Returning to “Amityville”: An Interview with Diane Franklin

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When it comes to 80’s films, one must know the name Diane Franklin. Known for her trademark curly hair, Diane made an impact with her roles in Amityville II: The Posession, The Last American Virgin, Better Off Dead, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. After taking some off in the early 2000s, Diane is hot on the comeback trail and she returns to the Amityville canon with her role of Louise DeFeo in the fact-based thriller The Amityville Murders, coming to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on February 8 from Skyline Entertainment.

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World Film Geek had an amazing chat with Franklin about her new film and it is fun to say that she is a master of accents, as transcribed from the following interview.

Diane, I have to say it is a huge pleasure to talk with you. I’m a huge fan and I’m not lying when I say this, but I actually watched Better Off Dead for the probably 15,000th time just this afternoon!
You’re kidding?! (in French accent) Thank you! That’s very nice to hear! Thank you!

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Louise DeFeo (Diane Franklin) attempts to console son Butch (John Robinson) in The Amityville Murders (Skyline Entertainment)

Let’s talk about The Amityville Murders. What inspired you to take on the role of Louise DeFeo?
Oh, this is a wonderful story. Quentin Tarantino loves Amityville II: The Possession, the 1982 film I did where I played the daughter. And he had a screening at his theater in Los Angeles and he had asked me if I wanted to be there to do a Q&A. So I went there to do the Q&A and it was there I met Daniel Farrands, the writer and director of The Amityville Murders. He sees me during the Q&A and he asked if I wanted to play Louise DeFeo. I think he had the role with me in mind but then time passed on and I didn’t think too much about it.

I got a call from Scott Ray, my convention agent, and he told me that Daniel Farrands is going to do Amityville and that I should call him. I wasn’t sure at first, but Scott insisted I call him. So, I call Daniel and I was introducing myself, not even knowing if he remembered me at all. He said, “I know you Diane. And I would like to offer you the role of Louise DeFeo”. I ended up bursting into tears. I completely lost it! Because to be first remembered as the daughter and now playing the mother, was a dream that is. The second thing is that Louise DeFeo was a real person, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, is play a real life figure.

I was sent the script and I loved it. I was reading it and even when my husband [writer Ray De Laurentis] was talking to me as I was reading it, I was so into it. However, I still had to do the audition because while Daniel may have wanted me, it was possible that the producers may not want me for the role. But this was a really big deal, so I went in and the producer, the casting director, and Daniel were there. When I finished, they all applauded and Daniel burst into tears and hugged and said, “You are Louise DeFeo”. I consider this film and the role to be the best experience in my career as an actor.  I just put my heart into it.

That’s awesome and I have to say this is the one thing I love about seeing you in films. You have the tendency to pull off any accent. In Better Off Dead (above left), you did the French accent. In Bill and Ted, you went British and in this film, you brought out that New “Yawk” accent and as someone who is originally from New York, you pulled if off perfectly!
(in French accent)Oh, Thank you so much! I kicked its a**! Kicked it’s a**!

I am so thrilled and happy that you said that! One of the main things why I that I thought it was important was that I not only went through the emotions and the vulnerability, but as playing the mother, I felt the voice was important. And I think the interesting thing is that the DeFeos originally came from the Bronx, and they moved to Long Island. And that area is barely represented fully, so I thought I can’t have her talking like she’s from the Bronx. I had to make her speak like she comes from Long Island. It was important to me as an actress to make that part of it and as you came from New York, you can understand. People think of Long Island a certain way and I felt it needed to be done right. Like they’re no joke! And that’s what important, because it now felt like this is a real representation of Long Island. I hope my friends in Long Island will appreciate what they see and feel like the area is rightfully represented and that they will feel honored. Thank you, my New York compadre! (Laughs)

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John Robinson as Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. in The Amityville Murders (Skyline Entertainment)

What was it like working with John Robinson, who plays your son Butch? He played another real-life figure in iconic skateboard legend Stacy Peralta in Lords of Dogtown and I feel like this film is one of his best performances to date, a tour de force for him?
I am so glad you said that about him! Oh my God, I have to say that I haven’t seen any of his other works yet, but I am now excited to check them out. I will tell you, I am praying that John will be the next big thing. He is incredibly talented, has a bright attitude about acting. He is a great and lovely guy.

Sometimes when you’re acting, you get so caught up in the acting world that you don’t have the confidence in their craft. So, what happened was when we all did scenes as the family, we all bonded.  We were open and we connected. And we worked well together as the family. We didn’t have to play the game in terms of characters. John didn’t have to isolate himself for the character. He may have done it for other characters, I don’t know, but I bonded with him very well. I was open towards him and felt he came come to me for anything.

He played Butch DeFeo not in a positive light, but more of an empathetic light.

That’s exactly how I felt about his performance.
Yeah, I mean he obviously murdered his family. But at the same time, you have to understand what caused it.

