Barbara Hershey on Playing a 'Vital' Woman Over 70 in The Manor: 'Unusual for Someone My Age'
In Barbara Hershey's new thriller The Manor, the real horror comes from within.
Speaking with PEOPLE about Blumhouse Production's latest thriller — a new installment in the Welcome to the Blumhouse film series — Hershey, 73, says "the most interesting aspect" of her character, Judith, was her internal struggle.
"If there's a monster outside or something inside of you causing [visions], which is worse?" she ponders. "When [Judith] starts to question herself about dementia, that's got to be just really tough."
In The Manor, Hershey plays a grandmother who moves into a nursing home following a stroke she suffers during her 70th birthday party. Soon, Judith befriends some of the fellow residents and begins to see visions that those around her (aside from her grandson Josh, played by Nicholas Alexander) blame on dementia, a condition the Academy Award nominee's own mother struggled with.
"One of the things I witnessed was not only her fear and pain and what she was perceiving as reality, things coming through the TV and through the walls — really horrific images — but what really was the most painful was that people didn't believe her," Hershey recalls of her mother. "I channeled all of that right into this character, and what she's going through."
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Hershey knows the thriller genre well, having appeared in films like Lantana, 11:14, the Insidious series and Black Swan. Still, she tells PEOPLE that she's not drawn to specific types of movies. "I go for the material if I haven't seen it before," she says.
"And if I'm surprised by it, and it's a character I've not played before or seen before, those things really draw me in," she continues. "Genre doesn't matter. Budget doesn't matter. First-time director, seasoned directors — it doesn't matter as much as the material to me."
When it came to The Manor (part of which was filmed on Halloween!), Hershey explains that the character of Judith appealed to her in part because "Usually people, as they get older — especially women — are portrayed in certain clichéd ways. And she sort of broke a lot of that mold."
"She's playful, and she's ironic, and she's angry, and she's funny and she swears. And she's vital and alive and a whole human being," Hershey adds. "I'm sad to say that's unusual for someone my age, but it was refreshing to read that and want to play the part."
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Hershey shares that, for her, making films feels "like being shipwrecked with people, and you get to know them really deeply, really fast."
"Then the ship comes and takes you back to your life. And very often, it isn't that you don't like each other or wouldn't be thrilled to see each other. But [under] the circumstances, you don't see each other after often," she says.
When asked whether she and her Black Swan onscreen daughter Natalie Portman still keep in touch, Hershey says, "I haven't seen Natalie since the film, but I'd be thrilled if I did. We got on really well. She's wonderful."
As for Bette Midler, her costar in the 1988 tearjerker dramedy Beaches, Hershey praises her as "naturally funny, intelligent and warmhearted."
"We kept in touch for a long time, and then she moved to New York and I live in L.A. so we don't see each other that often anymore, but I love her dearly," Hershey tells PEOPLE of Midler, 75. "We actually did stay together after the film quite a long time as friends."
The Manor is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
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