November 17, 2014 Interview – Dee Wallace
Inspiration comes in a variety of different forms and for each individual that inspiration is different. For actress Dee Wallace, her burning desire for success in film took off for her during the late 1970s and 1980s. Always drawn to theatrical arts, her roles in some of the most iconic Horror and Sci-Fi films of the era that helped define her career included the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and 1983’s Cujo.
Now with a resume that spans four plus decades, with roles in over ninety feature films, Wallace continues to keep herself busy acting and also finding tranquility in helping others as a public speaker, author, and host of a weekly radio show titled Conscious Creation. Recently we sat down with the accomplished actress for an in-depth look at her career in films, her deep respect for Horror cinema, personal philosophy, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in cinema for over four decades and in that time starred in some of the most iconic Horror and Sci-Fi films of the times. Tell us a little bit about what first got you involved in film?
Dee Wallace – I would have to go back to when I was a little girl. I acted a lot when I was little around Kansas City. My dad worked for Dell Comics so I was the Dell Comic Queen and I did a lot of public relations in Kansas City with Disney and people who were actors in the industry like Robert Wagner and people like that. I did a few local commercials, so I guess that would be my first experience in film. I left when I was twenty-seven after I taught a year of High School. I went to New York to claim my fame and fortune and kind of never looked back.
I ended up with this great commercial agency doing hundreds of commercials and then made my way out to Los Angeles. I traded agents with a friend of mine; I got him a meeting for commercials and he got me a meeting with his theatrical agent. They took me and right away I booked a featured part in the Streets of San Francisco and a couple of other small things. That is when I was off and running.
When I started out I wanted to be a dancer and I was a soloist with a couple of Ballet companies in the Mid West, but I was always a pretty big fish in a very small pond. One day my dance teacher from Germany took me aside and said, “Look you will always be good, but you will never be great. If you want to be great, go do something else.” I did, and that is why I turned my sights towards acting, and here I am.
CrypticRock.com – That is a pretty interesting story. So you have always been involved in entertainment in one way or another. You have starred in many iconic genre films such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Cujo (1983), and Critters (1986), to name a few. Do you have an affection for these genres and was it something you wanted to get involved in?
Dee Wallace – Yes and no (laughs). Yes, I do have an affinity for them because I get to really do a lot of acting and I get to play a lot of parts in the really good Horror films. I did not go looking for them, they found me and I just happened to be a really great screamer and crier. I was also able to play the subtleties of a really connected character and the Horror films that I participated in were all really good attributes to have.
I do not know, they just kind of found me. I like working in them. I think that Horror fans are the best fans in the world. I have done a lot of other movies of the week, and a lot of other films that are not in the Horror genre, and actually some of them were in the Comedy genre. I love my Horror fans. I think they are some of the best people in the world.
CrypticRock.com – Many actors and actresses have always said that you should really respect the Horror genre because they have the best fans in the world and that is very true.
Dee Wallace – Absolutely, hands down; they are loyal, their hearts are good, they are giving, and they want to have fun. I really enjoy doing conventions like Rock and Shock. I love meeting the fans, hearing their stories, and interacting with them. I think that you can always tell when a person is truly interested and excited about meeting you and being with you. I think, for me, I can always tell and it makes a big difference.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, many would agree with you 100 percent. You can definitely tell a person’s sincerity and enthusiasm for what they are doing and why they are there. Of the aforementioned films, many would point to E.T. as perhaps the most iconic of them Horror may point to The Howling and Cujo as favorites. Looking back now, what was the experience like at the time working on these films?
Dee Wallace – Extremely intense, especially when you use the kind of technique that I do, which is pretty much literally becoming the character. Going through, in a very real way, what they are going through. Cujo for example, they treated me for exhaustion for three weeks after because it was just relentless because every seen was how much we break down, how do we break down, and when do we break down (laughs). We were just in fight or flight the whole time and I do not think a lot of people understand that your body chemically goes through everything it does as if it were truly happening to you. Your adrenaline is constantly pumping, your heart rate is up, your respiratory system is in overdrive, and it can take a toll if you do not take care of yourself. Intense would be my first thought, and gratifying would be a word that I would connect with doing these films. You have to be very focused and you cannot be afraid of making a fool of yourself (Laughs). You just have to go all out.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable, you talk about Cujo, that film is exhausting with intensity as a viewer. One can imagine what it would be like on the set acting out that role. Viewers can imagine it is very exhausting.
