As much as he’ll be remembered for his impossibly uncanny live-action portrayal of Shaggy Rogers, Matthew Lillard has carved out a pretty successful career elsewhere, appearing in everything from cult classics like Hackers and SLC Punk! to Alexander Payne’s Academy Award-winning drama, The Descendants. Welcome back to “As Seen on Twin Peaks” and this time it is Matthew Lillard’s turn. What? Were you expecting me to pick Scooby-Doo? Zoinks!
This series takes a look at the acting careers of the cast of Twin Peaks – one performer at a time. But instead of looking A-Z through their entire filmography, I’ll be picking out one film to represent each actor, which will be followed by a 10 Questions-style discussion between myself and one of my fellow 25YL staffers about the film and various other credits. Now, the films I’ve picked to be discussed are not necessarily each actor’s most famous role, or most critically acclaimed performance, or biggest box office success. Instead, I’ll be focussing on those hidden gems, overlooked treasures and underrated masterpieces. And, to make things more interesting, each article will feature a range of different perspectives between myself and my guest. Some films will be familiar to the two of us, others might be first-time watches, and some movies will be a completely new experience for us both.
So, join Paul Casey and I as we discuss Matthew Lillard, his career, Twin Peaks, Scream and more!
Jon Sheasby: It was very easy for me to look through Matthew Lillard’s filmography and pick Scream. It’s definitely up there among my favourite horror films, and I know you’re a big fan too, Paul. So, what is it about Scream that makes you place it so highly among your favourites?
Paul Casey: It’s just a tremendously smart, well-observed, and most importantly incredibly tense and scary film. It follows up on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in it being not only self-referential to Craven’s filmography but horror as a genre. It is arguably the best and most important horror movie of the 1990s. When you look at great recent horror movies, especially something like Hush – one of the best and smartest slasher movies I’ve seen – you can really feel the influence of Scream. It rejected all of the clichés by mocking them and writing a heroine who was smarter than them. Anyone who dares to make a slasher movie post-Scream has to contend with the level of intelligence of the script and of the characters. I first saw Scream in 1997, as far as I remember. I was 10 or 11 and it was the first horror movie I ever saw. It was the first major creative explosion of my life. The feeling that films can do so much more than I thought they could, being in a horribly restricted childhood space. It is a horror movie that is a wonderful introduction to the genre. It’s kind of like The Simpsons, in that I saw the satire before I saw the original works, haha.
JS: The only Scream film I’ve been fortunate to see in the cinema was Scream 4 back in 2011, but the franchise is one that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. I’m a pretty big supporter of its small screen translation, Scream: The TV Series, too, which is far better than you’d imagine. Being on MTV, the show obviously skews to a slightly younger audience, but I was really enthralled by how far they were willing to push the boundaries to compete with the great horror shows from the past decade. For you, where does Scream rank among the more iconic horror franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween?
PC: I think it’s easily as good as those films, though it obviously couldn’t have existed without them. Seeing as it’s a play on the conventions of horror movies, and you need to have the conventions well-established before you can subvert them. I enjoyed all of the Scream pictures, but I would say the first and fourth are the best of the bunch. I was particularly surprised at how good Scream 4 was. I loved the shots that it took at the lazy, boring torture stuff like Hostel, which is one of the most vacuous and unimaginative horror movies that I’ve seen.
JS: Scream is now the second film I’ve picked by the “Master of Horror” Wes Craven (the first being Swamp Thing), a man whose career has unquestionably impacted every horror filmmaker and fan since the early ’70s. The Last House on the Left changed the game in 1972, just like A Nightmare on Elm Street reinvented the slasher sub-genre in 1984, and Scream – preceded by his subversive postmodern forebearer Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – almost singlehandedly saved horror in 1996. This discussion comes out exactly one week after what would have been his 79th birthday, so in honour of the horror icon, what is your favourite Craven movie other than Scream?
PC: It has to be The Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes. I’m not sure I could pick between them but both are sublime, lo-fi explorations of the dark side of life. The Last House on the Left was championed by Roger Ebert if I remember correctly, and he was totally right. It’s a remarkable achievement, even taking into account that it’s very low-budget and doesn’t have the best actors. Same with The Hills Have Eyes – the direction is so tight; the concepts and executions are so terrifying that you forget you’re essentially watching amateurs on-camera.
JS: There are many reasons why Scream is rightfully regarded as a modern classic, and one of those reasons is its fantastic young cast, most of whom went onto have very prolific careers. Guessing the identity of the Ghostface killer is a part of the fun of Scream, which reveals Skeet Ulrich’s Billy Loomis and Matthew Lillard’s Stu Macher to be the killer and accomplice, respectively, in the films third act. What is your opinion on Lillard’s performance as Stu, and do you remember if you correctly guessed Ghostface’s identity on your first viewing?
