For some reason, The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise really offered up some of the sexiest and smartest women in horror. I loved the fact that they didn’t feel like your typical heroine, there was something alive inside of them. And with Lisa Wilcox, she gave the character Alice a fire that we witnessed as she began to take on the powers of all that Freddy killed. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit deeper than it is, but seriously, Lisa helped make Alice one of the most fascinating characters in the history of Elm Street. And thankfully, she showed up a bunch on television for afterwards… just before taking a bit of a hiatus from Hollywood.
I have to say that chatting with her is such a wonderful thing. She is sweet, funny and just so incredibly charming and honest. We got a chance to talk about the Nightmare experience, nudity (or the lack thereof) and which is the better film, Part 4 or Part 5. We both agreed on that one. But the spark she showed in both films still burns and thankfully, she is ready to return to film (and theatre) and I hope somebody out there realizes that this lovely lady needs a kick arse part… pronto. So here she is, the lovely and talented… Lisa Wilcox.
Now before you jumped into the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, you did some television. What was it like to leap into feature films, especially something like NIGHTMARE from T.V.?
Um… the interesting thing is, if I recall, I had done one T.V. thing, I did “Hardcastle and McCormick”.
I’d done theatre though. A lot of theatre, equity waiver in fact, even in high school. I did do a couple of high school plays. But I did most of my theatre work, starting when I could start driving at fifteen and a half. Getting a drivers permit and driving at fifteen and a half [Laughing]. And at Buddy Ebsen’s Theatre in Newport Beach and a number of theatres in Southern California. And so then, went on to UCLA, got into UCLA which was so awesome, and I was a theatre major there. So I did a number of productions there as well. And then I did “Hardcastle and McCormick”. Then it took me, like eighty-five auditions, my agent was like, ‘Lisa, you can’t book a job, what’s your problem?’ [Laughing]. And I would get nervous at auditions, I would get so nervous. Finally I booked “Hardcastle and McCormick” and then I got NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 4: THE DREAM MASTER. I mean, I got it really early in my career.
How familiar were you with the franchise?
Oh my goodness, in college I had seen NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the first one. You know, we rented it one night and all watched it. And I love horror films. I’ve always been a big fan of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN and ROSEMARY’S BABY and all those kinds of things. The genre definitely thrilled me. THE EXORCIST, all those… CARRIE, oh my gosh, such a good movie.
Awesome. I just rented that again recently and watched it. Such a great film.
Yeah, it’s terrific. Well there is something about horror, even with your character from NIGHTMARE, Alice, it always gets a sort of bad rap. The women are victimized and what have you. But look at your character…
Yeah! I live! [Laughing]
You live through two movies. I think that is a record for NIGHTMARE. I think you are the only actual “character” [Heather Langenkamp was in three and survived in two, but not as Nancy] that survives in two… aside from Alice’s dad.
Oh yeah. Dad makes it through.
Which surprised the hell out of me when I saw Part 4. I thought for sure they’d whack the dude.
Because he’s such a jerk in Part 4.
Well he gets sober, so he redeems himself.
That’s true, that’s true. ‘Cause that’s the one thing that Nancy’s mom didn’t do. She only went sober for like five seconds and it wasn’t enough apparently [Laughing]. Now you worked with Stephen Hopkins and Renny Harlin in these movies. How did they compare to each other?
Hm… gosh… how do they compare…? Well, Renny was more detached, but specific. He reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he’d speak, I mean he’s not from… he’s Finnish… and he’d be like [with accent] ‘Okay, let’s do this scene…’ you know. And he was really calm but still certainly involved, in moments that came up, and opportunities that came up that weren’t written in the script. But we were able to take advantage of certain situations like, there’s the scene where I’m in the diner and I’m polishing the silverware and whatnot, and there was this fabulous shadow happening on the back. And I’m like, ‘Renny, look at this shadow!’, and I had forks, you know. And he’s like, ‘Oh yes, get the knives! Polish knives!’ and then there is like this great shadow, you know, it looks like Freddy’s glove. So it was very cool. And then Stephen was very much, he was more emotional I would say.
Really? That’s interesting because he was came from a more production design stand point.
Oh yeah. I mean, well he’s an artist. He did amazing drawing for the sets and all kinds of things. He was really involved in that. But he was a little more high energy you could say.
With Part 4, you ended up as the lead, and obviously with Part 5, it was your film, the first twenty minutes is almost entirely your character. When the offered you the fifth, did you originally think you’d die in the first five minutes or did you know that you were going be the lead? Were you a little freaked out about undertaking such a major role?
Well, I was really flattered… I mean, it was exciting when Nightmare 4 did so well. It was really successful at the box office, it just knocked everyone’s socks off. It was the most successful of the series in fact.
I saw it three times in the theatre.
Did you [Laughing]?
Yes I did. Even once at a drive-in.
