#56. A Conversation with Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris, star of four films in the Halloween franchise as well as pictures like The Last Boyscout, City Slickers, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and the television series Roseanne was kind enough to sit down with me at the 2009 Spooky Empire convention in Orlando, Florida to talk about her career. The interview was filmed live, but due to surrounding noise I have transcribed the conversation below.

Jason Anders: How has Spooky Empire been for you so far?

Danielle Harris: It's been good! It's been really busy.

JA: Have you met any creeps so far?

DH: Not really at this show, only a handful.

JA: You actually lived here in Florida, right?

DH: I did, actually, in Daytona Beach. I lived there until I was seven.

JA: And why did you leave at the age of seven?

DH: To go to New York to pursue acting. I did a lot of commercials, a soap opera, some print work... that kind of stuff.

JA: And tell me about the audition you had for Halloween 4, what was that like? And how old were you, ten?

DH: I was ten, and you don't really think of it like "I am auditioning for a horror movie" when you're that age. It's more like, "can I remember my lines?", "I think I might have to cry", "what if they ask me to scream?"... that's kind of where your mind is. It was fun filming that movie, and great that I'm still talking about it twenty years later. Well, maybe more than twenty years, but not too much more.

JA: It's amazing that after four Halloween films there could still be a twist ending that you couldn't see coming, which led into Halloween 5.  Tell me about the production of that film.

DH: I had a great time on that one too, I loved making those movies! You know, I think Halloween 4, because it was my first movie, was really exciting- and then in Halloween 5 I was the lead, and also a little princess on the set- everyone took care of me and hung out with me.  So they were equally cool experiences.

JA: What was it like working for Tony Scott in The Last Boyscout? 

DH: He's actually my favorite director. He's so great. During the audition process for that film they asked me what my relationship was like with my dad, and at the time it was my stepdad because my real dad had passed away- and at the time I didn't get along with him, and I said "oh I think he's an asshole". Well they thought I was in character, but I was actually just very similar to Darian, so that is kinda what ended up getting me the job. It was so great working on that film, I mean I'd never done a big action movie or anything like that before... what an amazing experience.

JA: What are your top three favorite movies of all time?

DH: Back to the Future, Terms of Endearment and Peggy Sue Got Married. I love those movies! As far as performances that inspired me to become an actor, it was Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment. That's what made me really want to act. I also grew up watching The Honeymooners, so I love Audrey Meadows. Also Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon, I can't forget about that...

JA: Yeah, neither can I.

DH: (laughs)

JA: You were also in one of my favorite shows, Roseanne; what can you tell me about being involved in that series?

DH: You know what, it was really weird for me because I'd never done a live audience show before, and then to be brought on to that show, of all shows, with the Queen of all sitcoms? I just never felt like I was doing a good job, and I never felt like I was funny enough because they were all so great, and I'd never done it before. I had made a television movie with Roseanne and she had asked me to come on the show, at the time I thought it was going to just be for one episode and then found out it was for a whole year! I was very pleasantly surprised and excited. I love her.

JA: Did you find yourself preferring performing in films or in front of a live studio audience?

DH: I prefer film. I have a bit of stage fright. I don't even really like to do theater... in front of the camera or in front of people, fine. But I don't like an audience, silent, watching you from afar. It freaks me out. I don't know why, probably the same reason I'm afraid of fish.

JA: Speaking of being freaked out, you worked under the direction of Rob Zombie for the Halloween re-makes. Was he creepy to work with?

DH: No. He's totally normal. Relaxed, he's like super chill... he talks to me like you're talking to me now.

JA: So I'm kind of like Rob Zombie?

DH: (laughs) Sure. Working on those films was like having déjà vu. It was really weird not being the same character and having a ton to do, so it was strange being on the set with Michael but being in the background. I wanted to do more. But it was really great, it's like family.

JA: How do you feel those films compare to the originals?

DH: I don't think there's any comparison. You know, some prefer the old, some prefer the new... it depends on the generation, I think. There's such a generation gap between the films.

JA: Do you have a favorite horror film of all time?

DH: Poltergeist. And E.T. kind of is still a scary movie for me... it's an alien thing.

JA: Let's talk about your new film with Matt Pizzolo, Godkiller.

DH: Matt's great! You know, I got the script and read the title and went "umm, I don't know if I should do a movie called Godkiller... that might be pushing it a little bit". I actually played an organ stealing prostitute from the future. The artwork is absolutely amazing and the story is really different. Also being involved with Lance Henriksen, Bill Moseley, Nicki Clyne, and Tiffany Shepis was cool. I just thought it was really original, and I'm trying to kinda do different stuff now since I've done so many slasher movies.

JA: Are you wanting to get into directing?

DH: Yes. I directed a short film and I've also read a ton of scripts, but haven't come across anything that has really caught my eye. I'm actually going to be directing two short films soon- one I can't tell you much about because it's going to be a surprise, but the other I'm going to start at the beginning of next year.

JA: How would you sum up your career so far with just a word or two?

DH: Full circle.