Before there was The Evil Dead, there was Within the Woods, and Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl) was the first of these three ladies to appear in one of Sam and Bruce's Super8 films. Ellen had been friends with Bruce, Sam, Josh, and the others since 10th grade, so it was only natural that shed be one of the actresses cast in their first big film. As she puts it, having witnessed me running like a wild woman through a disgusting smelly swamp in Within the Woods, they knew Id do all sorts of stupid things for my craft. She remembers acting in other early films, as well, including a mystery called Shemp Eats the Moon, which most deadites would probably pay anything to own, or even to see. (Ellen owns a very bad copy of it.)
During the filming of The Evil Dead, Ellen survived the sometimes uncomfortable circumstances by laughing at her old friend Bruce's slapstick antics, watching Sam Raimi grow scruffier by the moment, and, when times got really rough, drinking the homemade Morristown Tennessee moonshine the locals so graciously offered their guest celebrities. And when it was 5:00 am and she had run her 50th sprint in her jammies through those mischievous 40-degree woods, leaving blood trails on all the camera equipment, someone was usually there to throw a coat around her shoulders and say, Relax for two seconds while we hoist this tree back up and then well do it five more times.
EllenThough it did feel like history in the making during those few heady months in 1979, Ellen came to the conclusion that there was life beyond The Evil Dead, so she returned to the University of Michigan and earned a bachelor's degree in Theatre and Drama, followed by a master's in Theatre Management. In her early 20's, she also sang with All Directions, a jazz and blues band, starred in several Michigan Repertory productions, and did some runway modeling.
After college Ellen moved with her former husband to Asheville, North Carolina, where she was the business manager for the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and other non-profit organizations. Meanwhile, when the spirit moved her, Ellen performed in local professional theatre productions and sang, most notably as part of a female trio which opened for comedian Robert Klein. She also performed a one-woman show of jewish music. Her favorite productions of that time, however, were the births of her two daughters (now teenagers).
EllenIn 1990 Ellen and family moved back to the Detroit area to be near extended family and help her husband run their manufacturers rep. agency. She now splits her time between raising active children, leading business/personal development seminars around the country, and acting in film and theatre. She was last seen on stage in Detroit's JET Theatre's production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, as a guest artist playing Mrs. Kelly in the University of Detroit Theatre Department's production of The Moonlight Room, and in the Attic Theatre's production of Beehive, a musical tribute to the girl groups of the 60's. Her voice has been heard on commercials, and she has sung various jazz gigs for local nightclubs and corporate events. Recently she's given interviews at Bloody Disgusting.com, Deadites.net, and Horror Movies.ca .
In the past few years, Ellen has emerged from her cellar, dusted off her screen-acting skills and appeared in several films, including Brutal Massacre: A Comedy, a fun mockumentary about making a horror film in which she plays David Naughton's no-nonsense production manager; a cameo as Bruce's ex-wife Cheryl (no coincidence there) in My Name is Bruce, directed by and starring old buddy Bruce Campbell and now out on DVD; a bitchy psych hospital administrator in The Dread, including in the cast another old buddy, Tom Sullivan (in post production); and a recently divorced mother in Dante Tomaselli's film, Satan's Playground, which was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 06. She also recently appeared on stage in the musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the JET theatre in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Now living in LA, Ellen recently did the voice of Lucy for the animated short film Where's the Vampire, written and animated by Carl Kirschner and Roger Betiol, along with her friend and co-star of Brutal Massacre David Naughton. She also played a supporting role in The Rain Chronicles with director Douglas Schulze in her hometown of Detroit this past summer.