Exclusive Interview: Ellen Sandweiss   

February 11, 2008 She is known to millions of horror fans as the first woman ever to be brutally assaulted by a demon-possessed forest in a movie -- and possibly most memorable character (with the exception of Ash) in the original masterpiece "The Evil Dead." But after she starred in Sam Raimi's feature debut, Ellen Sandweiss disappeared from film for more than two decades, reemerging with a role in Dante Tomaselli's excellent fear film "Satan's Playground." Now she's set to star in Tomaselli's "The Ocean". Plus, she revealed to eSplatter that she's going to star in another horror film with Bruce Campbell, called "The Horribleness."

Meanwhile, she has roles in two horror comedies, both of which are more comedy than horror: "My Name Is Bruce" (starring and directed by Campbell) and "Brutal Massacre," starring "American Werewolf in London" lead David Naughton.

What has it been like working with Dante Tomaselli?

Dante is a pleasure to work with. He has a great respect and love for his actors – there was a real sense of family on the set of Satan’s Playground. He and I have continued to be great friends and I know we’ll work together again in the future.

What can you tell me about "The Ocean"? How similar is it to "Satan's Playground"?

The similarity in all of Dante’s films is the gorgeous picture he draws on the screen – visually it’ll be stunning, just like all his films. The Ocean is more multi-faceted than his other films – along with the horror aspect there’s a more developed personal nature to the relationships and the conflicts that ensue. He also collaborated in the writing of the script with Michael Gingold, so the dialogue and story are a little more fleshed out.

What was it like working with Bruce Campbell again?

Always a hoot to work with Bruce. No different than when we were in plays together in high school. He’s hysterical, smart, professional, and a true gentleman.

What has it been like working in comedy? I assume that "My Name Is Bruce" and "Brutal Massacre" have been a change.

I LOVE doing comedy! No screaming (okay, a little screaming in Brutal Massacre), running for my life, or dying. What a pleasure! In My Name is Bruce I even get to laugh a little and insult Bruce. I hope to do much more of this in the future.

What can you tell me about "Brutal Massacre"? Is this a horror comedy or just a comedy?

"Brutal Massacre: A Comedy" is basically a mocumentary about a B-horror film director (played by David Naughton, of American Werewolf fame) whose career is washed up and he’s making one more horror film to try to redeem himself. The action takes place during the making of the film, during which everything that can possibly go wrong in the making of a film, does. I play the production coordinator who’s been a long-time collaborator of the director.

What are the makers (producers, director, etc.) of "Brutal Massacre" like? It looks like it has a huge cast of celebrity horror people and Mick Garris is in it as well. I assume the makers are very passionate about the horror genre.

Yes, the director, Stevan Mena (director of Malevolence), producer, Tom Bambard (former director of horror marketing at Anchor Bay Entertainment), and many of the principal and supporting actors have a connection to either the current or past horror film genre. Several of the cast members are “convention buddies” of mine (David Naughton, Gunnar Hansen, Ken Foree, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly); people who’ve ended up doing live appearances at the same sci-fi and horror conventions. In fact there was a mock convention scene in which Mick Garris, celebrity horror director, and Tony Timpone (from Fangoria) appear as themselves. There’s obviously a vast knowledge of and affection for the genre represented in this film. There are also other cult celebrities from other genres, ie, Brian O’Halloran (Clerks) and Gerry Bednob (40 year old Virgin). We had a blast.

Why did you take such a long time off after "The Evil Dead"?

At the time that I was in The Evil Dead, I was a theatre major at the University of Michigan, so I went back after shooting and finished my degree. After that I went on and got a master’s in arts administration. I then had several administration jobs, starting with managing a symphony orchestra in North Carolina, and also got married and had two children. I still did an occasional theatre or singing gig, but my main focus was my kids and eventually helping my ex-husband run a manufacturers’ rep. agency. It wasn’t ‘til my children were teenagers that I considered making another film.

What do your kids think of the movie (Evil Dead)?

They think it’s pretty cool that I was part of such a cult classic. Although they’re not huge horror fans, they both are performers and understand the nature of the genre.

Do you think the short film, "Within the Woods", will ever receive a DVD release? Any idea what has held it up?

No – I don’t think it’ll ever be released. For whatever reason, Sam Raimi choose not to release it.

What are some of your future projects?

There’s a film called "The Horribleness" that my friend Josh Becker has written, which will star Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and myself, and will hopefully be shot this summer. It’s a hysterical horror-comedy script in the nature of the Munsters or the Addams Family. I’m very excited about doing the voice of Lucy in the upcoming UK animated short Where’s the Vampire, animated by Roger Betiol and written by Carl Kirschner. David Naughton is doing the other voice. Also in the works is a film out of Detroit called Morrow Road, in which I’ll play the ghost of a mother searching for her lost child.

Click here for the 'Ladies of the Evil Dead' Web Site.

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