FRIGHT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MANIAC’s Megan Duffy!

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Franck Khalfoun & Alexandre Aja’s remake of 1980s’ cult classic MANIAC is out now on VOD & limited release, and it’s not only one of the best horror redux’s thus far, it holds a place as one of the best films’ of 2013. I got to jump on the phone today with the lovely Megan Duffy, who plays Lucie in the film, to talk about her role, shooting the film, and gushing about our love of the original MANIAC!

This is my first interview that I’ve ever done, so I hope you enjoy it, fiends!

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Hi Megan, it’s Justin from Icons of Fright, how are you doing today?

I’m good! Are you the one that’s friends with Rob (Galluzzo, Icon’s head honcho!) at FEARnet?

Yes! That’s one of my best friends.

Ok, he wanted me to be nice to you!

(Laughs) Yep, he’s one of my best friends. I am in Arizona, but I always try to go out to LA at least a couple times a year to go out and visit him.

Very cool. Do you participate in the karaoke that they do? (Editors Note: A group of LA horror journos, actors, directors, etc, get together & sing their hearts out.)

No! But I’m hoping whenever I move there I can get my karaoke on, I’m dying to!

Well next time you come visit, you should time it around when they’re doing a “scaryoke”.

(Editors Note: I’M GOING TO KARAOKE WITH MEGAN DUFFY.)

Absolutely, will do. I was just in LA two weeks ago at the Cinefamily, it was a friends’ birthday (Editors Note: that’d be Phil, who programs the best repertory screenings in Los Angeles for his Heavy Hitters Midnites), and he showed this crazy, aerobics movie from the 80s (HEAVENLY BODIES), so that was pretty incredible.

Cinefamily is a great, great venue.

I absolutely love it. So, I know you’ve done tons of interviews for MANIAC, so I’ll do my best not to be repetitive. I know they’ve got you on a huge PR storm, so I’ll keep it fresh.

(Laughs) I don’t mind!

This is actually my first interview, so…

Oh my goodness! No wonder Rob wanted me to be gentle!

(Laughs) I’m breaking my interview cherry, I’ll be as professional & un-annoying as possible.

Ok, deal.
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Just as an icebreaker, were you a fan of the horror genre growing up? What were some of your favorites growing up?

I’m actually a newer horror fan. When I was a kid I was super imaginative, and I couldn’t watch a horror movie without being really affected by it. I was a big fan of Freddy Krueger, those didn’t bother me for some reason. I remember being super young & seeing the THRILLER video, and being super freaked out by it. It took me till I got to adulthood to appreciate horror. I think ROSEMARY’S BABY is my favorite horror film. More recently I saw THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and loved it.

Those are some great films. CABIN IN THE WOODS is one of my favorites of last year. 2013 isn’t over yet, but MANIAC has got to be my favorite horror film, and top 10 of the year. Knowing that Bill Lustig’s film from the 80s is held in such high regard with fans, had you seen it before taking the role of “Lucie”?

When I went into read, I had not seen the film (original MANIAC) yet. Somewhere in between my call back, I sat down to watch it on Netflix, and I was blown away. It’s a lot more brilliant than it’s given credit for, and the long takes are stunning for a film of it’s time. The head shot (referring to the infamous shotgun to the head!) still holds up. My favorite scene in the original is when the woman gets into the bathtub, and the whole time you’re on edge wondering when Joe Spinell is going to come in and attack her. And she actually just takes a bath! It’s so brilliant and ballsy.

Absolutely. It definitely plays on expectations.

I mean she all she does is take a bath, and your stomach is in knots. It’s amazing they were able to manipulate the audience that way.

Totally. Were you aware of the cult status of MANIAC? Did that make accepting the role more of a daunting task?

By the time I accepted the role I was aware of it’s cult status. I had done my research, and it caused me to work harder. During my audition I knew very little information about the original. I just got a character description…and I was going to turn it down. I wasn’t interested in doing a horror film. Especially not a character that required nudity.

