STACK chats with horror fan-favourite Lin Shaye about her terrifying new film, Dreamkatcher, and discovers that she doesn’t scare easily.
Despite her status as a veteran scream queen – entering the horror genre in the ‘80s with roles in cult faves Critters and A Nightmare on Elm Street and going on to star in dozens of others including the Insidious franchise – Lin Shaye is not easily spooked.
“I’m not scared of much. I’m not a very fearful person. I’m determined to live my life until I’m dead,” says Shaye, 76, perhaps best known for her roles in the Farrelly Brothers’ comedies Kingpin (1996) and There’s Something About Mary (1998), playing Cameron Diaz’s overly tanned neighbour, Magda, in the latter.
“But horror movies do not scare me at all. I’m not afraid of stuff and feel very emboldened by the way I live my life.”
Currently starring with Australian actress Radha Mitchell in the horror-thriller Dreamkatcher, Shaye plays a nightmarish neighbour who collects dreamcatchers – Native American handmade willow hoops woven with net, traditionally hung over a cradle to protect a sleeping child – one of which has been cursed by The Night Hag, a decrepit and ancient entity that takes over children’s souls.
While dreamcatchers are sold to tourists all over Native American lands in the US – even this journalist has happily purchased several and hung them over her kids’ beds – then nobody in their right mind would want one in their home after watching Dreamkatcher.
But Shaye laughs off such superstition. “They have a nice thought to them. The mythology is that dreamcatchers catch bad dreams so I loved buying them for my son Lee when he was little.”
Chatting over the phone where she’s talking from her Hollywood Hills home, Shaye starts searching to see if she has any left, identifying several scattered around her house as we talk. “They’re really quite lovely. My only concern at this point is that the feathers might have fleas!”
Filming Dreamkatcher in a rural upstate New York, she doesn’t mind admitting that she initially butted heads with Mitchell. “Radha is a very strong woman, very smart and extremely bright; a terrific actress who works terribly hard. She should direct – she has such a strong vision.
“But I had been with Dreamkatcher for a long time so there was some initial head-butting, like with any two bullish people. She was very strong-minded about how she dealt with the work and I came in two weeks after Radha had already started, so it was a bit like, ‘who’s the woman in my bed?’
“But we ended up great friends and had wonderful scenes together. She was very supportive and opened herself up to me around the campfire in a really great way,” she says.
When asked if anything creepy happened on the Dreamkatcher set, she says, “I cracked my head pretty hard in a fight scene with Radha where I get thrown against a piano. We wanted it to look real, so the special effects people padded the sharp edges of the piano and I let myself fall hard because I knew I was protected.
“But I made a mistake and got a big goose-egg on my head, which was very scary. I thought I’d got a concussion, so every five minutes they’d make sure I wasn’t falling asleep, but I was 100 per cent fine.”
After such a long career with roles in 230+ films, when she’s out in public, Shaye says she is typically recognised from just three films: the aforementioned Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary, and Detroit Rock City (1999), in which four rebellious teens try to scam their way into a KISS concert.
“I worry when they recognise me from Kingpin because I was a very bad landlady, but it’s my voice they hear rather than my face. But KISS fans loved me as the mom in Detroit Rock City. Young people recognise me from the horror movies but can never remember the name, so they always think I was in The Conjuring.”
Maintaining a close friendship with Aussies James Wan and Leigh Whannell from their long relationship on the Insidious films, she hopes to make a movie in Australia in the future.
“I adore Leigh and James, who both changed my life for the better. I love the Aussies.”
Having last visited Down Under following There’s Something About Mary, she recalls, “They had me dress up as Magda and presented me at conventions. It was such a great adventure and I brought my son out with me, who was just a little boy at the time. We were wined and dined in such a beautiful way and I did a lot of chat shows. Magda was a big hit.”
To this day, Magda’s boobs remain her insurance policy, although she grows tired of explaining to fans that those withering, droopy breasts were not her own.
“I’ve always used sunblock and been attentive to my skin. For the role, I was in make-up for four hours every day and the boobs – for that one shot in the window – were made entirely of prosthetics, which I removed at the end of the day.
“The boobs were laced onto a leotard which was strapped on to me. After we finished shooting that scene, I threw them in the garbage but then I thought, ‘I should keep those for a little souvenir’. They’re probably worth more than my house right now!
“So I’m very protective of Magda. I don’t play around with her. When friends ask me to get the boobs out I refuse. Magda lives all by herself in a little box.”