Danielle Harris Talks HATCHET III, Working with BJ McDonnell, Adam Green’s Presence on Set, AMONG FRIENDS, THE FARM, and More

     June 14, 2013

In Hatchet III Danielle Harris returns as Marybeth Dunston, the series protagonist seemingly doomed to repeatedly watch friend, foe, and family alike literally ripped apart at the hands of Victor Crowley.  The Hatchet films have always succeeded as pure slashers that deliver over the top old-school kill scenes, and revel in gooey, chunky, slimy practical effects without ever themselves too seriously.  With BJ McDonnell, cameraman for the first two films, stepping in to direct Adam Green’s script Hatchet III is bigger, more action packed final chapter to the trilogy, jam packed with guns and explosives.  While the addition of so much firepower diminishes some of the old-school slasher sensibilities, McDonnell is clearly in tune with what fans of the series have come to expect in terms of character and tone.  Odds are if you enjoyed the first two, you’ll have good time with Hatchet III.

The day after the film’s Hollywood premiere I jumped on the phone for an exclusive one on one interview with Danielle Harris.  We talked about the possibility of anotherHatchet film, the easy transition to working with BJ McDonnell, Adam Green’s continued presence as producer/writer, working in Louisiana, and the difficulty working with practical effects on the more outlandish kills.  We also discussed her directorial debut Among Friends, the status of The Farm, and more.  Hatchet III also stars Zach GalliganKane HodderCaroline WilliamsDerek MearsRileah Vanderbilt and Sid Haig.  Check out what she had to say after the jump.  Please be aware that there are some spoilers.

Collider: You guys had the premiere last night, how was being at the big premiere of what might be the last film in the series?

DANIELLE HARRIS: It was bitter sweet, I think.  I’m happy that it turned out as great as it did and it’s exciting to finish, but when I went home last night it was, “congratulations and farewell”, basically.  We’ll do other projects in the future.  Thank god, I’ve got things I’m doing, and there’s Holliston, and all these other things.  We’ll keep working together again, but it’s kind of bittersweet.  It’s a bummer that I’m not like, “Hmm I wonder what’s going to happen?” But there might be another one, I don’t know, who knows if I’m dead or alive.  We’re kind of leaving that open. 

If they do come around for another one are you ready to go for it?

HARRIS: It kind of depends.  It depends on the script and it depends on if Adam’s doing it.  I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t do another one if Adam wasn’t involved.  I don’t see that necessarily happening any time soon.

So you had BJ McDonnell stepping in as director this time.  What was it like working with him?  Was it very different than making Hatchet II?

HARRIS: I know BJ really well, we’ve done four movies together, so I definitely already had that built in trust, and that friendship, and that relationship back from when he was our main camera guy on Halloween in 2007.  And I’m fiends with his girlfriend, so it was already like family.  It wasn’t like showing up on set and not knowing what it was going to be like.  I already knew what the vibe was going to be because I know BJ’s vibe, so that was pretty easy to transition to.  And also I know that character so well, it’s mostly just Kane and I, so I kind of got that down and we really didn’t need, at that point, to rely on anybody because Adam already set up Marybeth for me from Hatchet II.  So for Hatchet III I kind of just had to pick her up and continue in that place from what Adam had already created.  BJ’s so great visually and he had his hands full with movie.  We were talking last night at the Q&A and this movie was such a short amount of time to shoot, such big stunts, and a huge cast and being outside it was complicated compared to shooting on a sound stage.  I definitely would really have to love a script to back again and shoot in Louisiana, in the swamps at least, I would have to really think about that one.  It was a pretty easy transition, that’s for sure.

The good thing about the fact that you guys shot out in Louisiana was that onscreen it looked really good.

hatchet 3HARRIS: It looks amazing, yeah it definitely looks amazing.  It’s good and it’s bad because there’s something really kind of kitschy about it being a little bit goofy with shooting on a sound stage, and with the first one they weren’t in the swamps either, they were on a ranch.  So while the third one looked like it was supposed to look, as amazing as it looks, I think there’s still a little bit of that the third one didn’t have.  The finale kind of calls for it to be bigger than the others, but I didn’t miss that little thing that the other two had.

That’s a good point.  I can definitely see what you’re saying.  Even though he didn’t direct this time around, Adam is still writer and producer, and this Franchise is still sort of his baby, what was his day to day level of involvement on the project?