Dee Wallace – It is, and the most exhausting is the waiting. You can ask any actor this, the waiting just gets you down because you have to kind of keep your energy on hold so that you are ready at a moment’s notice to jump in and do what they need you to do. You are like a race horse that they brought to the gate and they will not open the gate; you get exhausted waiting to run. The hours usually too are just relentless.
On the set of Cujo, they picked me up at 5 AM every morning and I was lucky to get home by 8 PM. Every scene was so intense. Sometimes I was just so tired that I could not even eat. I tried to eat a lot at lunch, but then you cannot eat too much at lunch because then your energy drops, so I lost a little bit of weight during Cujo.
CrypticRock.com – That is a long day and it sounds like an intense experience, but something you take with you for the rest of your life.
Dee Wallace – Yes, Cujo is my favorite, and the second hardest film I have ever done was The Frighteners. Part of the reason that it was so hard was that my husband died during it. I had to leave shooting it, come back and do his service, pick my little girl up, and get back to finish shooting. It was really tough.
CrypticRock.com – That has got to be tough when something so personal is going on in your life. Was it extremely difficult to get back into character with that going on in your life?
Dee Wallace – Well, actually having this happen to you , you are so raw, so broken down, and so defenseless that sometimes it is easier as weird as that sounds.
CrypticRock.com – That is interesting. Seeing that your career has spanned forty years, you have seen a lot of changes in Horror genre as well as Hollywood in general. What do you think the main difference between the Horror genre now opposed to the late 1970’s and 1980’s when it seemed to be extremely popular and attaining a lot of mainstream attention?
Dee Wallace – I think there is two many difference. First, we are doing these sag, low budget films that the special effect are shit and a lot of time the acting is mediocre if that. I am not saying that all of them are, but I am saying that it invites that in for sure. The second thing is even the bigger budget films usually are Slasher films, they are not really Horror films. They are more, here are our six characters, let us see how brutally we can murder all of them. There is not a real character development in them. That is what happens when you do not take time to develop a story that you are invested in. Those two things important aspects that you find in all really truly good Horror films. Interestingly, now the better Horror is on television and it is very big on TV right now.
CrypticRock.com – Yes absolutely. You look at the quality of Horror series on TV, you have The Walking Dead and Bates Motel. You have so many series now that have great acting and such great character development. What is really great to see about your career is that you have sustained roles over the years and been in over ninety films, which is extremely impressive. Diversity as a actress and talent obviously y has a lot to do with this, but what do you attribute your longevity to?
Dee Wallace – Thank you very much. I had to make money (laughs jokingly). I was a single mom and had to support my daughter and keep my home alive. I had to work, so if any actor tells you that a lot of their career was not because they had to make a living, they are lying. Balance that out with the fact that we are probably one of the few professions that never want to retire. We want to work, we want to work all the time (laughing). Then there is the other part of that, you have the old joke if you want to hear an actor complain, give them a job.
I love to act and especially love to do parts that let me play art and let me use a lot of my emotional life, and Horror films do that. I am very appreciative and blessed at a lot of these little parts that are thrown to me, as mothers and grandmothers and stuff like that, but really give me something to chew on and really makes me happy.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, do you find it to be a good emotional release from your regular life? Obviously you pour yourself into the characters, but do you find it to be a good healthy release as a human being playing out these emotional parts ?
Dee Wallace – It is a safe place to let it rip, for sure, where you do not want to do it in your personal life. Yes, I think it is a great place to release that. The only thing that you do have to be careful of, and aware of, is that often times when you get into these places, where I have to get into in order to do these roles, is that it can roll over into your personal life if you are not really conscious.
CrypticRock.com – Right, one can imagine that happening, especially if you are really into your work. In recent years you have worked with Rob Zombie in his edition of Halloween (2007) as well as his other projects such as The Lords of Salem (2012). Rob clearly is a student of Classic Horror films and has really given the spotlight back to some the ’70s and ’80s Horror stars such as yourself, Karen Black, and Bill Mosley to name a few. How did you connect with Rob and what has it been like working with him?
