Interview: Danielle Harris Talks "Stake Land" And The Life Of An Iconic Scream Queen

Interview: Danielle Harris Talks "Stake Land" And The Life Of An Iconic Scream Queen

As an actress, is it ever exciting to play the helpless victim? Those roles always seem to be so thankless.

Danielle Harris: There’s only so much you can do, you know? It’s like, “OK, so how am I gonna die in this one? Oh, I get a chainsaw through my stomach—that could be kind of fun.” Or, I get my throat slit. There are definitely things like that that are kind of cool. I’ll do a horror convention and people come up to me and say, “I’ve always wanted to do a horror movie so I can die in one—it’d be so cool to die!”

To me, it’s just kind of another day at the office. I’d rather not die in a movie, to be honest; it’s kind of my thing. Before Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2, the director, Rob Hall, who's a buddy of mine, called me and asked, “What do you want to do?” And I just said, “I just don’t want to die.” Hatchet III has been green-lit; actually while we’ve been talking, Adam Green [writer and director of the Hatchet movies] just left me a message. I don’t know what he wants to talk about, but the other day I said to him, “Just promise one thing: You won’t kill me in the first act.” And he promised me that I won’t die in the first act. [Laughs.]

But if I do die, like in Stake Land, I… Oh shit, I should have said “spoiler alert,” right? [Laughs.]

Probably, but it’s too late now, my friend.

Danielle Harris: Damn. Oh well—I just won’t say exactly how I die. Problem solved. But, as I was saying.... [Laughs.] I die in Stake Land, but that moment is so much more about the other character in the scene; it’s our goodbye, and it’s him becoming a man.

Belle was never supposed to die in the movie; that was brought up at the last minute, and it just seemed appropriate. So we sort of played with it as we were filming, to see if he wanted to kiss me or touch my face. It’s a pretty beautiful moment. So, yeah, back to your original question—yeah, it gets old sometimes, but you can always find original things to do with it.

Good point. Your final moments in Stake Land don’t involve you running from the killer, tripping and falling and wearing next to nothing.

Danielle Harris: Yeah, and thank God for that.

Do you actively seek out all of these horror projects?

Danielle Harris: Sometimes. It’s more about...I don’t know if I “seek out” horror films, but it’s a really small little world that we horror people live in, and I kind of know everybody in the genre. They’re all my friends; I call them “my boys,” because I keep working with the same people over and over and over again. They kind of find me, you know? But it’s fun to go to work and know exactly who you’re working with. It’s more about who’s working on what.

danielle-harris-halloween-4Would you attribute your long-standing position in the horror community to having started in the genre at such a young age in the earlier Halloween sequels?

Danielle Harris: Well, obviously, back when I was a little kid, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. [Laughs.] I had no idea that 24 years later we’d still be talking about Halloween 4; it’s crazy to me, but it’s also amazing. Who knew that my career was going to be like this? I always say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.” And I think that I’ve just embraced it.

I’ve done a bunch of other stuff, too. After Halloween 5 [in 1989], I didn’t do another horror movie until, like, thirteen years later with Urban Legend; that was kind of my comeback into the genre. And then I didn’t do another one until the Halloween remake with Rob Zombie [in 2007]. People say, “You’ve always been in the horror genre,” but it’s like, “Well, actually, I’ve only been in the horror genre in 1988, 1989, and then in ’07.” Other than that, I wasn’t always involved in it.

But I am for the most part now, and I kind of like that I’m the girl in the pack. There’s a bunch of men, and then there’s me. Every movie that I do, it’s the same guys, and they’re these big, huge, should-be-scary dudes but in reality they’re these big puppy dogs. [Laughs.] I’m a lucky girl.

danielle-harris-sexyAdmittedly, as a male horror fan, it’s always a great look to see your name in a movie’s credits. Horror fans sort of have this sense of ownership over their stars, but in the most appreciative ways possible. So much so, in fact, that we recently placed you very high atop our list of the "50 Hottest Scream Queens of All Time," a title you’ve really earned.

Danielle Harris: [Laughs.] That’s so funny, and I love that! I really do appreciate that. It’s just a trip, because I think of myself as an actress who just happens to do a lot of movies in the genre. But this shit is hard! I look at other actresses who are making tons of money and are super-famous, and I don’t know what I’d do if I was making a romantic comedy; I wouldn’t feel like I was earning my $100 a day. [Laughs.] I wouldn’t feel like I was earning my keep, because it’s so grueling emotionally and physically to do these horror movies.

Adam Green and I were talking the other day. I said to him, “You know, I get asked all of the time, ‘How do you handle the title of ‘scream queen?’ What makes you a good scream queen?’ And I don’t know where that comes from; I didn’t give myself that title.” He said, “Even when you were a kid in the older Halloween movies, you were really good. And you want to be there, and you love it, and you show up and give it 100% no matter what it is, and people see that.” And I followed that up with, “Do you think it’s because the fans kind of grew up watching me? I don’t have to earn that relationship from you, because you already have something invested in me?”

For me, that’s where I think a lot of that comes from. You guys have all kind of grown up, and most of my hardcore fans seem to be around my age. They grew up watching me, and it’s sort of like a brother/sister thing, or friends, even though I’m on the screen; there’s not that separation. My fans are my family. I do tons of conventions and hang out with people; I’m pretty easily accessible.

danielle-harris-conventionThat’s one of the great things about the horror genre: The key players in it actually acknowledge the fans on a personal level and interact with them. You see it at all of the various conventions. People who’ve seen all of these movies and own the DVDs feel like they’re not inferior to the actors and the filmmakers, and that’s pretty uncommon.

Danielle Harris: Yeah, it’s true. You don’t see conventions for, like, Terms Of Endearment.

Probably because that’d be one of the most boring conventions imaginable.

Danielle Harris: [Laughs.] Listen, I love that movie! But you don’t see me signing up for it.

Tags: danielle-harris, stake-land, horror, scream-queen, halloween, rob-zombie
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