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Interview: Ellie Cornell

nm0332081*If your stomach is still churning from the massive amounts of candy you just consumed, if you’re left with hundreds of HD channels but not a single horror title to watch, if ghostly decorations are being torn down, then most likely it’s just after Halloween (which it is) and most likely you’re crashing from all the Halloween goodness. Just as Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, we should have a… Black… Day After Halloween? too. If you’re still grasping at the tiniest remnants of your favorite holiday, as I am, then here’s one last little dose of Halloween to get you through the end of the weekend.

On Friday, Halloween 2014, I was thrilled to have an interview with the fantastic Ellie Cornell. Ellie Cornell is most known for playing Rachel Carruthers in Halloween 4 and 5, but she’s also worked in the House of the Dead franchise and a slew of other film and television projects; the most being a recurring role on “Femme Fatales” from 2011-2012. Mrs. Cornell (or Ms. Gottwald, she is a married woman now) is still very much in the acting game, and she even had a stage play that took place last night. In my interview with Ellie, you can listen to or read all about her time in horror franchises, lots of behind-the-scenes stories, details on her other projects, and about her one night only play from last night.

NOTE: For the written transcript of our interview below, I cut out some of our chit chat, laughter, and other quirks to make room for all the good stories. I’d highly recommend listening to the whole interview above so you can hear all of Ellie’s infectious laughs and her warm nature.

HorrorSociety: Do you think your role as Rachel Carruthers is more respected now 25, 26 years later than when the movies first came out?
Ellie: I do, and I think part of the reason, with my perspective, is that once Halloween 4 came and went, it got a really good response because it was a good story. I thought Dwight Little did a fantastic job. We had Donald Pleasence. All the elements were in place for a great story, a great sequel. I think as it got farther and farther away from the original appeal of Halloween 1 and 2, the elements that resonate really rise to the surface. I think people got behind Danielle Harris’ character and my character.

To answer your question, I think it wasn’t until after Rachel was killed that people went, “Aww, No!” Rachel was smart, she was somewhat likable, not stereotypical in horror movies. She was written very similarly to Jamie Lee Curtis’ role. She’s not the pretty, sexy, funny girl that gets the guys; but you get behind her because she fought back. She’s tough. Years later they asked Moustapha Akkad during a panel we were on, “Why did you do that to Rachel’s character?” and he said he had no idea the response to her would be so good.

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HorrorSociety: The same way that Laurie Strode was killed off in Halloween: Resurrection kind of mirrored the way Rachel died in Halloween 5. Let’s be clear, It was not your choice to get killed off? You didn’t ask to get killed off?
Ellie: Oh, goodness, no! We knew Halloween 4 did well, and then I waited for 5 to arrive at my door and I just knew. You just know. I didn’t have a conversation with the writers before I got the script. I remember, specifically, sitting down with the script and going “Where is it? Where is it?” You know it’s coming like on “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” you never know when you’re going to get knocked off.

I didn’t like the way they took Rachel out [in the original script], so they did rewrite it for me. They originally had her getting scissors down her throat. I didn’t think that’s Rachel Carruthers. I think that’s a little too undignified for her. Of course it wasn’t my choice. At the same time, I was really grateful to have gotten through a whole film without getting killed in that series. It says a lot about my character, and Danielle’s too. They have staying power, so I was lucky. I had the absolute pleasure of getting to work with Donald Pleasance. You can’t beat that. We got along really well. Sasha Jensen. Kathleen Kinmont. Beau Starr. Danielle Harris. It was a really fantastic experience from start to finish.

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HorrorSociety: After Halloween you did a couple other things, and then you joined a new franchise which is pretty popular – House of the Dead. House of the Dead seemed to be more fun, I don’t want to say silly, but it was a lot more fun than Halloween.
Ellie: Uwe Boll had a very different take, a very specific vision on how he wanted a video game to be translated on to film, and that was by cutting bits of the video game through the film. The cool thing about House of the Dead was that I really liked my character. She was tough, she was a fighter. I got to shoot some really big guns, The Mossberg 500 with incendiary shells. It was really, really fun. I got trained by this guy who was trained by the Israeli Army. The turn-table shots, I’m spinning 360 degree turns and the camera is filming the whole thing. Just some really cool things happened during that shoot. We shot it in the backwoods outside of Vancouver and they built this house for the duration of the shoot. Of course once we filmed it, they detonated it. To be privy to all of that special effects and production value was a really cool experience. It was all night shoots. We’d hear the birds chirping, the sun would come up, and we’d wrap. We’d sleep all day and come back the following night.

