When most audiences think of the famous faces of the Halloween series, they might jump to Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, or the fictional Michael Myers, but most fans of the series also know that Danielle Harris is a defining performer for the franchise, having starred in four different films across two different narrative timelines. Making Harris' debut into the franchise all the more impressive with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was that she was only 10 at the time of filming, as she played the daughter of Curtis' Laurie Strode. Harris would go on to appear in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and then, as an adult, was tapped by Rob Zombie to star in his Halloween and Halloween II.
Harris starred in a number of movie and TV projects over the years, with 2007's Halloween being her first return to the horror genre since she was much younger. Since that return, she has become a bonafide legend among the genre community, going on to star in the Hatchet series of films, Stake Land, upcoming projects Redwood Massacre: Annihilation and The Host, and many more. Additionally, Harris has been a favorite on the convention circuit, meeting die-hard horror fans all across the world.
Header photo courtesy of Denise Truscello/Getty Images/Trancas International
ComicBook.com: You're first big break into movies came in Halloween 4 and throughout your career you've starred in a number of different projects, though you've more recently been seen in a number of horror projects. When you were first getting involved as a kid, did you have an interest in scary stories or was it just an exciting acting opportunity?
Danielle Harris: I was so young, so back then it was just a fun acting opportunity. Obviously, at 10 years old I had no idea what the Halloween franchise even was, so I didn't really know how big of a deal it could really be. Even now when I do appearances or the fact that we're even talking about it this many years later, it really just blows my mind. It's over 30 years. After Halloween 5, I didn't do any horror movies until Urban Legend in the late '90s.
And then I didn't do any after that movie until 2007. So it's ironic that I'm such the horror actress, but I really only realistically been actively pursuing it since Rob Zombie's [Halloween], and that was it. And then, of course after that, it was like, boom, all these great acting opportunities really came about.
What's so great about the horror industry, I think, for women is that we get these opportunities to be leads and heroines and "final girls" and carry the weight of a film without being this male action hero or this big male movie star. So it's like I could be my own little Meryl Streep in the world of horror, but outside of the world of horror, it gets a little difficult to get real jobs and I definitely wouldn't be getting job opportunities to carry movies and show my acting chops in anything other than horror. It's been very good to me.prevnext
As you mentioned, for almost 20 years, you didn't do any horror movies, but it was Rob Zombie's Halloween that saw you return. What was it about that project specifically that managed to convince you to come back to that world? Were you interested in getting more involved in horror or was it an opportunity you just felt you couldn't turn down?
I think there were two things. The first thing is the Halloween franchise had pretty much died by that point. With the exception of H20, I really felt like it got lost and it was a bummer that it really took a different turn than it could have. So there was a little bit of, "Wow, they're doing it again." If there's an opportunity to revive the whole thing, and then I was always a Rob Zombie fan, so I thought, "God, he's going to have a really cool take on it, different than anybody else. And I know he's not going to try to remake it." I was curious and then, actually, what ended up happening is after I'd heard about all that, a fan came up to me at a convention in Boston and said, "I hear you're going to be in the new Halloween."
And I was like, "I am?" And he said, "Yeah, you're going to be Laurie." And I was like, "I don't think so and I don't think I'm going to be in it." So then that encouraged me, once I got home, to call my representation at the time and say, "Hey, maybe I could do a cameo, something cool, just to be part of something that I had been a part of as a kid and it would be cool for the fans." I did not imagine going in for an actual character. Being able to play somebody else just didn't really seem like it would happen. And then I got in. I just sort of forced them to audition me.
Because Rob didn't want anybody from any of the other movies, I couldn't just get an offer for it. It wasn't like that at all. I just went and auditioned for it like everybody else. And then, I think once he found me on tape, it was like, "All right, we could maybe give this a shot." That's how I ended up getting back into it. I still love that [movie], I really do like Rob Zombie's version of it. I like the first one better than the second one, but I actually like my character better in the sequel to the first one than I did in the first one. I have a love-hate relationship with the Halloween franchise.prevnext
It was so cool for fans who knew you just from your work in the series as a kid and got to see just how talented you had become over the years and that you were still interested in the series. They may have grown up watching that movie as a kid and got to see that you still had the acting chops as an adult.
It's awesome. I have the best fan base ever.
So now you meet all these fans who are adults, and you're an adult, and some of them have tattoos of you as a 10-year-old from Halloween 4 in that famous clown costume. What's your reaction to seeing the image of you as a child being tattooed on adults, while you have your own children now?
