Actress Danielle Harris has had a long and varied career in her few years in the industry. Starring in everything from the soap opera One Life to Live to acting alongside Bruce Willis in The Last Boy Scout Harris came to the attention of horror fans 1988’s Halloween 4 as a little girl being stalked by silent killer Michael Myers. Now, this horror icon is hoping to get the same sort of attention from comics and animation fans with her performance in writer/director Matt Pizzolo’s “illustrated film,” Godkiller -- think a long-form motion comic from indie production company Halo-8. Starring alongside AFI's Davey Havok, Lance Henricksen, Bill Moseley and Lydia Lunch, based on art by Anna Muckracker, Harris plays Halpipe, one of an assortment of post-nuclear characters trying to survive.
Ms. Harris was spoke to MTV Geek about her work Pizzolo’s vision, her storied career as a horror icon, and how genre fare needs more women behind the cameras.
Geek: Were there any particular elements to Godkiller’s being marketed as an “illustrated film” that drew you to the project?
DH: Yeah, I just hadn’t seen anything like it before. I’m not an avid reader of graphic novels nor am I of comic books. But animation is something I’ve done for a while. You know, I’ve done an animated series called The Wild Thornberrys for a while, and I was working on Night of the Living Dead Origins—and even that’s completely different from anything I’d ever seen before.
So, this was something that I thought was quite beautiful and different from what I had expected it to look like, and I was pretty impressed. I think that it looks pretty killer.
Geek: What attracted you to the role of Halfpipe?
DH: Well, aside from the fact that I’d never gotten to play a bisexual, organ-stealing prostitute, it was something I’d never really dabbled in—I guess, you’d call the animated world of the [horror genre].
It was something that I thought was sort of a chance for me to play, be a different character, and work with my boys—Bill Mosley and I have done quite a few things together. And Matt was such a cool guy and I thought his vision was great and the art was amazing and it was so new.
You know, I’ve been doing this for so long, and working in this world for so long that I rarely come across projects that I get excited about. And really, after [Rob Zombie’s] Halloween, after ’07, I’m going to do things in this genre—if I’m going to stay in it—that inspire me, and I can support, and that are creative, and that are different from everything else that I’ve done. And that was sort of everything that I thought Godkiller stood for. So, that’s pretty much what attracted me to it.
Geek: Tell us a little about Halfpipe.
DH: Well, she’s very sassy, and the sort of feisty, flirty [type], getting herself into trouble. Kind of a badass—like I said, the organ-stealing prostitute that she is! Does what she needs to do to get to the next place. I think there’s some stuff that Matt and I have talked about [for] future episodes that we’re working on to create a bit more of Halpipe, because she’s sort of sprinkled throughout Godkiller.
And then Lance Henricksen—Lance and I had done a movie previous to that [the horror-thriller Cyrus] and it was fun to play his lover. [laughs]
Geek: To what degree did the look of the character factor into your performance?
DH: You know, all I saw was a little sketch of what she was going to look like. I didn’t really know how the whole thing was going to come together, so when I saw it I was like, “Wow, this is really dark.” I mean, I only got the call—“Yeah, they want you to do this animated web series call Godkiller “—[and I said] uh no. That’s all I need. Really? I’m not religious by any means but I thought [about] the flack that could come from a title like that.
And then I read it and thought that [it] was actually kind of fun.
You know, there’s very few things in my house that I have that are pieces of work that I’ve done, because I’m not the girl that hangs posters of my movies. The stuff that I do have at my house is the stuff that I think is really cool and Godkiller’s is one of the posters that I have framed in my house. Whenever someone comes in, I’m like, “Look, that’s me!” [laughs] It’s kind of like I get to live vicariously through an animated character.
Geek: If your performance wasn’t informed by the look of the character, where did you come up with your approach to her?
DH: I think that Matt came to me because of my personality. Just in general I’m the ringleader and I could be a bit of a troublemaker. I’ve definitely got two sides to my personality and I think that anyone that has seen me as actor in film—I look one way, I look like the sweet, innocent girl, but I’ve always got a little bit of a twinkle in my eye. And usually, the characters that I play are tough girls, or badass girls. And then there’s this vulnerable side which I’ve been finding through these tough girls that I’ve been playing these last few years [like] finding a bit of vulnerability that Halfpipe has as well as some of the on-screen work I’ve been doing [has allowed me] to let my guard down as a person and bring a little bit more of me into the picture.
Which is hard—the hardest thing for an actor to do is be themselves and not hide behind the façade of what the characters should do or how they should react.
Geek: So there was a lot of room was there for interpretation in your performance?
DH: Animation gives you that freedom. You can kind of do whatever, and I think that was what I was excited about with Godkiller: that I could really make her whatever I wanted to be, however I wanted to be and anything really went. Matt was just sort of giggling as we were doing the session [telling me], “That’s really cool, you should go for it. Go for it.” There are no rules in this world [and] I really liked that.
[Matt] didn’t really give me anything specific. If anything, the main thing was to make her a little younger or lighten her up a little bit. The direction was very simple and he respects his actors. [He] hired us all for a reason and he just let us have free reign to play and create these characters in this world—which is the best kind of director. And you know, we needed to be hemmed in sometimes—“Okay, that went a little bit too far,” or, “You know what? Bring it up a notch.”
That’s what I think the director’s job is in animation, because who knows what it’s going to look like? We don’t know.
Geek: What’s kept you interested and in the horror genre over the years? I’ve been catching you in various things since Halloween 4—one of the first horror movies I remember seeing theatrically as a kid.