Well it just had this… it was a date movie. You could actually take a date. It wasn’t terribly gory. It had some great one liners. And when they offered five, I was very flattered. And yeah, I’m in like every scene. And there were topics in five, you know, abortion and all kinds of stuff going on.
It’s a dark movie.
It was dark. It’s totally changed from four but I was thrilled to be offered it and thrilled to get the part.
Which do you prefer? Because I know a lot of the fans had issues with five, which I personally didn’t… I don’t think it is one of the best of the series, I actually liked part four better. But what about you, which one stuck out for you just as an audience?
For me… four. I just think the writing is so clever. I loved the dialogue. And also just the character arch that Alice goes through. You know, from really living in another world, daydreaming all the time and she literally has to wake up and commit her life to something, which is saving her friends, you know. And just the character arch she goes through is really lovely to see. You know, kind of reminiscent of CARRIE, she has an amazing character arch. And in five, it is… the growth has happened for Alice on many levels so there wasn’t anywhere for her to grow. And it was a dark film, like you said.
Well to your credit, I’ve gotta say you were really phenomenal in the role.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I mean five was a pleasure to do as well. It was a gorier film… dark and gorier [Laughing]… I mean poor Dan [Hassel] turning into the motorcycle.
I love that scene but I was kind of rooting for that guy.
Yeah, I was too. You’re too cute to die [Laughing].
You both made a cute couple [Laughing].
Thank you [Laughing].
Okay with that in mind… one thing that horror fans love to talk about is T & A. How much of the earlier nude shots of you are actually you?
I didn’t think so.
I was watching it and I kept thinking, that is not you at all.
You know, I got married just a couple weeks before NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4. And I wanted to have children and I don’t want my kids to be in high school and seeing that, you know what I mean?
I don’t have a problem with nudity, but at that time for me, and the film that it is, it wasn’t necessary. In fact, I have never done any nudity in a film. And I probably never will. And I know it’s probably frustrating for New Line with Part 5, because that scene where I’m walking down the hallway and I’m supposed to be nude - the body double they had for me was great, I mean, that gal had a much better butt than I do [Laughing] - and so you’d see her, and then you’d see me from the front. And I had on this body suit thing and it kept like, kind of showing up, you know, in the tight on my face and shoulders… but you kept kind of seeing it. And I know they were frustrated but no, I can’t do that!
Now let’s talk about what you are doing now. You haven’t been working for awhile but it sounds like you are getting back into it.
Yeah, I started a jewelry company, a costume jewelry company [with Tuesday Knight]. So I took a little hiatus, oh, seven years I would say. The last thing I did was “The Brady Bunch”, I played Carol Brady, Florence Henderson…
Talk about an iconic character.
Yeah, it was great. It was a movie of the week… so fun. It was the “unauthorized version” of The Brady Bunch, what was going on behind the scenes.
What kind of preparation did you do for that [Laughing]?
Oh, gee darn, I had to watch Brady Bunch [Laughing]. Which I love! That’s what I watched when I got home from school. Gosh, that was such an amazing experience. It was really cool to play her. Just a wonderful, wonderful person I think. And then [I] didn’t do anything for seven years. And then this year I’m getting back… I miss it, you know. I actually did an episode of “Big Shots” a new TV show with a bunch of gorgeous guys. And I’m actually going to be doing a staged radio read of “Private Lives”. And we actually have a script in hand, but it’s like an old-fashioned radio read. With a radio mike and that kind of thing. But there will be some blocking and that kind of thing. I play the part of Sybil. It’s neat because I haven’t been on stage in like twenty years.
Wow, it’s been that long? Going from doing that much theatre to doing nothing?
I know. Well, you know when you have children… you know. And that was a commitment, I wanted to have children and that was more important, you know what I mean.
5 Questions for Lisa Wilcox
What’s your favorite novel, horror or otherwise?
Bram Stoker is fabulous… amazing.
What is it about Dracula?
Oh, the way he describes… his writing is like poetry.
You’re stranded on an island, and you can only bring three movies, what would they be?
GONE WITH THE WIND. Um… PAN’S LABYRINTH… hmmm, third one… something funny [Laughing]… Ahhhh, I’m thinking… what is that one? I’ll come back to you on this one, I have to think of the name of it.
If you could play any historical figure, either fictional or factual, who would it be?
Hmmm… Cher [Laughing].
That would be funny. I could see you doing like a E.M. Forester film… I think you’d be great in one of those.
Yeah, something eighteen hundreds with a fabulous gown [Laughing].
It’s always strange to think of horror icons sitting around watching television, but if you do, what do you watch?
HGTV. Home and Garden.
I love seeing a room, a home, transform into something fantastic. I love the design aspect of that. And the comedy movie… shoot… it’s an Adam Sandler movie… he plays a stupid guy who plays football and he has a crazy mother…
Out of all the young filmmakers working today, who would you like to work with?
As far as actors…? Will Smith… he is so amazing.
Let me know what you think. Send questions at firstname.lastname@example.org