Just one glimpse of her face is followed by a flash of familiarity.
But, oh, that name just isn’t coming.
Together again for the first time: filmgoers, meet veteran character actress Lili Taylor.
After 25 years making movies, Taylor said the public most regularly approaches her about work in “Mystic Pizza” (1988), “I Shot Andy Warhol” (1996) and the 1999 remake of the `60s horror classic “The Haunting.”
“I feel like that’s a nice spectrum, because you’ve got your indie, you’ve got your big one,” the 46-year-old actress noted in a recent interview.
“Or they can’t remember,” she continued, “because I’m one of those who they think I either walk my dog in their neighborhood or I live in their building. And that’s the kind of actor I am, which is fine.”
To the stranger, she says, “`I know you think I’m in your building. It’s `The Haunting’ and that’s where you know me from, and let’s just cut to the chase.'”
While “The Haunting” grossed nearly $100 million way back in 1999, it was almost universally panned by the critics, in part due to comparisons with the beloved 1963 Robert Wise original that inspired it.
This weekend marks the arrival of another horror entry for Taylor’s filmography. She’s one of the four (count `em) leads in director James Wan’s “The Conjuring.” Opening Friday, the R-rated film serves up its own fresh blend of two of horror cinema’s all-time classiest acts: Wise’s “Haunting” and William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.” “The Conjuring” also stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston.
Based on an actual case investigated by paranormal expert Lorraine Warren and her late husband, Ed, “The Conjuring” invites viewers into a haunted house, introduces the nice family that has just taken possession, and then … Well, if a reporter tells you more, clearly the devil made them do it.
As for believing in this kind of stuff, Taylor called herself “agnostic.” The actress, who portrays the family’s matriarch, said she “had an experience, funny enough, in Rhode Island, which is where this movie takes place. I went into a house and the house had some history to it, and it was a very uncomfortable house and there was stuff that happened in there. Prior to that, I didn’t believe. After that house, I was like, `I know I felt something and I don’t know what it is.'”
Taylor has also found success on the stage, as well as on television (“Six Feet Under,” the current Netflix series “Hemlock Grove”). And while her acting may be chameleon like, Taylor’s voice is unmistakable: a sweet-savory concoction that brings to mind chocolate toffee slathered with sea salt. Among the best-known of her numerous voiceover gigs is a series of spots she did for Tylenol.
They can be lucrative. “You know, off-Broadway is $200 a week,” Taylor said, smiling. “I love voiceovers, and I’d love to do more. I’m just going to put that out here.”
Taylor and writer-husband Nick Flynn have a 5-year-old daughter, Maeve, who may find those walks with mom are interrupted a little more frequently by the end of “The Conjuring’s” big debut weekend.
Audience testing on the film was so strong (“off the charts” as per “Variety”) that studio New Line moved the film’s release from the dead of last winter to the height of this summer. And most early name-critic reviews have been positive.
But even if the movie’s a smash and nothing changes for Taylor, even if her name doesn’t go household, the actress is just happy to be working. She follows “Conjuring” with a lead role on one of Fox’s buzzy fall entries, the J.J. Abrams’-produced “Almost Human.”
“I just want to keep going,” Taylor said.
by Madeline Boardman