Talking to Lin Shaye is a bit like talking to pure sunshine, which is kind of funny when you consider the often dark journeys she’s invited her audiences to take with her in film. Her latest, Room for Rent, is no different.
In the film, written by Stuart Flack and directed by Tommy Stovall (Hate Crime), Shaye plays Joyce, a woman who finds herself rather lost and very alone after the death of her husband. In a bid to make ends meet, she decides to rent out rooms in her home.
When a young, handsome man named Bob (Oliver Rayon) moves in, however, her loneliness gives way to deadly obsession, and she’ll do anything to keep him in her life.
The actress spoke to iHorror in advance of the film’s release to discuss how the role changed from its first incarnation and why she was so compelled to take on Joyce’s life.
This interview contains some light spoilers. You have been warned!!
“What attracted me to the story as we began telling it was the thought that there are a lot of disenfranchised people in the world, and especially older women,” Shaye explained. “There are lot of women in the world like Joyce who have lived very subdued, subservient lives to their husbands and are suddenly left with nothing when those husbands die. It made me wonder what kind of unhinged germ lives in there that’s never been stimulated or allowed to come out.”
Unhinged may be exactly the right term, though the script’s final iteration is much different than where it began years ago when Stovall first sent it to Shaye. She was working on Abattoir at the time with Darren Lynn Bousman, and she admits she told Stovall she simply wasn’t interested.
“In the original script, she was just this psychotic woman who had killed her husband, and you basically knew the whole story from the beginning,” she said. “I told Tommy I felt like this story had been told a million times.”
She put the script away, and kept working on other projects. Almost two years later, Stovall called her and asked if she would take a look at the new version of the script.
She agreed, and after reading over the script again, she found herself asking why she’d hated it the first time around? Still, the story wasn’t quite there yet.
“I told him it’s not really about anything, yet,” she recalled. “This woman doesn’t seem like a psychotic killer to me. She’s a lonely woman who had bad things happen to her and she’s starting to unravel.”
Stovall, whom Shaye refers to as a “real listener,” got what she was saying and the script went through more rewriting and reworking until they finally both agreed they had a story worth telling.
Room for Rent emerged as a film that feels like a page-turning mystery.
“What I love most about the storytelling in the movie is that you find out slowly all the things that she had put up with over the years from her husband that finally tipped her over the edge,” Shaye said. “These are all elements that are hidden in our society that people don’t discuss, and that’s the toll that gets taken.”
Thankfully, not every disenfranchised person in the world takes a deadly turn like Joyce, but as the actress points out it does happen. In fact, we’ve seen all too often the way that lost, angry, embittered people have taken their rage out on innocent bystanders.
It seems every other day there is proof of this on the news, and because of that Room for Rent not only seems plausible but possible and the journey that Joyce takes becomes even more terrifying and sad.
“Being lost is something we can all relate to,” Shaye pointed out. “Life is fucking hard, even for those who, from the outside, it seems they have everything. Everything leads to something else, and that’s what I loved about this story.”
Room for Rent also marks the first time Shaye has been listed as a co-producer on a film, which is remarkable considering she has over 200 acting credits to her name in an career that has spanned almost 48 years so far.
She says she owes that fact, once again, to Stovall’s collaborative nature.
“Tommy is a quiet genius, and I’ve really come to admire and adore him,” she said. “If I had movement ideas that came from the character and he thought they might work, he was always open to try. He hears suggestions and when they’re right he’s open to following them.”
This collaboration also led to Joe Bishara composing music for the film which also bolstered Shaye’s confidence in the final product. The actress is a huge fan of the composer and he’s written music for Inisidous, The Conjuring, Tales of Halloween, and a whole host of other genre favorites.
“I begged Joe Bishara to do this film,” she admitted. “He really got the movie and he loved it. That was a big thing for me because he can be pretty picky.”
Room for Rent opens in select theaters on May 3, 2019 and will be available on digital streaming platforms on May 7, 2019.