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Lin Shaye Interview

Interview conducted by Joel Harley

Lin Shaye is a veteran actor of film, television and theatre, most widely known for her role as Medium Elise Rainier in theInsidious movies, where she proved so popular that the franchise has kept on bringing her back... in spite of having definitively killed her off in the first one. Elise returns inInsidious: The Last Key,in which she battles demons from her own traumatic childhood. Elise herself, Lin Shaye, was gracious enough to sit down for a chat with us. Obviously theInsidious series was high on the agenda, but first, there was something I wanted to get off my chest...

JOEL HARLEY:Thank you for speaking with us! I’ve been a big fan since 2001 Maniacs.

LIN SHAYE:Oh we were just talking about that! Because Adam Robitel, who directed Insidious: The Last Key was an actor in 2001 Maniacs. He played a confederate soldier who has an unsavoury relationship with a sheep. I think he had one line. He’s come a long way, baby!

JH: He has! Insidious, it’s a very different kind of franchise. How have you seen the genre change in recent years?

LS: I think good storytelling is good storytelling. There have been wonderful stories told. Some of my favourite horror films are the old Hitchcock films like Psycho and The Birds. I think The Shining is my all-time favourite. Insidious is a fascinating story in general, and exploring the world of demons and that kind of fear – they’re not new topics but Insidious has tapped into something that people want to see right now. It is the world of the unknown, not really science fiction, kind of religion… religions that thrive on fear of the unknown, and threat. I think this franchise has tapped into the collective consciousness of what people are looking for right now in entertainment.

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JH: I think so. I also feel that Insidious is very optimistic and driven by humanity. Do you think there’s a rising need for horror to comfort us these days?

LS: We all need comfort! I think you’re right, James Wan approaches things from this human level; a family. The first Insidious, I think that’s why it became so popular, with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne’s family, we were drawn into their world before anything scary even happened. You were already comfortable, with them and their life, and their problems. I hope the genre will continue to explore human emotion rather than just… I’m not a big Blockbuster fan particularly, even the superhero films, as grand and wonderful as they are, they’re not really what I’m interested in as an actor, or a human being. I like to figure out how is that tree growing outside my window? I go to the grass roots.

JH: This your fourth outing as Elise. What drives you to keep returning to the character?

LS: Partly because they’re writing her! I’m thrilled, Leigh Whannell has been so supportive of me as an actor and friend, and storyteller. I’m drawn to good material that explores more than flashy ideas, that has substance and structure to it. I’m drawn to the character by the way she is written, investigating where she came out of and how she managed to leave the horror of her own beginnings, and still become an upright, giving person. Not to sound self-righteous, because I don’t think she is self-righteous, I think she’s got a personality and a bite to her. She doesn’t put up with any nonsense.

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JH: And why do you think audiences have responded the way they do to Elise?

LS: She’s proved very popular. I think it is because of her humanity and her accessibility. She doesn’t have any walls. You can think of her as a ghost-like human. She will melt into whatever experiences are around her and evaluate it, and decide how she has to respond to it. I think in real life we’re not allowed to do that very much. We have to walls up all over the place; against us, and that we put up on our own. Elise exudes this penetration of that, she doesn’t live like that. She’s both a see-r and a receiver.

JH: It’s unusual isn’t it, to see a horror franchise built on a heroic character, rather than its villain?

LS: And not just that but an older woman as well! I don’t think about age or even gender so much but I think that’s part of Elise’s appeal, she kind of crosses over all that stuff. She’s not a very sexual individual but there’s a sensuality to her because she experiences life through her senses. She could be any age. Her wisdom doesn’t have to do with her experiences as much as her sensibility and the open door of her mind.

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JH: So when you and Leigh were working on the first film, did you expect her to have such longevity?

LS: No, I did not. I think Elise was a supporting role, her function in the first film was to explain The Further. In the world that these movies – or that movie - was going to take place in, we didn’t know at the time that there were going to be any more. When I think about James Wan, I’ve never asked him, if he had in his mind a franchise. He got his favourite actors, told me right off the bat, that Patrick Wilson and Rose were his two first choices, that he was hoping they were going to accept the roles – and they did. When we read it, we thought it was going to be a standalone film. Or at least I did, I had no idea that Elise would go any further. You should pardon the expression… but she went a lot further. She went into The Further!

JH: For the first time, we’re learning about Elise’s past. How did that align with your own preconceptions of the character?

LS:Not at all! I originally saw Elise as no family, probably a mother and father who were kind of disinterested in her, where she was an only child, she spent a lot of time alone, and maybe that was how she remained open, and these elements of her ability started to evolve. Leigh, with what he created, made a far more powerful person than what I would have thought of, because she emerged from that horror of her own childhood, of child abuse, and watching her mother expire in front of her in such a horrible fashion; basically watching her mother get murdered. Who comes out of that? How do you even begin to cope with that? And instead of her becoming an embittered, angry, vindictive person which I probably would have. She was able to find it within herself to forgive on some level, and, even if she didn’t forgive, she was able to grow out of it and incorporate it into her fierceness. It’s covert, when you meet Elise, you wouldn’t think that about her, but she’s got this fierceness inside of her. What she took from all this pain of her childhood, and turned it into something positive instead of something negative. What he created for me made her a far more powerful character.

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JH: In this age of shared universes, is there any other franchise you could see Elise battling? How do you think she’d deal with Freddy Krueger for example?

LS: Very interestingly! Actually, Robert Englund is a good friend of mine. My brother Bob Shaye created The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, so who knows what lies ahead. Maybe we could mingle universes. I think I could tame Freddy.

JH:Lin Shaye, thank you very much!

Insidious: The Last Key is released on UK DVD & Blu-ray on 21st May 2018

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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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