Your new movie Cut! - in a few words, what is it about, and
what can you tell us about your character in it?
It's about a couple of young filmmakers who set out to make a horror
film and discover REALLY killing the actors will make it the scariest
horror movie ever made. I play an independent horror film director.
your character name in Cut!
is "Susan Lanier" - how much
of it is based on the actual you, and what did you draw upon to bring your
character to life?
I play "Susan Lanier", former
star (actor) of the original, The
Hills Have Eyes, made in
1977. Now working as an independent horror film director in present
time, I am integrated into the storyline because of my past history of
playing Brenda from the original cult classic.
In terms of character development, when one plays themselves, there's not
a ton of research that needs to go into it, besides learning the lines
& following the direction. I'm playing myself so it's not that
big of a stretch.
How did you get involved with the
project in the first place, and to what extent could you identify with the
film's horror theme?
David Rountree [David
Rountree interview - click here], the director of Cut!, is represented by Eileen O'Farrell, owner of
Talent Management. David wanted a "horror name" in the
film, and Eileen suggested me. At that time, she represented about
half of the leading actors in the film and encouraged David to use them.
She played an important role in the packaging and casting of the film.
I think the name is very clever. Most people would assume Cut!
refers to slashing. It's actually a double entendre; it's also
referring to the word "cut" used in filmmaking, you know, like
"rolling, action, and cut."
What can you tell us about your
director David Rountree [David
Rountree interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?
started out and still is an actor. One day he got tired of waiting
for his "ship to come in" and decided to create his own project.
Smart actors are figuring that out these days. David plays one of
the leads in the film.
He is a dream to work with. He is respectful and listens his actors'
own ideas and contributions they want to bring to the character, but it
has to fit with his own vision. His set is professionally run, and I
would love to work with him again. I have suggested him for other
projects that I might become involved with this coming year.
to my information, you and your late husband Delaney Bramlett were also
responsible for some of the music of Cut!
- how did that come
about, and what can you tell us about your music used in the film and your
musical career as such?
Delaney passed away at the end of
2008. On one of the shoot days, I handed David a copy of Delaney's
last released CD, A New Kind Of Blues. David asked to
use a couple of the songs in the film, and I was delighted. Over the
many years that we were together, we co-wrote and collaborated on many
projects together, starting as early as 1977, the year we met.
I had my own band in the 1980's but at some point, I got tired of playing
in clubs; it was tough singing engulfed in all that smoke, and I quit
playing out. I was devastated when Delaney passed, so in the
early part of 2009, I decided to pick myself up and do something I enjoyed
which was playing music. I put together a cabaret show with some of
my old band and Delaney's and started occasionally playing clubs
again...where now there is no smoking allowed. I wrote a new batch
of songs and dusted off a couple of old ones. I threw in some humor
and true stories into the show and voilà. My show and CD is called Swamp Cabaret, and there's a brief scene of the band and
myself performing in Cut!.
Do talk about the shoot as such
for a bit, and the on-set atmosphere?
I enjoy working with
directors who have done some acting themselves. They understand and
can relate to the sometimes hours of sitting around and waiting for
"the" take. The set was so kicked-back and fun. I'm
usually pretty quiet when I'm hanging around a set, but David & his
wife, Rosie, had just had a baby, and this precious little thing was there
some of the time. I love playing with babies.
Dee Wallace played my sister in The
Hills Have Eyes, and her
real-life, daughter, Gabrielle Stone [Gabrielle
Stone interview - click here], is also in Cut!
my scenes. I was fascinated about how much alike they are, even in
their acting. It was a trip meeting and working with her.
projects you'd like to share?
I have two new films in the
can that are in post-production: Betrothed and No
Solicitors, both in the horror genre. I'm attached to a
wonderful script called The Witness, which is a Southern piece,
written by screenwriter, Jerry Lee Davis, that will also star Bill Oberst
jr [Bill Oberst jr
interview - click here]. I really hope that it can get off the ground in 2015.
