LYNN LOWRY: A DIRECTOR’S DREAM! by Owen Keehnen

Actress Lynn Lowry has the sort of film resume most cult actresses would of dream of having. One thing is for sure; she sure has an amazing knack for picking her directors! She was born Lynda Kay Lowry in East St. Louis on October 15th 1947 but was raised in Atlanta. Movies came quickly for her.

She made ‘Shivers’ aka ‘They Came From Within’ (1975) a sexual parasite thriller with Joe Silver and Barbara Steele directed by David Cronenberg. She made the town-plague and anti-Vietnam opus as Kathy Bolman in ‘The Crazies’ (1973) for George A. Romero. She even made ‘Score’ with the soft core swinging director Radley Metzger. She was Carrie in the deliciously exploitative horror/gore flick ‘I Drink Your Blood’ (1971) for David Dursten. Lowry played the tragically mauled Ruthie in Paul Schrader’s artistic horror exercise ‘Cat People’ (1982). She also had significant roles in Jonathan Demme’s ‘Fighting Mad’ (1976) with Peter Fonda, ‘The Battle of Love’ Return’, ‘Sugar Cookies’ (1973) for Theordore Gershuny in which she played a duel role of Alta Lee/Julie Kent with a cast that boasted Mary Woronov, Ondine, and Monique Van Vooren. She was also in ‘Sweet Revenge’ (1994) and ‘Compelling Evidence (1995). And if after that roster there was even the slightest bit of doubt as to her status David Gregory also directed a short film documentary (14 minutes) entitled ‘The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry’ (2003). And what a life it has been!

Currently, Ms. Lowry has resumed her film career, which can be viewed at www.lynnlowry.com as well as performing a nightclub act as a successful jazz singer. And she was also considerate enough to talk with me at racksandrazors.


 
Owen:
Did you always set out to be an actress or did you career sort of happen because of your beauty?

Lynn: I always wanted to be an actress.  When I was 5 yrs. old, I used to entertain my friends in the neighborhood doing comedy bits like riding my bike off the front porch.  Ouch!  But it got a laugh.  I was involved in performing with music as well. I began playing the trumpet (my Dad's instrument) when I was 6 and won all kinds of medals playing in band and doing solo competition.  As a matter of fact, my beauty did not come into play until much later.  I never felt as a child and all the way through high school that I was very pretty.  Unique looking, yes -- but a real beauty, never.  My idea of that was the big-busted cheerleader with the football player boyfriend.  I so desperately wanted to be popular, that I turned again to my acting and focused my shyness into developing an on-stage energy.  The funny thing is that many years later, I found out that I was popular, but just didn't know it.  Oh what we do to ourselves sometimes.

I acted through high school, won a scholarship for speech and drama at the University of Georgia, worked summer stock with John Belushi when I was 17, and moved to New York to pursue my dream.  At about that time, I figured I was a pretty good lookin' gal.

Owen: I love that so much of your wonderful entertainment experience was captured in the 2003 short 'The Cult Film Legacy of Lynn Lowry'.  How did that project come about? 

Lynn: The 2003 short was a very nice surprise, and we shot the interview on my birthday.  David Gregory from Blue Underground came to my home with crew and make-up people to interview me.  I remember thinking the night before that I really didn't have a lot of memories of The Crazies, and I really couldn't understand why that was.  But after giving it some thought, I realized that it was my role that kept me from remembering.  The character was so out of touch with reality, and at the time I was pretty much a method actor, that I didn't involve myself with other aspects of the shoot. But to my relief, David had many questions that covered my whole career, and it was a lot of fun to take that trip down memory lane, and then of course I remembered more than I thought I would.  I was very pleased with the final product.  David borrowed all my pictures and music videos and put together a really excellent film.

Owen: You have worked with so many wonderful directors --- what was it like to work with George Romero on the "there's something in the water" epic 'The Crazies' from 1973?

Lynn: It was such a treat working with George.  He is wonderful, supportive, and a very kind man, who just happens to be a genius as well.  I was cast in the role of Kathy.  One of the most difficult roles I've ever had to play.  There was a very delicate line in slowly establishing her insanity, without giving too much away too soon.  George is a master in helping an actor do this.  I feel very lucky to have worked with someone as talented as he is, and we've been in touch about doing another project together.

