I seems like no matter what kind of movies you enjoy, chances are good that Virginia Madsen has been in one of them. She covered horror early in her career with the cult favorite Candyman and has appeared in others over the years, most recently The Haunting in Connecticut. Madsen has also performed in acclaimed dramas including Ghosts of Mississippi, The Rainmaker, and Joy (playing Jennifer Lawrence’s mother). She is also a natural when it comes to comedies, as her Oscar-nominated turn in Sideways proved, as well as her performances in A Prairie Home Companion and the queer-themed A Change of Heart.
In director Yen Tan’s new movie 1985 (Wolfe), Madsen gives what may well be her finest performance. As Eileen, she’s a Texas mom whose oldest son, Adrian (out actor Cory Michael Smith), comes home from New York for Christmas in 1985, the first time he’s been with the family in three years. He’s hiding a few secrets, including being gay and HIV-positive. But Eileen is savvier than she seems, and Madsen gives her all in every scene, including an airport goodbye that requires a box of tissues.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Madsen, an LGBTQ ally through and through, before 1985 was released for a limited theatrical run and on home video and VOD in late November.
Gregg Shapiro: Virginia, early in your acting career, you starred in the classic horror film Candyman and later in The Number 23 and The Haunting in Connecticut. What is it about this genre of movies that appeals to you as an actress?
Virginia Madsen: It’s just very fun making a horror film. It’s like it’s Halloween and you’re a little kid and you’re pretending to be afraid of a ghost that’s not really there. It’s playing dress-up. It should also be very good storytelling. The reason I haven’t done more of it is because the stories were never any good. The focus was more on the slasher aspect and less on the story. That’s why I loved Candyman. It was really like a classic Dracula. When you look at the classic horror villains, you felt for them. You loved Frankenstein, and you hated when the castle collapsed because you have empathy for the monster. We all have a bit of the monster within us.