When it comes to making a good movie, be it in the horror genre or elsewhere, character development is everything. Not since Peter Sellers has anyone in Hollywood been more in tune with this truth than the instantly recognizable acting legend, Lin Shaye. It is not unusual for fans to see her pop into a film and instantly get more involved in the movie as a result, often shouting, "Oh, it's her!" with joy.

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Lin Shaye took the time to call Blasting News writer Samuel Di Gangi to talk about her stunning career, what makes a strong film, and her new film, Room For Rent.

A look at some classic movies

Samuel Di Gangi: You have been in some of the most well-loved and classic Movies of all time, such as A Nightmare On Elm Street, Something About Mary, and even Dumb and Dumber. What is it like being in more than one film that virtually everyone knows?

Lin Shaye: (laughing) Exciting, that's the bottom line.

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As an actor in general, you do a job and hope that people receive it well. I worry about doing the best I can at the moment, telling a story, and if I've created a character that resonates, it is a win/win for me. I get excited to know that things which I've created get received a certain way.

Whilst preparing for this interview, two things stuck out: The true scope of your work and the fact that many people know you as soon as they see you, even if they don't know your name. Is being that instantly recognizable something that you enjoy?

The fanbase is pretty diverse and my early stuff was comedy.

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People recognize me from Detroit Rock City, Something About Mary, or even Kingpin, believe it or not, and I love it. I have some anonymity and it isn't constant, that would be hard. People see me a lot though, better to be a 'see'er than a look after'er' - I get recognized at Ralph's Supermarket here and people show their appreciation in different ways. Some come over, some don't, some ask to take a picture and I appreciate that.

I never mind. I've never had a bad experience and I am a public image so I don't get mad at the public for recognizing me. I am grateful for it.

While you have done a plethora of projects that are not in the horror genre, you are considered a “Scream Queen.” That puts you in a category of greats like Fay Wray. Do you like that title?

Anything that anyone wants to call me is pretty special, as long as they are not rude, of course.

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Anything said in the framework of the way that people live their life, it's great. As an actor, I have a large scope and I never got into this for anything but acting. I like to reach people with my characters and occasionally there are a few haters out there, but usually, they have lovely titles for what I do. If that title makes people comfortable with what I have done, putting things into categories is human nature, so I appreciate anything said about me.

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One of the most under-rated films ever has to be “Dead End.” While you were nominated for awards due to that movie, what are your thoughts on that film and are there others that you feel personally often get overlooked due to some of the huge movies that you have done?

That is a really nice question. You hope that everything is a success that you do. I remember Cameron Diaz while making Something About Mary asked me at one point, "Is this funny? Is anyone going to like this." I said, "I hope so. I think so," but you never know.

For Dead End, I auditioned for the part. Two French guys wrote and directed it and they spoke excellent English, but they re-worked it to make sure that the English was correct. They had another actress picked out for the role - I won't say who - and she declined, so they started looking again. I don't know how they got my name but I remember going in to read, and when I heard that Ray Wise was doing it, I was even more excited. It was done in Franklin County - across from Tree People - and it took 3 weeks to shoot. It was all overnight shooting, I'd pull in at 4 pm, leave at 6 am, and I had a great time. There were only five of us, we were a car during most of the filming. You always do your best and you never know what happens and I worked as hard on Dead End as any other film. I am happy that it is becoming a cult classic now.

'Room For Rent'

Room For Rent is setting the genre on fire, in large part due to how very human and relatable you made Joyce. Did you have a lot of say in how that developed?

Oh, I am so excited about this little film. It is going to Cannes, to be sold there. Director Tommy Stovall found me the first time in a movie called Hate Crime, about two gay men and it was done before that topic was done a lot. Tommy is a researcher and finds things online, very computer savvy. I think that he found Room For Rent online. He asked me to be in it and said that it sounded like someone in Hate Crime. He did that film then returned with his partner.

