The Call, a new film from writer Patrick Stibbs and director Timothy Woodward, Jr (The Final Wish) is out this Friday, and Lin Shaye sat down for an interview with iHorror to talk about working with Tobin Bell for the first time, filming in a mansion in Beverly Hills, and what’s next on her always busy schedule.
Set in 1987, the film centers on a woman driven to her breaking point by constant bullying from local teenagers who call her a witch and repeatedly vandalize her property. Upon her death, her husband (Bell) invites the vandals to their home and informs them that his wife left them each $100,000 in her will. All they have to do is fulfill one small task. Go upstairs, call the phone number on the desk in their study, and stay on the line for one minute.
Sure it sounds simple, but when the dead woman answers things get scary very quickly.
As she has said on numerous occasions, the most important thing to Shaye when it comes to taking on a new project is finding a story to tell. There has to be something more than just ghosts and monsters to pique her interest. When The Call came to her, she recognized its good bones, but she wasn’t fully ready to commit to it as it was.
“Now that I’ve gotten old, I’ve earned my big mouth,” Shaye said, laughing. “There were things in the script that I wasn’t sure about, but I thought the idea of the call was a terrific idea. I didn’t want to do a witch story. I didn’t think that was what it was about. I thought the core of it, the bullying and what that does to somebody, became much more important to me as an actress.”
With that in mind, Shaye, Stibbs, and Woodward–who the actress refers to as a “get it done guy”–collaborated to refine the story. When the time came to cast the film, it was Shaye’s manager Gina Rugolo who thought that genre legend Tobin Bell would be right for the part of her husband.
“We had never met, but I joked that we have the same godparents, Leigh Whannell and James Wan,” she explained. “So Daddy and Daddy had never introduced us, but I’ve always appreciated his work. Long story short, it was a great idea. We immediately had this real warmth and respect and affection for one another and I think that shows up on screen. I loved working with him. I think that really amplified the horror in the film even more.”
The next challenge came when it was time to get into makeup for the film. By the end of the film, Shaye’s character has gone through quite the ghastly transformation which meant a lot of time in the makeup chair before her workday began.
This wouldn’t be so bad–the actress has famously transformed herself numerous times in her career–except that they discovered while filming in an older Beverly Hills mansion that the building had a mold problem. Sitting in a chair for hours in a basement while make-up is applied is one thing. Sitting in a moldy basement is quite another!
“I needed to get out and get a breath of fresh air every once in a while because I was afraid I was going to get black mold poisoning or something,” Shaye said with a big laugh. “The actual process, Ching Tseng, our makeup artist was really amazing. She was great. Great attitude, tireless, but those little lines that she put on my face with that little tiny brush took for fucking ever. I had to go get a dose of fresh air and come back in for the next hour, but she was brilliant. She could do everything.”
With the make-up in place, she was ready to really confront the teens who had tormented her character, so much so that she says she thought they were really scared of her at times.
“What I say about acting is that I find so fabulous is that it’s the one place where you can dig into the deepest, meanest, most horrible part of yourself safely,” she explained. “You’re allowed to tell the ugly truth, but in a safe place and be rewarded for it. In real life, you can’t expose that much of yourself like that. People will never talk to you again, basically. It was very fun.”
As for what Shaye is working on next, her docket is, as usual, completely filled.
She’ll be making an appearance as Ted Bundy’s mother in an upcoming film by Daniel Farrands. She also took part in a film titled We Are Gathered Here Today which concerns a family who gathers via a series of Zoom calls as the family patriarch lies dying in the hospital with Covid-19. Shaye plays a self-described “rock and roller alcoholic” who wears black nail polish and rings with skulls on them. She said making the movie was a powerful experience and one that she thinks it will really draw people into its story.
For you gamers out there, Shaye is also working on a video game and from what little she could tell us, it sounds epic!
“The video game won’t be until next year sometime, but it’s a big one,” she said. “It’s for Digital Domain. We did the mo-cap thing, but the script is 956 pages long so I’ve got my work cut out for me.”