For years I've been trying to figure out what the fascination with that particular character is, because there are obviously lots of characters throughout the franchise that are iconic and awesome. So this is my thought process, anyway. I pretty much think that everyone started watching, like you were saying, these horror movies, right around the time they're about nine, 10, 11 years old. That's when you catch a glimpse of HBO or pop in a VHS tape when your parents weren't home or your parents felt like that was right around the time that you were old enough to maybe sit down and watch it if they were part of that [fandom]. I mean, listen, some parents now show their kids these movies really, really young and I'm always like, "Uh, are you sure that's a good idea? My character tried to kill her stepmom in the movie, so I don't really know if that's something you should be introducing to your child."
So I think that most of my fan base are now my age, like exactly right around my age and most of them are like, "Hey, you were my first crush," or, "That was my first horror movie I ever saw, was Halloween 4, and then I went back and watched the other ones and then I saw Don't Tell Mom [the Babysitter's Dead]," or, "And then I watched you on this." They grew up with me, maybe.
I mean, that's why I loved Pet Sematary so much. That was one of the only movies I'd ever seen where there was a kid in it. And you put yourself in that situation and something resonates with you. So when I see [Pet Sematary star] Miko Hughes at a convention, I still get like, "Oh!" or [Chid's Play star] Alex Vincent, because these were kids that I watched and felt like maybe they could have been my friend.
There weren't many of those [movies] really out there at that time. So I think everyone's sort of grown up with me and there's this kindred spirit [connection]. I get a lot of people saying, "Oh, you seem accessible," or like someone's little sister or someone's first girlfriend or that kind of "every girl," which also could be a little scary because there's sometimes not that boundary, where they feel like they've grown up with you and you're like, "Actually, I've never met before. So you're kind of freaking me out."
But there's definitely something interesting about the age that I was during that movie and the age people start getting introduced into horror and then sort of growing together, so I think that that's where it comes from. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that might be what the sort of, I don't even know what the right word is, like what that thing is that's hard to describe.
You're also a child in the movie, so it adds another level of empathy to viewers of all ages.
I look at when I did Rob's Halloweens, I thought that right away I had said to [Scout Taylor-Compton], "I'm passing the torch. This is now your movie. You're going to have the career." Because she was 18 or 17. I was like, "You're going to have the career that I had," this is the way it felt to me. "You're going to be the next Jamie Lee. You're the star of this movie." I only worked like a week. And I was surprised that the reception was different. Maybe, like you were saying, maybe because she was a teenager that the empathy wasn't there the same way that it had been for me, so it wasn't just that I was a lead in the movie back then, it was there was something about being a child in that role that people or kids that were watching it could relate to. And it just carried with them throughout their lives. It's crazy. Who knew? I didn't know it was going to be like this.prevnext
Donald Pleasence Memories
You do these conventions and there are a lot of other people from the franchise you get to spend time with at these conventions, but one of the biggest figures in the Halloween franchise that fans miss is Donald Pleasence. I know you were pretty young at the time, but do you have any specific memories of your time with him? Did he feel like a larger-than-life presence when he was on set or, since you were so young, was he just this cool, older actor?
He, for sure, was more of a cool, older actor to me. He was just this old guy who kept to himself and drank his whiskey and came on set and did his job and went home. I was so young, it's like we didn't really have much to talk about except I remembered at the end, because he worked the first, I think, week of Halloween 5, or two weeks, and then he was wrapped out and then I worked those two weeks plus the last two weeks. He had this big, big, 40-foot Winnebago and I had a little, what they call "honey wagons" that are like little closets, basically. And because I had school in one and the boy that played Billy had one and Tina had one and it was like everybody had their little closet and then Don had this big trailer.
I was saying goodbye to him and he said that they were going to keep the trailer for me and they were going to move me out of the little room and put me into the big trailer because I was the star of the movie now. And they kept this big, awesome Winnebago for me and I just thought that, I mean, as a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
I've always wanted a trailer and I just bought my first trailer this year on my birthday, not for work, but to travel around, which is why I was going to go to Seattle camping.
So you're carrying on Pleasence's legacy in your personal life.
I am living the life that he wanted me to live.
It would almost be weirder if you did have a lot in common, like he was able to relate to Cabbage Patch Kids or something.
I think it was just I knew he was a movie star. I think I just kept to myself and was very respectful when he was on set and was just prepared and excited to just be with an actor.prevnext
New Halloween Reaction
I know that last year when the Candyman reboot was announced, Tony Todd first mentioned that he was excited for it, then said he was disappointed that he wasn't contacted about it, then he accepted that the reboot was moving forward without him, then he confirmed that he would be in it. You previously mentioned you were disappointed to not be involved in the 2018 Halloween, so I was wondering what phase you're in, if you've accepted that the series is moving on or if the filmmakers reached out to you at all or anything.
