While most people might know Juliet Mills from the many TV shows that she’s been on, us horror fans remember her from Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1974 film Beyond the Door. I know that’s where I remember her, because as a 9-year old kid, this movie scared the crap out of me!
We met up with Mills at a small movie memorabilia show in the Chicagoland area, in November of 2005, where she was gracious enough to spend few minutes with us to talk about her memories about her work on Beyond the Door.
Kitley’s Krypt: How did you first become involved with the film?
Juliet Mills: I just got a call from my agent that they were making this film in San Francisco and in Rome. I had made a previous film in Rome, Avanti with Jack Lemon and I love working in Italy. So it really came through my agent. I read the script and I thought that this sounds like fun. I never done one of these sort of movies, so that was it.
KK: The content of the script didn’t put you off?
JM: Actually, I thought it would be kind of fun. And of course The Exorcist had come out a year or so earlier, and I’d seen that. So I thought these kinds of films are popular, and why not? It was a fun film to make. Two great locations, San Francisco and Rome.
KK: While filming in Italy, were there any language barrier problems, with the crew?
JM: When I did Avanti, which was before this film, I took a course in Italian. I had to put on 35 pounds for this movie. So I wasn’t working before I did it. I’ve always loved Italian, love that romance language, so I took a 3 month course and I really did pick up quite a bit of the language. When I was doing Beyond, I spoke with the crew. I spent time on purpose with them because it the one language I really wanted to learn, and I could converse a little with them. I still speak a little Italian.
KK: What was it like working with Richard Johnson?
JM: Very nice. A very good actor and a very nice man. I enjoyed it very much. Where is Richard?
KK: Well, he did make quite a few horror films in Italy in the early 80’s.
JM: Really? Because I know him from England, from where he was an actor in the theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company.
KK: He did have a small role in the first Tomb Raider movie, with Angelina Jolie. Not a big part, but he was in there.
JM: Was he? Well I haven’t seen him for ages. But he was a very handsome guy, and a very nice man. And a very good actor. I enjoyed working with him.
KK: Did he seem to enjoy working on the film as well?
JM: I think so. I seemed to remember that he was a fairly private or remote guy. I don’t remember hanging out or socializing with him or anything. But he seemed to enjoy it. We all had a pretty good time. A lot of laughs. You got to laugh doing a movie like that.
KK: How about Gabriele Lavia, the actor who played your husband?
JM: He was a very nice guy. I’ve never heard of him before or since. I don’t know what he went on to do. But he had wonderful red, red hair. But a very nice guy, though he didn’t speak English that well. Had he made a lot of movies in Italy?
KK: He did make quite a few horror movies in Italy, such as Deep Red with Dario Argento. What about the two kids from the movie. Where they as annoying in real life as they were in the movie?
JM: HA! They were a bit! I can remember them being a little bit spoiled. Stage kids with stage-mothers.
KK: On the makeup aspect, did it take a lot of time?
JM: Yes, the really bad, horrible makeup, with the prosthetic stuff, took a couple of hours to put on. Then another hour to come off. They had to take it off very slowly or it’d take your skin off! So that side of it was bad, but of course I wasn’t the whole film in that makeup, thank God. But it is not any actors favorite, I think really.
KK: Do you remember how many weeks of shooting you had in the makeup?
JM: I think it was about 2 or 3 weeks.
KK: How about having to deal with the fake vomit and gooey stuff? Or did that kind of help you get more into character?
JM: It did help in a way. And of course it wasn’t as bad as it looks. I think at one point they were using something like pureed prunes or something that I had to spit out.
KK: What do you remember of the director, Ovidio Assonitis?
JM: I remember the film going very smoothly. It was a very good production. They spent money on it and they looked after us. So he always knew exactly what he wanted. That’s one thing I remember about him. Things that sort of took a long time, the things that were going to be done in post-production, like the head spinning and that sort of thing, he had a lot of patience with that. He was very nice. It was a very happy experience.
KK: Were you surprised when it became that successful?
JM: Yes, I was. The producers offered me points in the movie, or else just my fee. My agents at the time, William Morris, said, “no, no, no…just get your money up front. You might never see the money with these Italians.” So I didn’t. And course it made a huge amount of money.
I took my son to see it when it opened, at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and it was PACKED! So it made a lot of money. Of course, you know they were sued by Warners Bros. because of The Exorcist similarities. So they did have to pay them. Not a lot, maybe a few million, but they still made a fortune on that film.
KK: There are some similarities there with The Exorcist, but I think for the most part it’s a different movie.
JM: Yes, it is. It is a different movie.
KK: Do you get a lot of people asking about this movie?
JM: Yes, I do. I was just telling my manager that next time I do one of these memorabilia shows that I need to get some photos from Beyond the Door, because I’ve been surprised how many people come up and ask about. And I’ve had lots of people come up with interesting things for me to sign, like wonderful items from Japan and things.
KK: Well, I can’t thank you enough for taking a couple of minutes to talk to us.
JM: It’s been a pleasure.