Danielle Harris on Her New Film INOPERABLE and Women in Genre

Inoperable hits DVD today and stars horror icon Danielle Harris in a fun independent haunted house thriller directed by Christopher Lawrence Chapman. To be honest, the film does something rare by elevating a what could possibly be one of the most bizarre horror plots of recent memory with a script that is uniquely self aware of the film’s limitations. Inoperable centers on Amy (Harris), who after an auto accident is trapped in a hospital during a hurricane, where the entire staff has gone homicidal. To add to the disorientation of the film’s narrative the night of the hurricane is encapsulated in a time loop, a bit like Groundhog Day, with Danielle Harris as the Bill Murray character, trying to survive the night while finding a way out of the hospital alive.

I got a few moments to chat with star Danielle Harris last week about not only making Inoperable, but the #timesup movement and how she thinks that will shape the genre going forward. Harris gets candid about some of her experiences as an actor and just why we need more women behind the camera, especially in the horror genre.

First off congratulations on Inoperable; I have to say the film was a pleasant surprise and something that will reward those horror fans that check it out. How did you come to be involved with the project and the role of Amy?

You know, I get sent kind of random scripts every so often. Usually they are all kind of the same. Every once in a while there is a little gem, and this is one I actually found to be pretty interesting. It was definitely one that was a little different than I had come across in the past. So I wanted to be involved.

The film lulls you in false sense of security with an ending that definitely pulls the rug out from under you.

It was definitely fun doing that shot, you know running in slow motion toward the camera and getting to laugh. You know we shot the film in sequence, so by the time you get to that point, when you’re going to do that last shot we are going to do and then it’s a wrap for the movie – I think I started to feel like I lost my mind. You’re kind of like, “Oh my God!” and I could just get it all out; you’re delirious at that point, and I think a lot of that comes across on film, which is fun to watch.

You probably get this comparison a lot, but the film is a lot like Groundhog Day in that the film keeps hitting the reset button and you keep relieving the same night at a dilapidated hospital where you’re trying to escape with your life. What effort went into keeping the continuity on this film and choreographing your actions throughout the time span your character is trapped in?

Well I guess it was definitely an advantage to shooting it in order. So at least I knew exactly what had just happened. I had questions a lot, you know. I was confused every so often, I would have a moment of like, “Okay do I see them or do I not see them?” Okay but I just saw these people, but they don’t see me, why don’t they see me? So it was definitely a lot of me kind of challenging and getting a little lost with some of the timelines and why things were changing the way they were, and as you’re making a movie things have to change because of time and things get rewritten. So just kind of keeping up with the process was a bit challenging, but at the end of the day it all makes sense on film and that is all that matters.

Was it all mapped it somewhere, all your different paths throughout the day?

Oh my God no, let’s just say I would kind of show up and we would see what happens. I was definitely more organic, because I feel like it’s like anything in life…I always have a saying, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” So I think that’s the way it is with acting too. All I can really do is know kind of what my objective is in that moment and it could change, and it depends on what is happening with the other person. If I am acting in a scene with someone who is doing it totally different than I thought and I come to set with a set idea of what I need to do, it never ends up working out.

So it’s way better that I just kind of bring myself to work and know how I feel and then just allow it to organically change.

You mention the performances; in Inoperable they are a little off putting until you realize where the narrative is going due to the protagonist’s perception, which was a very interesting approach.

Right. You know there are moments (where) you’re like a lot of them maybe had not acted a lot. There were obviously regulars, Jeff Denton and Katie Keene, you know they act all the time. But there are some newer actors in there where you’re like “Uh-oh I hope that is going to read okay.” But then once you see the final film it all makes sense. They didn’t have to do it a specific way, like how I envisioned it in my head.

I have to ask, that had to have been a real hospital? Not going to lie, I don’t get grossed easily, but that moment when you step on that needle I was like ugh.

That’s funny, yeah it was a real hospital in Tampa, Florida, but it was abandoned, going to be torn down, dilapidated; it had been a hospital at a point. There were bats living in there. There was mold in some of the rooms, there were areas labeled with asbestos. It was not a functioning hospital within the last decade.

I was a big fan of Among Friends; any chance you might direct again? Is that something you’re hoping to get back to?