If there was a way to do something fun that ... I mean, obviously, I'm not going to play another character, then it's just ridiculous. I was only really bummed that they made the 2018 and she had a daughter. When H20 came out and she had a son and it was Josh Hartnett, he was famous and I was like, "Okay, well there's not much of a daughter. That's weird, but okay." But I guess I died in Halloween 6, so that made sense to me. Then, now that they're doing it again and it's like, "Oh, well now she has a daughter," I was like, "Oh man, that sucks. That's so weird. " It would never have hurt anyone to have me play her daughter, you know?
There's no reason why I couldn't have, and as much as I love Judy Greer as an actress, I did feel like she was miscast. I felt like she was underused for how great she is. So that bummed me out even more. I just watched the movie for the first time, by the way, a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, I did. It's a little surprise for all the fans, but I'm going to release a little something fun about it in the month of October.
I watched it and then I thought, "Well, that doesn't seem like Jamie either, the way that character was portrayed." I could never have seen me playing it if it was written that way and I don't think it was written for Jamie, so it really did make sense that I was not a part of that. But when the next one comes up, if I had gotten a call, sure, if there was something super cool that made sense for me, absolutely. I'm not going to ever bite the hand that feeds me and I'm forever indebted to this franchise and I love it. It's like going back to like summer camp. And you're like, "Oh, I've missed you." It feels like home. I have so much fun here. That's what it feels like to me to go back to the Halloween movies.
Well that's good to know that, now that you've seen the movie, you can see what they did and know that it wouldn't have been the right decision for anyone involved for you to play her daughter.
Yeah. It would not have made any sense at all. Jamie would have never ended up like that. I don't even know how to explain the way they wrote her, but I was like, "Oh, that wouldn't have made sense. Not for Jamie, not for me." I don't really play characters that are afraid of their shadow. I don't know. I play way more ballsy characters. So I am more Jamie Lee Curtis than I would have been her daughter, you know?
But at the same time, I love Tony. I haven't talked to him about Candyman stuff, but he is Candyman. It's like if they were to make another movie and they had someone else playing Jamie, like, "I'm Jamie." I'm not necessarily Laurie Strode's daughter, even though I am, so it's different. He's Candyman. It's the same thing about Robert England is Freddy [Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street]. I mean, he just is. Those guys have a much different thing to struggle, because you wonder, why would it have hurt to actually just have them? They would get more butts in the seats if Tony Todd were to play Candyman than any other actor that they could have, because it's horror. We're going to support our people. I don't know who runs these studios sometimes and what they're trying to do and why they think just getting a bigger name, maybe, suits this genre, because I don't think the fans care about who's a bigger star at the moment. They want their people.
And it's sad because A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, the last films were reboots that didn't have the original stars, and we clearly saw how poorly that played out, since we haven't gotten new ones in a decade.
That's right, yup.prevnext
You have two movies that fans can keep their eyes out for, Redwood Massacre: Annihilation and you just finished shooting The Host. What can fans expect with these films? What can you tell us about them that will excite your fans?
Well, I think the Redwood Massacre's character's probably similar to Mary Beth in Hatchet, which I always loved playing those kinds of girls. And I always think it's hilarious that, because I'm so little, that they write these big ... my character in Redwood Massacre, Laura, could beat the sh-t out of anybody and the fight scenes, since I had to learn the choreography, I'm like, "God, is anyone going to really buy that I could do this?" But I did it, at the end of the day, so yes, I can, and the fans will believe that I could do that. So, in real life, am I going to whip the sh-t out of a guy that's 300 pounds? Probably not, but I like to think that I could.
We shot it in Aberdeen, Scotland. That experience was absolutely amazing and my family's Scotch-Irish and I had never been there. I had my baby, who was six months old, and it was just the right time to just go and do it. It came up last minute and I was like, "F-ck it. Yeah, let me just go." I had an amazing time and we shot that in some crazy, underground bunker, just places that you can't recreate, so that was pretty amazing. And the movie's really good. It's just fun to do that stuff.
And then this one just now, [The Host], it's about the pandemic and everyone's making movies like that right now, but I hadn't, so there's really not much you could do with COVID now. You see the [release] shifts even happening on these big, big movies, so everyone's trying to figure it out. I didn't want to do anything that would put me at risk because I am high-risk because I do have an autoimmune disease, so I get worried. And then I've got two babies at home and, at the time, my mom was living here and she's over 60. I just wanted to see how it was all going to play out with all of these new rules with a small, small crew in a place that I felt comfortable with.
