Her de­but was gory, but it was Cana­dian

Vic­to­ria ac­tress still cel­e­brates role in My Bloody Valen­tine

Times Colonist - - Arts - MICHAEL D. REID Be­hind the Screen

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.

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