I totally felt for him because of everything he goes through, especially with his father. But to me, it was your character of Louise and Chelsea Ricketts’ character of Dawn that were attempts at being the “saving grace” for Butch.
Definitely. It was a patriarchal family. Back then, if you were back east, it was always that the father ran things. That’s how it worked in a patriarchal family. Back in the 70’s, it was like you had nowhere to go. Either it was abusive or it wasn’t abusive. And for Butch, seeing and experience what happened, even if there wasn’t a haunting, it could be seen as a case of “I can’t take this anymore”. And if you look it again, you can make a case of why it happened. It could be the abuse. Family is forever to these guys.

I feel like the film is more of a relationship drama. Yes, there are scares and horror elements, but you have these great characters and emotions as well.

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Louise (Diane Franklin) and Jody (Kue Lawrence) attempt to have a nice dinner in The Amityville Murders (Skyline Entertainment)

I will tell you, I’ve already written the review and it’s being posted on the week of release but I describe the film as a “tense emotional drama with horror elements”.
Nice! Well, interestingly enough we put the film out at a horror film festival and I felt that it was kind of unfair to bring it there because this is a time where horror is all about gore and eyeballs popping out, that sort of thing, I feel like the older generation fans will get this film more than the new generation fans, who probably will think “Big deal”. The older generation will feel scared because of the fact that this was something that really happened.

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Diane Franklin (far right) as Patricia Montelli alongside Burt Young, Rutanya Alda (top row), Erika Katz, and Brent Katz (bottom) in Amityville II: The Posession (Dino DeLaurentiis Co.)

As mentioned, you were in Amityville II and this is your return to Amityville. If you had to compare your experience with that film and this film, which one would you say that you enjoyed shooting more?
I have to say that while I loved Rutanya Alda and the rest of the cast on Amityville II, and it was an adventure. I was 20 years old, traveling to Toms Rivers and then did interiors in Mexico. And it was such a peripheral character of playing an innocent girl. But I felt this was a better experience because I am now older, and it has different aspects. I had more relationships with the cast and crew. Daniel and I would talk about what we wanted to do.

And I think because I’ve grown as an actress, I was able to obtain more things that I felt I could do. It was more personally satisfying and more creatively satisfying. I think this one is the best because it was more involved. I think it was just the house in the first film but I like the tension within the house with this one. It is a film based on reality and I like that. I mean with Amityville II, it’s like saying if you had 5 dollars, which one would you want to spend it on, the first one of the second one? And it was like oh it’s Part II, the house again and how many Amityville movies are there?

Too many (laughs), but the fact that this is about what happened before the franchise makes it work. So, is there a scene in the film where you can say, “I enjoyed shooting that one the most?”
You know, I really loved the scene I had with Paul-Ben Victor [who plays Ronald DeFeo Sr.] in the bedroom. I really enjoyed that one. There was a scene that was in the script that we didn’t wind up shooting, which was interesting but would have been a great scene. There was a scene we shot in the kitchen that was amazing when we did it but they ended up not using it. But, there’s this footage that’s really classy and awesome.

But the one scene I really enjoyed is the scene where Chelsea Ricketts is in the bathroom and I give this speech. I did a monologue. And I think for me, what’s great is that I had never been given a monologue before essentially talking about my experience and it was that scene. All the stuff said was actually said by the real Louise DeFeo herself. I really loved that because it was something that was actually said and I felt very connected to it. It was great and I felt proud of that moment.

So, my final question is well, as I’ve said I am a huge fan and I’m excited you are on this amazing comeback trail. As a matter of fact, if you don’t get any accolades for this role, I’m boycotting (laughs)
(Laughs) Thank you!

oliviadelaurentis
Meet Diane Franklin’s daughter, filmmaker/comedienne Olivia DeLaurentis, part of the Barely Legal Comedy team on YouTube!

Are there any new projects that you can talk about?
Yes! I will be acting in a film that my daughter has written and will direct! And Kimberly Kates, who played the other princess in Bill and Ted is producing it! The film is called This Gets Ruff. My daughter’s name is Olivia DeLaurentis. She has a YouTube channel called Barely Legal Comedy. And make sure you add the word “comedy” in the end, otherwise I will not be responsible for what comes up on your Google search (laughs). She has a comedy partner named Sydney Heller and they worked together on the script.

So, I am excited because I will get to be directed by my daughter. She is a brilliant filmmaker and a brilliant comedienne. And let me tell you, she is going to be bigger than me. She is beautiful, talented, and so funny! I’m so lucky that I have my two kids. Olivia is 22 and my son Nick is 20 and he plays upside bass. My kids are amazing and these are amazing moments.

I’m definitely putting This Gets Ruff on my radar. So, The Amityville Murders comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital on February 8. This is definitely one to look out for thanks to a tour de force from John Robinson and an excellent performance from Diane Franklin as his mother. Diane, you were a pleasure to talk to. Thank you so much!
Thank you! I hope everyone gets to see the film and if there are any conventions in Florida, let me know! I would love to come out there!

A Special Thank You goes out to Katrina Wan PR and Diane Franklin for making this interview possible! For more on Diane Franklin, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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