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Lea Thompson Gets Tough

2 Mar, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Lea Thompson in Exit Speed

Those accustomed to seeing Lea Thompson as a mousey Lorraine McFly in Back to the Future or city girl Caroline in “Caroline in the City” may be surprised by her latest role as a butt-kicking mom who is part of a group hunted by violent nomads in Exit Speed, on DVD March 3 from Peace Arch Entertainment. Thompson spoke with Home Media Magazine about the film and other films from her lengthy career in TV and film.

HM: Exit Speed was a really different role and film for you. What was it like playing this sort of tough mom in an action-adventure film?

Thompson: It was fun! It was kind of a brutal experience making the movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie.It’s really entertaining. It’s one of those “what would happen if I was in that situation?” movies. I love the idea of perfect strangers thrust into a super intimate, intense experience. I like doing action movies because it’s always so macho, most of the time you’re acting in a movie and there’s no moment where everyone claps. But if you do a great stunt yourself and you run and get bruises, it’s a heightened moment. It’s more performance-oriented than movie acting usually is. I always like doing physical parts, your own stunts.

HM: Do you want to do more action-adventure type films?

Thompson: I’m up for anything. I like doing anything that comes my way. It’s hard to fall asleep on those days when you have to run and stuff. I just like physical things. I started out as a dancer. I’m really happy that at my age, someone will still give me those parts.

HM: Would you consider horror?

Thompson: I’ve classically turned down horror movies, but I like movies like this, where women are empowered and don’t wimp out. If it’s a horror movie when women don’t wimp out, than I’m for it.

HM: There is a brutal scene in Exit Speed in which you face off with one of the female nomads and are forced to kill her by putting a bag over her face and suffocating her, repeating that you’re a mother and you have kids. It’s a really emotional scene I wasn’t expecting. What was filming that like?

Thompson: That’s one of the reasons I did the movie, I really loved that scene. I still feel bad, I was like thinking about that plastic bag on that girl’s face. I hope I didn’t scare her! Sometimes I think, did they have holes in that bag? It’s really hard when you have that kind of emotion and a plastic bag over someone’s head, but she’s alright!

Sometimes when you get caught up in the emotion, those kinds of scenes are hard to do because I was really gone. It’s really a scary thought to think of killing someone with your bare hands. It still kind of haunts me, that scene. But that was one of the reasons I did that movie, because I can relate to it, it’s like the mother lion thing. My emotions about being a mother and protecting my kids are really the strongest I’ve ever felt, you know? I’ve never hard that kind of situation, thank god, but I think women can relate to that. You would do anything to protect your family.

HM: Are you excited to have the “Back to the Future” trilogy back out on DVD? They were just re-released.

Thompson: I’m constantly touched by how loved that movie is. I call my daughter, who’s 14, her friends all know the movie. I have to remind them, you were negative-10 when that movie came out. It’s so awesome that they love it and it still speaks to them.

It’s a double-edged sword being known for something you did 24 years ago. But it’s such a great part, it’s such a great movie, and I’m so touched that it endures as a great movie and that it’s such a classic. I have to say, I was really good in it! I can’t say that about all my performances, but I worked really hard on that movie and I’m happy that it endures. There must be something really profound about it, not just because it sparks the imagination, but seeing your parents really young and realizing that everyone’s the same, everyone goes through the same things. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but for it to be actualized like it is must be a really deep message for that movie to endure with such power. But it’s also funny because now I’m actually the same age as Lorraine McFly when she’s old! And they make such a big deal about how old she is.

HM: “Caroline in the City” also recently had its first season released on DVD. Were you involved at all with the release, and do you know if we’ll see future “Caroline” releases?

Thompson: People need to buy them so they’ll release the rest of them. They’re awesome. It’s an awesome show. My kids had never seen them, so at Christmas we watched all of them, and my kids just got addicted. It’s such a funny show, I’m really proud of it. It’s weird when you work that hard and that fast, you totally forget what happened. I couldn’t even remember the plots. But it’s such a good show, it’s so funny and good-hearted and it really holds up, except for maybe my hairdos in the third season, they’re al little iffy.

HM: You’ve had a lot of material come to DVD recently. Another film you were in, Howard the Duck, is coming out on DVD March 10 (Universal, $14.98). Were you involved with that release at all, and how do you feel about that film and its cult following?

Thompson: I did do some interviews for it. The interviews are really interesting because it is such a cult film. Even the studio doesn’t realize it, which is the most bizarre thing in the world that they don’t realize how many people are fans of the movie. It’s funny I think a lot of kids liked it because a lot of parents thought it was a kids movie and put it on and left the room. Low and behold there are condoms and love scenes with erect feathers. It was a very bizarre movie; it was a very bizarre comic. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect movie, but I think it appeals to iconoclasts, people who don’t like to be told what is good and what is not good. It works on a double level, in a way, because Howard the Duck is a bit of an iconoclast, an outsider, and I think a lot of us have a bit of that bitter outsider in our personalities, I know I do.

HM: What are you working on now? 

Thompson: I have a movie called Splinter Heads coming out at the South by Southwest Film Festival. I’m working on a movie to direct called The Swinging Sounds of Jack Amsterdam. Hopefully that will be coming to a DVD near you in a year or two.

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