Dee Wallace is a survivor.
Over the course of her film career she’s been chased by cannibals, werewolves and rabid dogs, come face to face with a Reese’s Pieces loving alien and even the infamous serial killer Michael Meyers himself. Her life has been, shall we say, a bit hectic?
I, like many other kids that grew up in the 80’s first came to know Dee from her role as Mary, the loving matriarch of Elliott (Henry Thomas), Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and a young Drew Barrymore (as Gertie) in the movie, “E.T. : The Extra Terrestrial“.
“E.T.” is the story about a little alien who wants nothing more than to go home and recruits a bunch of kids to help him get there. It’s a classic film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and a movie that at the time of its release in 1982 was literally the biggest thing on the planet (yes, pun intended).
The next time Dee and I would cross paths was when she starred as Helen Brown in the 1986 movie “Critters“. OK, I’m fibbing a bit. Just please don’t tell my Mother that my cousin snuck me in to see the “R” rated “Cujo” and “The Howling“. Two more movies where Dee is absolutely awesome!
Which leads me to pose this question: Who needs Kevin Bacon and his six degrees? Within just ONE degree of Dee Wallace you have people who are absolute masters of their craft. People who’ve sold millions of books and movie tickets and have earned no less than seven Academy Awards. Men like Wes Craven, Blake Edwards, Joe Dante, Stephen King, Rob Zombie, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to name just a few. (Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: Dee is two steps away from Kevin Bacon – Look it up!).
Dee has become an icon and fan favorite for her work in the horror genre. From her first role in the low budgeted, but now cult classic original “The Hills Have Eyes” right up to her current roles in films like “Exit Humanity” and “The Lords of Salem“. But her acting prowess is not limited to just one genre. Dee has also appeared on television shows like “The Office”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Sons and Daughters“.
But what really may surprise you to learn is that not only is Dee an accomplished actress but she’s also a published author, radio host, public speaker and healer as well.
In fact, when not in front of the camera or interacting with her fans at various conventions, you can usually find Dee conducting monthly workshops to introduce people to the healing techniques that are outlined in her book, “Conscious Creation“. Often called “The Irreverent Healer,” Dee brings fun, energy and love to the healing journey.
Dee’s latest book, “Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From A Life in Acting“ is an autobiographical tale of her life and craft and how that journey can apply to everyone’s spiritual journey. The message that true success comes from following the heart’s lead and that the mind only creates form for the spirit’s creative manifestation.
Dee is also the mother of Gabrielle Stone, an amazing up and coming actress in her own right, and a daughter she shares with late husband Christopher Stone (who appeared with Dee in many of her roles in the 1980’s).
In this interview with Dee we’ll discuss some of her most memorable film roles, including “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial“, “Cujo” and the cult classic “The Hills Have Eyes“. We’ll also talk about her upcoming movie projects including Rob Zombie’s “The Lords of Salem” and also her role as an author and healer.
The Hills Have Eyes:
goJimmygo (gJg): Dee, did you ever think that after 35 years people would still be talking about “The Hills Have Eyes“?
Dee Wallace (DW): Oh, hell no! I thought it was a “This is a low-budget film I’m lucky to get at the beginning of my career” gig! Just shows you how powerful the fans are!
gJg: How did the role of Lynne Wood come about for you?
DW: I auditioned. That is, truly, about all I remember!
gJg: Do you have any interesting/funny stories from the set?
DW: I remember we all stayed in the same motor home! Not fun when the toilet was full! It was also freezing at night (we were in the desert).
I actually spent a lot of time in the car and almost turned the film down because of the tarantula scene. Yuck!
DW: Yeah, I’m definitely not a fan. But everyone kept saying things like “Oh, they won’t hurt you!” Then later I came to find out that’s not always true.
If someone told me I’d have to be covered in roaches or snakes or something like that I wouldn’t be in the movie. Give me a fake werewolf or a rabid dog any day. <laughs>
gJg: How did you meet your husband, Christopher Stone? Was it during “The Howling”?
DW: Chris and I met during (shhh…don’t tell anyone) an episode of CHiPs. We both came in as a favor to the director. Chris took me out that Saturday and the rest, as they say, is history.
gJg: That scene where you are changing at the very end of “The Howling” is one of my all-time favorite horror scenes!
