Her debut was gory, but it was Canadian
Victoria actress still celebrates role in My Bloody Valentine
With My Bloody Valentine slashing its way back into theatres as a 3-D update, no wonder Lori Hallier’s having flashbacks.
The Victoria native was 21, fresh out of Montreal’s National Theatre School, when she made her film debut as Sarah, a teenager terrorized by a maniacal miner with a pickaxe in George Mihalka’s 1981 Canadian slasher flick.
You might think the Toronto-based actress, now 49, would want to put the grisly, low-budget frightfest behind her.
Not a chance. Hallier just watched the cult classic with her three nieces in Qualicum last month.
“My niece said, ‘Auntie Lori, it’s better than you said it was,’ ” she recalled, laughing. “I was watching it for the first time in 15 years. When I saw myself it was like watching a stranger, but I could finally watch it as a movie and see what made it cultlike.”
My Bloody Valentine, just re-released on DVD, was a “trial-by-fire” that launched the struggling stage performer’s career, and Mihalka’s.
“He’s still a truly committed filmmaker,” noted the actress who reunited with Mihalka last year for Sticks and Stones, a TV movie about pee wee hockey. “He got his break on a cult horror film that he wanted to be as real as possible.”
Hallier said Mihalka was thrilled when, while scouting locations in a drab Nova Scotia town, he found his ideal mine. When he went back, he was horrified to learn the community had spent a fortune prettying up the place.
“He had to un-beautify the town,” she recalled.
Hallier wasn’t invited to reprise her role, now played as a young mom by Jaime King, in the new 3-D version. No surprise there.
“I think I’ve aged gracefully, but that would be pushing the envelope just a bit,” she said with a laugh.
The last time I interviewed Hallier was in the fall of 1982. The Reynolds Secondary School grad was rehearsing for Bastion Theatre’s production of Comeback. She fondly remembers the now-defunct theatre and “the best training I ever got” — her two years as a theatre student in the old military huts at University of Victoria, before Phoenix Theatre went state-of-the-art.
She credits her “brilliant” acting professor Kaz Piesowocki with giving her words of wisdom she has never forgotten.
“The key to maintaining a career is the discipline of finding a way to keep yourself alive, alert and not discouraged,” she said.
Hallier has since worked steadily in feature films such as the thriller Blindside, as a beautiful woman who fascinates Harvey Keitel’s voyeuristic motel manager; the made-for-TV whodunit Incident in a Small Town with Walter Matthau; and as a “Mrs. Robinson-like” beauty (Barry Flatman played her husband, and Rachel McAdams her daughter) who arouses a young Sicilian admirer in the Italian comedy My Name is Tanino.
She’s also a prolific voiceover artist for clients including Scotiabank, Esso and the federal NDP, and a familiar face on dozens of TV shows including The Eleventh Hour, Blue Murder, The Associates and Star Trek: Voyager.
After being cast in David ( Dallas) Jacobs’s risqué, ground-breaking 1980s Toronto series Loving Friends and Perfect Couples, Hallier moved to Los Angeles. She landed roles in soaps ( Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara) and shows like Matlock, Jake and the Fatman and Kung Fu.
“I went on a lark and drove around in a rented convertible and lived the high life,” she said. “My hair turned white, my skin turned brown. I had big hair, shoulder pads, big earrings. The ’80s were a fun time.”
A particularly rewarding experience was making Running Wild, an anti-poaching TV movie in Africa with Gregory Harrison, the dashing star of Trapper John, M.D. fame who went river-rafting down the Zambezi river with her.
Travelling is Hallier’s first love and favourite showbiz perk. Her passion for visiting developing nations has taken her on eye-opening jaunts to exotic locales from Cuba to Cambodia. “Being an actor keeps you attuned to humanity, but there’s nothing like being in another country to be attuned to who we are,” she said.
As productive as her Hollywood stints were, Hallier returned to Toronto after 17 years. “I wanted to grow old gracefully and L.A. is not the place to that,” she said. “It’s a torture chamber of expectations.”
She said she feels “blessed and grateful” being able to work so much in a tough industry.
“I’ve never had a part-time job, which defines the top 10 per cent of actors out there.”
She regrets not being able to “feed my soul” as much as she would have liked to, however.
“Getting the opportunity to work on a script like Doubt hasn’t been in the cards,” sighs Hallier, who these days is busy developing “a serialized travelogue for kids” with a director out of Montreal.
Wherever she is, Hallier’s heart remains in Victoria.
She maintains close ties to her siblings here — her sister Kerry, a nurse who lives in Qualicum Beach, and brother Dale, a teacher in Courtenay — and her dad, Gerry, in Calgary. Her mother Vivian (“my hero”) died of breast cancer last year.
And she can’t say enough about others who cut their artistic teeth here. “I’m so proud of Diana Krall, Nelly Furtado, David Foster and Richard Margison,” said Hallier, who in a Toronto video store last week bumped into the opera star she once appeared with in a Victoria production of Names and Nicknames.
The actress’s hometown ties are so strong, she proudly noted she has missed only one Christmas here.
“I was in Cambodia,” said Hallier, who got a surprise when she came home again last month to chill out at the family’s cottage in Deep Cove where she scattered her mom’s ashes last summer.
“It was the first time I’ve seen a snow plow on Madrona Drive.”
Lori Hallier’s acting career has taken her around the globe, but she’s only missed one Christmas at home in Victoria.
The poster for 1981’s My Bloody Valentine, starring a youthful Lori Hallier.