The most difficult scene was the "rape" scene with my Father.  This had to be handled just right.  It was a disturbing scene for myself and Richard Liberty to do.  The scene had a lot of dimensions.  Kathy at one point seems to be really involved in the sex, then almost cruel, and then fighting to get away.  George did a great job with this.  I've had a lot of fans tell me that the scene really bothered them, and that is exactly what it's supposed to do.  George and I only disagreed about my death scene.  I wanted to ham it up and George wanted it pure and simple.  Thank God, I listened to the director.  It is very powerful in its simplicity.  I loved working with George and am looking forward to doing it again

Owen: So what is your overriding memory of working with David Cronenberg on one of my favorites 70s horror flicks 'They Came From Within' (1976) (aka 'Shivers') as Nurse Forsythe? 

Lynn: Everyone always asks me what it was like working with David Cronenberg.  I think people expect me to reveal some exotic, strange behavior that he possessed, since his films are so bizarre.  Well, I hate to disappoint, but when I worked with David, he was pretty much "The boy next door". He’s just "as sweet as apple pie", as the saying goes. Very easy to work with, he pretty much let me do my thing.  This was the beginning for him, and he had abundant energy and creativity.  Very exciting to have been a part of the first "body horror" film ever made.

There was a story that David liked to beat up on his actresses.  Well that was only if they asked, because they were having trouble showing emotion.  Once he teased me by asking me if I wanted him to slap me and help me cry.  I replied, "No David, I can act.” In the scene where I stab the attacker in the arm with a fork, the close-up was David's arm.  I got so excited doing the shot I missed the padding on his arm and stuck the fork right into his shoulder.  He said” Ouch" and then" no big deal” I don't know, based on some of his later films, maybe he liked it.  I'm just kidding.

I wasn't supposed to be in the swimming pool scene at the end of the film.  After I was rapped and sent back to New York, David and Ivan Reitman realized that I was really the only person who should give Paul Hampton the parasite.  I loved doing that scene.  It is evil and sensual.  I worked with Barbara Steele that one night, and she was a great lady.  We were very cold, and the producer gave us a brandy to drink to keep us warm.  So I snuggled under blankets, with brandy and Barbara Steele.  Interesting to say the least.

Owen: You were also in 'I Drink Your Blood' (1971) for Durston in which you play a deaf mute cult hippie who hacks off an old lady's hand.  Very memorable.  And yet you weren't billed in the film, what's the reason for that oversight?

Lynn: Well, I think the reason was when David cast me in the film there were no other roles available, but he loved me so much, loved my look so much he just had to have me in the movie so he made up the part of this hippie. I was never actually written into the script and I believe what happened when they did the credits I simply was not listed as a cast member. So I was overlooked by the people who did the credits because they didn’t know I was in the movie

Owen: I must must must know what it was like to work for the soft-core guru Radley Metzer when you did that erotic Mediterranean romp 'Score'.  Was the man and the set a swinging experience as well?

Lynn: He was just really an elegant gentleman. I got to know him quite well and I don’t know if I have actually told anyone this, but we dated for a while after the film was over. He wanted me to go on and be in a number of his other movies but they were going to be rather pornographic and I didn’t really want to do that. But as far as the kind of movies he did and the kind of person he was, you would never think he was the same person.

Owen: So the films were scheduled and set up in a much more conventional manner?

Lynn: We shot it in Yugoslavia and the script was actually from an off-Broadway comedy and in that production Sylvester Stallone actually played the role of the telephone repairman, but Radley didn’t feel he was right so he didn’t cast him in the film. I looked at it as simply a comedy. The sex stuff was just part of the character I played who falls in love with Elvira in the film – and by the way the two of us actually hated each other. It was really difficult working with her under those circumstances. She passed away last year. Of course I’m older now so I understand things better, but looking back she was older and jealous that Radley was giving me all the close-ups and attention.

I had the no idea the movie would receive an X rating.  I was told the sex was all going to be simulated. I wasn’t even on the set the day that Cal (Calvin Culver) and Jerry Grant were filming their scene and really doing it. My scene was nothing like that with Claire (Wilbur), which was very simulated. She didn’t even want me to touch her and kept a Kleenex over her pubic area so I wouldn’t even bump into it!

Owen: One of my favorites of your films is the small gem 'Sugar Cookies' in which you play both Alta Lee and Julie Kent, a porn star actress and a young innocent. 

Lynn: I hated that wig!

