Interview – Lili Taylor

Beginning her journey into film back in the 1980s, Midwest born and raised Actress Lili Taylor has built an impressive resume along the way. Starring in dozens of films through the years, including 1988’s Mystic Pizza, 1989’s Say Anything…, 1996’s Ransom, 1999’s The Haunting, and 2013’s The Conjuring, Taylor is a successful film star with longevity. Never shying away from any particular genre or platform along the way, Taylor continues to excel in each part she takes on with a passion and believability all her own. Recently, taking on the role as Verna Sawyer in 2017’s Leatherface, Taylor challenges herself once again to, thrusting audiences into the thick of the plot. Recently we caught up with the award-winning actress to talk her diverse career, lessons learned along the way, the work behind Leatherface, her love for Horror cinema, and much more. – You have been involved in the world of cinema for over 3 decades now, and, in that time, have starred in a list of successful films and television series. First, briefly tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in acting?   

Lili Taylor – I wanted to be an actor from when I was really little. I have to say the inspiration felt like something I really didn’t understand, it just was. That is just the way it was when I got here on this planet. There just has never been a question. I would say something bigger. 

The Samuel Goldwyn Company
20th Century Fox – Sometimes passions choose you, you do not choose them. You have been nominated and won a list of awards for your work. That said, you have certainly done a diverse mix of genres. What are some of the most important things you have learned from your vast experiences?  

Lili Taylor – That there are no rules. Just because it is a genre doesn’t mean you can’t push against that and get complicated. That is kind of exciting. Just working among the platforms of TV, film ,you learn to be open. We are finding there is no difference between TV and film. That happened because people say, “Let me give TV chance,” “Let me give Horror a chance,” and so on. – It is good to be open-minded working in different areas. Speaking of genres, an area which you have worked often in is Horror, and recently to star in the new Leatherface film. You assume the role of Verna Sawyer, a mother and very interesting, manipulative character. What was your preparation for this role?

Lili Taylor – Just talking to the directors and working with them on their ideas. I really focused on the mother thing, that fierce mama instinct, and kind of not thinking about the other stuff –  the killing and all that other stuff. I just sort of focused on her love for her kids, because that is what was making her the most human for me. 

Leatherface (2017) still – Yes, you certainly offer a very powerful and convincing performance. Was that a challenge to portray a loving mother but in the same breath, also one who taught her children how to kill?

Lili Taylor – Exactly. That is the thing, sometimes characters have a denial or a compartimentation. That makes my job easier when they have a built in denial, because I can then work with their denial and not hold these two things together or try to. They are just not meant to be held together, because if they were held together, the person would probably have a psychotic split and they wouldn’t be functioning. That is kind of how I get through it as an actor. – That is interesting. With Leatherface there is a diverse mix of veteran actor/actresses and younger up-and-coming talent. What was it like working with this group of people?

Lili Taylor – The young ones were terrific. Sometimes you just get lucky and you get a really good group. I have to say though, now that I am older and working with children, most of them have been terrific. Across the board, they have had a great work ethic, very open, very curious, hard working, and a lot of care. The group from Leatherface just had it in spades. They are mostly from England, the English actor is a different kind of actor. They just get down to work. They are workers, very matter of fact, and very open. These kids were just great across the board. – The cast did a very good job for sure. Well, this new film certainly offers something new to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. For those who have yet to the see the film, what would you tell them this latest installment in the series has to offer?  

Lili Taylor – I would say you would appreciate the artistry and respect the filmmakers have for the original. They are doing their own thing, they are artists and authentic, but the original was kept in mind throughout the filming. It has that spirit of the original. 

Lionsgate – That is very true. As mentioned, you have really excelled at taking on a diverse mix of roles over the years. You have worked in Comedy, Drama, and Horror. Seeing how you deliver passionate performances, do you enjoy working within the Horror and Suspense genres?  

Lili Taylor – I do. So far my experiences have been good, particularly the last two. James Wan was fantastic, I found him to be a very interesting director. It usually involved physical stuff and I love that. I love special effects and working with those guys, I find them very creative. You are really doing a lot with very little and making it work. Using fishing line to close a door, double stick tape to make something stick. Then things not working and having to be creative to make it work, I love that. I love the psychology element of it, imagining how people are feeling and working on building scary things. I love working with psychology. – That is great to hear how passionate you are about it. Sustaining a career in anything for 3 decades is a tremendous accomplishment. That said, many actresses and actors do get typecasted, but you have stayed away from being pigeonholed. How do you accomplish steering away from typecasting?

Lili Taylor – It is hard to say. I could have been typecasted, it can happen to the best of us. Staying in New York has probably helped a little bit because I have been able to do a lot of different things. Sometimes the business can get very oppressive out in LA and it can be a head-spinner when you are trying to make decisions. Here, there has been a freedom to maybe not worry so much about the business and how much it is going to gross or how it is going to do, but just do it because I want to do it. I think that has helped me. 

DreamWorks Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures – Yes, it certainly seems to have. Being able to do what you want makes things so much easier and stay true to yourself. My last question for you is what are some of your favorite Horror/Sci-Fi related films?

Lili Taylor – I don’t know Sci-Fi that well, that is just because I just haven’t passed that threshold. I know how great it is though and I am sure I will. Right now, there are scary movies I love to watch all the time like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973). I love Alfred Hitchcock, I recently watched Rear Window (1954) and North by Northwest (1959). I love when something is done well. I just love Hitchcock and those two are some of my all-time favorites. – Alfred Hitchcock is a legend of Suspense filmmaking. Did you happen to see the A&E Bates Motel series?

Lili Taylor – I didn’t see much of it. I have to say there is a new Documentary out called 78/52 which breaks down the shots Hitchcock used in Psycho. I am fancistated with how he works with our psychology visually. 

Warner Bros.

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