By all accounts, actress Dee Wallace should need little to no introduction. In the world of horror films, she’s regarded as one of all-time top scream queens, appearing in such classics as The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983), and Critters (1986). But of her nearly two-hundred acting credits, she will perhaps forever best be known for her role in the 1982 Steven Speilberg blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Last week, I had the chance to speak with Dee over the phone from her California home, where I was honored to ask her about many of said previous films, as well as her more recent, inspiring work in the self-help field.
And I was lucky enough to catch her just at the right time; at the very start of our conversation, Wallace informs me with glee; “I’m heading out to do a film, so you’re my very last, good little thing I get to do before I hop on a plane!” I also wanted Dee to know how much I had learned about her prior to our interview while doing background research, to which she delightfully chuckled before proclaiming, “That’s funny, everybody says that! Well thank you for doing your research!”
One of the first things I wanted to know was what made Wallace decide to step into the world of motivational speaking. She tells me; “Well, when you’re called, you have to answer that call! That’s the best way I can put it. Really when I look back on my entire life, it’s all lead up to this. I used to get messages when I was a little girl – which a lot of kids do. Then later in life when I met Christopher (Stone, Dee’s late husband), he and I got involved in a philosophy called conceptology, and we studied that for a couple of years. Cut to later in life; when he died, I basically dropped to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be a victim or angry.’ And the first message I got literally within seconds was to ‘use the light within you to heal yourself.'”
She continues; “So I’ve kind of been expanding on that ever since. I had the largest acting studio in LA at the time, and I would start getting downloads about stuff, and they were always right-on. So then families began wanting to work with me once they saw my students lives’ were changing, and now here I am 30 years later with clients all over the world. I’m quite an oxymoron, actually; half my life I do horror films, the other half I try to teach people how to deal with fear (laughs)! But it’s pretty empowering work, I can tell you that. It’s definitely changed my life!” Dee also hosts a worldwide radio call-in show discussing many of these subjects, which airs online every Sunday at 9am PST.
By now I felt like it was as good a time as any to finally segue into her film career, and I wanted to know if the horror genre was something Wallace had pursued personally, or if it had more or less ‘found’ her. She tells me; “It definitely found me! That genre is one of the easier ones to get started in when you’re beginning your acting career. Ironically, the first film I ever did was a religious one called All the King’s Men – and then I booked The Hills Have Eyes – which again, it sort of explains the dichotomy of Dee, here! (laughs). But I love doing emotional work, and the horror genre gives you the opportunity to do that better than many others. It found me, and then I found out that I loved it!”
I was curious what it was like stepping back into the Critters film series last year when Dee appeared in the fifth entry, Critters Attack! (her first time returning since the 1986 original). She informs me; “It was a lot of fun. My first question for them was ‘are you doing the Critters CGI?,’ because if they were I wouldn’t have done it, and I think the fans would have been disappointed. But I read the script and met with the director, and I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa, so how bad could it be?!” (Laughs). I was also curious if Dee had kept up much with the various other sequels in the series, as well as the other long-standing horror franchise she had kicked off the original with (The Howling). She says; “Yeah, I was kind of like, been there, done that (laughs). Especially with The Howling series, they just had a different quality that didn’t really fit with who I am.”
I also wondered if it was odd for her at all to step into the role of a villain for the 1996 film The Frighteners. She says; “Oh God, I had so much fun doing that! I love to explore all of the different sides of me, and the psyche, and I just loved that arc of going from the little victim, to becoming the killer towards the end!”
Dee has also done a number of films with director Rob Zombie (who, coincidentally, I had also interviewed when I first got into journalism), and I always wondered how that relationship had originally developed. She explains; Well, “Rob loves to work with older, established, actors. He came after me for Halloween, and then he wrote the part of Sonny for me in Lords of Salem. And more recently he wanted to know if I would do this tough gal-type for 3 From Hell. He just always brings me interesting things, and doesn’t lock me into the same cubby holes a lot of people want to put me in.”
Knowing by now Wallace has probably been asked every question under the sun about her legendary role in E.T., I wanted to ask her something that perhaps she hadn’t heard before. So, I simply inquired what it was like to re-visit such a classic film all these years later. She tells me honestly; “I still cry, I still laugh. As we all know it’s just a magical movie, and has become a part of our consciousness. I never get tired of it, or talking about it – and I can’t say that about all of my movies (laughs). It opens hearts and reminds people of what’s really important, and we just need a lot more of that these days.”
And lastly, with Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to know if Dee considered E.T. a ‘Halloween’ movie. She replied; “It’s an everyday movie! It crosses all of the years, and all of the holidays, no matter what time of year it is!” Oh, and as far as that movie Dee was setting off to film? She leaves us with a cliffhanger; “I wish I could tell you what it is, but I can say it’s part of a franchise that hasn’t been visited in awhile, and I think fans are going to be very excited!” I can however say to check out the short film Stay Home, which Dee produced during the quarantine (check it out on Bloody Disgusting‘s website today!).