HARRIS: He was there every day all day from beginning to end.  Adam is totally a control freak like I am, so I get it.  He’s so devoted to the fans and the franchise, because it is his baby, that there was no- like when I heard that he wasn’t directing it, I was like, “What do you mean he’s not directing?” I thought that he just wrote footage and wasn’t going to be present, be part of it, and he was probably even more present.  This is funny, but because he was so sort of watching BJ, dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, but at the same time giving him the respect and the freedom and the space to do what he knows BJ is capable of, but still making sure with kind of a watchful eye in the monitor every single day.  There wasn’t a day that I was on set that Adam wasn’t there sort of making sure.  And BJ needed him.  He needed somebody there to make sure it was what we were looking for.  Then once we kind of got in the groove Adam would go back and write a little bit in the trailer, but he was still on set.  Every day he was there for lunch, he was there in the beginnings he saw the rehearsals, he saw everything go down, and then once he knew that BJ had it he would walk away for a few hours and he would come back.  So it definitely had Adam’s sketch of approval on a daily basis.

When it comes to the character of Marybeth, this time around you were just in it and fucking owning it, when you got that script and saw the lines and the kind of dialogue you were getting were you pretty stoked?

HARRIS: Yeah, in Hatchet II there was so much exposition.  I think I said “Uncle Bob” like 100 times and “my daddy and my brother”, I said those words so many times in Hatchet II that I was like “oh my god”.  It was driving me crazy.  This one definitely had a bit more sass, and she was a little more fun to play.  But at the same time I didn’t have a lot to do in this because most of my stuff was dialogue, whereas the other one it was more going on, I had more action, in Hatchet IIIit’s mostly just beginning and end for me, and the middle is all dialogue.  I got chance to play around and I haven’t – somebody was reminiscing with me the other day about this movie I did years ago called The Last Boy Scout, and they were like “Oh my god that scene when you’re in the back of the police car reminded me so much of your character from back in the day.”  I played all these feisty, sassy characters and then kind of lost that a little bit, so I think Adam brought a little bit of that back.  It was a lot more comic relief in this movie than there was in the second movie, that’s for sure.

hatchet 3Did you look at the script and go “My god that’s a lot of F-bombs”?

HARRIS: [Laughs] No, because we all swear so much.  You saw us up on stage last night, we drop the F-bomb on like every other word.  So when I read it I don’t even hear it.  I can’t even – I think Adam was saying this is like a record there was, I don’t know, just so many f-bombs in the movie.  I, honestly, don’t even hear them.  The “fist your own ass” line that I had – that was one where I was like “Oh my god, I can’t imagine Marybeth every saying that.”

The audience loved that line, it went over really well.

HARRIS: [Laughs] Totally.

Between both Halloween Franchises, Urban Legend, and Hatchet 2 you’ve dealt with a lot of fake blood and practical effects, but the opening scene in this film-

HARRIS: Oh, god.

Yeah, that was extreme, what was that like to shoot?

HARRIS: It’s like my clothes at the end of the night, once they dried, if they ever dried, could just stand up on their own.  I could just stand them up in my trailer.  It was….I was like, “Oh my god, okay you have to film this.”  Since I have done that so much, I would end the day in my trailer, or the morning I should say, 8 in the morning just completely covered, not only in blood, but in bugs.  The blood isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s that I’m in the swamp covered in blood which is basically candy syrup, and then I’m lit.  So I’m in the dark, but all the lights are on me, and I’m just a giant lollipop.  So I think peeling  my clothes off at the end of the night and knowing that I have like minimum fifty different types of bugs that are dead and literally stuck to me, I was like “Alright, I think I’m done.  I think I’m kind of over this.  I think this is fun for like a minute and they can al laugh and be excited and have it look really cool.”  It’s like, “Oh my god, this is so much fun!”  But I’m the one who has to go back to the trailer and peel myself out of my clothes [laughs], and cover myself in shaving cream to get the blood off, and take a disgusting shower where I just can quite get the moths and the giant flying bugs out the knots in my hair.  It’s so disgusting.  It’s fun, but I was definitely glad that I got to shower in his one, and be in comfy sweats, and in a police car or police station.  I really didn’t have to be in that as much as I was in the last one.  So I was grateful to be in comfy clothes, even though they weren’t that flattering and I definitely liked my leather jacket and my camo pants more, this time I was like “Oh this is so not cute” but its par for the course.

