The legendary, elegant, and agelessly beautiful Mia Farrow. Probably most famous among horror enthusiasts for her role in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby back in 1968, she has amazing acting talent. Her role as Mrs. Baylock in the 2006 version of The Omen was nothing short of spectacular.
House of Horrors was honored to sit with her at a very small and personal roundtable interview, in which she shared her thoughts on what it was like to shoot The Omen in Prague – her perspectives on The Devil and evil in the world today – as well as what she thinks of a Rosemary’s Baby remake. Here’s how it all went down…
Q: Do you have a picture in your closet that’s turning all ugly and nasty, because God, you’re gorgeous…
FARROW: Gosh, well, I’m glad I came to this table. I feel a load better. (laughs)
Q: So how did you find the balance in this characterization that you do in this film – its fascinating watching you. It’s such an incredibly smart and yet very present performance.
FARROW: Thank you. When I was asked to do the part – by John… I’m a big Billie Whitelaw fan [actress who played Mrs. Baylock in the 1976 version of The Omen] – I’d seen a lot of her performances. The movie, for me, washer. I loved to be afraid of her – from her.
She was “awesome scary”, and I relished every moment. And, he pointed out – he said, I really want something more subtle – he used the word “angelic”. So I’m like… shining up that halo… And he said, “She showed her hand very early in the film.” And come to think of it, actually – who would hire a nanny like that?
Let alone keep her on the payroll. So – I understood what he wanted, and I thought it was valid, for that part… And I thought, how lucky and amazing… Actually, Julia was in the next room – we were in “Fran’s Bed” together – a play, right here in New York, we were rehearsing – and I said [to John Moore – The Omen director], “Julia’s in the next room.” And he said, “Who?” And I said, “Julia Stiles is right here in the next room.” So he says, “What are you talking about?” I said, “We’re doing a play together…” He says… “Its an Omen!” (laughs)
Q: Do you believe in omens?
FARROW: Not really – where’s some wood to tap? (taps on the wooden table and laughs) Im Irish, my mother was Irish, and I have a million superstitions – she just burdened me with like a trillion of them. But I have no particular devil thing, if that’s what people think – though I did, just in case, say (looking upward), “We’re only pretending!” (laughs). Nor did I take off my medal that my father gave me when I was twelve – just in case. But no – it was a lotta fun to do. It was – great people. I lucked out, getting asked.
Q: What was the atmosphere like on the set?
FARROW: Fun. The little boy is like, throwing paper planes – Seamus. Liev does crossword puzzles – in ink – lickety-split. Intimidating. So, he’d pass around the crossword puzzle for us ’cause had some access to the internet to get the [NY] Times crossword puzzle each day – so I would try, and feel really bad by Wednesday – like I needed that to feel bad. Julia and I were already “bonded” as they say.
We just had a great time – Liev’s beautiful girlfriend joined us for a while. I had two of sons and my daughter in law with me. So when I wasn’t working we pranced around Prague – what’s not to like about that. We had our own apartment overlooking the rooftops of Prague and the castle beyond. Got tickets to a Bob Dylan concert. So I had the best of times. The best of times.
Q: Did you get to go back and meet Bob Dylan after the show?
FARROW: We didn’t. We could only stay for an hour because we had a very very early morning the next morning.
Q: Kudos, by the way, for “Fran’s Bed”
FARROW: Oh, thank you! Hardly anyone saw that. Yeah… I’m very happy I was in that. I was so proud to be in that – it was such a smart and funny play.
Q: I know its not the topic we’re on but do you plan on doing anything else on stage?
FARROW: I hope to. I hope something comes along. Do you know? Last year I didn’t think I could, because I live almost two hours out of the city. And that meant leaving the kids every night. Well, my kids are now nearly grown – a whole squadron of them just turning 18. Some are already 18 – 5 of them.
So – I just have one little one – one of them is only 12 and a half. But – her Godmother lives, just about next door – so I can go. I can do a play – I can go to Prague. Do you know? It’s great. And coinciding with the three films I’ve done in the last year. So – I’m thanking my lucky stars, really. I take nothing for granted.
Q: What was your impression of Prague, when shooting there?
FARROW: Prague itself is magical. I wasn’t on the outside – I was just at the studio – but I know the others were in the streets, a lot – and I guess it was pretty cold. It snowed a lot. It’s my favorite city. So, I could just go back there… I’d been there twice before. It was just such a privilege to have that little flat, and poking around Prague every day when I wasn’t working.
Q: What types of things did you do during the day?
FARROW: We went on expeditions to see what was what. The doorways of Prague, the castle, all the twisting streets and see where they led. Even in the most freeing weather in Prague, you can sit outside, the people, they put wool on the chairs, and you have your hot wine or hot chocolate… we just couldn’t have had a better time. And you’ve probably met Julia – the love of my heart. And Liev – he’s such an interesting and difficult fellow – not difficult for me, but you know? His mind cannot accept anything on a simple level. And the passionate John Moore.
Q: How was it working with him?
FARROW: John is amazing. John has the biggest heart, and the most insightful mind, and has that sense of artistry. I haven’t seen the movie, but I know its beautiful – because Ive seen on the monitors, how lush it looks, and how beautiful the shots are framed. I think the world of him.
