, very small group of friends. I was working on ‘Stake Land’ with Dark Sky Films at the time. Adam called me and said he didn’t think it would be working out with the woman who played Marybeth in the first ‘Hatchet’ film, I guess there was a conflict or something, so he wanted to know if I was available and interested. I said I would be, of course, that was after I gave him a bunch of shit for not casting in the role for the first one! [laughs] It ended up working out and I signed on with them. It has all gone on from there!
You are no stranger to cult fan bases from being a part of the ‘Halloween’ series. ‘Hatchet’ has a very devoted fan base as well. Where you surprised the series has developed the cult following it has?
To be honest, I think we were kind of in need of that. We were missing “the new monster” and I think Adam hit it. A lot of the fan base of ‘Hatchet’ is my generation and they are familiar with the stuff we grew up with in the 80s. By bringing it back to that and what made horror so great and not relying on effects and CGI and all the stuff that had taken over the market or remakes or 3D, I think people like to watch what they know. In my opinion, that is why it got so big — he kept it real! I think sometimes simple is better. Also, Adam always had a full story. He always had a plan for how the films would progress from ‘Hatchet’ to ‘Hatchet III’. I don’t think that happens very often, where the entire series is now all wrapped up. Typically, when you write a movie you are hoping they come back for a sequel and then you have to write something and you never know how well it will work with the first one. I think for this franchise that wasn’t even an option because he had it all done. I think that is why the movies are so tight and they are so well received – they makes sense and they are just good gory fun!
What elements do you think you brought to the character that might not have existed on the written page? Are there elements of your own personality we might see come through in this performance?
On the second film, Adam and I really got to know each other because we worked so closely for such a long period of time. He got to know me, like know me, know me. I think he got to know my sarcasm and ball busting. Like I said, I auditioned for him for the project “God Only Knows.” I do actually like to do comedy, I just don’t get those opportunities very often. He said “God! You are so freakin’ funny. I really wish you would do more comedies.” I would love to do that if I could just get the opportunities. I think he took that into consideration when he was writing for Marybeth for this third film. The second film had already been written and I came in afterwards. He polished it and made some changes afterward, once I was onboard. I think it is a lot of how I would react and what would happen to me if I went through something like Marybeth did. I think there is a period of grieve where you shut down or have anger but there is still the underlying fear. It is fun to be able go through all of that because many characters don’t survive and they don’t get to come back. Usually you have your fun, fight, sex and sad scene, then you meet the killer and you don’t come back! [laughs] Or you are shy and the odd girl out and you make it to the end where you kill the killer and find your strength. You don’t get what to see what happens to those characters after the fact. It is similar to my role in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween.” As Annie, I got to come back for the sequel after surviving something so traumatic. I was completely different in the second film and that is the case with ‘Hatchet III’ as well. I played it as how I felt Marybeth would be after experiencing what she went through the night before. By that I mean she has nothing to lose because she has already lost everything!
With each new project comes a whole new set of challenges. You shot this film on location in the swamp with a new director, BJ McDonnell. What challenges did you encounter?
It was already set up because Adam had laid the groundwork and BJ was really able to put his creative twist on things! Cinematically, there is no one I have worked with who is better than BJ McDonnell. He has such and amazing eye. He has worked on the other ‘Hatchet’ movies as well, so he was familiar with and able to stay true to the style. With Adam overseeing everything, the feel and the tone of the movie still feels like it is very much a part of the franchise because Adam is all over it. It didn’t really feel like much of a shift, except Adam wasn’t at the monitor telling us what was going to happen next and walking us through it, that was BJ. Other than that, it has always been a collaboration. There didn’t feel like there was much as a difference as far as character goes. I have worked with BJ a bunch of times. He is a new director. He would be like “I need you to be more scared. I need you to be more angry.” It sucks for first time directors to really understand how to talk to actors. He didn’t really need to worry about me because I have done this so many times and was coming back as Marybeth, so I didn’t really need a director’s direct performance because I already knew how it felt because I physically, me, Danielle, had already emotionally gone through it already! I mean, when it came time to go back in those swamps again, I was thinking “Ugggh! I just don’t want to do this!” [laughs] I had that real-life moment where I thought “Oh God! I have to battle this motherfucker again!” I was able to bring some real-life into which makes my job a little bit easier.