Owen: The cast included Mary Woronov, Ondine, Monique van Vooren, and George Shannon.  With a cast like that there have to be stories.  What is your favorite one from that shoot?

Lynn: The only real memories I have of that movie are being totally naked with Mary Woronov. The role I played is very much in love with a married character and because it was an acting experience I tried to make it a very real experience. Mary was wonderful to work with. The only real memory I have of that movie is the first time you’re nude the crew is agog but after that you become more a prop they need to step over to get to the lights and such.

Owen: You have a very memorable role as Ruthie in Paul Schrader's 'Cat People'.  How did his directing technique differ and what was that experience like for you?

Lynn: Paul Schrader was very impatient, demanding, and threw a whole lot at you right up front and expected you to retain everything. The other directors I worked with let me develop my own character and work that way. He is very much more demanding in that you had to turn your head a certain way – it was a very technical experience. It seemed people on the set were sort of insensitive as to whether I’d get hurt or not. I had to fall down those stairs about twenty-five times. First of all we couldn’t get the cat paw to work so finally a crew member put his hand in a cat paw and reached out from under the bed to scratch me so I kept having to fall on my knee again and again and again until they could get that technical aspect to work correctly. Then when I fall down the stairs I was supposed to turn over and my bra was supposed to pop open because Paul Schrader had to have a tit shot of everyone in the movie. But when I fell I kept having a problem with the bra popping open so they had to do it again and again so he could get the tit shot.He’s not my favorite director of those I’ve worked with, but interesting.

Owen: So what film is the most asked about and what do people usually want to know? 

Lynn: They want to know what it was like to work with George Romero and David Cronenberg. And they always comment about the rape scenes and the death scene in ‘The Crazies’.

Owen: You have done some pretty outrageous things on screen in your film career.  Were you ever asked to film something too objectionable or too violent and you refused?

Lynn: When Lloyd Kaufman first came to me and asked me to do ‘Sugar Cookies’ I refused because it was too graphic. I didn’t want to show everything. But they agreed to do the nudity, but not frontal nudity from the waist down. Other than that I don’t think I’ve been offered anything I didn’t want to do. I could always find some value in each project.

Owen: With all that on your resume have you ever actually been scared on a movie set?

Lynn: The only time I was really scared was on ‘Cat People’ when I was afraid I was going to get hurt. Also when we were doing ‘I Drink Your Blood’ the majority of cast and crew were stoned on grass or acid. I took sunshine acid for the first time and that was pretty scary. When people ask about that role I say I was a mute hippie on acid with rabies.

Owen: So with all the added attention on horror nowadays do you have some projects pending?  Do you get a lot of film offers that tempt you?

Lynn: A lot of things have been happening for me in the past two years. It’s been very exciting. Every since the interview came out on the DVD of ‘The Crazies’ and on the DVD of ‘I Drink Your Blood; and my website is up (www.lynnlowry.com) so people have been able to find and contact me. If I’d had any idea people wanted to contact me I would have done this much earlier, but I had no idea I had this kind of cult status. This year I’ve done a film called ‘Heaven Help Me’ that Mark Baranowski directed and that’s a comedy, so it’s a little different. And then I am also going to be in Dante Tomaselli’s new film ‘The Ocean’.

Owen: This is a Renaissance, congratulations. So Lynn --- Zombies, Vampires, Aliens, Werewolves, Creatures, Psychos, Mummies, Witches -- which one does it for you and why?

Lynn: The thing that scares me is I read a short story called ‘The Whole Town is Sleeping’ by Ray Bradbury and I actually took the last 10 minutes of this story and turned it into a one woman show. It’s about a woman walking home who thinks someone is following her. And in the town she lives in there have been about four murders committed by a serial killer. So the whole thing is a very frantic piece with her running and trying to get her keys n the door, etc. And once she’s inside and thinks she’s safe she realizes there’s someone inside with her.

Owen: How creepy!

Lynn: This was the most terrifying piece I’ve ever done and it was on stage and the audience was just petrified. So I have to say that real things, real horror are the things I find the scariest.

Owen: Anything else pending for you?

Lynn: I do have a movie I wrote in the 80s horror genre called ‘Pajama Party Horror’ and I’m looking for people who might be interested in doing it. And if anyone is interested just go to my website and my email address s right there.

Owen: Thanks so much Lynn, and al the best to you both in life and with all these exciting projects you have pending.