Right.

When I got more information and realized it was an Alexander Aja project, I changed my mind. I loved PIRANHA 3D, I though it was incredibly entertaining and that opened my eye a bit. So that’s when I went back and watched the original, and accepted the role. It made me work harder to form this character, and pay homage to the original.

And I think you did a wonderful job. Apart from PIRANHA 3D, were you familiar with Aja’s or Franck’s (Khalfoun) previous films?

I had seen P2 without realizing it was Franck’s movie, and I had seen THE HILLS HAVE EYES which I was a big fan of as well.
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THHE is definitely one of the better remakes as of late. What was it like working with Franck & Alex? What were your expectations going in?

I got the job, and three weeks later we were on set shooting, so there wasn’t much time for rehearsal or discussion with Alex or Elijah (Wood). Luckily during audition I had gotten to know Franck enough to where he trusted me on the direction I wanted to take with the character, and we got to expand on that further. I don’t have any body art, so I don’t know what it’s like to pick a tattoo or have a design that I would have on my body for the rest of my life. I started interviewing these girls who did have body art, and friends of mine who engage in online dating, so I got to walk on set with some character work and they were happy with that.

To work with them, Franck is amazing. He really let me be free; he and Alex together were an amazing team. It was a bit of a party environment, but warm & more inviting than I was anticipating.

That’s excellent! During your time on set, was the dialogue strictly scripted or more improvisational?

It was completely scripted. There were some instances that called for improv, like the scenes in the apartment, but we really stuck to the script.

Aja is known for making some pretty brutal films, did that appeal to you knowing you’d more than likely end up being drenched in fake blood?

Absolutely! I love fake blood! I think the guys from KNB are so professional and are absolutely brilliant at what they do, they’re experts at making gore. The majority of effects you see in MANIAC are practical. It’s not cg. It was incredible to work with them, and I had no idea there were so many different kinds of fake blood.

(Laughs) KNB is behind basically all of the classics from the late 80s up until now, they’re the masters of practical effects. Had you ever done something so effects heavy before? How much fun was it to go to work to get scalped and go through the whole makeup process?

I had never done anything like this. Lucie’s body art took three hours in hair & makeup every day on set. Lorraine Martin was the head makeup artist and she was the one who applied the tattoos. That was a whole process on it’s own. Attaching the scalps took about an hour, hour & a half. Everyone on the crew was so lovely and I’ve made friends that I still talk to.

That’s wonderful. Two weeks ago we posted a behind-the scenes video (check that out right here!) that shows you going through the whole makeup process. I can’t think of his name at the moment, but it shows an artist from KNB applying all of it…

Mike! Mike McCarty.

That’s right! It’s fascinating to see, and I believe that is what’s resonating amongst horror fans with MANIAC. There is so much CGI blood and kills in most horror films these days, not staying true to that old school aesthetic. That’s what is so great about MANIAC, it really captures that gritty grime of the original, and updates the kills with what we can do practically today.

What’s next for you? Would you consider working on another horror film in the future?

If it’s the right script, with a great team, and doesn’t feature gratuitous nudity, I would absolutely consider it. I recently just wrapped on an independent feature called JUKEBOX HERO. I play a supporting role; it’s about a girl who is dealing with mental illness. It’s written/directed by Sherry Robertson, and it should come out next year sometime. Also, I have an ongoing campaign with Burger King. I do all their TV & Radio commercials, and we have a bunch in the can that will be making their way out soon.

That’s incredible! Congratulations!

Thank you! Megan the cashier is a very different character than Lucie from MANIAC (laughs), so it’s been fun to swap between the two characters.

There are so many people killed in horror movies that are just unmemorable fodder for death, but I think Lucie is quite memorable.

Lucie was written to be likable, which I appreciate. I feel like in a lot of horror movies you see a lot of unlikable characters die, and it gives the audience satisfaction, but it’s so much more jarring when it is someone who is likable. It all has to do with Franck & Alex writing a really wonderful character.