DH: [laughs] I think I’ve seen the genre change so much in the last couple of years and I was out of it for so long—not because I fought against it, but I was just doing other things [and] nothing really came my way. I dabbled in Urban Legend, and then Rob Zombie’s Halloween kind of catapulted me back into this world.
And I think that—this is something that I’ve always felt—[this genre] is a place I’ve felt very much at home in. And while regular people have no idea who I am, there’s this small, tight-knit community of the most amazing, devoted, awesome fans that have grown up watching me and supporting me. And if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have had a career.
And I know that it’s short-lived. That’s actually why I applied to the AFI to the Women’s Directing Program because that’s the next step for me. There’s no female directors in the genre, but all these leads and it’s mostly written by men, so what the f***? Why are there not more women doing this?
That’s kind of where I want to start in sort of making that transition. I’ll always be an actor and I will always do these movies, but they may just be few and far between. But like I said in the beginning, I only like taking things that I’m excited about, and even if some people don’t understand why I do it, a lot of stuff I do, I do for no money because I just want to be a part of it.
And also, a lot of my friends in this world are struggling and looking to make it happen and I’m a big supporter. Just this year, I had one paying gig. And everything else I did—I did a short film for my buddy [Smallville’s] Michael Rosenbaum with AJ Bowen [House of the Devil, A Horrible Way to Die] that’s horror genre called Fade Into You. I did a short film for my friend Kimberly McCullough for AFI that’s dark comedy-horror called Nice Guys Finish Last. I did a short film with William Forsythe for Tom Holland that genre about me making a deal with the devil. I did a movie with Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc called The Victim [where] I play this cokehead, crazy stripper who ends up in a bad situation. Supporting my friend producing for the first time. And I ended up doing this movie at the end of the year called Shiver with John Jarratt that I’m really proud of. And I got into Night of the Living Dead and promoting Hatchet II.
So it’s kind of been a crazy year—I’ve said that I’ve never worked harder in my entire life and [laughs] been more broke, but I’m doing it because I love to do it. And I’m supporting the genre the craft and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
Geek: What are you working on now?
DH: I’m working right now on a web series called Nuclear Family that’s really cool. I play this character, Zoe, who—I actually haven’t talked to anyone about it, you’re the first person—[Zoe] is a knife-thrower. And it’s kind of post-apocalyptic, you know, mushroom cloud stops everything and end of life as we know it. We all have to find our families and fend for ourselves.
And the other day at the office, I was bound to this bed where there’s this big, burly hunter that’s caressing my face—right before I kill him. And sometimes I’m like, “This is what I do!”
Geek: I interviewed Hatchet II director Adam Green and your co-star Kane Hodder recently and one thing they came back to was your willingness to just let go in your role. This seems like a common theme with you there, here in Godkiller, and in Nuclear Family. How do you form that sort of rapport with your director and other actors?
DH: You know, I think that there’s no other way to do it. I don’t understand anyone who wouldn’t want to throw themselves into it. I pretty much do anything. I think that there’s maybe one thing on each set where I say “Guys, can you help me out here?”
When we were filming Shiver [it was in] this disgusting, dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere. And it was freezing, and I’m in a skirt and a tank top and of course all the guys are bundled in ski gear. And I walked into this shack and it was infested with fleas and mosquitoes—which they didn’t think about because they’re not getting bit because they’re wearing snow clothes. All I asked was that they throw some bug bombs in there and give me a couple of minutes.
I’ll do anything. I love stunt driving—I wanted to ram the cars. There’s all these things that make making movies fun. You know, I’m not a diva, I’ve been doing it my whole life, and it’s still really exciting for me.
Geek: The story from the Shiver set—does that kind of speak to the issue of having few female perspectives in the making of horror films?
DH: I’m actually working on writing a script right now, and what I want to do, first time out of the gate—you know, Quentin Taratino’s a good friend of mine, and I feel like he writes such strong, amazing women that have normal bodies, that act like normal chicks, and talk about normal stuff, and they’re pretty frickin’ amazing. He develops characters and then they get to kick some ass. That’s something I’ve always admired and I’ve wanted to work with him, so that’s sort of my inspiration.
I wanted to give the women that are a little off something to root for. What do we have as women? We have Sex and the City movies, and romantic comedies that give women in their 30s this false sense of what relationships are all about—this happy ending, this fairytale, this bulls*** that doesn’t really exist.
My story—I have two writing partners, Brianne Davis, who’s also an actress, and Cheyenne Quinn, who’s a great writer—[our story] is sort of First Wives’ Club meets Fight Club, this underground, secret society of women that bond together under the name of sisterhood and take out b****** that get in the way of the real women that are working and successful and have it together. I wanted to give women something to root for when they watch it, but keeping it dark.
Other than Death Proof I don’t remember the last time I saw a group of awesome chicks. Most movies have the dumb girl, the girl that has sex and gets killed, the heroine who’s shy—who I usually play, if I’m not the sassy girl getting killed—and I just wanted it to be kind of regular women living in this world and see how they fare.
I think it’s time, I’ve been doing this long enough where I know what I’m doing and I’ve done so many favors and made so many great friends. I know all I have to do is make a phone call and say “Hey Tony, can you come give me a day, hey Lance, can you come give me a day,” and all of a sudden I’ve got this group of amazingly talented people that I could be directing within the next year or two—and I’ve stoked about that.
I’m just sort of excited to sit back and see how things unfold this year, and maybe it’ll give people an idea that I can sort of do other things than be the girl that’s being chased by the guy with the knife and has to die at the end of the movie—it’d be nice to not be that girl for once.
I’m working my way out of it.
You can watch Godkiller in its entirety here: