Lesleh Donaldson: From Horror Ingenue to Real Life Leading Lady By Brian Kirst
A favorite among horror lovers for her effective, honest performances in Happy Birthday to me, Curtains, Deadly Eyes and Funeral Home, Lesleh Donaldson has left a long lasting effect on our grue stained cinematic lore. Of course, Donaldson also proved she could bring it home in such mainstream fare as Running and Hearts on Fire while also proving to be an effective guest star on shows like Friday the 13th (where her eyes gleam with chillingly deep evil). Now devoting herself to motherhood, writing and lingering thoughts of returning to film work, the glamourous and glorious Donaldson recently took some time to answer some exclusive Horror Society questions.
Brian: Who were your first performing influences – Al Pacino jogging through the night – Lana Turner’s early MGM glow – An amateur theatre acting, slightly dotty maiden aunt?
Lesleh: When I was starting out in acting the role models I had were Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Sally Field, Debra Winger, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, Sean Penn…you get the picture, but I guess my real intro into the world of movie magic was when I was about 5 and saw Barbara Streisand in “Funny Girl” I thought she was fabulous and wanted to be like her.
Brian: The music that made you dance, huh? Anyhow – What was something that you picked up on the Running set that you kept with you throughout your entire career?
Lesleh: Well It was my first Feature Film movie role so I guess that never goes away from your psyche but I do remember the first day of shooting they sent a Limo to pick me up and bring me to the set and I thought WOW! This is fabulous, have to admit that was the only time it has ever happened…LOL.
Brian: Ah, too bad. Anyhow – Funeral Home is da’ Bomb! Any awesome, explosive memories from that set – the thrill of getting your feet wet as a performer, onset osmosis through Barry Primus…?
Lesleh: Well it was a wonderful experience as it was my first lead. Barry Morse was great and of course I became friends with Kay Hawtrey who although quite eccentric is really a very funny and warm person.
Brian: Speaking of warmth – There was a lot of dank, dark basement action in Funeral Home and some late night parking lot spookery going on Happy Birthday to Me – was there anything that tickled your fear bone –or were there always too many crew people/co-stars around to really cause any fright in you?
Lesleh: Too many crew people around for anyone to really get spooked on these sets and of course you get to see all the little technical tricks they use to make the shots as scary as possible. I remember the blood on my neck from HBTM being very gooey and feeling really gross, but what fun.
Brian: Cool. You had to learn to skate for Curtains. Was that those most intensive training that you had to do for a project or does something else take the icing?
Lesleh: I already knew how to skate but I was not a figure skater so yes that was a grueling experience although I remember getting a role on The Littlest Hobo — a Television series back then — and I had to play a blind accomplished horse rider and I had never been on a horse before in my life so that was even scarier for me.
Brian: Speaking of scary – did something just skitter past my leg? – Gosh, those are some Deadly Eyes!!! What was the most interesting aspect of your time on the set for that hairy crittered opus?
Lesleh: Well not sure if you could qualify this as interesting but watching those poor daschunds dressed in those rats suits scurrying about was a little disturbing.
Brian: True. Although -You don’t have to worry about ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ cuz you got to work with Dylan!!! (and Fiona… and Rupert Everett) What can you tell us about your time on the set of the gloriously misconceived Hearts of Fire?
Lesleh: Unfortunately all my scenes were not with Dylan or Rupert but more with Fiona — who was a sweetheart. I do remember they put a group of us in Rupert’s trailor though and we shot our scenes in November – it was cold so at lunch we drank some of Rupert’s Sake not sure if he ever got wise to us..LOL.
Brian: With the release of Friday the 13th, The Series on DVD, you are gaining new fans all over again. Was there anything particular you remember about being on the set for your episode The Great Montarro? (Hell, that would be a good name for a band, huh?)
Lesleh: Yes it would be. Not a lot I can say about that one, again a lot of fun to make, got to finally play the bad guy and that was a nice change from being the victim. Gotta love that big hair though no?
Brian: Well, it is…powerful — but not as wonderful as you’re truly magnetic performance when you finally get to let loose.(Poor Robey!) Speaking of performance – You did a lot of voice over work. Was it difficult for you to express yourself only through your voice or did you find it somewhat freeing?
Lesleh: I LOVE doing voice work, no hair, no costumes, no make-up just you in a little booth getting to have fun. Commercials are especially fun, short and sweet and you get paid really well too.
Brian: You got a ‘thank you’ from the makers of the cool horror short Penny Dreadful recently. What was your contribution to that project?
Lesleh: I didn’t contribute to it all although I love Bryan Norton he’s a great guy and good film maker. I think they thanked me because I was supposed to play a part that got cut from the script.
Brian: Lastly, any words of advice (IE: Never make friends with the psycho sister of a brain damaged television star) or future projects that you’d like to tell us about? And thanks – this has been better than finding a creepy doll on the ice any day of the week!
Lesleh: Yikes creepy dolls are the worse. And so are psycho step sisters! I’m just playing mom right now but I never say never to any possible project. I’m concentrating on turning my hand to a bit of writing and of course will be at the Javits Center for the Horror convention on June 5-7th. I just keep looking to the future.