There's another film that's coming right up, but I always feel it's kind
of bad luck to talk too much about them until the deal is made and I
already have footage in the can. It's about the art world, and I
love my character who is a gallery owner.
What got you into acting
to begin with, and what can you tell us about your training on the
I acted in my first play at the age of 13. I won a
citywide contest in Dallas, and after that I was hooked. After high
school I moved to New York City and studied with some of the great acting
master teachers; Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, and did some work at the
None of this training prepared me for being on a film set, however. The
best training for that is to actually do it. My second TV project in
Hollywood was on the TV series Barnaby Jones starring
Buddy Ebson. I had a number of scenes with him and the late great,
Pat Hingle. Pat took me under his wing and taught me how to match my
blocking and hit my marks. I was truly blessed to be working with
such amazing actors at the beginning of my career.
As far as I know, you started out as a stage
actress - so what can you tell us about that aspect of your career, and
how does performing on stage compare to acting in front of a film or TV
camera? And which do you prefer, actually?
not fair. I love aspects of both. I am an actor who loves to
rehearse. In many ways I'm a perfectionist. These days, films (especially
low-budget ones) and TV, are shooting so fast, that the pressure to get it
right on the first or second take is the norm. There's no time to
experiment or to explore the nuances and depth of the character.
Generally, that work is done at home by oneself or maybe with a coach.
The beauty of film, though, is that your performance is captured forever.
That aspect of it makes it quite rewarding, particularly if I like my work
in the film.
Working in theater is completely different. You have the luxury of
developing a personal relationship with your fellow actors, as well as
exploring the character connections on stage. Often these
friendships last a lifetime. I love every aspect of the theater; the
smell of the sets; the rehearsal process; and most of all, the connection
with a live audience. Theater, in my opinion, is much more
challenging than film work. It requires incredible focus; perfect
timing; and the ability to go with the flow if something should go wrong.
The only time I remember ever breaking character was when a member of the
audience fell onto the stage while having a heart attack. We stopped
the show, of course.
My most treasured theater experience was landing the role of Charlotte
Goodall in Night Of The Iguana at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA.
Tennessee Williams, the playwright, was involved in the production, as
well as, Richard Chamberlain, Dorothy McGuire, and the late, great,
Raymond Massey. It was a dream come true for a young actress who had
just gotten to town.
I would hate to have to pick one or the other. I love both.
How did your
transition to television actress come about eventually? And do you still
remember your first time in front of a TV camera, and what was that
In the early 70's, I was doing tons of
theatre. While starring in a play with the late, talented comedian
Pat Paulsen, who had become a big name from the hit TV series Laugh
In, I got discovered by his big Hollywood agent. We were doing
a national tour of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers
and the agent invited me to move to LA and promised to rep me. He
followed through on his promise, but I actually got my first job, myself.
with John Travolta in Welcome Back, Kotter
When I first arrived to LA, I called a dear friend from high school,
William S Bickley, who was one of the head writers and producers of Happy Days, created by Garry Marshall. He invited me to
the Paramount set my first week here. I met all of the cast and crew
including Henry Winkler. Henry and I hit it off, and they offered me
a role on the show the next day. I will be forever grateful. I
remember being scared, overwhelmed, and so excited to be working on a TV
show. It was great.
During your TV-days you, among other
things, had a recurring role on Welcome Back, Kotter - now what was
it like working on that show and opposite John Travolta?
worked on that show on its first season. John was not a huge star
by then. Most of the cast had started out in the theater, like
myself. Everyone was super friendly, and helpful. John is one of the
sweetest people I've worked with in Hollywood.
also have to talk about your experiences on working on the original The
Hills Have Eyes for a bit, otherwise I fear my readers would tar
and feather me!
