Tori Spelling on James Franco’s Vampirific Remake of ‘Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?’

Trae Patton/Lifetime/Sony Pictures Television
Tori Spelling in the 2016 version of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?

Twenty years ago, Tori Spelling starred in what is by far the most popular Lifetime movie ever, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? She played Lauren, an overachieving college student who falls under the spell of an obsessive, murderous boyfriend (Ivan Sergi), while her mother (Lisa Banes) tries to intervene. “You had the the ingenue. You had the bad boyfriend. You had the concerned parent. You had the college setup. You had the chase scene. You had the cabin in the woods. It was just like everything,” Spelling tells TV Insider.

Flash forward to 2016, and Lifetime has remade the movie, with James Franco giving it a very mid-2010s twist: The college student (now called Leah, and played by Leila George) comes under the spell of her girlfriend, who just happens to be a vampire.

Spelling plays the overprotective mother this time around, and she talked about why the original has endured for so long, why she wanted to look like the young mom in this movie, and what her reaction was to Franco’s “lesbian vampire movie.” She also talks about her reality career and why she will continue to put her life on screen, despite the negative tabloid coverage.

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I watched the current movie, but I also watched the original right afterwards. During the last twenty minutes, all I’m doing is screaming at my computer going, “Run! Run Lauren, Run! Why don’t you run?” How many times have you watched the movie since you made it?
It’s on Lifetime off and on, so if I ever happen to catch it or it picks it up on my DVR because it records my name, I’ll watch a few minutes of it. I definitely before I did the remake I watched it the entire thing.

Do you have that reaction? “Why is she collecting dishes? Why is she packing? Just drop the stuff and leave!”
[Laughs] I just love all of the chase scene stuff because I remember I loved filming it because I felt like such a badass. My version of doing the action chick flicks. I still remember that. When I see it, I was like, “Oh that’s great!”

Your website post about the movie talked about that scene. That lake was freezing, huh?
Oh my gosh. It was freezing, freezing. We had to wear wet suits and it was beyond cold. They kept trying to say, “The far away shots with you and everything, let us have a stunt double do it”. I was like, “No. I want to do all my stunts myself”. Young silly girl.

MOTHER, MAY I SLEEP WITH DANGER? -- Pictured: Tori Spelling as Laurel Lewisohn -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

Spelling in the freezing lake in the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?

When did Lifetime approach you about this remake? Did they do it before they got James Franco involved? Did they say they were thinking about doing it?
No. I have thought for years, because the fans, honestly, if they’re not asking about a 90210 reunion, they’re asking for Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? to be remade, always. For years, I’m like, “Gosh. You know now that I’ve been a part of the Lifetime network family, I feel like we should remake it”, and I thought about it. They had James first then. They called me and said, “We’re doing a remake and James Franco’s attached”. I was like, “What?! But awesome!” I had no idea James’s take on it, the twist, until I got the script, that it was a lesbian vampire movie.

When you read it, what was your reaction?
It was interesting because I could still flash back to the first time I read the original script. It’s right when I was getting a lot of TV movie offers so I was so grateful, I was so happy, and I was still doing 90210. I remember filming a 15 hour day and I got home from set and there were some scripts and I was supposed to read them. I was too tired, but I was just flipping through the names and one came up and it was Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? I was like, “Oh my god. One, I have to read this. Two, it better be good because I have to do a movie with this title”, and I did it.

This time, cut to twenty years later, it’s not a paper bound script, it’s coming through on my iPhone, and I pulled it up and literally the front of the script said, “A Lifetime lesbian vampire movie by James Franco”. I thought I was being punked. I was like, “Oh my god. What?”

As you were going through it, what was your thought?
I thought it was great and I loved the take. It had so much action and visuals attached to it that I knew it would be even better once I saw his vision, but the script was great. It was his idea and his story. Amber wrote the script. I loved it. I was totally game.

You knew all along they were looking for you to be the mother in the new version or was that something that got fleshed out later?
I assumed because they were like, “We couldn’t do a remake without you”. I assumed this time I would be playing the mother. I did have that one moment where I was like, “Oh I’m not there yet”. Every actress has that moment where you don’t want to cross over from ingenue to actress that’s playing the mom parts. I’m like, “I’m not there yet. I might have young kids, but I’m not there yet”. I was like, “You know, it’s Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? It’s James Franco. Just for this, I will play a mother of a college student, even though technically I suppose I could have one.” I feel like people suspend belief with anything when it comes to Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? because it’s a campy fun movie.

When Leila [George] and I were in the movie together, she plays my daughter, it didn’t feel like mother daughter. I was like, “I don’t feel old enough to be her mom”. We were more friends.

