Dee Wallace – born Deanna Bowers; December 14, 1949 – and also known as Dee Wallace Stone, is an American actress and ‘Scream Queen’. She is perhaps best known for her roles in several popular films, mainly in the horror genre. Her most widely-seen role is a starring role as Elliott’s mother, Mary, in the Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). She also played key roles in popular cult films The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981) and Cujo (1983), as well as more recent efforts including The House of the Devil (2009) and The Lords of Salem (2012). In total, she has appeared in over 90 television shows and 100 films.
Wallace was born in Kansas City. She attended Wyandotte High School, before attending the University of Kansas and graduating with an degree in Education. She briefly taught high school drama at Washington High School in Kansas City, in the early 1970s. She married fellow actor Christopher Stone in 1980, with whom she had one daughter, Gabrielle Stone, who has since forged a career in acting and film-making herself.
She acted alongside Christopher in both The Howling and Cujo, as well as TV series such as CHiPs (on the set of which they first met) and The New Lassie. He sadly died in 1995 from a heart attack. Wallace has since married television producer Skip Belyea.
Wallace’s first film acting role of note was in 1975’s The Stepford Wives, in which she played Nettie the maid, a minor, one-line part but one which clearly caught the attention of casting directors. It was two years later, in Wes Craven’s seminal The Hills Have Eyes that, after enduring the usual audition process, she was cast as Lynne Wood, the mother of the family attempting to traverse the desert, with unfortunate cannibalistic interruptions. It’s an incredibly assured performance and, rather like a slightly more mainstream film she was shortly to star in, was an early indication that she was a go-to for the role of the reliable mother figure in a film.
Though it was indeed to be 1982’s E.T. which would bring her the most widely-known of her roles, it was her appearance in Joe Dante’s The Howling, from the previous year which would cement her in the hearts and minds of horror fans, her starring role as Karen White becoming something of a benchmark for female characters in horror films, thoughtful and engaging, without the almost essential industry-standard lapse into running-away-from-a-killer-in-the-woods-and-falling-over. Contrary to popular belief, she is not beneath layers of makeup at the film’s Yorkshire Terrier lyncanthrope finale; this is an animatronic. Her sympathetic approach to the genre led her to being one of the most in-demand actresses for 1980s horror films, alongside Adrienne Barbeau.
It’s somewhat poignant therefore that even after her role in the blockbuster, E.T. that she soon returned to horror, this time in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Cujo (1983). The car-confined conditions of much of the film’s shooting, as well as acting alongside five St. Bernard dogs have left Dee to since comment that making Cujo was one of her most challenging projects; it is however a role for which she has won particular praise, not least from King himself who suggested she should have been considered for an Academy Award.
After an appearance in the revitalised Twilight Zone TV series, she next appeared, genre-wise, in 1986’s Critters, her only appearance in the franchise. Whether by accident or design, her periodical appearances in horror ensured she remained in horror fans minds without becoming an unbearable omnipresence.
When the 1990s reached a crossroads, unable to decide fully what direction horror should take, Wallace was happy to star in cheaper, schlockier fare, self-reverential without pouring scorn on an art form which had treated her so kindly. Though her turn in 1991’s Popcorn is fondly remembered by some fans, Alligator 2: The Mutation (1991) and 1995’s Temptress did little to change the world but ensured she was never out of work and never pigeon-holed herself.
More significant work came in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1995), though it was at this time she lost her husband. In 1997, Skeletons saw her working alongside Christopher Plummer and James Coburn, though this promised slightly more than it delivered. Though far from fallow, the remainder of the decade saw an increase in TV fare, the start of the 2000s seeing a more concerted return to more familiar ground; 2001’s Killer Instinct, 2004’s Dead End Road, Headspace in 2005, Boo from the same year and Abominable (2006) all preceded her introduction to a new horror audience in Rob Zombie’s interpretation of Halloween (2007).
Wallace’s relationship with Zombie has proved to be not only productive but enriching, with Wallace hailing the director as one of the best she has worked with. They reunited again in 2012 for The Lords of Salem. Wallace’s acting career shows no signs of stopping, despite her other life as a life coach, public speaker and author of self-help books; in 2015 she is scheduled to appear in Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard and Death House, alongside a slew of similarly determined campaigners including Robert Englund, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton and Gunnar Hansen.