Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Who's that redhead? An interview with Haviland Morris


What on earth was happening with my computer? And my phone for that matter? What was happening with everything? God, I hated these over night audits! I looked around the room, people all around me were looking confused and frustrated as one by on everything in the office started to malfunction.What was happening?

After trying a few more times without success, I left my desk. A coffee was what I needed, and maybe the guys from I.T. I crossed the room to the coffee machine, and with some trepidation inserted the coins. But hold on, where was the familiar clunk as they made their way through the mechanism? Where was the plastic cup and the gurgle of the coffee as it pours out? All I could hear was giggling... 

I pressed the return coin button ...nothing. So I banged the side of the machine with my fist...still nothing. In final and utter frustration I kicked it. From the inside I heard a raspy voice say "out of order!!!" and then more demented laughter. 

I stood back - shocked and a bit frightened - then suddenly the front of the coffee machine burst open and out jumped what could only be described as a...Gremlin! A green, slimy Gremlin! But it couldn't be, could it? They weren't real?! I heard panic and screams behind me and watched as hundreds of these 'things' rampaged around the room, flinging paper about and terrifying everyone! 
I screamed and ran into a conference room. Slamming the door behind me, I realised I wasn't alone. I turned with my eyes screwed shut, please say it wasn't one of them?! To my relief my gaze met with a shock of red hair and piercing blue eyes, this certainly was no Gremlin! Then who she was hit me, and explained why she was looking so calm and cool given the current situation. This was Haviland Morris, and she had been here before.  
Haviland Morris is most famous for her role as Caroline Mulford in 'Sixteen Candles'. Morris would later appear in such feature films as Madonna's 'Who's That Girl' (1987) and 'Gremlins 2: The New Batch' (1990).
Morris went on a hiatus in 1991 and did not appear on any movies or TV shows until the fall of 1994. She played Karen Pruitt in 'Home Alone 3' in 1997 and Dr. Claire Baxter on 'One Life to Live' from 2001–2003. She provided the voice for Michelle Payne in the popular video game 'Max Payne'. She has appeared in three 'Law & Order' series (Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), as well as 'Sex and the City' and other shows. Her most recent movie role was in the film 'Rick', which starred Bill Pullman. In 2007, she appeared in independent film 'Cherry Crush'. In 2008, she made several appearances on 'One Tree Hill' as a counselor. - Wikipedia

I relaxed a bit, and in an attempt to defuse the tense situation and try and drown out the screams, I pulled the blinds and started asking questions. Firstly, I had to ask about her name... 
"Haviland is a family name. All of the girls on my father's side of the family for several generations (my grandmother, aunt, cousins, daughter, nieces) have it as their middle name." Aha! Now for some real questions. You were in the wonderful '16 Candles', what was that like? Working with The Brat Pack and for the lovely John Hughes? (I'm just hoping he was lovely - was he?)
"John Hughes was lovelier than lovely and shooting that movie was like going to the most fun summer camp you could ever imagine. Of course, there was no such thing as The Brat Pack then, that developed later." 

And then with Madonna in 'Who's That Girl'! Did you ever imagine that she would become this mega-star that she is today? What was she like? Have you seen her since? If not, do you think she would snub you, say a casual hello or welcome you with open arms? 
"She was an enormous star when we shot 'Who's That Girl' - probably even bigger than she is now. We couldn't get through any of scenes shot outside, because her fans, who lined the streets and the neighborhoods, would scream "Madonna! Madonna!" incessantly. I don't think I have seen her since. She was exactly like she was in "Truth or Dare," very much herself. We didn't have many scenes together; didn't really get to know each other." 

You have acted with  some of Hollywood royalty, from Michael J. Fox to Molly Ringwald, Dick Van Dyke and Madonna, who was the nicest... and the nastiest? 
"I don't think anyone has ever been nasty. Umm . . . . I am sure that I am forgetting someone who was amazing, but this morning I would give the nicest award a 4-way tie: Dick Van Dyke, Tom Selleck, Robert Wagner, and Joe Dante." 

The noise continued outside, but it seemed that none of the green little monsters were aware of our presence... Phew!

Did you ever laugh when you shouldn't, or made any major gaffes in any of your films? 
"Oh, yes, laughing when you shouldn't (or trying not to) is an inevitable and delightful by-product of working 12-16 hour days. It's the best kind of laughing - like trying not to laugh in church." 