There is another terrific Adam Green project you’ve been involved with and that is “Holliston”. You definitely show a different side of yourself as you mentioned before. Tell us all about it!
Absolutely! God bless Adam Green for giving me something funny to do! It is so hard when people just know you as one thing and don’t give you that chance to do something different. I haven’t done a project this fun in so long! I mean, I am on a soundstage and my makeup and hair is done? I get to be funny and I am not covered in blood?! [laughs] It was a really nice break! I think that is why Adam has been working on “Holliston” so much because it is a really fun show! You are not out in the mud up to your knees covered in mosquitos! A much fun and incredibly rewarding as film is, “Holliston” is the cherry on the sundae right there! It is a wonderful show and I really loved doing it. I just hope people don’t see it and think I am anything like that character! [laughs]
I think you are pretty safe!
Ok! I hope so! [laughs]
The last time we spoke (Click to check out the full interview!), around this time last year, you had already helmed your first film, “Among Friends”. At that point, you were pursuing distribution for the film, which you recently received. Can you tell us about that process and how challenging it was for you?
It was challenging as far as my travel schedule. I really wanted to get the word out about the project. We have a big market to cover! We got accepted into a bunch of film festivals last year and I spent nine months on the road! I went everywhere from London to Ireland to Spain to Canada. You name it and we were there! [laughs] We were all over the world last year! Just dealing with people and getting the buzz out there went really, really well. Come November of last year, I was like “Oh my God! I need a minute!” I had come right off directing the film, right into post-production and then onto the festival circuit, so it has been a bit of a whirlwind! It has been almost a year and I have been working this entire time! It has been an amazing experience! It is really, really nice to be other side. I love going festivals as a director and not as an actor because you get to hang out with so many great filmmakers and talk about film. When you hang out with actors, they tend to talk about themselves. I prefer to hang out with filmmakers to talk about things that are inspiring and creative. That has been my experience. It has definitely been challenging, trying to get it out! At the same time, I think “Wow! It’s coming out on DVD already?!” We shot it two years ago but it feels like yesterday. I am very excited people are being so supportive of my first movie out of the gate. For Lionsgate to pick up the film is a first time driector’s dream! I am super excited.
You have so many irons in the fire and manage to stay super busy. Is there any chance we will see you back in the director’s chair anytime soon?
Yeah! I am just about to close my deal with the writer for a script I am optioning right now. I was reading, reading reading and I found this script last August. I loved it! I kept reading to make sure this was the one but I knew it was! I continued to move forward and my mind kept going back to that script. After about a month, I was like “OK, I am ready!” This summer, I have a bunch of other movies coming out and other movies I am going to do as an actor. I am also getting married in January, so I am planning a wedding and there is just so much happening this year. I am optioning the script and hopefully in February we will start pre-production and then I will be living with that movie for two years! [laughs] That is sort of where I am going. As far as acting, it kinda depends. I really want to focus on directing, so conventions and appearances are going to be on hold for a little while unless it is going to be for directing.
As a director, is there anything you are hoping to achieve on this second outing?
Yeah, money and time! [laughs] I would like more money and more time! We shot “Among Friends” for next to nothing. Not even next to nothing, it was nothing and we shot in ten days. We had a seven lead cast in every setup, Three cameras for every shot and a monitor. We were very limited. We only had six days of pre-production and I think I had two weeks to edit the movie. It was really difficult. For the new film, I am still working on getting my team together. That is really what I love about ArieScope, Dark Sky Films and the Hatchet Army group because they have found their family. The get to make movies and take on new projects as a team. I think I am still searching for my team and I haven’t really found it yet but I am going to option this movie and give it a go next year. I found my style and I know what I respond too, so that is really good. I just have to get out there and do it again!
We will definitely be looking forward to that project, along with everything else you have in store for us! Thank you for your time today, Danielle.
Awesome! Thanks so much and I will talk to you soon!