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Dee Wallace has just earned her 200th movie credit in Hollywood — but the actress isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Best known for playing the mother in 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the actress has led a successful career starring in numerous horror films, including “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Cujo,” “The Howling” and “The Lords of Salem,” just to name a few. Most recently, Wallace is appearing in Rob Zombie’s “3 from Hell,” a sequel to 2005’s “The Devil’s Rejects.”
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Wallace spoke to Fox News about what it was like working with Steven Spielberg, getting Stephen King’s stamp of approval, the most difficult film for her to make and what she believes is missing from today’s horror films.
Robert MacNaughton, Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Drew Barrymore, and Peter Coyote publicity portrait for the re-release of film “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” 2002. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Fox News: Looking back, how did you get the role of Mary in “E.T.”?
Wallace: I had auditioned for Steven for “Used Cars.” And Steven Spielberg works very far in advance. He is creating things years ahead. He had already been working on “E.T.” when he saw me audition for “Used Cars,” [and] he went, “That’s the energy, that’s the essence I want for the mom in ‘E.T.'” So when “E.T.” came along, he called and offered me the role.
Fox News: What surprised you the most about Steven Speilberg?
Wallace: I think that he’s very childlike. It really surprised me how childlike he was. He loved to play video games with the kids. I think that’s probably why he’s so incredibly successful with children in his movies. He relates to them through that part of himself.
Dee Wallace today. — Courtesy of Dee Wallace
Fox News: What was it like working with a very young Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore?
Wallace: It was a joy. I never look at the kids I work with as child actors. I just look at them as actors. Henry was so pure and so authentic. All you had to do, with all the kids, is connect with them as I would as a real-life mom. It was effortless to work with these kids.
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Fox News: It’s been said “Cujo” was the most difficult film for you to make, but one that you’re the proudest of. How so?
Wallace: My God, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally, physically, emotionally. You have to understand you’re working with a dog – an incredibly trained dog – actually there were 13 dogs that played Cujo. Then there was a young kid of 6 and me. So I had to absolutely be on the whole time. What an emotional ride. And every time you see a scene, we probably shot it 15 times from different angles. That’s a huge amount of emotional output. And what most people don’t understand is that your body does not differentiate between a perceived threat and an actual threat. So I blew all my adrenals out because for eight weeks, literally, I was in fight or flight.
They treated me for exhaustion for about three weeks afterward. I still take raw adrenal supplements because I just blew them out from all the emotional work. And physically. Physically alone was incredibly demanding. But I look at the film and think that I went as far as I could go, as truthful as I could go. If I can do that in every performance, I will die a happy actress.
Dee Wallace holds her son Danny Pintauro in a scene from the film “Cujo,” 1983. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
Fox News: What did Stephen King think of the film?
Wallace: He was down there for the first couple days of shooting… He often touts “Cujo” as the best film rendition of any of his writing and that I should have received an award nomination. He’s really generous with his praise. My job is to really honor in the most authentic way what the writer and the director want to bring to life. I feel a real duty to my fans to do that in the most truthful way I can.
Fox News: What’s the biggest piece of advice you learned from Wes Craven?
Wallace: I would say it was by watching Wes. I learn so much about watching how you can take this horrific, dramatic, scary stuff and be incredibly civil and quiet while you were creating it. He was always that college professor energy. He started out as a college professor. I started out as a teacher. So I recognized that ability of quietly and consistently, but in a very focused way, handle the energy on set. It was a tough shoot, “The Hills Have Eyes.” It was new and innovative and really cutting edge back then.
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Dee Wallace attends Fourth Annual Talent Agents Awards Luncheon on Feb. 15, 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Fox News: Which was the most difficult scene for you to film in “The Hills Have Eyes”?
Wallace: For sure the tarantula. Oh my God, I’m so not good with stuff like that *laughs*. I could never have done the scene in “Raiders” where somebody had to jump into a cave with snakes. You can guarantee me that none of those suckers were poisonous or dangerous – just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. So yes, the tarantula, not my favorite scene.
Fox News: How was it transforming into a werewolf for “The Howling”?
Wallace: The little Bambi werewolf as I like to call her? That’s actually an animatronic. I am not in that makeup. As far as I went was a little tiny hair on my cheeks and my gold eyes when I let out that blood-curdling scream, which by the way is my real scream. I wanted a shot at it and they actually used my real scream and echoed it several times. But the Bambi werewolf at the end – I did have something to do with the design.
My character wasn’t supposed to appear as a werewolf. I don’t know, back then it was important to get stupid stuff like that in your contract. So they had to call me and they said that all the letters coming in said they wanted you as a werewolf. I said “OK, but can you make her a little more vulnerable than the other ones because she has fought so hard.” So they really took that to heart and create this incredibly cute werewolf *laughs*. They had an incredible sense of humor.
Dee Wallace is held captive by one of the scary people inside a sinister rites center in a scene from the film “The Howling,” 1981. (Photo by Avco Embassy/Getty Images)
Fox News: What do you believe is missing from today’s horror films?
Wallace: Most of today’s horror films are slasher films. Here are six characters, watch how we can scream and bleed. And then let’s murder them all. It takes time to create the relationships you care about. If you don’t have relationships that you care about, then the audience’s ride is a much different ride than just watching gruesome killings on the screen. I think that’s the biggest difference. And what people are continuing to put in the horror genre is not really the horror genre. It’s the slasher genre. There’s a huge difference.
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Fox News: What’s your relationship like with Rob Zombie?
Wallace: Oh gosh, I love Rob. I was just trading emails with him because I’m in “3 From Hell” and he said it looks like it’s going to be out in mid-September. I just love Rob. I love him as a director. For an actor, there’s no better director than the one who knows exactly what he wants and is open to all your suggestions and ideas and puts everything of everybody in a great pot and you come out with such extreme creativity. It’s really exciting. Rob can do everything… He’s literally a creative genius and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with. He and [his wife] Sheri are a beautiful couple.
Writer/director Rob Zombie and Dee Wallace at the world premiere after party of “Halloween” at the Geisha House on Aug. 23, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Wireimage)
Fox News: What is it about horror that keeps luring you in?
Wallace: I just love to do a lot of great emotional work. The horror genre offers that opportunity more than anything else. I certainly enjoy doing comedy, but I wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.
Fox News: You just earned your 200th movie credit. How does it feel?
Wallace: It’s exciting! How did that happen? I’m just really fortunate. I have never stopped working. I’m really blessed with being offered great parts in movies that I had loved to do. I think when you really love what you do, you attract more of that to you. My intention is to keep on loving what I do so I can work until I drop. How’s that? We can get to 300!
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