Actress Lin Shaye is a LEGEND. There are so many words that can describe her… Talented, smart, sweet, empowering, kind, she’s got MOXIE! She is unbelievably talented. She took the time to speak with Horrornews.net for an exclusive interview in which she talks about her new film, “Room for Rent.” It is a beautifully done film directed by Tommy Stovall. Lin Shaye has starred in everything from, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “There’s Something About Mary”, “Insidious”, “Kingpin”, “2001 Maniacs” and so many more films and television shows. She got her start in theatre and she has created some of the most unforgettable characters we have. She has a compassion and kindness to her that makes her remarkable. There are not enough kind words to say about this legend that is Lin Shaye so here is the interview.
Hi Lin, How are you doing?
Lin- I am crazy busy.
That is good to hear.
Lin- I am very happy about this little film. A lot of stuff happening, a lot of new stuff happening. I am very enthusiastic about “Room for Rent.” It has been a bit of a surprise because you never know how people are going to receive the stories you tell. I am very excited. How are you?
I am doing well. Thank you. Why did you decide to take on the role of Joyce? It sort of reminded me a little bit of a Hitchcock film. You do such a good job.
Lin- Oh that’s great to hear. What a nice compliment. Well, it started I worked with Tommy on a couple of other films and he sent me the script quite a while ago and I was in the middle of doing something else and I didn’t like it. It was not exactly, I just didn’t like it and I sent him a little note back and I said thank you, I really don’t think it’s something I want to do and that was that.
About a year or so later he sent it to me again and he said would you take another look at it and I said sure and when I finished it I thought well, it’s not that bad. I thought what I didn’t like about it and what I didn’t like it was, as written very traditionally the woman was a psychotic killer and it was like I said to Tommy we’ve already made that movie a hundred times.. You don’t need to do that again and I started thinking about it, I thought what if this is a different type of story where it’s a woman who is driven to violence by loneliness. She had no skills, she didn’t know how to navigate the world. Not that she was stupid but she was insulated against life by this man that controlled her. We did a little bit of reworking the script. It is not a real horror film. It is a story of disintegration. I love Tommy. He is one of the best listeners in our business. I ended up as a co-producer and we ended being really good partners in terms of the creative side of the story.
I wanted to ask you about the skateboard scene. The teens are sort of harassing Joyce and she takes the skateboard. That was a powerful scene. It was subtle yet powerful. Was that your idea in the scene?
Lin- That was my idea to grab the board and throw it in the trash. The one thing that was in the script and one of the things that made me want to do the story was her kissing him. Which I thought was shocking when I read it because this was a pretty traditional script. I’ve never seen that in a movie. That whole section too of them harassing me was a pretty raw scene. It affects me still when I watch it. As an actor there is that moment of crossover where you can’t be totally out of control because that’s not good either but there was a switch that went off in me during that scene that is hard for me to watch. It’s weird, I disassociate from it sort of because I don’t want to watch it if you know what I mean. A lot of the choices were mine. I feel very proud of that and again Tommy being a wonderful partner allowed me to do stuff.
What was it like working with this cast? Everyone did an amazing job and it seemed like all of you knew each other forever. Oliver Rayon and Valeska Miller.
Lin- It really was a good cast. Valeska, actually is with my manager and she was in a little clip of something Tommy say and he just liked her so he hired her. It was sort of her first film I think really. We got along great and it was a tiny cast. It was just me and Oliver and Oliver was cast like a week before we started shooting or something. He was very, very… how can I say? Not particularly sociable. He kept himself in the place he wanted to be to do the role which was very admirable you know that’s not something a lot of actors do. He wasn’t anti-social totally. He was very workable in terms of the scene and anything that needed to be answered in terms of the material. But he kind of kept to himself a little bit which was perfect for the character, so our relationship was very much Joyce and Bob. He was very easy to work with. I like the guy a lot. I think he is great. I think he did a really nice job with the role as well. It was just me, Valeska and Oliver. The smaller roles were pretty much cast out of Sedona. They were friends of Tommy’s who all did a wonderful job. One of my favorite characters is the girl in the pet store. She was great. You know when I am pulling out my pennies for the pet food.
Lin- She is over the whole thing. Being a small cast and we were in one location. We would get there, at 6:00am and have a little breakfast and start to go to work. So it was a tiny crew, a skeletal crew. It was a family. It was easy to have a close knit work relationship with everybody.
Did you always know that you wanted to be in this business?
Lin- I did not know I wanted to be an actress. What I knew I wanted to do was I loved to tell stories. I used to make up stories in my room with my dolls. I didn’t have a lot of kids in the neighborhood when I grew up so I spent a lot of time alone. That was another thing, my mom just kind of left me live my imaginary life and give me room for that. I was encouraged to be myself and sort of just be who I was. It was literally not until I graduated college. I was always in plays and I would always audition for all the plays. It was from grade school all the way through high school. I went to the University of Michigan and I was an Art/History major. I was not a theatre major. I always managed to audition for stuff. I loved being in plays. I loved theatre.
