Sheryl Lee on filming Carpenter's brand of erotic horror action.
By John Thonen
Sheryl Lee made her debut as the plastic-wrapped corpse of Laura Palmer in the groundbreaking TV series TWIN PEAKS. Since then, she has grown from a pretty young girl into a beautiful young woman. The transformation is startling in JOHN CARPENTERS VAMPIRES.
The majority of Lee's recent film work has been in the area most often referred to as "art-house" films. All of which makes the gory, stunt filled VAMPIRES even more of an exception for her. "I've always had a fascination with vampires," she explained. "It's not that I'm exactly fascinated with the dark side. It's the human struggle with it. How we deal with those two aspects of who we are." Lee took a philosophical approach to her role, doing considerable research and reading. "We all have those elements," she pointed out. "It's almost as if we each have a vampire inside us. Controlling that beast, that dark side, is what fascinates me."
Lee's immersion in the role of Katrina was so complete that she even found herself beginning to dream as the character. "I always think of it as a green light when that happens," she said. "A sign that subconsciously, I'm opening up to the character." The actress noted that one night she awoke "in one of those half-asleep/half-awake states, and I ran my tongue over my teeth and I had fangs. Of course, in the morning they weren't there."
To address the sensual nature of vampirism, Carpenter had Lee's character initiated into Valek's vampiric fold, not by the traditional bite on the neck, but rather a bite high on her inner thigh. In the film, the scene is palpably erotic. For Lee, filming it was anything but. "Erotic scenes are actually very funny because they are always very technical," she said. "The camera was hanging above me, you have to scoot under it. The bite had to be at just the right spot, not an inch this way or that. You have to figure out which way and how much you can move your head before you go out of frame. It's so specific. It always amazes me that they work, because they are so far removed from what you are trying to convey."
Lee is no stranger to sexuality and nudity in her films. Her recent film BLISS, is largely about her character's exploration of the benefits of Tantric Sex, a meditative technique that reportedly allows the users to experience multiple orgasms during sexual liasons that last for hours. A long time practitioner of Yoga, Lee now espouses Tantric Sex in real life as well. In spite of the frequency of her appearances au naturel, Lee still finds the scenes difficult. "I hate it," she said. "It's very uncomfortable to be in a room full of strangers, in bed naked, with a person you barely know."