Meg Foster Answers Questions
This cut from the vault comes from August 2012, and is finally being transcribed on March 18, 2015. Enjoy!
Meg Foster is an actress best known for her roles in the TV miniseries version of “The Scarlet Letter” (1979) and the films “Ticket to Heaven” (1981), “The Osterman Weekend” (1983) and John Carpenter’s “They Live” (1988). Fans of fantastic film will also know her from “Masters of the Universe” and “Rob Zombie’s “Lords of Salem” (2012). She also played Detective Christine Cagney for the first six episodes of the first season of “Cagney & Lacey” until she was replaced by Sharon Gless.
Q: Although not many have heard of it, you’ve counted among your favorite films “A Different Story” (1978)…
MF: It was very small, a film about a lesbian and a gay guy who happen to encounter each other. It was very Capra-esque. It had humor, it had heart, and it was before films tackled gay people or gay relationships. The reason I loved it so much was because the man who directed it, Paul Aaron, had come from theater. He did something I had never seen anyone do before. He walked on the set, and he said, “Hi, my name is Paul Aaron, I’m a director, and I know nothing about making films. I don’t know what this or that is and I don’t know what you do. I only know one thing, and that’s actors. But I want to hear from all of you.” And that made it an absolute family situation.
Q: You worked with the great Sam Peckinpah on his final film, “The Osterman Weekend” (1983). There seem to be so many stories about him.
MF: Everyone has stories about Sam. Everyone hears stories about everyone, don’t they? The best thing is when you actually meet someone. My son’s father (Ron Starr) worked with Sam on “Ride the High Country” (1962). And my son (Christopher Starr) played the son of Rutger Hauer and me in “Osterman”. How does one describe Mr. Peckinpah? He is so much more than all the stories. Meeting Sam was like walking into an office and seeing a very smart, very open and very vulnerable man. I adore his films and how he sees men and camaraderie. There’s always a bully, always a beautiful woman. His storytelling is very classic. Sam studied theater, which is what I studied. He’s genuine, and would allow you to take your role where you wanted it or help guide you if he wanted it somewhere. He also has a deep sense of mystery. I love the guy.
Q: Let’s touch on “Masters of the Universe” (1986)…
MF: I had a very good time. I don’t know if you’re looking for technical things or little personal asides, but it was a great group of people. I forget about the process, but I always remember what happens right before something. Wonderful cast, wonderful crew, and director Gary Goddard really knew what he wanted. It was a whole lot of fun because it was a cartoon, then became a comic, and it just had this feeling of “epicness”. We all had these extraordinary costumes. My costume in particular went on in four or five layers. Dolph Lundgren was very into working out. He was also quiet, a very quiet gentleman. Very private. I had an experience up on the throne, Skeletor’s throne, and there were two little urns. The passage to walk in the throne room was very narrow, and alongside there were holes with smoke coming out. Those holes were like a thirty foot drop. I had on a cape, and the cape got caught. I fell down those stairs on my back and headed towards the crevice. It was hysterical. Blade, Anthony DeLongis, stopped me, but I was like a turtle on its back because of my breastplate. He stopped me right before I went over. And working with Courteney Cox was fun, she was adorable.
Q: How about Frank Langella, who played Skeletor?
MF: Frank is an extraordinarily disciplined and smart actor. He’s done plays, theater, forever and won Tonys. He’s intimidating in a way. I find when you’re doing certain characters, for a moment, you get the magnitude of someone’s career and they’re right in front of you doing lines with you. His presence and inspiration was wonderful. The skeleton face, the mask, was all laid on and then cut out. They went through great specificity to get it where he wanted. And that’s interesting, too, to see how everyone would work when they’ve got on so much. The gentleman who played the Beastman, Tony Carroll, had hypothermia or heat stroke or something one day because it was just so hot in his suit. They had to rip it off and get him hydrated.
Q: Some would say that “They Live” (1988) is still culturally and politically relevant. Looking back, does it strike you how smart the script was?
MF: That movie is smart, very smart. When I read the script, I was so excited. Because everything in it needed to be said. The “they” have been here forever, but at the time Mr. Carpenter wrote the film, did the film, it was at a pivotal moment for our government and our philosophies. It was essential. Just last week I was walking my dogs in Los Angeles, and this has never happened before, but out of a fifth story window a voice yelled down, “They liiiiive!” I looked up and I said, “They sure do.” It’s timeless, and it’s timeless in how John shot it.
Q: You sort of start out as the damsel in distress, but you’re soon revealed to be a badass. Was that part of the appeal for you?
MF: The appeal was working with Mr. Carpenter. He probably does this for everyone, both the guys and the ladies, but on the first day I got to set there were flowers and a card in my dressing room. The card read, “When it stops being fun, we stop doing it.” That’s a great way to look at making a film. The appeal was also the script. The process of acting, or how you choose to do something, is very interesting. What I had decided is that she was a professional, which we knew by her occupation. And she had to be real. There are so many things about all of us that nobody knows.
Q: With “Leviathan” (1989), what was your impression of the script, and how was the experience with that great ensemble cast?
MF: My part was very much smaller, and actually I didn’t work with almost anybody. We didn’t have a read-through. The experience was great, though, because we shot in Rome and it was the first time I had really done a lot of special effects. Working with Peter Weller was very wonderful. The best part of the filming for me was at the end of the movie and they’re on the boat. The director, George Cosmatos, didn’t want Peter to slug me, my character, because he thought it was very inappropriate for a woman to be cold-cocked. Peter and I had to convince him that hitting this woman at this time was essential and would make everyone very happy. And we did it.
Q: On “Stepfather 2” (1989), any memories of working with Terry O’Quinn?
MF: Terry O’Quinn is a great man. Terry’s an exceptional fellow, a wonderful actor. He always changes, but is yet so prominently Terry. When we were on set, he’d play his guitar and sing and he had a wonderful voice and a great sense of humor. But there’s this scene where he’s stabbing and clutching on my throat. They built this small platform to stand on and straddle. It would spin, sort of like a lazy susan. They had the camera overhead and they were spinning us. We would lose our balance, so he’s holding on to my neck and I’m holding on to his pants. As we spun, he’s stabbing me, and he says under his breath in a growl, “We’ll never tell our kids we’re doing this to put them through college!” He’s very convincing, so he could bother frighten me and make me laugh. He’s a wonderful guy.
Q: To wrap up, how does your character fit into the world of “Lords of Salem”?
MF: I play a character from the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. People were frightened and ended up killing 21 women, men and children. They hung them, or they died in prison, and they crushed one gentleman. It sort of begins in that time frame. Rob said he took the idea of the Salem witch trials and said to himself, we know these people weren’t really witches…. but what if they were? That’s where it spins off from. I play a witch or a shaman, and then we move ahead to 2012. Her name is Margaret Morgan and she’s a wonderful character, along with the seven other witches.