When I graduated from Michigan I got my first job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the registers office. I was hired to file. Like an entry level job. It was really boring, depressing cause it was down in the basement even though it was at the Met, it was down in the bowels of the museum. I just remember I had been there about six weeks and I was not happy, I just though gee I wish I could be in a play. Here I was almost twenty-two years old or whatever and I am going wait a minute isn’t there a profession called actress that you could actually try to be so what I did was, I applied to graduate school in theatre and I ended up going to Columbia and getting a Master’s in Acting at Columbia in their Theatre/Arts program. Then I stayed in New York and did theatre non-stop. I had no ambition to be in a movie. I didn’t care about movies in terms of being in them and there’s long stories, which would take me took long to get into about what finally brought me out to California. So I realized I wanted to be an actress. So that was my breaking point. My breaking point was the dungeon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a wonderful time at Columbia, we went from off and Off-Broadway. This was 1971 through 1977. I came out to California in 1977 so I was in New York from 1968 to 77. It was a wonderful time there. It was a wonderful time there. It was when off-Broadway was just getting started. All of these small theatres were just getting started and off-off Broadway. I studied with Uta Hagen and Stella Adler. I couldn’t begin to explain my process of character development other than trying to tell the story and really find the truth of the story. For me I think it is telling the deepest truth in a safe place.”
What was the first play you were ever in?
Lin- My first play that I really had a big part in was called “Cream Cheese” at the American Place theatre. A writer named Lonnie Carter wrote it, my God I hadn’t thought of that name for a hundred years. It was directed by my teacher from Columbia a man named Isaiah Sheffer. It was the first time I had a lead. I played a character named Anna Crisp. She was a labor leader, I can’t remember the story too well. I probably have the script somewhere because I saved all my scripts. She worked in a factory and then she sort of leads this mini revolution. That was my first big play. Before that I was always in projects. I did a lot of stuff at the Manhattan Theatre club. Chelsea Theatre is where I got my first union job. It was a five hour production, you can imagine. It had a dinner break. I played an Arab with one line and I got equity card. From that in those days which was 1971 I believe, if you had one union card you were eligible to join the other union. So I joined S.A.G. for two hundred dollars. I did no movies. I was doing all plays. It was a great training ground and Uta Hagen was an exquisite teacher. I think I used her “technique” more than anything which is very physical. It is very much using objects to find your way in terms of characters and how you use objects. She’s got a wonderful book for all young actors who are interested. It’s called, “Respect for Actors.” It is the best textbook ever that you will read on acting. I am a member of the Actor’s Studio so yes I also work with emotional stuff. I don’t have to work real hard at it because all of my stuff is pretty surfaced. I laugh and cry just as easily. If you are telling the truth, there is your answer.
You are so good in everything. I remember seeing you in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and you always stuck with me in my mind. You are so good in all of the work you do. I know you were in films and shows before that but you are always so fascinating to watch.
Lin- Well thank you for saying that Janel. It is a big deal.
Lin- That was me. That was my stuff. People say there are some very uncomfortable moments in this movie and I know there are but they were true. Someone trying to get close to somebody that she doesn’t know and doesn’t know how to express that in a normal fashion or in a routine fashion because she’s never been close to somebody. When you think about what makes you feel close to somebody… Drinking out of the same glass, smelling them. These are all things that we do with people we love. These were her sort of primitive ways of trying to establish a relationship. They came out of that. That is where the behavior came from.
It was a fascinating quiet scene. It wasn’t really creepy or anything like that. It was moments of seeing Joyce sort of try to maybe get closer to Bob. It was powerful. I have never seen a lot of this in other films.
Lin- Thank you Janel.
You have portrayed so many different characters. Do you have a favorite of all of the characters you have portrayed so far or do they all mean something different to you?
Lin- They are all dear to me in some way but probably still my all-time favorite is “Kingpin”, Mrs. Dumars in “Kingpin.” She is also kind of a sad character. That was also all my idea. The dialogue was a hundred percent Pete and Bobby Farrelly but the character including the wardrobe and the lack of make-up and the dirty hair, smoking, the skin and that was all my stuff. Actually they didn’t want to see me for role and I figured out that character over a course of about six weeks and I begged them to see me. Everyone was saying no we don’t think your right for this and the character’s described as the angriest, ugliest woman God ever let loose on the planet. I’ll never forget that description so that’s what I worked with and finally at the eleventh hour, literally I called one of the producers whom I met on “Dumb and Dumber.” I played Mrs. Neugeboren and that is when I met the Farrelly’s. I called one of the producers and he said we really love your work but we don’t think you are right for this. The door was almost closed and I said well I worked out this whole performance to show you guys and he said, oh okay we we’ll bring you in. I dressed up just as you see me in the movie. I drove to Santa Monica to the audition and the casting director Rick Montgomery walked by me for a half hour thinking I was a homeless person off the street and he was going to call the police. Finally I got to go into the room and the guys just lost it and I did the audition. I didn’t even know if I got it or not? I was just so exhausted from trying to get the audition and long story short I got the job and they used everything I brought in. That was a big deal for me. It changed my life. That and “There’s Something About Mary” changed my career.
Oh, I loved you in “There’s Something About Mary.”
