When poring through low budget horror films, it is rare that the acting of a player will stand out as particularly impressive. But every once in a while, someone like Suzi Lorraine comes along and adds greater dimension to every scene she’s in. Suzi is an attractive New York model, who has found her niche as an actress in horror movies. Not content with merely relying on her looks, as many models-turned-actresses tend to do, Suzi approaches each role intuitively, trying to make the best out of every scene she’s in. In a recent interview, Suzi discussed her methods as an actress, and explains why she takes her jobs very seriously.
I guess the first question would be how you first became involved in acting?
I originally did modeling as a way to earn extra money while I was in college. I was working at an insurance agency, majoring in business management. I would have loved to have majored in zoology or environmental science, but my father was a senior financial analyst, and he instilled in me a practical approach so I chose a major that could possibly lead to something substantial.
I was modeling with a couple of New York agencies, and one of them told me that I could be a little more marketable if I signed up for acting classes. The idea was for me to get some commercials and maybe some bit parts.
I’ve noticed that you are billed with several different names in your various films?
I started out using the name Suzi Leigh for some independent horror films in New Jersey with this company called Waves Productions. Going into it I didn’t realize they were kind of like horror-fetish films, and more fetishy than horror.
(NOTE: some of these titles are Revenge of the Necktie Strangler, Abducted, and Sins of the Father)
Not that there is anything wrong with the movies, but I felt they were kind of lowbrow and after a few of those I decided I didn’t want to become pigeon holed. So I phased out Waves and changed my name to Suzi Shareaux. But everyone told me it was too hard to spell and too hard to pronounce, so I became Suzi Lorraine. That is how I have been billed for the past three years except for some films I did about four years ago for Seduction Cinema. They insist on creating their own stage names, so everything I did for them was under Kelli Summers. So I had four names in four years. (NOTE: some of these titles include Roxanna, Satan’s School for Lust, and Vampire Queen)
Is Sv Bell’s Cold Blonded Murder your first starring role?
It was the first role I had where I really had a lot to work with in terms of my character, the script, and what I was allowed to do. I think directors tended to restrict me until I worked with Sv Bell for these films shot up in Montreal. It was a wonderful opportunity that came at the right time. It is the first role that I am particularly proud of.
You tend to add a lot of depth to your characters and don’t simply rely on you appearance. You also seem to add an element of humor, a sense of fun.
A lot of it is intuitive. I rehearse, of course, but it often just comes out naturally, especially any comic elements. Whenever I can interject comedy, no matter how subtle, I’ll do it. I am essentially a horror actress, but I adore comedy and I see such a parallel between humor and lower budget horror movies.
I noticed in another Sv Bell film, The Night They Returned, you added a little to the scene where you’re throwing body parts into the water that contains a barrel of nuclear waste.
Yeah, that was intentional. I was trying to add some dimension, some humor. After I throw the body parts into the water, I ad-libbed a bit where I casually wipe my hands on my skirt and make a face like, "ewww."
Interesting that this reaction comes just after a scene where you and your on-screen sisters are devouring a corpse’s intestines. Was this a fun movie to do?
It was fun throughout, other than maybe the sleep deprivation because we shot practically around the clock for several days. Everybody got along so well, and I really hit it off well with the girls who played my sisters (Melantha Blackthorne and Elisabeth Faure) . We instantly clicked and had chemistry.
You mention sleep deprivation and round-the-clock shooting. What is it like for an actor on a low budget shoot?
Shooting is really intense. Everything is planned out, and then you have Murphy’s laws which throw us off the shooting schedule. Sv Bell is one of the nicest directors I have ever worked with, but sometimes as a director you have to take charge. Bell is so mellow, and so laid back, but he gets the work done. He gave me carte blanch to do what I wanted with the character, and it remains one of my favorite roles.
Do things frequently go wrong on the set?
It’s almost a given that something will go wrong — the cameras, the sound equipment, the weather. I can’t imagine being a director and organizing fifty different peoples’ schedules.
What is the pay scale like for horror features such as the ones you do?
It really varies. I did a Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) feature called Knock Knock, and in that case the pay is pretty much set by industry scale standards. Non-union can be anything from nothing to whatever day rate the actor negotiates. So I am SAG eligible, but if I join the union, that would stop my non-union work.
Was there less sleep deprivation on a SAG feature?
There are similar problems. I remember once when my call time was 11pm, we didn’t end up filming until 7am. And of course it isn’t like we each had a trailer where we could nap until we were needed on the set. It wasn’t that type of production.
So the pay is not necessarily a factor?
If you go into filmmaking or acting with the sole intent to make money, I think you’re going to fail miserably. I think you have to have a passion, something you would do for little or no money.
Other than the films we discussed, do you have any other favorite roles?
I did a movie called Day of the Ax for Fourth Floor Pictures. I felt the character should have a southern accent. So I tried it and they loved it. I had one really long scene in the movie, where the character unravels, runs through an entire gamut of emotions in a short time. I was definitely proud of that.
What is your latest film?
Recon 2022: The Mezzo Incident, a Canadian union film that I shot last Spring. It was a larger budgeted film, and it was a really great experience. It was directed by Christian Viel, who is really making a name as a sci-fi director. I was nervous because it was a bigger production than I had been used to and it was sort of intimidating. I would love to work on more mainstream higher budget films, just for the exposure it affords you and create the opportunity to work more. It is amazing what can be done with a budget.
Do you prefer acting to modeling?
Modeling is great, and its fun, but it is creatively limited. I am still pursuing as much as I do acting, as modeling is generally more lucrative.
You also do some writing for a couple of magazines.
Yes, writing is another passion. I write for one Italian magazine and two based in London. A lot of the articles are Diary of a Scream Queen type things, but a lot of times I can write editorials on the state of film, especially horror films. I think with Hostel and Saw we are seeing rawer, grittier films in the mainstream that take greater risks than the horror movies of the 90s or early 2000s. I think it is a step in the right direction to get away from silly movies like "Scream" with stars of the WB that really aren’t cut out for the roles.
Ever write anything on older films, historical articles.
No, but I do agree that some of the silent horror movies like Metropolis are so amazing, and so forward in their thinking
Are you working on anything now?
I have a major part in the movie Chainsaw Sally 2, which we’re shooting in the Baltimore area this Fall. Three of the cast members from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre will be in this film. So I am going to get to work with Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neil, and Marilyn Burns. Herschel Gordon Lewis is going to be in it too. What’s interesting is, my character is prominent through most of the film but she’s a mute. So right now I’m looking at the script and trying to get a vibe on how I want to play her. Also, I was just cast in a movie with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. It’s a small part, but a highly visible one nonetheless!! The movie is called "Music And Lyrics By", and it stars Hugh as an aging rock/pop star trying to revive his career. With the help of Drew Barrymore’s character, who has a way with words and song writing, they begin to climb back to the top of the charts. Hugh has some kind of accident and ends up in the hospital. The nurse (me!) is the first thing Hugh’s character sees when he wakes up and I revive him and bring him back to life. He then feels better and realizes he can love again.
Any other appearances coming up this year?
I’m really really excited about the film festival I am appearing at in Racine, Wisconsin called It Came From Lake Michigan. The guest list is growing, the buzz is growing, more people are finding out about it. I’ve been promoting it in my columns and on my website, and I mention it in all the interviews I do. I want my fans to know that I’m going to be there, and I am definitely looking forward to it.
If you want to find out more about Suzi Lorraine, you can check out her website at http://www.modelsuzi.com.