PC: I didn’t guess right! I was too swept up in the story and joyfully wrong-footed at every turn. I am, as you may know, a huge fan of murder mysteries and I trace my passion back to seeing Scream for the first time. It is a brilliant example of how powerful a murder mystery can be. Matthew Lillard is so charismatic and manic in Scream. He was definitely my favourite performance in the movie. He is terrifying and hilarious and he reminds me quite a lot of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ledger had been influenced by him.
JS: Like a lot of people my age, I was first introduced to Matthew Lillard while watching 2002’s Scooby-Doo. And I gotta say, I loved the hell out of that movie when I was 11. Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on the film, it’s undeniable that Lillard was perfectly cast as Shaggy. His comedic range was on full show, and his association with that character continues to this day, as he still voices Shaggy in various animated film and TV projects. Can you recall seeing Lillard’s particularly physical style of acting for the first time, and is there a filmmaker you’d like to see him work with in the future?
PC: Well, I saw Scooby-Doo when it came out, and a large reason why – not that I didn’t have affection for the cartoon – was because I knew Lillard was in it. I think it’s a decent children’s film, and Lillard shines. And I am very happy that he has become the new Shaggy in the cartoons! I would love to see him do a movie with someone like Guillermo del Toro. I think he’s a perfect actor for a fantasy movie, something like Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone. Something with a horror component, but also just a beautiful exploration of the innocence, or lack thereof, of youth.
JS: Lillard is obviously known more for his comedic turns and cult favourites, but he’s done a fair amount of dramatic work in his career in things like The Descendants, Trouble with the Curve, and of course, Twin Peaks: The Return. When you think about the possibilities of his career post-The Return, would you rather him delve into even more dramatic work or would you like to see him go back to his comedic roots?
PC: I enjoyed him quite a bit in The Descendants, and he gave a remarkable performance in Twin Peaks: The Return. I think he has this manic energy that is so compelling, and I would love to see him pursue a similarly intense role as he had in The Return. You can always weave comedy through that. I mean, Bill Hastings’ predicament is simultaneously amusing and quite upsetting. His breakdown is a beautiful melding of comedy and complete emotional chaos.
JS: Speaking of The Return, one of the joys of the cast list being released way in advance was seeing the likes of Lillard and wondering how they were going to be used in the show. And we didn’t have to wait long, as Bill Hastings was not only introduced in Part 1, but Lillard received particular praise for his performance throughout. With that being said, what are your thoughts on Bill Hastings, both as a character and his overall importance to the narrative of The Return?
PC: I think he’s a great character because he’s trying to figure out the mysteries just like the audience is. I think there’s some considerable room to discuss how Frost and Lynch are warning us that if we don’t stop theorising we might just end up like Bill Hastings! He’s important and compelling as a character. Through his journey, we are able to look into the deepest mysteries of the show. He’s just a regular guy but he has had these bizarre, terrifying and inspiring adventures, which is so in keeping with Twin Peaks as a whole, as it’s really about how the most common places actually hide the most uncommon mysteries.
JS: It’d be hard for us to talk about Bill Hastings and not mention the brilliant piece of fan service that was the creation of the very real website, The Search for the Zone. Were you one of the many, many fans (myself included) who visited the site upon realising that it actually existed, or did you stay away in case you stumbled upon anything you may have deemed to be spoilery?
PC: I had a look at it. I love that extended universe stuff. My second favourite show of all-time – after Twin Peaks: The Return – is Lost and they also did a lot of that really cool and immersive content, exploring the mysteries with websites and games and stuff as if they were real. I think it’s great because you don’t have to look at it, but it adds to the pleasure you have in exploring and trying to explain the mysteries.
JS: Other than Scream and The Return, what other Matthew Lillard performances have you enjoyed over the years? I’ve just recently finished the crime comedy-drama TV show, Good Girls, which premiered over here on Netflix in early July. I love the work he does with his on-screen wife, Christina Hendricks, and I highly recommend it if you’ve not yet seen it. They’re both great. It’s a lot of fun.
PC: I will have to see that. I love Christina Hendricks a whole hell of a lot. I enjoyed his performance in The Descendants most of all, I think, of his other work. It’s a lovely, realistic performance and it says something meaningful about how falling in love is rarely easy or fair.
JS: And finally, Paul, if you could recast any role from the history of film and TV with Matthew Lillard in their place, which character would you choose and why?
PC: Oh, let’s see. I think the obvious choice would be Norman Bates in Psycho! He could kill that really well. He would have suited Hitchcock down to the ground. Keeping in the horror genre, I think he could do a really good job as Will Graham in Hannibal, but on the other side of things and since I’m in a Western frame of mind, I’d love to see him appear in the Deadwood movie!
I want to thank Paul for taking the time to join me for this latest edition of “As Seen on Twin Peaks.” So, you’ve read ours, but what are your thoughts on Matthew Lillard? Favourite roles, performances, works? Please leave a comment and let us know by following the information about our social media accounts, which can be found below. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@JonSheasby), and we’ll continue the conversation over there.