Then for Sedona, he found me again, and it was filmed in Sedona. They have their own community there, it is where people go who want to be left alone. I had a character, Claire da lune --like the song-- in that movie. She is a lady trapped in a girl's body who thinks that it is her birthday every day. That was Tommy's film, too, and I really love him, he is a real stinker. Again, we did that movie, he went home, and I didn't see him.

Then he sent me Room For Rent and I wasn't interested, I passed. It was just "psycho killer" and I declined it. A couple of years late he asked me to re-read it and I was like, 'What did I not like about this?'

Well, you could tell from the beginning how it was going to end. I said, "What if her husband had kept her locked away and when he died, she was totally lost?" We built a character who was a lonely woman suddenly left with no skills, no idea how to deal with people, now forced into a situation, to survive.

I got excited about Joyce at that point, so did he, and I was very instrumental in her creation. We changed her together and it was things that Tommy and I came up with. There is a moment when she kisses the kid on the mouth and that made me want to do the film when I read it. I was like, "Wow!, there is something there." That, to me, is one of the most powerful scenes in the film. Tommy said, 'We can cut it' and I said, "No, when he hits her, she hits him back." It is where she breaks. I got co-producer credit, which is new to me, I never aimed to be a producer.

I helped with dialog, script changes, ideas, and Tommy again, is a great partner to work with, a great listener. That is rare in our business, but he listens, responds, and is so present. A very talented person.

That people are seeing into the loneliness and not just seeing about "this killer" is good. I like to tell the story through the character that I create. There are a lot of women like Joyce right now who don't know how to handle life if a man took it over or they were very close.

It can be imagined that there was a lot of silliness behind the scenes as it was shot. Tell us about that, please.

There really wasn't. Everyone was, with such a small case and under a time frame, talking about the evolution of her development as a woman. What does her femininity mean and what it all means to her? It is based on romance novels, which is an element that I added. This movie is like reading a novel, a page turner, and each scene builds to her development.

We mentioned Dead End earlier, and Room For Rent has that same classic horror movie feel to it. Is that a feeling that you aim to capture in movies?

I never think about the end product. I hope that is part of the reason it works, there is a framework about building a character, but I never think of the end at the start. I never thought about what genre it was since it isn't just a "bad person killing people" movie. The poster that Tommy made was darker, but Uncork changed it, made it brighter, and put a knife in her hand. That is fine but Joyce at no point in the film uses a knife. Still, that didn't misrepresent the film since it represents her psychologically. They don't use the more dramatic parts in the trailer, which is fine.

Joyce goes through a few things that seem to cause her to snap. Then again, maybe she was always a bit unstable. Developing this role, do you feel that she went mad or was always sort of mad?

I don't think that she's crazy in the way that most people are. You can't play crazy. Well, you can but it doesn't work. You can play deterioration, now that is interesting. Joyce is a lonely woman with no idea how to handle reality and it drives her crazy. Her actions are unstable, surprising, irreverent, and unpredictable from a fragile psyche. Character development is the driving force that makes those actions happen.

The loneliness of your character really is felt in this film. Have you known people who you based this nuance on?

I didn't know anyone personally. There was a woman who lived next door to me in an apartment, I know that her husband died and, she wasn't really a hoarder - but her name was Faye and she talked to her cat. I would hear it. That was close to Joyce, very quiet. Otherwise, I built her on instinct, the idea of romance novels being where she retreated to experience love. I made it up, we all hide in books, at least those who still read.

Is there anything that you have never been asked that you think, “You know, I can't believe that someone hasn't asked that before.” If you could say anything to anyone in closing, what would it be?

What a nice question. People have asked me everything. Anything is fine, there are no embarrassing questions unless someone is being mean, and interviewers are always graceful to me. I am so grateful, I love life, I have such a wonderful life, and I am happy for everything that's happened in my life. Good health is everything. I always say, "Everything is great until you get something in your eye. Then, that is all that you can think about, my eye, my eye."

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. The world is different today and we have lost the details. Everything is "OMG" abbreviated and as an actor, I am detail oriented. But, no, there is no question that I would not answer.

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