Linnea Quigley is a prolific actress with over a hundred credited film and television appearances including the likes of Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons, Graduation Day, Savage Streets, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, and Silent Night, Deadly Night. Ms. Quigley, who was kind enough to sit down for an interview with Sound on Sight, is currently working on several projects at the moment and will appear at screenings of both Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead in the Chicagoland area at the end of August.
Acting is a dream job for many people in the world and it is an extremely competitive field. When and how were you able to break into the business?
Well I didn’t think that I had any chance, because I came from Iowa and I was very very very very very shy and it wasn’t until I moved to LA when I was 16 that I got the acting bug, because everyone was an actor or actress in LA and it seemed so exciting and it wasn’t as mundane as Iowa was. It sounded so glamorous so I started taking acting classes and I started getting little extra roles in films. Then I get a little more and then I’d get recommended you know with “Oh she shows up on time and she is very professional”. Then I got a part in my first film really, which was Fairy Tales. It was a musical fairy tale kind of movie and I had about four lines in it, but I remember writing in my diary “I’m a star” and I thought was really going places.
What was your first horror film that you worked on, because you’re known for being a bit of a “scream queen” and when did you realize those were the kind of films you wanted to stick with?
I think when I did, there were two films I did very close to each other. Don’t Go Near the Park, which was a very awful horror film that is on Elvira’s worst films list. I did that and that was an okay experience. Then I did Graduation Day and that was an amazing experience and that’s when I thought, “I really wanna do this, because I’m really a fan of horror and watching all that stuff” and thought, “maybe I have a chance”. Everyone said “she acts afraid so well, she screams, and she shows up and does a good job” and I got in that groove, because they were making a lot of horror films back then.
You’ve done a lot things in roles that would make many actors feel uncomfortable, but you make it look easy. How did you become more at ease with some of your more sexual and violent roles?
With the naked stuff, I came from a family where my dad was a doctor, so it wasn’t like the body was something to hide or anything, but being shy, I would just treat it by tuning everyone out and doing what I need to and just think of my lines and try not to make it a big deal, because the more you try to hide it the more people are going to look. With the extreme violence, it’s so different than it is in the movie, because it’s ridiculously fake looking (on set) and the only really violent one I did that didn’t have some comedy in it was Silent Night, Deadly Night. With that one I laughed at the film while I was doing it cause it seemed silly with the Santa Claus killer and going through antlers and stuff.
The Return of the Living Dead is considered to be a classic amongst horror buffs. How did you initially become involved with the project?
Well I got involved when Stanzi Stokes, who was the casting director of Silent Night, Deadly Night, recommended me and I guess they were ready to shoot before and they had somebody else who was going to play my part, but she got pregnant in the interim, because I think there was a five month period when they didn’t have the money yet. So they recast it and I came in and read for her [Stokes] and then I read for the directors and did the scene with the famous line, “Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying?” and they loved it and I so shocked and happy. I really loved the movie and loved the idea of punk rock and being a tough chick, which was so fun.
Had you seen Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead prior to Return?
Oh yeah, when I was kid I used to watch Night of the Living Dead and my friend would constantly be saying, “I’m coming to get you Barbra”, because my middle name is Barbra. We’d do that all the time.
Dan O’Bannon directed the film, and it was his debut directing features after working as a screenwriter for years. What was it like working with him and were their any interesting bits of direction that he gave you?
Most of the people that worked with him had a hard time. I didn’t because I didn’t give him any flack and I just listened to what he said. He was very blunt and probably not actor friendly, I’d say. Some actors need their egos kind of petted and stuff like that. I learned from him to trust a little bit more in someone else’s vision, especially when they’re that focused on it, because he made a great movie.
The film is really fun. Now your wardrobe was pretty limited for much of your time in the film and it took place mostly outdoors, at night, and in the rain. What was the experience of shooting that like? And what are your memories of the shoot as a whole?
Oh it was absolutely horrible. It was like the army and so hard to get through, because it was freezing at night. We went from four o’clock in the afternoon getting in makeup and working to six in the morning and it was so grueling. I didn’t know if I’d make it or not when they were burying me in the mud and I couldn’t breathe. I’d think “God, am I ever going to get out of this!?!” and then they’d paint me white and the paint wouldn’t come off and was very grueling even for a young age of 24 when I did it.
I believe it. Besides the tough experience of working on the film, it sounds like you look back fondly on the film itself.
Oh yeah. It was a great bunch of people, an ensemble casts of great actors, and everybody did a great job doing the thing and it was fun to watch everyone work. Unfortunately I was segregated when I got away from everyone (in the film) so I had to do a lot of scenes on my own. I’d come in and watch everyone like Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa and the kids too.
Some of those actors you just mentioned had some pretty amazing filmographies. Did you ever hear any stories from those guys?
Not really, but I have a convention with Clu this weekend and I’m gonna dig for some really deep things, because I really wanna know his stories.