It was the same producers that produced the film in Aberdeen so I already knew them and knew that they would protect me and I knew how it was going to go down, so I felt safe. It's like baby steps, you know? Baby steps. And it was just the right time, again, [shooting] close and a great character and something that ... I hadn't done a sort of supernatural thing before. I mean, maybe since like my episode of Charmed, so it was cool to just step into those shoes and now I've done it and now I'm ready to take a little bit of break until we figure out what's going on with our world. Going to lay low for a little bit when it comes to filmmaking. I'll do my own things for now.prevnext
I mentioned Tony Todd earlier, and you've been going to these conventions and meeting all these franchise icons, is there another franchise you'd like to get involved in or actor you'd like to collaborate with?
Well, speaking of, I am currently set to direct a feature that Joe Dante is producing. He and his production company have found a script for me that will allow me to hire all my friends and create my own franchise. So, yes, I'm down to do a franchise, but I think I'm going to start my own thing and not hop on board of somebody else's.
And then, being under quarantine, I've turned my memorabilia room into a studio and I've started a show called "Commenterror" that is a play on the '90s DVD commentaries that we all used to do and listen to while we watched the films. But I realized that there have been all these movies that I haven't seen that my friends are in or haven't seen in a very, very long time, most of them. So I thought it'd be cool to sit down with them and watch these movies together. I've shot seven episodes so far and I have about another 25 on the docket to film.
A great example would be like, I had never seen Cujo in its entirety. I called up Dee [Wallace] and said, "Dee, do you want to come over and watch your movie with me?" And we watched it together and I have everyone tested before they come over and we wear masks and then we sit six feet apart and it's just me and my actor friend watching their movie and someone running cameras. It's really, really cool because I have a different relationship with all of these horror stars as Danielle, just as me. I know their personal lives and I know them as people outside of work, so it's cool to see them watch themselves, too, because I've never sat with anybody that's been in a movie and watch them watch themselves. Well, that's not true. I sat and watched From Dusk Till Dawn with [Quentin] Tarantino and was like, "Oh my God, I can't believe this." And this was years ago in his house. And I was like, "Oh my God, I'm watching you watch yourself. Like, this is f-cking crazy."
So it was interesting because Dee was mouthing the words of her dialogue. Stuff [happens] that you've never ... because the only time you sit next to someone that's also starring in a movie is in the dark in a theater at a premiere, right? So I never experienced that before. The different things that I've gotten out of each episode that we've done so far have really been amazing. We did Sleepaway Camp with Felissa Rose. Felissa's a great friend of mine, but I'd never seen Sleepaway Camp.
I'd never seen it. So I was like, "F-ck, I don't even know why she's famous." I don't really watch a lot of my friends' movies because I'm just busy doing other things, so I got to sit down with her and go, "Oh, now I get it. Now I get it." I get all the references and things people talk about at panels and stuff like that. It's something that I can do at home that I can release with my friends and it'll get bigger and bigger. The idea is to do live streaming stuff to have fans be able to join in on a group Q&A, maybe after we show it, or write in their own questions or do maybe a text chat while I have them over and we'd watch.
Just trying to bring that personal, one-on-one to people that are stuck at home right now, because conventions don't exist right now. There's a few here and there, but everyone's sitting at home just dying for some way to connect with people and I think this community needs to stick together, so this is a way for me to bring that to them and have everybody feel like we're all going through this together. So that's what's on the docket right now.
And you said you filmed this, so will this be a YouTube series? Does it have a home yet?
There's going to be a few different ways that I'm going to release it. One is going to be YouTube. I just started my YouTube channel up again that had videos from 10 years ago because I haven't done anything in 10 years, so I just got it going again. All of that will be on YouTube and there's going to be a few different ways. Like for YouTube, it'll be 30-minute episodes. I might do a Patreon release where I have the full 90 minutes, because I obviously can't release the whole movie, I can't show that on YouTube, so that's going to be just Patreon and it'll also be audio. So if people don't want to watch us watching, they can watch the movie themselves at home and they can sit and listen to us have a conversation while the movie plays in real-time.
There's going to be lots of different things and it'll evolve as I get input from everybody. I've wanted to sort of be like the Howard Stern or the Barbara Walters of the horror genre because people do tend to tell me things and we do talk about things that are things that maybe haven't been brought up before. People have been too afraid to ask or don't know what to say, or I've been getting the same questions my whole career. So it's nice to have friends and I just have a conversation. I mean, that's what's so great about Howard Stern, right? He just has a conversation with these people and you get to really know who they are. I hope that I'm able to give that to our little community.
And when can people be on the lookout for these new projects?
Absolutely, for sure, the month of October I'm going to be just bombing the internet with all kinds of stuff that I've been working on. So from October 1st through the 31st it will be happening.0comments
You can keep up to date with all of Harris' project by keeping an eye on her official Twitter account and official Instagram page. Redwood Massacre: Annihilation hits DVD and Digtial HD on October 20th.prev