My agent at the time did not want me to
appear in a horror movie, but when Wes Craven offered me the starring role
of Brenda in The
Hills Have Eyes, I decided to accept it
anyway. I really wanted to make a transition from television to
film, and I figured this would be a good opportunity. It was low
budget, and I didn't have any expectations of it becoming a success and
certainly not a horror classic; I accepted it because I thought it would
help me get other film jobs.
This was Wes's second film. He was reserved and quiet, and at the
same time, knew what he wanted. He had been a teacher, and that
requires a great deal of patience. He brought that to the set. I found him
fabulous to work with.
I am extremely close friends with Michael Berryman, to this day.
Dee lives in my neighborhood, and we run into each other frequently; we
are good friend, as well. Many of the cast from the original film
were invited to Cinema Wasteland horror convention in Cleveland Ohio at
the end of 2013. It was a The
Hills Have Eyes reunion.
It was great seeing everyone again for the first time in over 30 years.
Any other films and TV shows of yours
you'd like to talk about?
A year and a half ago I took up
writing. I currently have a treatment being shopped, as well as I
am halfway through a thriller novel based on my own life experience from
my young days in New York City. I love writing and wish that I had
discovered it earlier. I have high hopes that my project will
eventually become a film.
In the meantime, as an actress, I certainly would not turn down any
television work that would come my way. There just aren't that many
roles for females of a certain age and many of the big stars are vying for
those. I met the amazing actress, June Squibb, at a Christmas party
this year. She got nominated for an Oscar in her 80's. Just
goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen in this
Besides all that, you also
work as a stand-up comedian - now what can you tell us about that aspect
of your career, and your own brand of humour?
mid-70's, I was a series regular on the variety show Tony Orlando
and Dawn as a standup comedian. I worked in comedy sketches
with George Carlin, Freddie Prinz, Sr., Alice Cooper, and many others.
Carlin has always been my favorite. I love his sarcasm and dark
humor about life. I'm not quite that dark on stage. I'm more
of a storyteller with a bit of dark satire thrown into the mix about my
own life experiences, as well as current trends & events. I
generally add some of my own music compositions in, as well. Some of
my songs are written with that same, dark satirical flavor.
you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring
your characters to life?
I've always loved Spencer Tracy's
quote about acting; "Know your lines and don't bump into the
furniture". Seriously, I prefer playing characters with whom I
share a common ground... colorful characters, like artists, musicians,
drunks, women who have lived life. I made the mistake once of accepting a role on the soap opera Days Of Our Lives, playing
a corporate executive. I had a ton of technical dialogue. None
of the lines connected with anything. It wasn't even a large role,
but definitely the hardest part that I ever did, and the result was pretty
Actresses (and indeed actors)
who inspire you?
Since I met her only a couple of days ago,
I've got to say June Squibb, if for no other reason but for hanging in
there all these years and never giving up. Meryl Streep can do no
wrong; I don't think anyone can touch her. I love Helena Bonham
Carter and Cate Blanchett, too.
As for men, this year, I thought Eddie Redmayne was flawless in The
Theory Of Everything, but my all time favorite male actor is Daniel
Your favourite movies?
I would have to say The Theory Of Everything. A couple
of my all-time favorite's would include Forrest Gump, The Birdcage,
Harold and Maude, to name a few.
When I was very young, I preferred the independent art films, like
Fellini's, Juliet Of The Spirits, and I believe Hitchcock was
a genius... loved Psycho,
The Birds, etc.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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I can't get into
the big budget, contrived action or disaster films that have little or no
story at all. I hate slasher films, as well. The best horror
films have a good storyline. I do not consider cutting people up for
the shock of it an art form in any stretch of the imagination, nor will I
Facebook, whatever else?
My Facebook, Twitter & Instagram are all under my name: Suze
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I would just
like to thank my friends and fans for being so supportive and fabulous
over the many years. None of it is easy, but the fans are what make
it all worth it.
Are you kidding? THANK YOU. This is the fun part
of the business!!!!