Let’s be honest, when it’s done right, there’s nothing creepier than a kid in a horror movie.
With that in mind, here’s 12 behind-the-scenes facts about child actors in horror movies to get you into the Halloween spirit!
The actor who played Danny in The Shining, Danny Lloyd, actually had no idea that the film was going to be a horror movie. Director Stanley Kubrick attempted to shield Lloyd from the more gruesome parts of the film by telling him the project was intended to be a drama and making sure that he was off-set during more serious scenes, like when Dick Hallorann, played by Scatman Crothers, is murdered. In addition to this, he was also not shown the entirety of The Shining when it was completed, but instead a 10-minute “child-friendly” version.
Ariana Richards, who played Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park, reportedly got the role because of her scream. She told Entertainment Weekly that after being called into a casting office for the role, she was instructed to scream during her audition tape. Apparently, director Steven Spielberg had been watching a number of screaming tapes in his home, but Richards’s scream actually woke Spielberg’s wife, who rushed into the room to see if the kids were all right.
During the scene in The Exorcist where Regan is thrashed around on her bed, actress Linda Blair actually suffered an injury while filming. Blair, who was 12 at the time, was strapped into a harness that was too loose during the scene. This led to a lower spinal fracture, which Blair dealt with for the rest of her life.
Blair also developed a lifelong aversion to the cold during the filming of The Exorcist. During the exorcism scenes, the room temperature was lowered using an air conditioning system so that the actors’ breath could be visible on film, and Blair, dressed in a nightgown, was nowhere near prepared.
Apparently, the actor who played Damien in The Omen was given the role after he attacked director Richard Donner. In order to cast Damien, the future Antichrist, each child auditioning was instructed to attempt to attack Donner to prove they could be vicious and terrifying, as the role required.
Producer Harvey Bernhard later recounted that Harvey Spencer Stephens, who was later cast as Damien, proved he was worthy of the role long after the audition. Bernhard said, “Dick (Donner) yells action, the guy (Stephens) hits him right in the balls…boom boom boom boom. And Dick says, ‘Cut,’ and the kid doesn’t quit.”
Twins Lisa and Louise were cast in Stanley Kubrick’s depiction of The Shining when they were just 11 years old, although Stephen King’s novel describes the Grady sisters as 8 and 10 years old at the time of their deaths. In fact, the original casting call Kubrick sent out actually just called for sisters, and Lisa and Louise auditioned by chance, to their own luck. Lisa said, “It certainly worked in our favor because Stanley decided twins were just spookier.”
In an effort to avoid traumatizing the Burns twins during more gruesome scenes like their death scene, the makeup artist on set actually explained to them how the fake blood was made for the scene. They also gave the twins their own bottle of fake blood to take home, which they both apparently still have.
During the scene in Poltergeist where Robbie is attacked by a possessed clown doll, actor Oliver Robins found himself actually being strangled due to a malfunction on the mechanical doll’s part. Director Tobe Hooper thought that his reaction to being choked was simply an acting choice before he noticed the boy’s face turning blue.
Real Housewife Kyle Richards actually began her acting career at 8 years old, playing Lindsey Wallace, a young girl that Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is babysitting. She also appears in the series’ newest film, Halloween Ends, reprising her role as Lindsey.
Millicent Simmonds, who plays Regan Abbott in A Quiet Place suggested an improv that made co-star and director John Krasinski cry. SPOILER: Just before he sacrifices himself, the original script calls for Krasinski’s character, Lee, to sign “I love you” to his daughter, played by Simmonds. Simmonds then suggested that Krasinski also sign “I have always loved you,” as the two characters have a tense relationship throughout the film. Simmonds said, “I said, ‘I think he needs to say, ‘I’ve always loved you.’ Because that covers the difficult period.’ Then, when I suggested that, he cried.”
After the success of It: Chapter One, the lead children were asked in an interview who they’d like to play an older version of themselves, should there be a sequel. Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis answered Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain, respectively. The two actors were later cast in the second installment.
Speaking of It, once in Pennywise makeup and costume, Bill Skarsgård was kept away from the children playing the Losers for as long as possible, in order to keep their fearful reactions as authentic as possible. The first time the entire group sees Pennywise is during the projector scene here:
Do you have a spooky BTS horror movie fact? Tell me in the comments!