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Ellen Sandweiss

Ellen: "..impending torture didn't
really scare me!".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
March 22nd, 2004

Part 1...
Read Part 2 >  Read Part 3 >

To celebrate my birthday this week, I wanted to give something back to our readers and therefore have put together this amazing feature that sees The Ladies of the Evil Dead rise up from the cabin floor and talk all about their parts in the history of one of the most influential horror films ever.....The Evil Dead.

You first worked with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell et al on their high school super 8 films, and in particular Within the Woods, which basically allowed Sam to make The Evil Dead. Had you always wanted to be an actress or did you just do it to help out friends?
We were all involved in theatre together in high school and I had done a lot of acting and singing since I was a kid. At the time that I was asked to be in ED, I did want to be an actress and was majoring in theatre at the University of Michigan. So it was a natural for me to be in their first feature film.

From previous experience, you must have known what you were getting yourself into. Why did you accept the role of Cheryl?
I was 20 years old and it sounded like fun - plus I was ready to take a semester off after three years of college. I was and still am pretty hardy - a little impending torture didn't really scare me!

So, you all travelled out to THAT cabin in the winter of 1979. Can you try and describe the extreme conditions for us?
Okay, I'll try: cold, dirty, sleep-deprivation, bad food, poor plumbing/little electricity, no heat, long hours, painful make-up and contact lenses, painful stunts, lung-scorching fog machines, little pay - is that enough?

Your character Cheryl is brutally attacked and tortured by the woods in the film. What was that like to film?
Cold, dirty, long hours...actually that scene kind of evolved as we went along and became something other than originally intended. It was very difficult because it was in the middle of the night, temperature in the 30s, me in my PJs, and of course running through woods (not marked trails). When the vines attacked me they used reverse footage, so they would actually start the shot with them wrapped around me and then slowly pull them off - this obviously took a while. Besides the physical discomfort, I was not overly pleased with the sexual content, but didn't fully realize how it would eventually look (and sound) on the big screen - besides, I didn't think anyone would ever see the film anyway!

Ellen losing the plot as 'Cheryl'.

Was Sam sympathetic as a friend and Director, or did he enjoy torturing you?
He was sympathetic, yet absolutely driven about getting the scene done according to his vision. I wouldn't say he enjoyed torturing me, but he did enjoy a well-realized scene.

Did you find that the extreme conditions helped you ladies to bond quickly?
Not necessarily the extreme conditions, but the bedroom all three of us had to share probably helped along the bonding quite a bit!

What is Bruce like to work with? Is he constantly wisecracking or is he quite a serious guy?
Yes, he's always wisecracking, but he's also a very serious hardworking guy - he finds a good balance between the two and knows when to stop the shtick and get down to business. He's great to work with.

Most of the Cast and Crew left for the holidays, did you leave, and if so did you feel guilty or did you feel that you had already done more than enough?
That's one of the many myths surrounding the making of Evil Dead that I'd like to dispel. Those of us who left for the holidays were basically finished - with the exception of a few monster scenes where it was easy to use a fake shemp with a wig and make-up - and left with their blessing. Some people came back after the holidays or, like me, did more work on the film back in Michigan.

When you finally saw the finished film, what was your reaction, and what is your opinion on the series overall?
I was definitely shocked, especially by the woods scene, but I was also proud of the work we'd done. I'm not a horror fan, so it's difficult for me to have an objective opinion of the series. I did think the sequels were very funny and imaginative.

Ellen: "..cold, dirty..painful stunts..little pay..".

Did you have any idea that you were involved in history in the making that fateful winter in 1979?
Absolutely not - as I said, I thought no-one would ever see the film.

Was your decision to stray from the limelight a result of your experiences on the film? After all it perfectly demonstrates the less glamourous side of movie making. Did it put you off acting?
Another ED myth - no, my decision not to pursue acting on a full-time basis had already been made before ED. It had nothing to do with my experiences there. I decided that I wanted a more normal lifestyle and wasn't cut out to live the life of an actress.

You have recently made your long overdue comeback in the forthcoming Satan's Playground for Dante Tomaselli. How did the project come about and what can we expect from it and you?
Dante and I, along with the other "Ladies", ended up being featured in the same issue of Rue Morgue magazine a few years ago. After that, he contacted me about doing the film and after reading the script and talking to people in the field I decided that it was a project worth pursuing. We've shot most of the film at this point and it's been a wonderful experience - Dante is a great director and the film will be scarier than hell. Look for more running through the woods, but this time I'm dressed appropriately!

What are your plans for the future? I hear you and the other ladies are making a documentary?
The ladies and I will continue doing appearances at conventions and reunion events, and would all like to do more film acting. Our documentary is still in progress and promises to entertain and enlighten Evil Dead fans everywhere!

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Ellen,
and we wish you the best of luck in the future."

Visit Ellen & the other 'Ladies of the Evil Dead' website here: www.ladiesoftheevildead.com

Read Part 2:
Betsy Baker Interview
right here >>
Read Part 3:
Sarah York Interview
right here >>


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