So far in my writing career, I’ve had the opportunity to interview quite a few amazing people in the horror industry, including several legendary icons. However, getting to interview Dee Wallace cuts the cake. Never ever did I imagine I would be talking with such an wonderfully inspirational woman both on and off the screen.
Recently, Dee dropped in to chat with PopHorror about how she got involved in acting, what it was like to work with Wes Craven, some of her favorite roles, her newest film Red Christmas (read our review here), and more!
PopHorror – Thanks for talking with PopHorror, Dee! It’s an honor to meet you! So, you’ve had an amazing career. What inspired you to get into acting in the first place?
Dee Wallace – Oh, dear God. I was born. (laughs) Seriously! I came out, as did my daughter, ya know, dancing and acting and putting on skits and doing dance shows every night. I think if you’re meant to do this, you’re kind of born into it. A lot of times, I think you’re born into families that really don’t encourage you. Mine did. My mother was a really brilliant actress in Kansas City. She did all the plays at the church, my grandmother did the costumes, and my dad did the scenery. So, in very small ways, I was surrounded by this from the beginning. I started out as baby Jesus and ending up as the Virgin Mary (laughs) at the church in plays. I wanted to be a dancer. I was a soloist for a couple of small companies in the Midwest, but I was never going to go far and I wanted to go far. So, I turned my sights to acting and got a degree in teaching. Off I went to New York.
PopHorror – You definitely went far, that’s for sure! One of your first big films was Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. Do you remember how you got involved in that project?
Dee Wallace – I auditioned. We all auditioned. I had done a religious film before that about a young woman who was a battered wife. So they could really see that I could act from this film. I went in for an audition, got a callback and got the role. There were a bunch of us. We were all starting our careers. So, it was like, “Well, hell. We’ll drive 60 miles to shoot every day and stay in the same trailer and freeze at night to get our foot in the door.” (laughs)
PopHorror – That’s awesome. What was it like to work with Wes Craven?
Dee Wallace – It was like working with a very quiet college professor who is very smart and creative at the same time. He was very unassuming.
PopHorror – This is the first time I’ve heard that he was quiet, but I always hear about how creative he was. Beyond this, you’ve played in several fan favorite films, including E.T, Cujo, The Howling, Critters, and so on. Out of all the films from your past, what has been your favorite character or favorite film?
Dee Wallace – My favorite film is Cujo because I feel like I gave everything as an actress as truthfully as I could give it. I just went further in that film than any other film has asked me to go. Of course, I adore E.T., especially for what it’s done for the world and continues to do for the world. I love a lot of my films. I think I’ve done a lot that are good. I think I’ve done a really truthful, honest part in them and that’s why I wanted to do Red Christmas because I hadn’t had a shot to do a role like that in awhile and it really excited me: the script, the part, going to Australia because I love Australia. Ya know, I just love doing that really hard, emotional, physical kind of stuff.
PopHorror – Those were amazing roles and I agree you’ve had so many wonderful ones… such a great career. You often play the motherly and protective type. Do you think that type of character represents who you are in real life?
Dee Wallace – Oh, you bet. I’d kill anybody that came after my kid and that’s no shit! (laughs) I have defended her to the end about anything. I grew up with a mother who did the same. She did everything she had to do to keep us alive and keep food on the table and keep the family together. My father was a pretty severe alcoholic who ended up committing suicide, and she was our rock. She kept us balanced and she kept us going to church and she bartered her services so I could have dance lessons. I mean, if she’s not a Saint up there, I’ll eat my hat. I used to have people going, “Oh, my God. How can you play such a good mother when you don’t have kids?” I said, “Well, I had a mother and she was a great model of a mother.” So many of the parts I play, I get that incredible strength because I watched my mother have to have it in real life. I do have a short out there right now that’s called Charlie’s Gift where they age me to 80 years old, and that is based on one of my grandmas. There’s a lot of similarities, even the hairstyle is a lot like my grandma. It’s a beautiful little piece.