Over the course of making these two films, did you have any scenes that were a lot of fun to film?  Or that were your favorite?  And did you have any that were just hellish?

HARRIS: I think this one was – I mean I am a huge Gremlins fan so for me working with Zach, even though we don’t have a ton to do, but the one scene that we had in the jail cell I was so excited as an actor to be able to play with someone that I – Gremlins was my first horror movie that I ever saw.  I saw it at the drive in.  I actually have a Gremlin in my house, a big puppet.  It’s the only thing that’s remotely genre that I have in my home.  So to play with Zach was incredibly exciting for me. 

As far as the hard stuff, I think a lot of that tree stuff was really difficult.  Being impaled on the tree, I was harnessed in such a weird way, and also they had just sprayed that tree down with poison because it was covered with ants.  So they sprayed the tree down and then they stuck me on it and actually I was supposed to just drop a little bit, I didn’t fall completely to the ground that was my double, but I got jerked quite a bit just to see me start the fall.  But there was a little bit of miscommunication so  I wasn’t just jerked I was dropped down to the base of the tree basically, because it was a big stump that went out, and the pads were a little bit far away so I actually hit the bottom.  In the police station scene where Zach and I are talking, before Caroline comes in, I have these giant bruises on my arms, and those are all real from me falling off the tree.  And the medics are looking at me, because I have open wounds and I’ve just been scraped by a tree that’s been sprayed down by poison.  [Laughs] so there’s a lot of that and checking bug bites because they’re blowing up it could be spiders and it could be poisonous.  There was a lot of that we had to take into consideration where the stunts may be small but there’s a lot that could go wrong because we’re dealing with nature.  It was fun getting to shove my fist down his neck.  It was disgusting and fun at the same time, because I knew that it was going to be cool.  I think my favorite is probably the end of Hatchet II.  Me hacking his face, the blood coming up, and coming back with the shot gun, that whole ending.  I think Hatchet II is my favorite ending so far.

hatchet 3 posterI would have to agree with you on that.  Looking toward the future, you’ve got your directorial debut Among Friends coming out in August, what do you want to tell people about that?

HARRIS: It’s the beginning of my directing career so I’m still finding my style, but I just love character driven stuff, stuff that’s quirky and has a sense of humor, even if it’s dark.  I actually prefer dark.  So this definitely has my sort of feel all over it, from characters to dialogue, to the story is so well written, the 80s theme, and it looks different from most movies.  I’ve got such great fans and support from everybody that I just wanted to do something that wasn’t typical.  And that’s why Hatchet is so big.  Adam just did something that he loved when nobody else wanted to do anything like that.  For me I had an opportunity to make something that I hadn’t been seeing very much of, which is something that is very fun and colorful and dark and simple, but all sorts of deliciously wrong shit.  That’s what it is.  I’m excited for everybody to see it.  I’m in the middle of optioning my next one right now.  That’s kind of what I wasn’t to do.  I have a couple movies as an actor in the works this year, but I haven’t really closed my deals yet.  But I haven’t really worked in the last couple of months, just kind of taking some time off and promoting the stuff I have that’s already coming out, getting back to my life, and optioning this script that I’m going to direct hopefully yearly spring of next year.  You can live with a movie for two years.  And I think just coming off the festival circuit from Among Friends I had a little bit of down time and I’ve been taking it, but I’m ready to move on to the next thing, that’s for sure.

I definitely have to ask about The Farm, I’m a big fan of Xavier Gens, he makes really wild films.  I was wondering if you know what’s going on with that.

HARRIS: I don’t actually.  I love Xavier he’s in Among Friends as well, I had him do a cameo and he does his entire cameo in French which is hilarious.  I have no idea what he’s saying, but it’s brilliant.  We were supposed to shoot in April, then it got pushed to September, now I don’t really know because Michael [Biehn] and Jennifer [Blanc] and Xavier are doing other films as well together, so I don’t know what’s happening.  I know it was undergoing a rewrite they’re still saying fall of this year, but I haven’t necessarily heard anything specific or any dates locked.  I’m just hoping and praying that we do get it done this year because it’s pretty great.  I’m looking forward to it.

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