I was born in 1982, and the big movie of that year was E.T The Extra-Terrestrial. It made an impact on me from the first time I saw it, and it’s a movie I’ve often returned to over the years. One of the talents who stood out in that movie was Dee Wallace, who played Mary, the mother of the family the movie centers around. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Wallace’s for a long time, and on February 7th, I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview her, thanks to the help of Harlan Boll, who set up my 2017 interviews with Rip Taylor and Judy Tenuta.
We covered a lot of ground in this interview, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Say hello to Dee Wallace!
Dee: Alright, I’m all yours’.
Johnny: Alright. As always, I thank you for taking the time to do this interview, and I’d like to start with this question: As with many who were born in the 80s, my first exposure to you came via E.T, where you played Mary. You did a great job in that movie, so I wonder: If you were to encounter an alien in real life, would your reaction be close to Elliot’s or Mary’s?
Dee: (Laughing) Probably Mary’s. I would hope that it would be closer to Elliot’s, so I think there’s got to be a mixture in there, probably, of that initial fear and then, when I see they’re friendly and reaching out, which I believe is what aliens are about, I would trust myself to move over into Elliot’s point-of-view more (laughing). Good question.
Johnny: Alright. When it comes to E.T, I have to ask: Mary laughs as she admonishes Elliot not to use vulgar language towards Michael. Since the laughing take was the one that made it into the movie, was that the only way you could get through the scene?
Dee: Where he says penis breath?
Dee: Yeah, I didn’t know that was coming, and it was an automatic, in-the-moment response to it. Does that answer your question?
Johnny: It does.
Johnny: 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of Cujo, where you starred as Donna Trenton. The trivia on IMDB says the dogs had to have their tails tied to their legs so they wouldn’t show excitement, but one shot remained in the film of one of the dog’s tails wagging excitedly as Cujo’s ready to attack. Although that was an editing mistake, do you feel it might have been in character for Cujo to get excited about killing, as many of Stephen King’s villains have expressed a similar excitement?
Dee: All that is true. We did have to tie their tails down with fish wire. But there were a few scenes Lewis Teague and the producers thought it was appropriate, and they chose to allow the wagging tails to remain.
Johnny: Alright. As with several of my previous interview subjects, you appeared on several episodes of Murder, She Wrote. What did you like most about guest-starring on the show?
Dee: Well, I dearly loved working with Angela. She was just the sweetest, kindest, nicest woman, and that show was very loyal to me. They had me back every season, which used to happen in the good old days, you know? If you guest-starred on a show and they really liked you, they would have you back over and over again. Now you do a show, and even if it runs for 10 years, you can’t go back and do another one, so I would have to say working with Angela and just the whole company. It was a great company.
Johnny: Alright. You’ve worked with Rob Zombie on the movies Halloween and The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto. What have you liked most about working with him?
Dee: I also did The Lords Of Salem with Rob. He’s just a genius, and smart and funny and kind and just incredibly talented. I like everything about working with Rob. Everything comes together as an actress creatively when I get to work with Rob.
Johnny: Alright. I backed your project BubbaLaPaloo on Kickstarter, and I think it’s a great product for a great cause. I’m on the autism spectrum as I deal with Aspergers’ Syndrome, so if you don’t mind me asking, have you found that the toy helps those who are on the spectrum?
Dee: I have, actually. I mean, I’m a one-man-band so I have not paid for really in-depth research, but from e-mails I get from parents of kids on the spectrum, they really relate to the bear. For example, I had one parent who said one of his son’s biggest challenges was that he couldn’t make friends, so he put a message into BubbaLaPaloo’s other paw that said, “I have a lot of friends”, and his dad said it really started helping him start to reach out and make friends. Another grandmother sent me a picture of her grandson with autism, and he was sitting on the stair, rocking BubbaLaPaloo and talking to him. That was my intention, that we reach the parts of kids, before they’re unreachable, to help the brain create the synapses that they’ll need later in life through love and friendship and bonding.
Johnny: That’s fantastic stuff you’re doing, and I’m glad I was able to back it.
Dee: Thank you so much.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. You do a lot of healing work. Since a lot of your recent film credits have been in the horror genre, do you feel that horror films can help heal or hinder a person’s individual development?
Dee: That’s a very good question. There’s a lot of studies that show that, with all of the Disney films, kids gravitate toward the evil characters because, literally, what they’re doing is they’re practicing being able to control their fear and handle their fear in a safe environment. I don’t think that’s so far off for adults, either. Of course, if your parents used horror films to frighten you and to teach you that there are bad things out there, then that’s another story. If we go to horror films because we’re having a wonderful time dealing with our own fear, it’s like riding a roller coaster. A lot of us are scared to death, but we love to be scared to death because we know it’s safe, and we’re going to come out okay. I think, in that way, horror films can really help strengthen you if you use them the right way.
