Interview: Diane Franklin Takes Us Inside the DeFeo House and The Amityville Murders

Remember that curly-haired lass from such iconic 80’s films like The Last American Virgin, Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? If you’re thinking of the delightfully pleasant Diane Franklin, congrats – you’re absolutely correct. The young lady that broke hearts (including mine) when she dropped Lawrence Monoson on his nice-guy tuchus is back in a performance that has raised many eyebrows around these horror parts. Her portrayal of Louise DeFeo in Daniel Farrands’ The Amityville Murders (review) was exceptional, and she was more than gracious to speak with us about her role in the film as well as a few other topics, so mend those broken hearts while you’re checking out this chat, and enjoy!

BW: Diane, can you give us a description of the film’s premise and tell us about your character, Louise DeFeo?

DF: The film is based on a true story of the murders that happened in Amityville, and what I love about the film is that it’s about as accurate as it could be – the film pretty much stays in the house, and it’s about a family that’s having some emotional problems – dysfunction in the family with the father, son, kids and the wife. It’s patriarchal, and my character is a mother that is trying to make everything look good with this upper-class family – she’s just trying to be a good mom and keep everything together. The father loses his temper and the son is directly affected, coupled with drug use, and I think that with the abusive family relationship everything goes downhill.

BW: You played the daughter in Amityville II, and here we are 37 years later, and you are playing a very prominent role in another Amityville film – how did this role come to you and what was your reaction when you got it?

DF: My convention agent at the time knew Daniel Farrands from Facebook, and he gets on the phone with me and says, “Diane, I want you to call this director.” He didn’t tell me anything about anything at all, just wanted me to call him. I was unsure about it and he kept telling me, “Just trust me – call him!” So I called him cold and said, “Hello, this is Diane Frankin – you may or may not know who I am, but I was told to call you from my convention agent.” I literally didn’t know what to say, and Daniel got on the phone and said, “I’m a huge fan of Amityville II and I’ve written a film called The Amityville Murders and I would like you to play Louise DeFeo.” Right then I burst into tears – in my wildest dreams I would have never thought that I would have been playing the mother in the same family, so now I’m getting a different perspective. Getting the chance to play the role of a real person was a dream of mine, and also coming from Long Island – this film hit deep with me. I was so honored, happy and shocked (laughs), and I went into the audition knowing that I had nothing but the audition – I just couldn’t believe it, and I gave the greatest audition of my life – the director burst into tears and hugged me – it was definitely surprising.

BW: As mentioned earlier, you held down some emblematic roles back in the 80’s – as that time has passed to the present, do you still approach your preparation for roles in the same fashion?

DF: Yes – what’s interesting was when I was younger, I never studied acting – you were told to never really study that, so I studied people and some great actors to watch what they did, so I learned from them. Meryl Streep and De Niro – watching people that inspired me, and then what happened was when I stopped acting to have a family, I kept studying because I thought maybe there was something I didn’t know, and it was interesting because I learned technique. I learned that technique is great for when you become an older actor because then you’ll really need it – when I was young it was okay, but much better when I was older. When I got this role the epiphany for me was “you may know technique, but it’s still got to come from you – you need that spark.” So I combined my early experience with my emotions and my observations and feelings and technique – that’s what I love about this film. You see that it’s a combination of life experience, and I just feel like I’ve learned so much, so here we go!

BW: You mentioned your family earlier – your daughter, Olivia, has been in the business and has had her hand in a little bit of everything – writing, producing, directing – can you remember what your first piece of advice to her was when she first expressed interest in getting into the business?

DF: I’m going to tell you something – ever since Olivia was little… she wanted to do films at 5 years old, so I said, “Okay, what do you want to do? – I’m here for you.” I never said, “Don’t be an actress – don’t get into this.” I did know that it was my dream, and I know that when kids have a parent as an actor, they want to try it, and they might not like the life or know what it means. Olivia started acting when she was 5 years old – she had a photographic memory, and she came along when the filmmaking generation started using computers, and I knew that she loved to act but that was not all of her – she was a filmmaker. So I asked her if she wanted to make a movie and she said yes – she worked the beginning, middle, and end – we were in outer space and on a surfboard in the living room and my son was there as well. I just think that with anything you have to listen to your kids early, and when you tell them they can’t do something, they’re going to believe you because you are their bouncing board. If your parent doesn’t believe in you, then you’re going to be insecure about it, so I really think that parents need to listen to their kids and not fight them. I teach kids as well and I’ve had some of them come to me and say, “My parents don’t want me to get into acting – I’m going to show them!” So I tell them, “Don’t just show them – act because you love it!”

BW: Lastly, after the release of The Amityville Murders, what’s going to be on your work slate that you can talk about?

DF: So many exciting things are happening – my daughter has a film option, and she’s going to be doing a film called This Gets Rough, and the princess from Bill and Ted (Kimberley Kates) is going to be producing it, and I am going to be in her film – my daughter is going to direct me! It’s a dream come true.

John Robinson, Chelsea Ricketts, Diane Franklin, Burt Young, and Paul Ben-Victor star. Look for The Amityville Murders in limited theaters, on Digital, and On Demand NOW!

Synopsis:
On the night of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., took a high-powered rifle and murdered his entire family as they slept. At his trial DeFeo claimed that “voices” in the house commanded him to kill. This is their story.

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