The 74-year-old star of the "Insidious" films tells TooFab she's still "puzzled" why fans connect with her character.
On paper, "Insidious" might just be one of the most unlikely horror franchises out there.
The series lacks a central madman like a Jason, Ghostface or Freddy, relies heavily on trippy topics like astral projection and -- instead of filling the screen with horny, young teenagers -- centers around a woman in her 70s saving the day. And yet, despite all of this, the franchise continues to be one of the most profitable out there.
Thanks to Blumhouse's micro-budget model, all three films released so far have grossed over $371 million total at the box office, even more impressive when you realize they were all made for between $1.5-11 million.
With the fourth film in the franchise, "Insidious: The Last Key," looking to continue its winning streak this month, TooFab picked star Lin Shaye's brain on what makes the series work and where it could go from here. The actress also reflected on working with the Farrelly Brothers on both "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary," another pairing of films she said "really did change my life."
At what point did you realize there was franchise potential here with "Insidious"?
I don't think I ever did, to be honest, I really didn't. We did the first movie, we hoped people liked it, it was a 3-week shoot, tight budget, I almost got Jason Blum arrested because I thought he was stalking our trailers. Really, I didn't even know who he was. It sold right away in Toronto, there was a big audience response. What's really interesting about all that, there were articles written too about Nightmare on Elm Street, where there's kind of a collision of molecules at a certain time where people need something that is being unearthed in them through entertainment.
Lo an behold, it was well received and Sony bought it and there was talk of a second one and [Director James Wan] was like, the fact that I die in the first one -- which, by the way, I saw that again, that is a violent death. I forgot how violent that was. I was bruised! It wasn't Patrick's fault, I was struggling too much -- Anyway, we realized we were gong to do another one and James said, 'We're gonna have to put you in the Further and I said, that's fine, whatever. I'll go anywhere you want me to go, as long as I go.'
So we did the second one and I'm still puzzled about Elyse in a way because I don't really know, what is it that's resonating that they like her? The badass thing that I stand up for what's right? But we got superhero movies all over the place that got that too! But maybe there's something about this woman who is kind of everyman. She's just a regular woman who has an ability and who stands up for what she believes. The fact that I'm an older woman, I'm no beauty, I know the truth and it's fine. I like myself, I'm not down on myself, but I'm not Rose Byrne OK? Who, no matter what angle you turn her, is gorgeous, dammit! But it's very encouraging to know that both young men and women, they are appreciative about something about her.
And then when we got to the third one, they wanted to make it more about my story and I loved that. I really love the third one, the idea that I've had something bad happen and I shut down, and it's a young girl who I want to help who brings me forward again. And then in this latest installment, where Leigh has exquisitely drawn my past with my family, I think even makes her more powerful. Powerful meaning she is able to come through that and face her demons and her fear and her guilt about her family, and still emerge as the person she emerges as, which is a You person instead of a Me person, there to be a real asset and assist to your life, it's something we kinda need today.
We love that this is a horror franchise led by someone who is in their 70s, because the horror genre tends to revolve around young teenagers.
I feel somewhat genderless and ageless as this character. I don't think any of that matters. It's not about how old she is, it's not about being a man or a woman, it's about being a good human being that's out to grow out of the shit she's been dealt as a child and still grow into a giving, helpful human being who can reach out and feel good about it. I don't dwell on any of that either, that I'm a woman, I'm however old I am, it's something else that's the appeal and I really love that. I love her myself.
This one does bring everything full circle with the first film. Do you think this is the end of the franchise, or where do you think it could go from here?
I don't necessarily think it is the end of our franchise. I think there's lots more stories to tell in this dimension. If Elyse is in The Further from now on, that could be the case too. Who knows what's in The Further? We've only touched on The Further, we only know there's some red doors in there!
There could be a whole aspect of that, or just new characters. There are some wonderful characters in this one, my nieces and my brother, there's possibilities. Even characters from other films could be brought back in, so who knows. As long as Leigh Whannell is writing.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of "There's Something About Mary." How much love do you still get from that movie and are you shocked at some of the stuff you guys got away with in that film?
"Kingpin" we even got away with more, believe it or not. "Kingpin" is one of my favorite things I've ever done and it also has a great story. I had done a little tiny part in "Dumb and Dumber." My brother, Bob Shaye, New Line Cinema is his company, he told Farrelly Brothers, 'Put my sister in your movie.' He said that to Wes Craven too. So I have Bob to thank for a lot of things.
I saw they were doing this movie "Kingpin" and I called their office -- I've always been very proactive -- I call the office and I think it was Pete's assistant, he said, 'I remember you from 'Dumb and Dumber,' I'll send you the script.' The character, Mrs. Dumars, is described as the angriest, ugliest woman God ever let loose on the planet. How can you not want to play that role?
I started calling and saying I would love to audition for this and everybody was shutting me down, everybody. I sent a note to Pete, I never heard back. I called the office again and I started working on the part anyway. I bought that outfit at Aardvark's, the vintage clothing store and I put oil in my hair and egg on my face and eyelashes coming out of my nostrils. I ran my brow together and gave myself yellow teeth in my bedroom. I am divorced but he almost divorced me then. For about 5 weeks, I was obsessed with getting this audition and I found out they were starting principal photography and I couldn't get an audition.
So I picked up the phone and [Producer Steve Stabler] answered the phone. He said, 'Oh Lin, we love your work but we really don't think you're right for this part' and I said, 'I know. But I've been working on this and I have a whole presentation that I put together.' So he said, 'OK, come on in Thursday.' So I dressed up totally as Mrs. Dumars, I get in my car -- this is a great story -- I drive to Santa Monica and I was so excited. I remember, I looked in the rear view mirror and thought, am I really doing this? Egg on my face, eyelashes coming out of my nostrils, I'm wearing my little outfit, cigarette in hand. I get out of my car in the parking lot. The parking lot attendant, I swear to you, threw himself against a wall.
I sat down on the floor and [casting director] Rick Montgomery walked by me. Finally he went, 'Lin? Oh my god, I thought you were one of the homeless off the street!' So I go in, they're all there. Pete is there, Bobby, they're kind of gobsmacked and I just remember I went, 'It's almost a pleasure' and I went over with my cigarette and shook hands with them. I was committed to this character and I read the material and I was so exhausted because I tried so hard. I remember I walked out, I washed my face in the bathroom, I drove home and I thought at least I did it. The next day, I called to thank Steve and he said, 'We couldn't even speak for 20 minutes we were laughing so hard. I'm not supposed to tell you, but you got the part.'
They made me audition for 'Mary,' after all that. Pete is a slave driver. He's a tough guy on set too, he knows exactly what he wants. I remember I got the job and the rest is kind of history. I love those characters, they really did change my life. And this, now this Insidious franchise has totally changed my life.
"Insidious: The Last Key" hits theaters January 5, 2018.