Thank you! Yes definitely! There are some ideas I’ve been working on for quite a while now, one in particular. I’ve been meeting with a bunch of people over the last couple of months to find the right team to put it together. But when I pitch the idea everyone freaks out and they love it, but it’s finding that right group to make it with. But I’m getting closer, and at this point in my career in the next few years it’s definitely going to happen. And you know with Among Friends, it was shot in nine days with like no money, I had one day of preproduction and we edited it in like a week and it was definitely guerrilla filmmaking. Everything happened so fast. I’m looking forward to shooting like a real movie. That’s next on the list.

Starting in the business at such a young age, and I know you’ve shared a few personal experiences on Twitter, but given the exploitative nature of the horror genre, how do you hope it will evolve given the burgeoning #timesup movement?

You know I’ve recently met up with a bunch of horror actresses and its ironic because we are kind of in a league of our own. A lot of the roles we are asked to do we are very objectified. I mean, shit, even in Among Friends, I was like “Oh yeah, awesome, I am a woman directing, these women are going to totally give to me, because I’m a woman.” They are going to feel super comfortable and I am going to put them in panties. I am all about tits and ass, because I know what sells.

So I definitely had been on both sides of that. You know I was just actually watching Rose McGowan’s show last night on A&E and she was talking about how all these women have starred in these movies and you have like no female directors. We have like one female director that has one best director at the Academy Awards and that’s Barbra Streisand? That is just so completely fricken insane to me.

So I think with women in the genre, being the heroines and the final girls, the leads and these emotional journeys, that’s why I wanted to direct – I was not getting directed by men. What are they going to tell me about my journey and finding my strength as a woman; it’s never going to happen. So I feel like there are going to be some big changes that are about to happen, and it isn’t about feminism, it’s about equality.

So I am excited to see what happens, and you see I posted that on Twitter, and trust me I’ve got plenty of stories of things you look back on and I thought that was really fucked up, and that was unnecessary. Wow, the one day I am taking my clothes off I have producers showing up to get behind the monitor and watch that scene. I mean it’s scary, it’s scary to come out and talk about that stuff. But I am super supportive and happy that women are starting to do it.

Yeah, I know the horror genre is kind of all about T&A, but sometimes you don’t need that to tell a fun story. I mean, Inoperable was a great example.

I mean there really doesn’t have to be. I just actually filmed a film last week called Come, Said the Night with Lew Temple, and there was this kind of graphic scene, and for the first time I was very, very particular about how many buttons on my shirt would be undone and I was not going to be doing this, and I was not going to be doing that, and I got scared when the annuity writer came my way and I was like what is this? Because you see the scene and you have to talk and be so specific about what you’re okay with and you know they always shoot those scenes first. Every single time the first scene you have to do on the movie is the scene that is the most gnarly, because they are afraid you won’t do it, they will just fire you and find someone else that will do it.

So it’s always like a horrible ice breaker, but I think we are just getting our power back in the genre specifically. We can still do it. You know I am still about awesome, fun, feisty, sex scenes and showing my body because I am proud of it obviously, like I shoot photo shoots all the time, but I do it because I want to. So there is nothing wrong with it as long as I am in control.

You mentioned “Mommy Brain” earlier. It’s been almost a year since you became a mother; how has that changed you as an actress and how you approach roles?

The role that I just did actually I am very nurturing to Lew Temple’s daughter in it, and there are a bunch of scenes where I am stepping in as the new girlfriend and kind of trying to connect with her and that feminine is coming out. I mean, I haven’t played a mom in a movie yet. I did one like a million years ago called Poor White Trash, actually with Jason London and Jaime Pressly, where I like I had a two year old or something, it was so long ago. But I haven’t since then, so it would be nice to, shit I’m 40 so it would be nice to finally have a kid in a movie, and that was one of the reasons I did the last one, because I could have those scenes.

I definitely find myself gravitating towards kids and something just clicks on, it’s hard to explain. It’s definitely interesting seeing what I want to take on. I definitely don’t want to put myself through the torture of a hard-core, gnarly slasher stuff anymore. I don’t think I could put myself through that being a mom.

Finally, you’re pretty prolific as an actress. Are there any other projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?

Yeah, a movie I just did that I am super proud of is a movie called Camp Cold Brook. It’s with Chad Michael Murray and myself; Joe Dante (Howling, Gremlins) produced it. So it’s got his stamp all over it and he was very much a part of it, and Andy Palmer (The Funhouse Massacre) wrote and directed it. We shot it in Oklahoma and it’s a super fun kind of throwback, really good, classic grass roots horror movie. My character is funny and feisty and has a great sense of humor and is just a bit dry, and I actually haven’t played a role like that in a minute and I am actually going to go to a screening of that next week.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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