Harris Horror: A Conversation with Danielle Harris

Throughout her career , Danielle Harris has done a little bit of everything.  She has done soap operas to voice acting, sit-coms to family films, comedies to action films and everything in between.  Her list of film credits include some of the most popular guilty pleasures from the last twenty years including City Slickers, The Last Boy Scout, Free Willy, Marked For Death, Daylight and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.  Danielle has done something for just about everyone, and as a result pretty much everybody has seen something with her in it.

Danielle Harris at age ten can be seen in the knife on the poster for "Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers" (1989)

Yet, despite her versatility, Danielle has made her biggest mark on the world of horror films.  Entering the realm of horror at age ten, Danielle played Jamie Lloyd, the niece of masked serial killer Michael Myers, in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers  (1988) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989).  In a pair of pulse pounding performances, Danielle was stalked, albeit unsuccessfully, by the marauding masked murderer, becoming one of the youngest heroines in the world of slasher films.  Nearly twenty years later Danielle would once again find herself in the shadows of a larger, darker and deadlier Michael Myers when director Rob Zombie appropriatly cast her in the role of Laurie Strode’s best friend Annie Brackett in his intense relaunch of the Halloween franchise.  Once again fighting for her life against the knife of Michael Myers, Danielle Harris reestablished herself as a horror icon to a new generation of fans.  As more roles in horror films followed, including five different projects due out in 2011, Danielle Harris has become one of the most prolific scream queens in the world of horror today.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Danielle at the Toronto Wizard World Show in March 2011.  With a steady stream of film buffs lining up to talk to her throughout the three day event, it was clear that Danielle has become a fan favorite for those who remember her from her early days as a child actress, and those who more recently discovered her as a cult film icon.  Taking time out from signing autographs for her fans and admirers, Danielle talked to me about her career as an actress, the Halloween films, and the life and loves of a modern scream queen.

CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS

HARRIS HORROR:

A CONVERSATON WITH DANIELLE HARRIS

 

 I spoke with Danielle Harris in Toronto in March 2011.

"People don’t really realize that I do things other then horror movies, because that is where my fans are"

Sam Tweedle:  I have always thought of you as a horror icon, but I was going over your film and television credits on theimdb and there is a lot of stuff there.  You’ve been acting for a long time and you’ve done so many different sorts of things.  What got you into acting in the first place?

Danielle Harris:  My Mom got me into beauty pageants when I was five and I got my taste of what it was like then.  I then did some commercials and I started working in a soap opera – One Life to Live.  I then went on to do the Halloween movies and then that was it.  That started my career.

Sam:  How old were you when you did the Halloween films?

Danielle:  I was ten when I did Halloween 4 and eleven when I did Halloween 5.  Twenty years later, I did Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

Sam:  Was it an intense experience being a kid on the set of Halloween?

Danielle Harris as Jaime Lloyd, the neice of Michael Myers, in "Halloween 4": "You come home covered in fake blood and watch Mr. Ed on Nickelodeon. I mean, how exciting is that for a ten year old?"

Danielle:  Not really.  I think it’s just fun when you’re ten.  When you’re ten, you really don’t understand what’s going on.  Looking back on it, I can’t believe I did half the stuff I did as a child.  I don’t think I would let my kids do that stuff now.  At ten, you’re excited that you don’t have to go to school in the morning, and your breaking for lunch at 3 am, and they’re feeding you ravioli and french fries.  That’s the stuff you think about when you’re a kid.  You come home covered in fake blood and watch Mr. Ed on Nickelodeon.  I mean, how exciting is that for a ten year old?

Sam:  At the beginning of Halloween 5 you do some pretty intense physical acting.  Obviously the film was sped up, but it is pretty scary stuff.  How were you able to get into that mindset at age eleven?

Danielle returns to the "Halloween" franchise in Rob Zombie's relaunch in the role of Annie Brackett, pictured here with co-stars Scout Taylor-Compton and Kristine Kiebe

Danielle:  I don’t even know.  There’s this scene between Tina and Jaime in the bedroom when [Tina] is leaving {Jaime] to go out at night and she is crying.  Well I loved Wendy Kaplan in real life, so I kind of think it came naturally.  The thing with Ellie Cornell, that played Rachel, was the same.  We had a relationship on set so it came out.  No actual acting was required for that stuff.  It’s hard to not act scared when you’re running in front of a real moving car, or you’re being shoved into a real air conditioning vent and there is a real knife going through it.  All that stuff is pretty authentic.

