Sundance ’11 Interview: ‘The Oregonian’ Star Lindsay Pulsipher

Actress Lindsay Pulsipher’s first brush with horror was in Calvin Reeder’s (interview) short film Piledriver, about a sweet romance that develops between a young couple before things take a macabre turn. She went on to appear in a series of Reeder’s increasingly bizarre shorts, including the infamous Little Farm and The Rambler, before landing a regular role first as “Rose Lawrence” on A&E Patrick Swayze series The Beast and later HBO’s True Blood as “were-panther” Crystal Norris. Pulsipher reunites once again with boyfriend Reeder for his solo feature debut The Oregonian, one of the most exciting horror entries premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and destined to prove just as outlandish as his previous work. In the film Pulsipher plays the title character, a young woman running from her past whose involvement in a terrible car accident kicks off a strange journey into the unknown. See inside for the full interview.
Actress Lindsay Pulsipher is best known for her work on hit HBO series True Blood as “were-panther” Crystal Norris, but in the independent film world she’s also recognized for appearing in a series of gonzo art-horror films directed by Seattle-based filmmaker Calvin Reeder. Luckily she’s nothing like some of the freakish characters she’s portrayed, which I discovered while talking to her over the phone to discuss The Oregonian, her feature-length collaboration with Reeder that’s premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. From the trailer it appears to be just as out-there as Reeder’s previous work, and Pulsipher seemed to confirm that during our interview, during which she frequently broke out into laughter while discussing the director’s strange vision. Check out the full conversation below.

Bloody-Disgusting: I’m really excited to see the movie. I loved Calvin’s shorts.

Lindsay Pulsipher: Oh good, yeah. He’s quite the entertainer. [Laughs]

B-D: I actually talked to him a couple days ago, and he said he met you at an improv class in Seattle. And I’m curious what your first impression of him was.

LP: Well first of all, he was the only person that was like under the age of 55. [Laughs] So that definitely stuck out to me. But he was really quiet. He kept to himself. So I was kind of intrigued right off the bat. I was like, `who is this quiet guy?’

B-D: So talk about your character in `The Oregonian’ if you can. Can you tell me anything more about her?

LP: She’s leaving this terrible home life. She’s kind of escaping her past. And she gets into a car accident and…the way I think of it is she doesn’t know if she’s alive, dead, or floating somewhere in purgatory, heaven or hell, or wherever. So it’s kind of her journey. She discovers where she’s going, and who she is, and what she’s about to become.

B-D: It sounds like it’s kind of a hard thing to describe, like most of Calvin’s other movies.

LP: Yes, he’s very esoteric and kind of surreal. So you have to watch it before you can understand it, and even then I don’t think you’ll understand it. [Laughs]

B-D: Was this a pretty tough shoot for you? It seems like a really intense role.

LP: It was. It was emotionally draining because she’s carrying a heavy burden emotionally. I had to go to some dark places to get there. And also physically kind of draining because we were shooting out in the freezing rain in the Seattle Mountains. And I had the flu for the first half of the shoot and so it was both physically and emotionally draining. But I think that it kind of helped the character and kind of helped with her struggle.

B-D: That must have been kind of a nightmare for you.

LP: Yeah, while we were shooting it was kind of rough, but now in hindsight it’s kind of a beautiful thing. I love the way that it kind of impacted everything. It’s kind of nice.

B-D: In almost every single still photo I’ve seen and in a lot of the trailer it seems like you’re just covered in blood. Is that the result of the car accident you got into?

LP: Yeah, that’s part of the car accident. It kind of becomes her staple wardrobe. [Laughs]

B-D: So you must have been walking around in fake blood for a lot of the shoot.

LP: [Laughs] Yeah, we kind of had this joke between myself and the makeup girl. It was, `ok, is this full blood or half blood?’ And you know, the full blood was always the worst answer because I was just drenched in freezing cold [blood]. [Laughs] You just kind of start to live in it.

B-D: It must have been a nightmare for continuity too, to make sure it looked the same and lined up with before, right?

LP: Oh yeah, I have to give it to Sherril Johnson – that was our special effects makeup girl – she really nailed it, and she was really consistent. I don’t know how she did it, she was amazing.

B-D: How gory does this thing get? A lot of his films are pretty gory.

