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Barbara Hershey Returns To Horror And ‘The Blumhouse’ In ‘The Manor’

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 5, 2021

Hollywood legend, Barbara Hershey, headlines the new horror The Manor, part of the second annual anthology film series, Welcome to the Blumhouse.

She plays a woman suffering from various medical conditions who moves into a nursing home where things take a dark, supernatural turn. The problem is getting people to believe her that something is not right. Hershey is no stranger to Blumhouse or horror, having previously appeared in the Insidious movies and The Entity.

I caught up with the award-winning actress to discuss how her late mother informed her performance, shooting the horror movie over Halloween and the ending that she didn’t see coming.

Simon Thompson: Would you consider yourself a fan of horror as a genre?

Barbara Hershey: It depends, to be honest with you. I’m not a fan to the degree that Axelle Carolyn, The Manor’s director, is. She’s a real, rabid horror fan. I like psychological horror. I don’t like the blood and guts horror. I think this can be really satisfying on a primal level because I believe, as cave people, we’re equipped to deal with fear. It’s this safe arena where you can experience anxiety, and it doesn’t hurt you, so it can be satisfying and intriguing. I also really like exploring all those dark questions.

Thompson: The Manor reunites you with Bruce Davison for the first time in decades. Was that one of the reasons that you signed on for this? Did you know that Bruce was involved when you joined the project?

Hershey: No, I found out after I agreed to do it. He was cast ahead of me, but I didn’t know that when I read it. I signed up because of the character. I hadn’t played that character before, and I loved her vitality, her gutsiness, and that she swore. I love her life force because she was fun and angry, and all kinds of things. I liked the script, which is always the main thing to me, and it took some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. The ending surprised me too, which was great in itself.

Thompson: That ending was not where I thought this was going to go.

Hershey: It was very refreshing. I don’t know if I would make her choice. Without giving anything away, I find the question that it asks so fascinating. It’s a great question, and I spoke to Axelle about it a lot. It’s hard to talk about what we discussed without giving it away but, I spoke to her about the choice that my character, Judith, makes and what that suggests.

Thompson: How was the experience of working with Axelle and being able to have that dialogue?

Hershey: I loved working with her. We had a few days of figuring out whether we could trust each other, then we fell in love, and we were united. I trusted her completely, and she trusted me. It’s always a little tricky when you work with a director who is also the writer. There’s a saying that writers would hate, but I think it’s somewhat true. The saying is that a writer has to give the film to the director, and the director has to give the film to the actor. When someone writes, it is tough to let go of some ideas. Sometimes we would wrangle over a line that I thought would come out of my mouth a little easier if I said it a particular way or I didn’t think was necessary, and we’d discuss it. As we worked more and more, she trusted me more on it, and everything relaxed. It was just delightful. My relationship with a director is my favorite relationship when it works. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s incredible. Axelle and I got there. I’d love to work with her again. She’s such a horror fan, and that kind of it permeated the set. She was always be wearing something that had to do with horror, and on Halloween, everybody dressed up. It was this horror festival of fun and celebration on the set.

Thompson: How was it filming a horror movie on Halloween itself?

Hershey: It was wonderful. I can’t remember what the scene was, but it was a pretty heavy one, and I looked up, and there was everybody as ghosts, goblins, witches, and monsters. It was just funny, and I loved it. It was very touching.

Thompson: How did you find your character, Judith? A lot is going on. 

Hershey: I started with the physical side of the character, the fact that she had a stroke, which I didn’t know anything about, so I educated myself about that. She has the beginning of Parkinson’s, which is what puts her in a nursing home. It’s a progressive disease, so it’s only going to get worse. I had to learn about those things and kind of figure out what was usable for me because I didn’t want to slam the audience in the face with it because that’s not what the film is about. It had to be present but not obvious. Also, the idea of dementia versus monsters, I don’t know which is worse. If there’s something horrific happening, if you see these terrible and frightening things, is that worse than thinking that your mind is producing it? That question was fascinating to me. My mother had dementia, and it was totally real to her. With her fear of what she was experiencing, what was worse was that people didn’t believe her. I remember her pain that I didn’t believe her, which resonated with me very strongly with this character. Horror offers a really unique opportunity where it’s about something serious, but it can be presented in a way that is felt but can also be fun and scary and get people thinking. 

Thompson: Jason Blum is one of the people behind this movie, and he’s someone who has, over the last decade, elevated horror, which is a genre a lot of actors often previously dismissed. Before Insidious, it had been almost 30 years since you did The Entity. What does he bring to the table that makes you want to accept an invitation to the Blumhouse?

Hershey: The best horror, or at least the ones I’ve been involved with or observed, are character-oriented. I’ve always had the theory that if you care about the characters, you care about what happens to them. In horror, that means it can be really frightening. He seems to like actors and acting, which is excellent. I also love that Blumhouse Productions gives new directors, minority directors, and people who usually wouldn’t get a chance, opportunities and they’re using their power in a positive way. To make films like this anthology series is an excellent example of it.

The Manor, part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse series, lands on Amazon’s

AMZN
Prime Video on Friday, October 8, 2021.

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