Michael James Daly entered the world as an unexpected and happy addition to his family which, oddly enough, set him up as a horror fan from a very early age.
With much older brothers and sisters who were already established horror movie buffs, he ended up watching the movies they watched and at the ripe young age of six or seven, he was introduced to the movie that would, in many ways, change his life.
“I distinctly remember watching Friday the 13th Part 2 with my older sister and immediately being obsessed with horror movies,” the actor recalled in a recent interview for iHorror’s Horror Pride Month. “I was one of those guys who was just gay from the get-go, and there was something about those badass women like Amy Steel. They were my idols.”
It wasn’t a passing fad for the actor, and he admits that as he got older it was the lessons that he learned from those final girls that helped him navigate the bullying that is sadly almost inevitable for an overweight gay kid in as they grow into adulthood.
“In high school, I weighed 300 pounds and I was gay and even though I wasn’t out, I think it was pretty clear to everyone that I was gay,” he explained. “I would walk down the hall with this image of Nancy [from A Nightmare on Elm Street] in my head. That’s how I got through the hallways. I would imagine them and how they would handle it.”
He also recalls Lisa Wilcox’s Alice in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and her mind-over-matter mantra in those difficult situations, and it carried him right into his acting career.
Along the way, he says he’s also come to understand and appreciate some of the films that he initially didn’t connect with when he saw them as a child. Films like The Exorcist and Carrie, for example, just took on more meaning because of the elevated level of acting.
“Watching Ellen Burstyn and seeing her method for bringing her character to life in The Exorcist is fascinating to me,” Daly said. “It’s one of my favorite movies, now. That’s also why I love watching Lili Taylor in The Conjuring. She’s amazing!”
Daly recently worked on a film with director Tommy Faircloth (Family Possessions) called A Nun’s Curse. On the set, he got to meet and work with Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) which, he says, was a dream come true.
“It’s funny because I don’t think a lot of them realize the impact they had on young gay men,” he said, “and I was able to sort of pull her aside and tell her. They’ve gotten a lot of us through a lot of hard times.”
He also had the chance to play a role in Michelle Iannantuono’s Livescream, a film that’s been taking the indie festival circuit by storm for its inventiveness and the sort of claustrophobic terror it invokes.
In the film, a man by the name of Scott is a game streamer with a devoted following who finds his joy in the connections he’s made online. When a fan sends him a supposedly haunted game, he finds himself trapped in a web with his own life and the lives of his fans in peril.
“Michelle is incredible,” he said. “She designed all of those games in that film it was just amazing, but she’s also a really great director which is something every actor needs, regardless of how talented they are. I’ve seen films with Anthony Hopkins where I could tell there was no real direction behind the scenes. Michelle let me kind of play around in the role, but she knew what she needed and she got it.”
When it comes to queer representation in the horror genre, Daly, like so many I’ve spoken to in this series, laments the way that characters are being written when they’re included at all and he recalled a recent example.
“There was this movie I saw at a film festival recently,” he said. “About halfway through the film one of the characters was revealed to be gay, which was really cool. Then suddenly, even though he’d not been like this through the whole film, he was flamboyantly gay. They jumped right onto that stereotype.”
While this characterization is certainly not new–flamboyantly gay is about the only way many writers know how to handle a gay character–neither is the fact that it remains insulting, especially in an instance where just being outed suddenly changes a character completely.
Despite of and in some instances because of this, Daly continues to work, not only as an actor, but also writing scripts that better represent the queer community within the genre space.
“I’d like to get a script where I could be more myself,” he said. “In my daily life, I am somewhat more effeminate at times but I am also other things. And this script I’ve written expresses that.”