Lin- Me too, me too. That’s another great one but “Kingpin” even more than that for me was real triumph. I had auditioned for Magda too. Those guys are ruthless. They weren’t going to give me nothing. I had to prove it over and over.
Well you bring it every time.
Lin- Thanks Janel.
Now, what advice would offer to actors, directors, writers? Everyone I guess. I watched the movie “Cellular” the other night and mainly just because YOU are in it and make the whole movie. I watch the movie for that car scene with you in it. You are just amazing.
Lin- I get a kick out of that one to be honest.
Yes, we actually watched it the other night and my mom watched it and said, she is the best part of the whole movie.
Lin-Oh man, well, thank mom for me. That is a real compliment.
Lin- Well, I can tell you one thing it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to have tremendous stamina. You’ve got to able to deal with rejection all the time because there’s so much of it, you can’t take it to heart. My dad had an expression coming from the Eastern fish market. “Throw the fish back in the wagon and go onto the next house.” You’ve got to have a thick skin and a thin skin at the same time. Keep your thick skin for your desire and your ambition. Keep your thin skin for your work where you let yourself go, it is an emotional thing for me too. Go to your deepest place that you’re afraid to go to because you feel safe doing it and there is no other profession in the world in the world where you are given that luxury. Be creative about going for stuff. Call people up. I still do, I mean what are they going to get mad at me?
That is true.
Lin- As long as I am polite. You can be aggressive but always be polite and always be a good listener. It is always important to hear what people are saying to you. Not what you think they are saying to you. But what they are saying to you and that is both in the work and in looking for work. Be fearless, if you know there is something you want, go as far as you can but it’s also like the old poker expression. You’ve got to know when to hold and when to fold and eventually if there is only so far you have reached the point of irritation you need to go away because people don’t want to be irritated. Don’t forget nobodies seeing life like you do and no one has the desire for what you want, only you have that desire. They’ve got their own desires. So, it’s a bit of a juggling act. But, don’t be afraid to keep going. If you give up it’s because you don’t want to do it. So try something else or leave it alone but you’ve got to be a good listener and a strong spirited energy that moves forward and always be kind to people. That is really important.
I agree and I must tell you because I got to meet you during around the time when “2001 Maniacs” was released and you gave me amazing advice and said such kind words. I get nervous sometimes like being nervous right now speaking with you. What you said always sticks with me. That kindness and the good words.
Lin- Me too though! I get nervous too. I totally get nervous. It’s a good thing. That is your energy source. Nerves are good.
Thank you. But, that stuck with me forever and movies are kind of like an escape when you have so many things that happen in your life that are horrible. You watch these movies and you forget about everything so thank you.
Lin- Awww, that is so sweet. We are all in this together. All this sadness that is going on right now. Not to get into politics but there are some really not nice people. I am against it. People have to really think twice about how they relate to each other. I make it a point to not hurt someone’s feelings. Everyone wants to be seen and acknowledged. That is a primitive need. It is really urgent now more than ever with the technology and nobody talks to each other. It is really depressing. As an artist we have the luxury to be able to tell the truth in our profession. The least you can do is be kind to people in real life. One of my favorite moments for me in the last couple of weeks, there is a little homeless man. He has a bicycle, he’s got a beard. He rides his bike and he has his stuff on the back. He is just the cutest human being. I jumped out of the car and gave him some money and I see him all the time and he waves to me and it makes me feel so happy. Whenever I see this man, it is always with a big smile and he says hello. Human connection is invaluable and human kindness is irreplaceable.
Yes, everyone is on the phones and it is depressing.
Lin- Total disconnect. That is why it is depressing right now and those of us that are aware of that and make that little extra step to say something nice to somebody because they really may need it.
I agree. I thank you so much. You are a legend. You are so kind, you make the world better. I thank you so much for taking time to talk with me. You are one of a kind and the talent you have is unbelievable and the kindness and compassion are everything.
Lin- To everybody who is trying to do what they love and love what they do, good luck and persevere. You are a doll Janel. I really appreciate it and you brought out a lot of nice things out of me today in your interview. I appreciate that.
I appreciate you too. You are so happy and positive and I thank you so much. It means the world.
Lin- Thank you for that and you guys mean the world to me. We all want to be appreciated and loved and heard. So onward and onward. I hope I get to tell stories till the day I am not here anymore.
Thank you so much. You will be here for a long, long time.
Lin- You are a doll. I really do appreciate you today. Keep in touch and my other favorite expression is, let’s see what going to happen next because boy oh boy we don’t know. And… onward.
Thank you. You made my year.
Lin- Thank you. Sending you lots of love.
“Highly-anticipated suspense thriller Room for Rent, starring veteran actress Lin Shaye (the Insidious franchise, Ouija) and
directed by Tommy Stovall, will be released in theaters and on digital this May.
Written by Stuart Flack, Room for Rent stars Shaye as a lonely widow who rents out a
room in her house and becomes dangerously obsessed with one of her guests.
The Uncork’d Entertainment release, also starring Oliver Rayon, Valeska Miller, and Ryan Ochoa,
opens May 3 in select theaters and releases May 7 on digital.”