Dee Wallace – I love Rob Zombie; I adore him as a person and as a director. I love him as a creative person and, actually, I was just offered the roll in Halloween and fortunately took it. I filmed the first part of it and I was originally supposed to die going down the book case, then they called me about three weeks later and said, “We need you back.” I said, “I had already died.” They then said, “Yes, well Rob wanted to kill you better” (laughs). That was the beginning of what I would like to consider a lovely friendship.
When The Lords of Salem came along, he wrote the part of Sonny for me, of course I went in and did that, and here we are. I just adore Rob, I think he is very honest, he is very real, he is open and available to everyone that works with him. I just really care for the guy and Sheri as well, they are just beautiful people.
CrypticRock.com – That is great, it sounds like a great working environment to work with him. Obviously,Rob Zombie is doing a lot for the Horror genre in general. He is obviously bringing back a lot of those old school elements that Horror fans love. Besides your acting career, you have also authored a few books and have a radio show helping others with issues. We all have hardships in life and how we deal with them really define us as people. What inspired you to go down the path of listening and helping others with their issues?
Dee Wallace – You bet, it defines your whole life. How you deal with everything and how you see the world, how you see the perspective of what your looking at and how you see them looking back at you, that is a big part that most people miss. For instance, if I am going into an audition, I have to see them looking at me thinking, “Ohh my god, I think she is so right for this.” I can feel like I am right for it, but I also have to hold a perspective that they can see it too and a lot of people miss that part about the creation process.
CrypticRock.com – Perhaps the most important reflection is self-reflection, you have to believe in yourself before you believe in anything else. Is that a philosophy you hold ?
Dee Wallace – Absolutely, the core of all my work is self-love and the biggest way to really practice self-love and celebrate your own worth is to be hard love with yourself and see where you are in your own way, because the rest of us want to blame everyone else. When we blame everyone else we cannot move on, we cannot love ourselves, ultimately because we are not taking responsibility for cleaning up our own energies. It is just amazing to watch when you get yourself in harmony with what you want and really commit to it, the universe usually delivers.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is very agreeable. When you realize what you want out of life you are capable of anything. When you are more focused things are attainable that way.
Dee Wallace – That is how I created both of the shows I am recurring in. I decided in January that I wanted to come back in and recur in some shows, but I realized that I had a lot of judgment towards television. I had to really get myself in harmony with it, and as soon as I did, the offers started coming in. It is unbelievable to watch and it is exciting to know that you have that much say over the creation of your life.
CrypticRock.com – It is very exciting. It would be wonderful if more of us came to that light. Hopefully more people do as they see things through life. It is hard, a lot of people have a hard time with that, but it is a great thing when you do see it. You do currently have some new projects in production and others completed ready to be released. Tell us a little about the projects you are currently working on?
Dee Wallace – I am recurring on The Whispers, which is a Stephen Spielberg ABC mid-season replacement. I have a wonderful film coming out called Zombie Killers, it is the first installment of it and is a dynamite, really good film. I just finished a short called Flowers for December which I am beyond excited about; it has been submitted to Sundance right now. It is just really a strong piece. I am doing a film called False Memory Syndrome. My healing work is all over the place, I do sessions every day from my home via phone and in person. I am going to Beijing and New York to speak. I have developed a toy that I am rolling out at the New York Toy Fair. I have my little toes in a lot of stuff and all of it is stuff that I am passionate about.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. It is exciting that you have so much going on. You are keeping yourself very busy there. It good to be busy sometimes because when you do not have anything to do then you don’t know what to do with yourself.
Dee Wallace – I am trying, sometimes it gets too busy. I do believe that there is a consistent balance that needs to be maintained.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, absolutely. You do have to have a balance. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. What are some of your favorite Horror films?
Dee Wallace – Don’t Look Now (1973), which is a classic with Donald Sutherland and Julia Kristy. I love The Exorcist (1973), it is probably my favorite. Those two, off the top of my head, would be really high on the list.
CrypticRock.com – Those are two good films.Everyone has a story about The Exorcist, it frightened everyone at some point in their life. It is very striking between the music and the atmosphere. What is interesting about that movie is the eerie feeling that it is so slow moving.
Dee Wallace – Yes, I would agree. In our belief system that we currently have, it could really happen, and the special effects and the direction were just stunning. I also like the old classics like Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). I do like those old, what we might call corny now, classic iconic movies. You cannot compare movies made then to today’s standards though, it is simply not fair to.