Saturday, October 29, 2011

Evil Dead News Exclusive: Interview with Cheryl Guttridge (Cheryl Klam)

Cheryl Guttridge starred in Sam Raimi's first short horror film Clockwork. She was a Fake Shemp in The Evil Dead and played Sally in Josh Becker's film Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except. She is now an author and has published 8 books under the name Margaret Allison and 2 books under her married name, Cheryl Klam. This exclusive interview was conducted via email the last week of October, 2011.

How did your acting career begin?

I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in third grade. After that, I quickly became known as the school's official theater geek. There was no turning back.

Can you explain how you first met Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Speigel and the rest of the gang?

The summer before I started high school, I was in a community theatre group that did the play "The Man Who Came to Dinner." I already knew Scott, who, like me, had been involved with this group for awhile. That year, the director was a college student Scott knew from high school (John Cameron) who had cast another guy who was home from college for the summer, Bruce Campbell, as the lead (Sheridan Whiteside, of course!) I was cast as June - (the ingenue). Sam was friends with Bruce, John and Scott and would stop by the theater occasionally to say hello. Actually--John might have convinced him to be part of the cast at some point - maybe that's why Sam was there. But that's how I got to know them all. We began to hang out after play practice and on the weekends we would go see movies and analyze them. I actually remember going to the drive-in with Sam, his date, Bruce...and me. Bruce and I were sitting in the back seat (of the famed Oldsmobile) at a drive-in filled with lovey-dovey couples on a Saturday night--which was slightly uncomfortable since not only were Bruce and I not dating - I was so intimidated by him that I barely spoke to him EVER. And he had no interest in me, whatsoever. Fortunately, that back seat was so big we didn't have to communicate or come within ten feet of each other the entire evening. It was like a scene from a sitcom.

Your best friend dated Sam Raimi, and you used to "tag along" on dates with the two of them. Did you ever think, as a passenger in that 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, the car would become so iconic?

That's funny. No, I never did. But I must say, that middle back seat was very comfortable, especially when leaning into the front seat saying, "Hey guys, are we there yet? How 'bout now?"

You played the lead in Sam Raimi's first horror short Clockwork. The scene with the homeless man attacking you (played by Scott Spiegel) is quite violent. There is also a nice, effective twist ending. What do you remember of that shoot?

I remember that shoot very well. That was John Cameron's arm that grabbed me through the door. I remember Sam giving me notes on what he wanted me to do - I remember screaming at the top of my lungs and having a sore throat afterwards. I remember thinking "Dang--I am a really GREAT actress." I actually hadn't seen it until recently and when I showed it to my friend, she immediately started mocking my performance. I was shocked! And all this time I had thought I was so good. The screaming, the clutching, the falling....

In any case, those shoots were a lot of fun. It was always the same gang doing everything.

You "fake shemped" Linda's leg for the spider-web infection stop motion scene in The Evil Dead. Having to lay still for so long to shoot that scene caused you to become nauseous. You also subjected yourself to being covered with peat moss in Sam Raimi's garage, in 120 degree temperatures, again fake-shemping for Linda's character. It seems almost everyone physically suffered in some way to make The Evil Dead. How do you feel about those experiences, 30 years later?

I'm very glad I did it, needless to say. And even though I didn't exactly have a glamour bit, I really enjoyed hanging out with the guys and being part of the process.

That sounds very smart and perceptive. doesn't it? "a part of the process..." The truth of the matter was, I was in high school - getting paid to hang out with my friends! What could be better than that? Also, everyone was doing everything, so it didn't seem so odd that we were being asked to cover ourselves in peat moss in a garage that was hotter than any sauna. I recently found the notes from an "article" I wrote on Rob and the making of Evil Dead - it was written the month before the Evil Dead was released in the US. (It was never published - I wrote it for a college project.) In the interview, Rob talks about how, during the Evil Dead shoot, he was buried underneath an actress so that he could push her up out of the ground. Not a typical producer responsibility.

From reading different articles on the Internet, you obviously have had many interests other than acting. You majored in Political Science & Communication at Michigan University, and later pursued a career in writing. How did you decide on writing as a career, rather than politics or acting?

I liked acting - but I just felt more comfortable writing. I don't know that I was ever that interested in politics--but Michigan didn't have an undergraduate journalism degree (at that point I wanted to be a journalist) so I kind of figured Communication + Political Science = Journalism. I wanted to make sure that when I was hired for my anchor job at Sixty Minutes I'd be taken seriously. And when it became clear that I couldn't just make stuff up as a journalist, nor did it look like I'd ever get hired as one, I switched to fiction.

You wrote several romance novels under the pseudonym Margaret Allison. Now you write more teen oriented books under your married name, Cheryl Klam. How did you progress from romance novels to the current teen genre? Why did you choose to write under your married name and move away from the pseudonym?

My pseudonym was the idea of my editor at the time. She didn't really like either Guttridge or Klam as a last name. And switching to Young Adult was my agent's idea - and she wanted me to use my real name, as well. It seemed to make sense since it was a completely different genre.

Just to set the record straight, in "The Evil Dead Companion", it states that you wrote under the name of Margery Allingham. Your only pseudonym has been Margaret Allison, correct?

Really? I wonder where they got that name from. I actually like that name better! But no, Margaret Allison is the name I wrote under. It was my grandmother's name.

You have written a feature film that has been optioned and also a TV script. Were these projects made into movies or TV shows?

No. They're still floating around optionland.

Your current project is called ELUSION and is co-authored with Claudia Gabel. What is this book about?

It's an "Inception"-type futuristic thriller series about three teenagers attempting to solve a mystery with serious personal stakes--they're led inside an alternate reality game that transports them to a dangerously seductive Utopian world. It's very different from anything either Claudia or I have ever done before - we're both very excited about it.

Tim Quill, the Blacksmith from Army of Darkness, mentioned in a 2010 interview he was writing a script for a movie about Fake Shemps called The Shemps. Have you heard anything about this, and would this be something you would want to be a part of?

I had the pleasure of getting to know Tim when we were in Josh Becker's film Thou Shalt Not Kill. Congrats to him! The Shemps project sounds like a great idea, but I don't know anything about it. I don't live in LA or MI so I'm a little out of the loop. The filmmaker Ryan Meade was working on a project this summer about Tom Sullivan (the make up artist for the Evil Dead) and we tried to figure out a way for me to participate - but with my work schedule and the distance, it's tough.

Will you be "Fake Shemping" or have another role in Sam Raimi's upcoming Oz prequel?

Sadly, no. My chances of having a tall decaf skim latte with James Franco are slim to none.

How do you feel about The Evil Dead being remade?

I'm excited. I know that these guys waited a long time to do this because they wanted to make sure it was done right. I think it's going to be great.

Lastly, do you think you will ever write a book about the Super-8 days and your experiences with the Evil Dead gang?

I'm not sure there's a book there (at least a book solely from my perspective). But I have always thought it interesting that this whole group of guys from Detroit went from making low budget movies to being so successful in Hollywood. A lot of talented filmmakers came out of that gang: Sam, Bruce and Rob - but also Scott Spiegel, Josh Becker, John Cameron, Bill Prady and David Goodman....and even Joel and Ethan Coen were friends of theirs from way back (I think Ethan was as a film editor on the Evil Dead). In fact, I rode in the limo to the Detroit Evil Dead premiere with Sam, Rob--and Ethan Coen. Pretty funny. (Besides the limo, we also had the "rotating" spotlights and red carpet. It was all very 1980s Detroit-Hollywood.)

For more info on Cheryl, visit these sites:
Cheryl Klam's Facebook Page

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