By Brian Truitt | Gannett News Service
From having an unstoppable dog (in “There’sSomething About Mary”) to facing supernatural threats (the “Insidious” series), Lin Shaye has done a little bit of everything in her lengthy Hollywood career.
Now, however, just happens to be “the happiest time in my life,” says the 71-year-old actress. The recently minted “Godmother of Horror” — an honor bestowed upon her at the Wizard World pop-culture convention in Philadelphia last month — is the face of the haunting “Insidious franchise,” and she takes her third turn as the helpful medium Elise Rainier in “Insidious: Chapter 3” (in theaters Friday).
Her scary movies have been numerous — a list that includes a couple of “Critters” and the upcoming “Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves” — but filmgoers also have seen her in movies from “Pump Up the Volume” (1990) to “My Sister’s Keeper” (2009).
She shares some of her most memorable roles:
1. Parasol Lady in “Goin’ South” (1978)
Shaye lost a part in a Boston production of “Candida” in 1977 because she made star Eva Marie Saint seem too old. “I looked like I was 12 at the time,” Shaye says. But that turned out to be “the turning point” in her life: The Detroit native wound up traveling from the New York stage to the big screen as the Parasol Lady in star/director Jack Nicholson’s Western comedy “Goin’ South.”
Her interactions with Nicholson stand out in her mind as much as her one line in the film. She recalls having a fever blister during her audition: “The first thing he said was, ‘What happened to your mouth?’ ” More of a highlight was his goodbye after the two-week shoot in Mexico. “He rode up on this big bay horse, tipped his hat at me and said, ‘Thank you for coming, ma’am.’ He bent over and gave me a kiss, and I thought I was going to faint.”
2. Teacher in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”(1984)
Her role in director Wes Craven’s classic was as much her introduction to fright fests as it was villain Freddy Krueger’s. The way she won it? Her older brother Bob Shaye founded and ran the movie’s studio, New Line Cinema.
“Bob said to Wes Craven, ‘Put my sister in your movie,’ ” Shaye says, laughing. “I’m forever grateful to my big brother, who really started my horror career.”
3. Mrs. Dumars in “Kingpin” (1996)
Shaye had a small role in Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s earlier comedy “Dumb and Dumber,”but when it came to casting their “Kingpin” landlady, the siblings couldn’t imagine her “as the angriest, ugliest woman God ever let loose on the planet,” the actress recalls.
So she created this wacky persona, begged for an audition and came in with sufficiently stringy hair, bad teeth and dirty fingernails to win the role. Not only was it the first character she ever fell in love with, Shaye says, “it’s some people’s favorite thing I’ve done.”
4. Magda in “There’s Something About Mary” (1998)
Arguably, Shaye’s best-known mainstream role came in the Farrellys’ next picture, as the oddball neighbor of Cameron Diaz’s Mary and owner of Puffy, a dog that gets in a brutally hilarious fight with Ben Stiller and survives after flying out of a window.
To create Magda’s signature sunbaked look, Shaye endured a complicated four-hour process daily involving skin-stretching, latex and tanning makeup. Sounds painful, but “I loved every minute of it.”
Elise in “Insidious” (2010)A psychic mix of Yoda and Mr. Miyagi, Elise is tasked with leading a young girl (Stefanie Scott) out of the clutches of the mysterious Man Who Can’t Breathe in the new “Insidious,” a prequel to the first two movies where Elise was killed but returned as a ghost in the ethereal afterlife locale known as The Further.
Shaye remembers getting the first “Insidious” script and reading the creepy story right before bed. That wasn’t such a great idea, she says. “I was so upset, I took it downstairs and locked it in a closet. I didn’t want that thing by my head when I went to sleep.”