Johnny: Alright. To my next question: You’ve been on the convention circuit in recent years, and this year you’re going to be going back out on there with your fellow E.T stars Henry Thomas and Robert MacNaughton. What’s the most rewarding part of attending conventions?
Dee: Oh, my God. Meeting the fans. Horror fans are THE best fans in the world, and I love to hear their stories. They bring me pictures I’ve never seen. “Where the heck did you get that?”. Posters I’ve never seen. I have heartwarming stories from parents. One little boy’s mother had not heard him speak for 10 years. She took him to see the re-release of E.T, and on the way home, he said every line E.T had in the film. She said, with tears in her eyes, “Dee, you don’t understand. In a life like mine, that’s a miracle, and that film helped create that miracle”. I also hear stories like, “You know, I was conceived in the backseat when my parents went to see Cujo”, and I went, “Wow, they were that disinterested in the film, huh?”. (Laughing) I love going out, meeting and greeting and hearing the stories and getting the hugs. That’s what I do.
Johnny: Cool. Speaking of which, what’s the most unusual item you’ve ever signed at a convention?
Dee: I’d have to say people’s body parts, so they can get it tattoed.
Johnny: I did an interview with Lisa Wilcox yesterday, like yourself a veteran of several 80s horror movies who goes on the convention circuit, and she also said that being asked to autograph people’s body parts was the most unusual thing.
Dee: Yeah. It’s pretty weird to me, but hey, whatever rocks your boat (laughing).
Johnny: When it comes to horror, I’ve found myself asking this of several of my recent interview subjects. Barbara Crampton had done an editorial last year where she talked about her displeasure with the label of “scream queen”. When someone refers to you as a scream queen, do you take it as a compliment or an insult?
Dee: I love Barbara. Barbara and I are friends. I have a different point of view. I mean, that’s what I am. I mean, I’ve done a lot of other things. I don’t consider my role in E.T or 10 or the numerous movies of the week…I’m getting ready to leave to do a beautiful little family film, but in those things, I’m not a scream queen. In the horror genre, I definitely am a scream queen. I have to say I really love doing those roles. I love screaming and crying, and all the emotional shit you have to go through in a horror film. I love that. That rocks my boat, so I’m kind of happy to have people call me a scream queen within the horror genre.
Johnny: Alright. I now come to my last question for this interview, and it’s this: As the author of several books for both adults and children, what has writing provided for you that acting has not?
Dee: Oh, wow. All my books and my writing are around my spiritual world. Bright Light actually goes back-and-forth between the two worlds because it’s really my autobiography, and I talk about my spiritual teachings through all of the big films that I’ve done and the directors that I’ve worked with. The two worlds come together in Bright Light, but the rest of my books are very spiritually minded, and I just feel like it gives me more of a voice to talk about the creation process, to talk about moving into your own power, to talk about loving yourself, which I know is the core of everything. Most things that revolve around my acting don’t really want to go into detail about those things as much.
Johnny: Alright. That about does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me, and I do go back a long way with your work. E.T is one of the first movies I can recall watching on VHS, and it was also one of the first movies that I watched after I got out of the mental hospital where I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I just really found myself relating to the themes of the movie, and I still do as I’ve grown older and suffered loss in my own life. Your work in that movie was really something that definitely had an impact on me, and I thank you for that.
Dee: Oh, thank you so much for those comments. I’m so happy you’re doing well, and I’m so happy you’ve taken what some people could call a thing to set you back in your life, and taken it and embraced it and moved on. You’ve done what you really want to do, and that’s what I teach. You’re really an example for everything I teach, that you’ve got to create yourself. No matter what’s given to you, you’ve got to turn it around and create what you want, so good for you, and thank you again for supporting my little bear. I thought these were great questions, really great questions.
Johnny: I’m flattered, and one more thank you: Thank you for following me on Twitter. I think I got you as a Twitter follower for backing the BubbaLaPaloo project on Kickstarter.
Dee: Alright, my darling. Well, I’m off to do a film, so I’ll get the interview when I get it, and I’ll get it back to you as soon as I can, okay?.
Johnny: Alright. Break a leg.
Dee: Aww, thank you. Bye bye.
My thanks to Dee Wallace for doing the interview, and to Harlan Boll for setting up the conversation.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview is a versatile performer in both mainstream and adult film, Sheila Marie. Keep your eyes open for that, and thank you as always for reading.