Ellen Sandweiss

We caught up to Ellen Sandweiss in 2003, right after she was cast in Dante Tomaselli's "Satan's Playground," which was released straight to video in 2005. She's most well known for getting acquainted with a tree in Sam Raimi's cult classic "The Evil Dead."

Mostly the theme will be the quite humorous juxtaposition of our current nice soccer mom personas and our scream-queen pasts!

How did you get involved with "Satan's Playground?"

Dante contacted me about being in it after we were both featured in an issue of Rue Morgue magazine. Besides being an "Evil Dead" fan and liking my work in that film, I think he felt it was fate that we shared a magazine cover! I read the script, e-mailed and spoke with him several times, and the rest is (or will be) history.

Have you seen Dante's first film "Desecration"? What did you think?

Yes, I've seen it, and let me preface my comments by saying that personally I'm neither a fan nor an expert on horror films - I'm an actress who was hired to act in one over 20 years ago. However, professionally, I can respect and admire all genres of film, if they're well done. With that in mind, I'd say that the movie was highly imaginative, visually interesting, unique, well acted and well directed.

Have you met Dante yet, what were your impressions of him?

Yes, after many e-mails and telephone conversations we finally met this past October in New Jersey. He's just as nice and down to earth as I thought he'd be. Also very smart, focused on his work and determined to make film-making his life's work. I think he'll do it!

Your costar in that film will be another familiar face among horror fans, Felissa Rose. Have you met Felissa yet? Or any of the rest of the cast?

Yes, Felissa and I have gotten together several times, and we instantly became fast friends. She's a lovely, talented, genuine person and I look forward to playing her sister and spending time with her on the set and off. I've not met any other cast members.

Can you tell us a little bit about your character in Satan's Playground?

I'm Paula, the sister of Felissa's character Donna, on vacation with her, her husband, son, and my child. I'm a newly divorced mother of a small child and fiercely protective of that child.

"The Evil Dead" was your first and only (so far) horror film appearance, was there a specific reason why you haven't shown up in the genre since then? Or really any other genre?

That's a very nice way of saying "where the hell have you been?" Basically, at the time of filming "Evil Dead" I had done mostly stage work, particularly musical theatre, and in fact was still studying theatre at the University of Michigan. However, after finishing my degree, I made the decision not to go into acting full time but rather to focus on the business end of the arts, which I felt was more suited to my lifestyle and my desire to start a family. So I got a master's degree in arts management, which is the field I was in before I started having children.

What have you been doing all of this time?

The last 16 years have been spent raising my kids and working part-time first in non-profit organization management and then helping to establish and grow my husband's business. Every few years or so, I'll still do some sort of performing, whether it's being in a play or a singing gig, or doing commercials or voice overs.

What made you want to come back?

Now that my kids are older I'm anxious to get back into the creative world to the extent that it won't too severely disrupt my family. I'm selectively creeping back into the business.

Can you tell us a little bit about the documentary "Ladies of the Evil Dead: Two Sided Chainsaw"?

That probably won't be its official name - our director, Mike Kallio, just needed to name it in order to list it on the IMDB. This is a work in progress - basically right now we've been collecting all the footage we can on the reunion of the "Ladies of the Evil Dead" ; myself and the other two actresses from the original "Evil Dead," Betsy Baker and Sarah York/aka Theresa Tilly. It started with our 20th anniversary reunion showing of "Evil Dead" in Detroit last February and has followed along with us to our various conventions and other appearances. It'll also show us in our home lives as well as have interviews of Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and others who worked on the film. Mostly the theme will be the quite humorous juxtaposition of our current nice soccer mom personas and our scream-queen pasts! We think it'll be entertaining, enlightening and most of all, hilarious.

Cool. It seems like the whole "Ladies of the Evil Dead" thing seemed to pop up a few years ago. What made you and the girls decide to get together and promote yourselves in this way? How did you end up coming together again?

I absolutely love it that everyone still calls us "girls"! Anyway, in the last few years, each of us independently started realizing how popular "Evil Dead" had become. We also were aware of how absent we were from all the hoopla, and started to think about re-entering the picture. In the meantime, Betsy and Theresa, who live in LA, went to a big-screen Halloween showing of the film, along with producer Rob Tapert, and did a Q and A there. At around the same time, I started reading about Anchor Bay here in Detroit, and how a lot of their success was owing to "Evil Dead." In November of '01, Theresa and Betsy found me, called me on the phone, and we had a great chat (for the first time in 20 years!). We decided then and there that it was time to come "out of the cellar," so to speak, and start meeting the fans and seeing what all the excitement was about.

Have you enjoyed your newfound recognition?

It's been a blast! Of course we had an adjustment period - none of us had been at all exposed to the horror fan scene. For that matter, none of us had ever been exposed to any type of fan scene! But for the most part the fans have been extremely nice and polite, and of course adoring. It's always nice to be adored!

Have you been able to do anything that you weren't able to do before as a result of the recognition?

Not really - I mean let's face it, we're not walking into restaurants and having people give up the best tables for us! But we are getting to travel more, make a little money, and we have been given some scripts for consideration.

How do you feel about celebrities using their fame to make political statements? Is that something you're interested in?

I guess it depends on the venue they choose for their statement-making. If it's appropriate, then yes, I'm in favor of it - why not? In terms of myself, I think I'll wait until my celebrity status is a little higher before I start making any political statements!

Finally, have you ever had a creepy or scary experience with an "Evil Dead" fan?

Maybe a little creepy, but not really scary. Never anything that has caused me great concern for myself or my family. For the most part, the fans have really respected my privacy.

Well hey, thanks for answering my questions, and good luck working with Dante and Felissa. I can't wait to see what comes out of it.

Thanks - I can't wait to see what comes of it either!

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