Sam:  How different was it doing the Rob Zombie Halloween years later?

Danielle Harris with "Halloween" star Tyler Mane: "It was a little bit harder for me as an actor to shake it off afterwards. It was the first time in a movie where I had actually been attacked"

Danielle:  It was a little bit harder for me as an actor to shake it off afterwards.  It was the first time in a movie where I had actually been attacked.  In the old Halloweens, Michael Myers never got me.  I was always just running from him.  In Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and then the sequel, he attacked me and we had big struggling fight scenes that lasted for days.  I had handprints and welts on my body.  Tyler Mane is a big guy and I’m five feet tall, so I had to really fight him.  That’s how that scene in Rob Zombie’s Halloweencame about, when Annie makes it out the front door and Michael grabs her and pulls her back in. That was actually shot on the fly, because I had actually got out the front door and Tyler didn’t get me fast enough.  That happened because I was tired of watching horror movies where people run upstairs, or down to the basement, or in another room when there is a door right there to go out into the street.  So I thought, “Man, I’m going to run out the front door.”  That’s how that scene came about.

Sam:  Last week, as part of trying to take a look at different types of stuff you did, I took a look at your Disney Channel movie Wish Upon a Star that you made with Katherine Heigl.  I thought the film was adorable.

Danielle Harris in "dominatrix gear" in her Disney Channel family film "Wish Upon a Star" (1996)

Danielle:  People don’t really realize that I do things other then horror movies, because that is where my fans are.  I also did a voice for the Nickelodeon cartoon, The Wild Thornberrys.  I did that for eight years.  I’ve kind of did a little bit of everything, but horror people just keep sending me scripts and giving me jobs. 

Sam:  There was a lot of physical comedy in Wish Upon a Star and you’re quite funny in it.  Do you enjoy doing comedy?

Danielle:  Comedy is so difficult. People who can do comedy can do anything. 

Sam:  Throughout your career, you have worked with an impressive group of action film stars including Steven Segal, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone.  What was it working with some of those guys?

Danielle with Bruce Willis in "The Last Boy Scout" (1991): "Most of the characters I play are “the daughter” and there is no Mom ever"

Danielle:  I kept feeling that every year I [was] moving from the horror genre to the action genre.  I kept getting all these action movies, and I’m not even a huge fan of action movies.  They are all great.  They are these machismo, alpha male guys, which is fine because in horror movies it’s the same.  I have Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Lance Henricksen, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd – I have all these big men around me at all times.  Most of the characters I play are “the daughter” and there is no Mom ever – from The Last Boy Scout to Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  I never have any Moms.  I swear to God.

Sam:  Well, talking about famous Moms, you worked with Roseanne Barr on a number of occasions. 

Danielle Harris has teamed up with Roesanne Barr on multiple productions between 1992-1994, including as a regular for one season on her hit sit-com: "I love Roseanne"

Danielle:  Yeah.  I love Roseanne.

Sam:  Really?  But isn’t she famous for being stormy and argumentive and yelling at producers and firing people.

Danielle:  Yeah, but that’s why I love her. 

Sam:  So you and Roseanne had a good relationship then. 

Danielle:  I had played her daughter in a movie of the week with her and Tom Arnold when they were married.  It was shot in Iowa, where they were from, and it was called The Woman Who Loved Elvis.  Bill Bixby actually directed it.  I loved him so much.  Well, I played their daughter and they asked if I wanted to come on [Roseanne].  I thought they meant for an episode.  I had never done a live audience show before in my life, and then I was on one of the biggest shows on television.  I was a little freaked out every week.  That’s for sure.

Sam:  Whatever happened to her?  She just sort of disappeared off the radar.

Danielle:  She wanted to give her family a normal life.  I think she was living on a sugar plantation in Hawaii and doing her thing.  I love that.

Sam:  So you’ve been really busy over the last while.  You have a whole batch of movies getting ready to come out.