PopHorror – Sorry to hear about your father, but your mother sounds like a wonderful woman. Speaking of mothers, in your new film, Red Christmas, you play a mother as well. We’ve touched a little on this already, but how did you get involved in that film?
Dee Wallace – Well, it’s an interesting story. I have a friend in Australia and he was bringing me over to do some of my healing work. He met Craig Anderson (read our interview here), and they got to talking and Craig said, “Oh, my God. Do you think you can introduce me to Dee? Because I would love to have her in my film.” So, Lee introduced us and I met Chad on Skype and he sent me the script. We talked and I gave him concerns and pleasures. I loved the script, I loved the character, and I loved Craig… and that’s how it all happened.
PopHorror – I’m so glad you did! It’s great that it went so well. Your character has a deep, dark secret that she’s hidden from her family. Do you think she should have told them from the truth from the very beginning or would it have mattered?
Dee Wallace – I don’t think we’d have a picture if she did! (laughs) Ya know, there are secrets I have from my kid that I think make it better for our relationship, and better for how she sees me, that she doesn’t know it. That’s what I love about the film, because it gives every single, solitary perspective that you could imagine about the topic that we’re not going to give away. (laughs)
PopHorror – (laughs) Definitely, I agree. All of your kids in the film were great, but I loved Jerry, played by Gerard Odwyer. What was it like working with him?
Dee Wallace – It was fascinating and inspiring. Especially to watch Craig and his relationship with Jerry and how he worked with him. I found myself becoming very protective of Jerry just like a mother would. Also, quite honestly, at times it was a bit challenging because we were on such a schedule. It certainly challenged your patience at times. The inspiring part was always the greater of the experience.
PopHorror – That’s great to hear. I work with people who have disabilities, so when I was watching the film, I was pretty amazed and inspired as well. I also understand the challenges there could be during this process.
Dee Wallace – Well, not as much as you think, because Craig works a lot with disabilities as well and really has an understanding of communicating what he needed.
PopHorror – I can definitely tell, as everything turned out beautifully. Red Christmas has a lot of crazy moments. What was your favorite scene in the film?
Dee Wallace – It’s the scene I didn’t know what to do with the most. I was like, “I’m just going to have to wait and see where she is and what she does,” because I didn’t know. It’s the scene where I find the necklace and the son-in-law, who is a preacher, comes in and I explain to him what happened. That’s my favorite scene. I also loved the scene that was decided on a spur of the moment where I inadvertently shoot someone and realize what I’ve done. That wasn’t in the script. One of the things I said to Craig was, “We really got to cover this.” This will not be completed for the audience and I think, because of that, it propels that last third of the film with the energy of the anger and despair that it needed.
PopHorror – Definitely! It makes the last part incredibly intense. This film is set during Christmas. Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
Dee Wallace – My favorite Christmas movies are the old ones. I don’t really like the comedic, irrelevant ones that they’re coming out with these days. So give me the good old ones, the classics that we watch every Christmas. And ya know, I got to say E.T. is a part of that. E.T. is apart of everybody’s holidays now.
PopHorror – Yes! I love the classics as well. There’s just something warm and cozy about them. Beyond Red Christmas and the short you mentioned above, do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Dee Wallace – I’ve got three other films that are coming out. Ayla, which is a really great suspense thriller almost ghost story. Ouija House I just finished with Mischa Barton and Chris Mulkey. Death House, which a lot of people have been hearing about for years, is being released through Regal Cinemas in January. A lot of top horror icons in that film. So, yeah. I’ve been busy.
I also have my series Just Add Magic on Amazon Prime where everybody can go stream. It’s a beautiful show, really well done. It’s geared for families, so you can have your kids, 5 or 6 through 14, watch it with you. It’s a huge hit for Amazon and very well done and you can binge 2 seasons on it!