Hold on I thought, why isn't she smoking? She smoked like a chimney in 'Gremlins 2'.  So I asked...
"Smoking in films or on stage is HORRIBLE - makes me sick to think of it! On film you have to smoke take after take until you are really green around the gills and on stage you have to smoke these really horrible smelling cigarettes made of lettuce or something. I wouldn't mind at all if I never had to do it again." 

So, in your opinion, is it easier to work with humans or puppets? 
"I'm a fan of humans, generally, although puppets are sometimes better behaved. Rick Baker and his team were geniuses." 

 The Gremlins were so brilliantly made,  I loved the brainy gremlin, ooh and the spider one. I wondered which was Haviland's favourite?
"I don't like any of them - they were not kind to Gizmo." 

 We heard a 'BANG!' from the window and parted the blinds and there on the window staring right at us was Gremlin, looking dazed but still smiling at us with an evil grin. We quickly let go of the blind and backed away, but now they knew we were in here. All we could hope was that the little creep didn't come round too soon... I carried on with my questions.

And how was it working with the puppets? 
"Painstaking and yet completely silly. You have to understand that each Gremlin was many things: a puppet, a remote control creature, an inanimate stuffed animal, etc. So, depending on the angle or the section of the scene, we would be working with various different versions of each creature. And lots of times, nothing at all - We would just be screaming or reacting to nothing and it would be completed in post-production." 

What on earth did you have to do to audition for the part? 
"Just like every audition - Read a couple of the character's scenes for the director and the producer. I fell head-over-heels in love with the phrase, "total heart attack disaster horror story," and it was what gave Marla her voice. 
When did you meet the puppets? 
"There was a day on the set - maybe the first day? - when we were given the introductory tour of the workshop and met everyone." 

And are you aware how many girls in the 90s (including myself) died our hair 
red and had perms to emulate your hair in 'Gremlins 2'?!
"I find that difficult to believe." 

It was true... I had my hair just like her's, but I wasn't going to show her a picture, I didn't quite carry it off as well as she did. I knew one man who could carry off a good hair cut though!

You were up for Ariel in 'Footloose', even doing a screen test with the delicious Kevin Bacon, how was that??? 
"Even doing a screen test with him was delicious." 

Now with all these other films with CGI coming out today with massive robots and monsters, why do you think that Gremlins still stands the test of time and remains a firm family favourite? 
"Because it wasn't about the computer-generated imagery, it was a great, imaginative, well-written, silly horror story with a ridiculous sense of humor." 

Please don't take this the wrong way but in the UK most actors have appeared in this series called "The Bill" about the London Police, it's a kind of British acting 'rite of passage', is Diagnosis Murder the same? So many people I've interviewed have been in an episode! 
"Oh goodness, I would definitely NOT think that about "Diagnosis Murder!" If you are a New York actor, multiple appearances on some incarnation of "Law and Order" are almost compulsory, though . . ."

I heard you actually wore a blonde wig in '16 Candles'? Why didn't they want a red head? (I'm guessing that is your natural colour!)
"No, my hair was actually naturally the color it was in '16 Candles', but we had to use a wig that matched my hair so that they could chop it off." 

This question is from my daughter - if you were a gremlin, what gremlin would you like to be? 
"Oh sorry, I actually couldn't tell you one from the other - they were just the bad guys."

They certainly were and we were just about to find out how bad they were... They knew we were in here and they wanted to come in... BOOM!

Did you always want to act? 
"Since I was 8 years old and saw my first live production of 'Oliver'."


...And when did you start selling houses?
"I started selling apartments and houses about 7 years ago. Has that always been a dream too? No, but it has turned out to be great fun and a terrific challenge." 


And finally, what would be your dream role? Who would you love to have played? Or what director would you like to be directed by? 
"Oh . . . I somehow never have answers to those questions."
In our current situation I didn't blame her... 


They wanted to get in! Then as suddenly as it started it went quiet. What had happened? Hold on I thought, what was the time? I checked my watch it was 10 past 7... Sunrise. Tentatively, I opened the door and peered out and there, instead of the screaming, green, angry creatures there was only a sea of gloopy slime. 

In dismay, I looked down at my Manolo Blahniks and wondered what was worse...?