Out of six movies about to hit theaters, five of them are horror films, making Danielle Harris the genre's most prolific scream queen

Danielle:  Yeah.  Stake Land comes out April 22nd in theaters.  It’s amazing.  We won the fifth Audience Choice Award for Midnight Madness for it.  I have Night of the Living Dead: Origins3D CGI Animated coming out.  I play Barbara, with Bill Mosely and Tony Todd.  Sony is distributing it, and the guys that worked on Avatar and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider are doing it.  I’ve got The Victim, which my friend Michael Biehn directed and Jennifer Blanc produced.  I’ve got Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, which my friend Robert Hall wrote and directed, with Brian Austin Green and Thomas Dekker.  I’ve got The Trouble with the Truth with John Shea and Lea Thompson.  I love both of them.  I’m a huge Back to the Future fan and that’s one of the reasons I took the part.  It’s not a horror movie.  It’s a nice little romantic comedy.  I just finished something called Nuclear Family with my boyfriend Corin Nemic. 

Sam:  You’re with Corin Nemic?  Parker Lewis? 

Danielle:  Yeah! 

Sam:  Does he still hang out with David Faustino?

Danielle:  Yeah.  Did you ever see the web-series they did, [Star-ving]?

Sam:  Yes. I have.

Danielle:  Corin, David and I did Killer Bud about fourteen years ago.  It was a comedy.   I knew Corin through friends, and knew David through friends.

"I just want to keep doing what I love to do, and I think these movies are really fun, and it takes a lot of hard work and the circumstances are quite uncomfortable and emotionally grueling. I think that it’s well worth it in the end"

Sam:  Well, you did Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter is Deadwith Christina Applegate, who played David’s TV sister.

Danielle:  Yeah.  Well we kind of all knew each other and Corin and I reconnected at Dragon Con in Atlanta.  I was actually dating Michael Rosenbaum…

Sam:  So you broke up with Lex Luthor to go out with Parker Lewis?

Danielle:  (Laughs)  Yeah.

Sam:  Hey.  Whatever works for you.

Danielle:  Horror does cross over to sci-fi… literally.

Sam:  Now, I personally feel that being a horror icon is better then being the Free Willy girl…

Danielle:  Me too.

Sam:  But what sort of legacy are you hoping to create for yourself in the films that you are making?

Danielle:  I just want to keep doing what I love to do, and I think these movies are really fun, and it takes a lot of hard work and the circumstances are quite uncomfortable and emotionally grueling.  I think that it’s well worth it in the end.  You definitely have to “bring it” to work everyday.  You can’t phone it in because fans will know.  Everyone is watching you under the microscope a little bit.  But I just love being an actor and I have amazing fans that support everything I do regardless of what it is.   

It is nearly impossible to not have a little bit of a crush on Danielle Harris after meeting her.  Incredibly cool and naturally beautiful, Danielle is one of the most charming actresses in the business today.  However, it is versatility that has made her a subtle presence on the pop culture journey.  By working in just about every type of genre that an actor can be involved with, and with six films on the way to theaters soon, Danielle Harris will be continuing to reach a wide audiences for a long time to come.

POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE:  I would like to thank a special note of thanks to Jerry Milani and the people at Wizard World for arranging the opportunity for PCA to talk with Danielle Harris.  The best convention experience on the planet, Wizard World will be hosting shows across North America throughout 2011.   Go to Wizard World’s web-site at http://www.wizardworld.com/ to for more details!

  1. Angela’s avatar

    I thought Danielle Harris acted bravely on Halloween 04 and 05. Her character was calm and very sweet. What a gifted little girl. Jaimie.

  2. Jeff Snyder’s avatar

    This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever ran across with my favorite actress, Halloween gal Danielle Harris. Thank you for covering so many aspects of her career with the time you were allowed with her back in 2011. I finally got to meet Danielle this past August (2015) at Flashback Weekend Chicago horror convention which I was invited to be a part of the weekend along with the celebrities since the convention hosts loved our facebook fan page for the entire Halloween franchise, which I admin for just for fun since I’m a lifelong fan for about 3 or 4 years now and we just reached over 20,000 members/likes the day before Halloween this year! I was allowed to sort of ‘interview’ all the Halloween stars here and there over the weekend which I had prepared what I hoped were unique questions that they might not get asked as much like Danielle on Roseanne which I mentioned to her! Thank you again!~~~Jeff

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