Leah Ayres (played Michelle)
Q1: How did you get the part in THE BURNING?
Q2: THE BURNING was different to a film such as FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), where most of the cast were young adults. Many of the cast in THE BURNING (1981) were young enough to truly reflect the real make-up of a summer camp in the early 1980s. The baseball and canoeing scenes sure looked like fun to make. Two of the exceptions were you and Brian Matthews – your love interest and fellow counsellor. Do you have fond memories of the production?
It was my first time on location doing a lead in a movie - so it was memorable for that reason alone. Lots of firsts. We had a good time together. North Tonowanda, NY was not exactly a happening place to be, however, so the most excitement in town was a roller skating rink. The big event was when the producers, Harvey and Bob Weistein, before they were Miramax (this was their first time producing a movie) got us all tickets to the George Benson Concert in Albany!
Q3: Cropsy – the horribly scarred killer in the film – is seemingly inspired (in name at least) by the urban legend that has terrorised kids and campers for decades in New York State. Had you heard about the legend?
I had heard a variation of the ghost story (that's what we called them when i was a kid). Nothing weird happened - just us trying to scare each other for fun.
Q4: The scene that really stands out for me that you appeared in was when you swim out to the raft and Fisher Stevens body popped out of the water. Was that as unpleasant to film as it looked?!
They made sure i did not see Fisher or his special effects head before we shot so i was truly surprized by the actual sight. So, yes, it was gross yet perfect for the scene and we shot it quickly with everyone really focused and energized.
Q5: Tom Savini (who did the special effects in the film) alluded to the fact that the ending was changed after director Tony Maylam and the Weinstein bothers reportedly fell out. As you one of the last of the cast left standing at the end of the film can you cast any light on this?
I vaguely remember some discussion about a happy or gruesome ending. Happy won - that worked for me. Outside of a bit of grumbling, I don't recall it being a bigger deal than that but i was not in producer-director meetings.
Q7: THE BURNING was surprisingly controversial on release. Suffering many cuts at the behest at the MPAA. Despite getting a cinema release in the UK it was accidentally released uncut on video and was banned as one of the infamous ‘video-nasties’. Were you aware of its enduring infamy?
No, but i do not go to horror movies so it's not a genre i keep up with. I was suprized it was such a bit hit in Japan.
Q6: Have you seen the film recently? If so, how do you think it holds up?
I have not seen it since it was first released. I have some friends who want to watch though so I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q7: Finally, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! Is there anything else you can add about the film or your time working on it?
We had an amazing cast. I will never forget cute little Holly Hunter fresh off the bus, literally, with her twang, cut-off jean shorts and cowboy boots; or Jason Alexander, who is actually much the same, or Larry Joshua and Brian Backer and Fischer. It was a talented, intelligent group to be a part of and I have so enjoyed watching their careers blossom.
Leah now goes by her legal name of Kalish (Ayres is her SAG name). She currently produces and sells movement enrichment media for children, and you can visit her website at www.move-with-me.com.
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