DW: My Bambi werewolf! Yes, that scene was added while I was shooting “Cujo”! I just asked if she could be more vulnerable and that’s what Rob (Bottin) created! Love it!
E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial
gJg: How did your role in E.T. come about?
DW: Steven had auditioned me for Used Cars! Fortunately, I didn’t get it and when E.T. came along, he offered me the part.
gJg: Was the premise and title of the movie kept secret from you?
DW: No, not from the actors, but very guarded publicly. The working title was “A Boy’s Life.” I did have to read the script behind closed doors at the studio!
gJg: What was your experience like working with Steven Spielberg and did you ever expect the movie to become the phenomenon that it did?
DW: Steven is a master of his craft. His vision is almost effortless. I knew we had something special, but as Blake Edwards said to me after “10” – ‘Honey, if we knew what made a hit, we’d have a lot more of them!’
gJg: How demanding was that role for you to play? I read where you were locked up shooting in the Pinto for days shooting.
DW: Well, that’s a bit dramatic. We actually shot in the car for weeks – it was half of the movie! It was also the most demanding thing – physically & emotionally – that I’ve ever done.
gJg: How many St. Bernards were actually used in the movie?
DW: There were 5 dogs. All incredibly trained by Karl Miller. And they did all but about 3 shots in the film.
gJg: Are there certain things that draw you to these types of roles? Howling, Hills, Halloween, Cujo?
DW: I don’t know. I love drama. I love to play an arc. I’m a good screamer and people want to save me. I guess you would say it’s a natural fit.
gJg: How did you get involved with the remake of Halloween?
DW: Rob Zombie actually offered me the part. It was refreshing to be acknowledged for the talent and body of work with an offer. Just like the old days.
gJg: What was the experience like working with Rob in the remake?
DW: I adore Rob. Sooo creative. A creative genius, really. And yet he gives everyone so much room to be their genius creatively. He’s fun; he’s a visionary, and just a really nice guy.
gJg: I had spoken to Bill Moseley and he mentioned that you are involved in a new movie with him called “Exit Humanity“. Can you tell me a little about that movie and your role?
DW: In this movie I play a witch who’s trying to help society. And this is not your typical zombie movie. These young filmmakers did an amazing job with this picture! Innovative, beautifully shot with a great script. I consider it a true genre film. An art film. I would work with them again in a heartbeat!
gJg: “The Lords of Salem” is the next Rob Zombie project. What is your role and what is the status of the film?
DW: The film is being edited as we speak. I am a perky blonde who is a self-help guru. He wrote it for me. Be in for some big surprises. It’s AWEsome.
gJg: Any other current projects you’d like to discuss?
DW: I’ve been doing a lot of TV. Just finished a nice role in a film called Solar Flight. I also have two other films being edited.
gJg: In your career – what film would you say was the hardest to make? Which one was the most fun?
DW: “Cujo” was definitely the hardest, and the film I am proudest of as far as my work goes. “The Howling” had to be the most fun; I was engaged to Chris and being directed by Joe Dante. It doesn’t get any more fun that!
Healer and Author:
gJg: You do a lot of public speaking and self-help now. Please tell me a little about how you got involved with that and what you’re doing now!
DW: I am a clairaudient healer. My specialty is being able to discern the blocks within a person’s energy that are prohibiting them from being free, happy, and powerful. I have two call-in shows weekly and do private sessions with clients worldwide. It all happened after the death of my husband, Chris Stone. I asked for a way to heal ourselves.
gJg: Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book: Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From A Life in Acting?
DW: It’s a semi-autobiography of my life in movies. What I went through. Who I worked with. What I’ve learned.
If you take every challenge everyone has in their life and multiply it in severity you get what it’s like in the life of an actor.
In a regular life you might have nine or ten big changes in a lifetime (like changes in a work environment for example). Where as in an actor’s life there might be nine or ten of those in a day.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the course of my career and this book is about following the process in a dramatic, consistent way.
The best quote I’ve heard from the people who’ve read it is this one:
“I bought the book to read about your life… and I wound up reading about my own”.
Article first published as A Conversation With Dee Wallace on Technorati.