LP: You know, it gets pretty gory but it gets really weird, in addition to the gore. There are a lot of weird elements that are happening. [Laughs]

B-D: All his films are so interesting because it’s like you’re in a dream, you know? Or a terrible nightmare, really.

LP: Yeah, that’s a perfect way to describe it, it really is. You’re kind of in this alternate universe and you’re just trying to kind of grasp it. And I don’t think you ever really can. You just kind of have to enjoy the ride, you know?

B-D: Well I watched the trailer and I noticed some other details that were present in some of Calvin’s other movies. Like there are pina coladas at one point [like in `Snake Mountain Colada’], and there’s a woman that looks like the one that appeared in the room near the end of `Little Farm’. Are there a lot of little things like that that he pulled in from his short films and incorporated into this one?

LP: Yeah, I think so. If it’s more a question as to why he does it, that would be for Calvin. But yeah, he has these little things that are kind of sprinkled throughout all of his films and it kind of keeps a common thread that I quite enjoy, and I think it adds to the element of surrealism and the `out-there’ element. Which I enjoy. But I guess if you want to know the reason why, you’d have to ask Calvin. [Laughs]

B-D: I don’t know that he could even explain it to me, honestly.

LP: [Laughs] I don’t either, I think he’d probably mention something about Jimmy Buffett.

B-D: Well, he seemed very laid-back when I talked to him on the phone. What’s he like when he’s directing?

LP: You know, we actually have a really great working relationship, I think maybe because we’ve worked together…this is our fifth film now together. I kind of can get where he’s going before he even says anything. But he’s extremely particular, and he knows exactly what he’d like. He’s got the whole film mapped out in his brain before he shoots anything. You know, every shot, and every angle, and every aspect of the film is already in his brain. Which I really admire, and I think it takes talent to have all those details already planned out and to have them come to fruition…it’s really impression.

B-D: Yeah, he must do a lot of preparation before he embarks on the shoot then.

LP: He does, yeah. He’s got a lot going on his head, and it’s amazing how he can actually bring it out onto film. Because it’s always exactly how he wants it.

B-D: When I was talking to Calvin the other day he mentioned that he didn’t think any of his films are really horror movies. Which is interesting to me, because particularly `Little Farm’ and `The Rambler’ and now this one definitely seem like horror movies to me. What do you think about that? Do you think they’re horror movies?

LP: Well you know, I think that there’s definitely scary elements in each film. But I always look at his films as more art films than I do horror. But there’s definitely that element of terror that he carries in all of his films. But I don’t think that I would say they’re horror, because that sounds too simple. It’s more layered than that to me.

B-D: Yeah, they kind of defy easy categorization.

LP: Yeah, yeah.

B-D: Are you a fan of straight horror movies? I’m always curious about actors who are in these things running around with blood all over them whether they actually even like these types of movies.

LP: [Laughs] You know, I’m actually a huge fan of horror film. One of my favorite films of all time is the original `Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. I think that’s one of the most beautiful films ever made. I definitely appreciate [the genre] for sure. That doesn’t mean that when I’m on set of Calvin’s films that I don’t wonder `what the hell am I doing?’ [Laughs]

B-D: It seems like you’re a good sport and pretty game for this kind of stuff.

LP: I am! For some reason, I really enjoy his work and anything he asks me to do I will do. Well, I take that back, I haven’t read his next script. [Laughs] But for the most part, I will do whatever he asks, because I think his films are pretty unique and just have something is so different from anything else. I quite enjoy it. I guess I’m kind of sick that way. [Laughs]

B-D: Calvin said he’s trying to get a feature version of `The Rambler’ off the ground. Are you going to be a part of that?

LP: Well, I would love to be. Yeah, I would absolutely love to be if it comes to fruition. I hope so.

B-D: What’s next for you?

LP: Well, I’m back on season 4 of `True Blood’, so I’m keeping busy with that right now. And then there’s a couple of films that I’m in talks for…and yeah, I’m just chugging along, keeping busy.

B-D: Anything horror-related at all?

LP: No, not really, unfortunately. Not really, I guess…’True Blood’ is kind of bloody but it’s not really horror.

B-D: Well, we actually do cover `True Blood’. Is there anything you can tell me about this next season?

LP: I don’t know too much, and what I’m allowed to really talk about is so limited, it’s terrible. But yeah, I don’t really know too much to be quite honest.