Switching gears to Night of the Demons, you had to work under some pretty heavy makeup effects in the film, so how did that affect your acting and the way you approached it?
The acting was probably better because I hate facial appliances, hated them, and it was such a long time in them that I did feel like a demon after all of it. I was so mad about the whole process, because it took so long. On the last day when we came up to the wall and we were all possessed, believe it or not, it took 16 hours to apply all the makeup. I thought I was going to go nuts.
Wow. I think it definitely paid off, because it looks great, but I will say that I’ve never looked at lipstick the same way again after seeing the film.
Oh really? That’s great.
When you read that lipstick scene in the script, what went through your mind? Because that’s something pretty, uh, different?
I really liked it, because I like really different, offbeat stuff, so actually I though that it was a really great idea and that it would really freak out the audience. I didn’t understand how much they’d get freaked out, because I already knew it from the script, but it was great to make people squirm and even the guys got uncomfortable.
When working on films like that it’s hard to gauge what people will get attached to. Are there any films with a really rabid fan base that you’re surprised by their continued affection toward?
Savage Streets still has a big fan base and I’m still surprised about that, but Linda Blair was in that so that could be why. I’m surprised about that. I’m surprised by Night of the Demons and how all these years later out of the horror films from that time like A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Jason movies, Halloween, that it’s one of the top ones, which is kind of amazing.
Have you ever been in an audience of fans and just watched their reactions?
I have and it’s really fun. Actually when I first saw Night of the Demons, I went to see it in a drive-in and it was really a great experience, except I forgot that the first scene I filmed was my butt bending over, and it was up on the screen really big, and I was like “Oh God, no” and a little embarrassed.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for a role?
A possessed showerhead going in and out my throat was weird in Witchcraft. Being impaled on antlers was kind of weird in Silent Night, Deadly Night. I did a movie called Treasure of the Moon Goddess where we filmed in Mexico, all over in Mexico City and places like that, and then two years later had to go to the Philippines and try and match everything and finally the film got released. That was weird.
How did they do that antler effect in Silent Night, Deadly Night?
They glued on the tips of the antlers to my stomach, which made it impossible for me to breathe or else the antlers would move in and out, so I had to hold my breath. They just put up on a harness, straddling this horrible thing up there on the wall. It was like a bicycle seat that was metal that went under my shorts and then they just glued those tips of the antlers on my belly. So I just had to act like I was dead on there for a long fight sequence that they had to rearrange around me up there and it was so cold. I was thinking “Why did they have to have the fight under me!?!”
As an actor, what do you look for in a good director?
A good director is someone who knows the shots he wants and has a vision and is very sure of himself. Not necessarily someone who says to the actors “Oh great job, great job”, you know, because he has to concentrate and work, but sometimes will say “That’s a good scene”. I found that guys are really insecure and want to hear “You’re so good in that scene” to rub their ego a lot.
The process of horror filmmaking has changed a lot since the time you career began with the advent of digital filmmaking and how movies can be made much cheaper now. Has it changed your approached to how your work?
Oh boy. Yeah, you ask for a really good cameraman and lighting person, because the cameras they use now, they see just a spot on your face and it looks three feet wide. It’s not forgiving like film where your reality is kind of taken away. It’s almost too in your face I think.
Are you working on any interesting projects right now that you’re allowed to talk about?
Yeah, I’m working on The Sadist after I do this convention in New Jersey this weekend, so I start work on Monday.
Can you give us a hint to what the film is about?
It’s a very disturbing film. I play a very sick woman. “Sick” as in having cancer and she’s very upset about the way her son and daughter are ending up because she doesn’t want them to end up like her. It’s very sick, there’s a lot of violence in it, and it’s very in your face. I did another film with the same director, Adam Ahlbrandt, called Hunters and we’re reshooting that too. He makes really disturbing films and he’s getting a big following too.
Do you have a favorite film that you’ve worked on and do you have a favorite horror movie in general?
Return of the Living Dead was my favorite one and my favorite horror film is… my first thought is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I really like that one, because it seems so real and the characters were all great. And you could see yourself being terrorized by some people like that.
That was directed by Tobe Hooper; have you ever worked with him or met him?
I’ve met him, but never worked with him. Really wish I could. Another horror film and it goes along with this week, Shark Week, is Jaws. Jaws is the most terrifying film for me ever. It changed my life forever about going in the water.
Linnea Quigley will be in attendance of DRIVE-IN MASSACRE on Aug. 29 & 30 at McHenry Outdoor Theater in McHenry, IL. The Return of the Living Dead will be screened alongside The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Creepshow.
On August 28th, at the Davis Theater in Chicago, IL, Ms. Quigley will also be in attendance of a special screening of Night of the Demons. The show begins at 9pm and tickets can be purchased online here at brownpapertickets.com.
4614 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625