James wrote an essay for TV Guide Magazine, and he mentioned that wanted the script to be about otherness and being an outcast and what goes on in those young years when you’re trying to figure yourself out. Did you get those themes from it or were you just like, “Oh, This is just fun campy vampire lesbian story?”
Not at all. I didn’t think it was. You would have fun elements of camp, but when we were filming it, you could tell there were real issues. I read the script and that was prevalent in the script. I knew his vision, that he definitely wanted to reinvent the idea of vampires. Vampires are seen as evil and as monsters in movies. It’s showing that although these girls are evil and they are bad, they’re also really good because they’re going after date rape on campus. You root for them at the same time but then you hate them at the same time.

I thought that was a really relevant subject, having to deal with that. I liked it, personally, because I felt like it was a throwback to 90210 because we dealt with so many teen issues, and here underlines being with all these youth issues that people are dealing with today as they’re growing up. I really liked that aspect of it.

Were you trying to give off a “cool mom” vibe in the role? The mom in the original movie threw off more of an “all business mom” vibe.
That’s not really the vision that James and I had discussed going into it was that she was the conservative, behind the times, mom, especially in dialogue, wanting to fit in with her daughter. She wants to be the modern buddy mom, but she’s totally stuck. She’s not the buddy mom. She hasn’t realized how women and everyone has evolved and she’s stuck in her own sorrowness, I think, as far as that goes. She’s really cynical about love so she’s over protective of Leah because of that.

The first fitting of the movie, the wardrobe stylist was like, “Okay, so we’re going to put you in suits.” I was like, “Really? Oh no.” She was like, “Kind of brown colors.” I was like, “Okay, wait. I know she’s the mom, but I’m a working mom and even if I worked in an office, I would dress cool because it’s modern day.” She was pulling up references from moms from … It was Lea Thompson in Switched at Birth. Those were the reference pictures and so I kind of guided the look of her while keeping her still in basic colors and everything.

I was like, “You know, she’s still young and cool. She had her at a young age. She’s a single mom. There’s no reason she has to dress like crap and be the typical mom.” I felt like the mom in the first one, Lisa Banes, she wore Palazzo pants and she still had style. I feel like she was a very stylistic woman. She was allowed to put forth that so I thought my version of Julie should be able to do that as well. I tried.

Leila George (center) is the "ingenue" in the 2016 version of MMISWD.

Leila George (center) is the “ingenue” in the 2016 version of MMISWD.

What do you think it is about the original movie that really has made it endure for 20 years and be so popular?
I’d like to say me [being] in it, but it’s probably the title. The title really made it. People were talking about that for a long time. They still are. In general, I think it hit the nail on the head of that genre. It was everything that genre was, encapsulated in one movie. You had the the ingenue. You had the bad boyfriend. You had the concerned parent. You had the college setup. You had the chase scene. You had the cabin in the woods. It was just like everything. There’s a killing. She succeeds at the end. The bad guy dies [Or does he? — Ed.]. It’s just everything every TV movie had an aspect of, this had all in one. That’s what I think it did.

I feel like it was shot well for it’s time, for TV movies. I feel like a lot of the TV movies were filmed very stagnant and this one was kind of … Jorge [Montesi, the director] had a bigger vision for it. He wanted it to look cinematic and almost like a feature. He fought to have that darker look to it.

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You’re doing a combination of acting now, you do your website. Are you doing any more reality or is that a phase of your life that’s done?
I feel like I love reinventing myself. I love giving unexpected. I feel like that’s where James and I had so much in common, on different levels of course. I totally connected with him on that. I don’t rule out reality, but I don’t like to do the same old, same old. If it were reality, I’d want a different aspect show. I’d want to give the audience something ground breaking, something different than what they expect or already have. I’m always looking to give the audience … I feel very much like my dad was able to constantly reinvent himself and constantly reinvent TV and I would love to follow mildly in those footsteps. I know it’s big shoes to fill, but I would love the option to do that.

Given all the news about your personal life, not just because of your dad but because of just the fact that you had all of your life on screen over the last decade or so, has it made you more cautious about doing reality and the way you do reality?
No. I don’t have any regrets. I stand by what I put out there. It was my story and my version. For any of the naysayers and people that hate on it, there’s so many more people that it inspired and so many more people that it helped than had negative response to it. I feel so much more connected to my fans now in every aspect. I’m proud of all the work I’ve put out there.

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?, Saturday, June 18, 8/7c, Lifetime. (The 1996 original airs Friday, June 17, 8/7c, on LMN.)