Q: We were talking before you came in about the lack of CGI – about how real the film looked – everything looked “real”. It didn’t look computerized, which is a wonderful harking back, perhaps to the original…
FARROW: Yeah. Maybe I’ll see this film. (laughs) Well, it’s a horror film. I mean, I wouldn’t be scared of a film I was in, but… I couldn’t watch The Exorcist. Couldn’t. I thought – those kinds of films – were too scary.
Q: What do you think this film says to today’s audiences…
FARROW: What’s interesting to me – and I’m probably bringing this into a slightly different area but if you’ll hear me out… I think, having been raised a Catholic – in my 13 years of Catholic nun education – my earliest cataclysm books had pictures of The Devil, whispering in your ear, and he was a little creature.
But a fearsome creature, with a tail, and claws, reddish, with horns and stuff. Then on the other side, there would be an angel, if you’re lucky, telling you the right way to go. Well, I think it’s important to see, and often it’s self-evident, the dual nature of humankind that we see everywhere. Also, we have to look no further than Darfur to see manifestations of terrible destruction – if you want to call it – evil.
So I think it’s important to see that this film portrays evil in the angelic face of a child. It’s more productive but its a way, I think, that more people should think. As a parent, and a parent of seven sons, I feel very responsible – I have a couple of mantras – one is, “We will find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
Since mainly its men who are victimizing women around the world. And the other one – if I try to sum it up – what I try to convey to my children is a sense of responsibility. That involves acknowledging all of our components. The good, and the unworthy ones – identifying them – examining them – and making our choices, strong choices, to do the right thing.
The responsible thing – and that’s responsibility within our family, within our community, within our country, within the human family. Our brothers and sisters everywhere – we have a responsibility that extends that far – but ultimately, to some higher order. I feel that. Not brazen enough to suggest some particular religion – its about respect for all. So, I feel that’s my responsibility as a parent. It’s not as simple as that – a little furry Devil – whispering in your ear.
The “Devil” is “us”. The enemy is us, and I think once that becomes clear to people, they have to take responsibility for their actions. Sadly, our technology has way exceeded our wisdom. That’s the bleak side. The hopeful side is that the other side of human nature will in the end prevail. Not necessarily. You can see it, as it plays out, in history. I would like to see genocide education in every school – in every level of education – I think its important.
Q: Would you have allowed your children to see a film like this when they were growing up?
FARROW: Probably not. I’m very strict about what they see. They dont watch TV. We have a Tivo – we can select what we see. We go to Turner Classics – we go to the nature channels – plan it out a month ahead – and have it there when its appropriate to watch TV – have a wealth of things to see. I regularly watch the Charlie Rose show, which is as good as a college lecture every night – I find it edifying at least 80% of the time. In the house, my stocks went way up. They can’t wait to see it.
Q: The remakes coming out of Hollywood – they seem to be being made in a reverse order. What’s your whole take on “remakes” and do you ever dread hearing that there’s going to be a remake of Rosemary’s Baby or one of the other films you were in?
FARROW: No. Some of them I wouldn’t mind at all. Maybe Rosemary’s Baby is the one that I couldn’t, because – there are certain movies – Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, or Psycho, or some film that masters have created – it isnt about the story. Its about the telling of the tale, and their artistry. So unless it was Roman Polanski who had a hand in it or someone who had equal talent, you would see a lesser version. So, that would be the sole exception, maybe. I wouldn’t mind any of the others being remade, but I think it would be foolish to make it because Roman Polanski just did such a great job.
Q: So – if they remade it – and came to you and said, “Would you play the Ruth Gordon part” – you would turn them down?
FARROW: Yeah. Because I really think Roman did, of all the films I was in… it should stand. It should stand. It probably the only film I’ve done that I think really has stood through the years. We’re talking almost 40 years. Kids today are still watching it, and being scared by it. Filmmakers are still seeing it in school, being amazed by Roman’s choices as a filmmaker. I learned so much making that film. It’s just – I mean really, really, I learned from all my fellow actors on that film. What a great “school” it was, making that film.
Q: How do you choose parts – what are the criterion?
FARROW: Well – the director. Right now, I’m not in that kind of a position, where I can say, “Well, I think Ill work with Martin Scorsese.” You know – I think I’ll just see what comes along. This was a very lucky year for me. Three films with three good filmmakers. Ill see…
We sure hope to see more of her in the near future. Mia Farrow pulled off the best-supporting-actress I’ve seen in a horror film in recent memory. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, or haven’t seen Rosemary’s Baby – its a great film of a young mother who finds herself and her newborn caught up in the grips of a Satanic cult – forget if its older than you, its one of those horror films like Psycho or Nightmare on Elm Street that is nothing less than a landmark for the genre.
Fans of Mia Farrow should not miss this performance, and fans of The Omen will certainly appreciate her addition to the retelling. She is just one of those small but magnanimous factors that lift this remake to a special place. House of Horrors would like to extend a big thank you to Mia for taking to time to sit with us. It was an honor. Our next interview is with none other than leading actress Julia Stiles, who plays Katherine Thorn in the remake, opposite Liev Schrieber. So set your home page to HoH and check back soon!
If you’ve missed any of our coverage on The Omen (2006) – here’s everything you need.