It’s weird. You don’t think about it at the time, but they are very serious about having weapons on the set, and for good reason. You have to wear ear protection. So, you have to hit your cue, hit your lines. It’s very different experience when you can’t hear a thing and you have to play the scene.

Ellie on All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos: It was like playing a zombie in All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos. I had contacts that blinded me so I was playing the scene with no vision. I don’t think Greg Nicotero worked on that one, but the FX guys are so talented on these films. People may not realize how much work go into that stuff, the time and expertise. I woke up the next morning, my agent called and said I had to be at a final call back for the lead in a drama. I went in with only three hours of sleep and green make-up on my knuckles from being a zombie. Danny Trejo is the biggest pleasure to work with, right at the very top. What a good egg, that man is. A heart of gold.

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HorrorSociety: I don’t want to make a whole interview about you dying in movies. I never saw House of the Dead 2 but it says you, Casper, are back in House of the Dead 2. I remember you getting killed?
Ellie: That’s movie magic. People always ask, “How could you not die?” The zombies hack my legs off in 1 and in 2 I’m in a wheelchair. I did live through the leg hacking. That’s movie magic. Once my legs get hacked off, working with the green screen… I had to wear these prosthetic shorts called meat shorts. They make it look like your legs are hacked off.

HorrorSociety: After House the Dead, you did Room 6, The Thirst, Dead & Deader… Some of these you worked on as your production company, Mindfire Entertainment, that you co-founded with your husband, Mark Gottwald. What can you tell me about starting up that business?
Ellie: We started with a fantastic comedy that Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett wrote called Free Enterprise. They got William Shatner on board, which was tremendous for our first film out of the gate to have his involvement. He was so much fun and such a constant professional. Mindfire Entertainment made a slew of films and then they got strictly into producing things for other people, which spun into The Three amigos. It’s taken on different titles as a production company. They always have something up their sleeve. The last thing they worked on was a show for Cinemax called “Femme Fatale” that played on Friday nights.

MV5BNTEyODcwMjM0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzA5MTAzMQ@@__V1_SY651_SX450_AL_HorrorSociety: I know you’re doing a play that you’re starting tomorrow (11/01). Can you tell me about that?
Ellie: I am, I’m doing a play. It’s tomorrow, it’s one performance. It’s sold out, it’s a benefit, and it’s called “A Bootleg,” which means it’s a bootleg production of a Shakespeare play. You have 30 days to learn your lines once you’re given your part. We did a line through the other night and we have one day of rehearsal, which is tomorrow, for 12 hours and then we put it up tomorrow night for a live audience. It’s scary and fun, like you’re flying by the seat of your pants. They’re really popular. They’re great as an actor because you can work out different muscles. I’m looking forward to it. I love doing theater. That’s how I started. It’s a totally different experience than working on films and television. There’s nothing like having a live audience right there. There’s nowhere to hide, that’s for sure. I’m sure there will be more theater work in my future, and hopefully more work in general.

Ellie talks more Halloween love: I talked to Kathleen Kinmont yesterday. We text back and forth. You just know it’s a good experience when you stay in touch with people, and it doesn’t happen often. It’s funny, Danielle and I have run into each other at the strangest times. In the middle of a Lakers Game sitting out front she passed right by me. I saw Dwight Little recently, it was such a pleasure. We’re lucky that we still adore each other after all these years and it’s at testimate to how well run that set was and what a tremendous honor it was to work with Moustapha Akkad who was gentle, and loving, and wonderful. It’s great to see how it’s growing and shifting and changing around… Rob Zombie has taken the reigns. It doesn’t stay the same, but for the small part I have in it… I’m really grateful because I think we got something good out of it. It’s a great, popular franchise, and people are so respectful of it. It’s one of those things that continue to make people enjoy the holiday.

*Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Ellie, especially on such a busy holiday! I think this was, hands down, my favorite interview of this year! You made Halloween that more special for me.

For more on Ellie Cornell, please visit:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0332081/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/elliecornellfans

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Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)