Nat Brehmer/HorrorBid: How did you meet Clive Barker and become involved with the Dog Company?
Simon Bamford: Um… I was doing a production of King Lear in London at drama school, actually, and Clive lived nearby and he ran a small fringe theatre company called The Dog Company at the time. He came to see the production of King Lear and asked to meet me afterwards. And then we got on very well and he invited me to join the company when I graduated. So I went straight from Drama School into the Dog Company. Doug Bradley was also in the Dog Company, Oliver Parker who went on to direct quite a few pictures and was obviously in Hellraiser and Nightbreed. As well. And then shortly after that disbanded, I called Clive out of the blue just to see how he was getting along. He said he’d had a couple of screenplays done into films that he was very unhappy with. And he persuaded them to let him direct the next one and he offered me a part in it. It was as easy as that.
HB: So that sort of answers my question of how you became involved with Hellraiser. Did you know at the time what character you would be playing?
SB: Not when I originally said yes. He said there would be some makeup involved. I think he did ask me if I was claustrophobic.
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HB: How did Clive differ from a theatre director to a film director?
SB: Well… when I started out at the Dog Company he was actually an actor, just before I joined. He decided that wasn’t the kind of part he wanted to take. He didn’t really differ that much between the two mediums. He’s got incredible energy. The most amazing vision. And he’s very forgiving as a director. He’s constantly pushing people to find new ideas, to just go that one step further. And I think that’s what makes everything he does so exciting. Not just to work on, but obviously to watch as well. He pushes you, in the nicest way, to just go to places you would never dream of going to.
HB: Do you have a specific favorite or most memorable moment from the filming of Hellraiser?
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SB: Probably the most memorable and favorite was the rat part at the end. That was when I actually got to meet everyone, the rest of the cast, who I’d been with for three months. Most of them hadn’t got a clue who we were, to be honest with you. Probably Doug because he looked like Doug, but definitely not Nick and I. We hadn’t ever actually been introduced to everybody because we were always in makeup hours before everyone else. And it took several hours to unglue us afterwards, so everyone had gone home by the time we were out of it. So, that was probably the best for me.
HB: Yeah. What were the challenges of acting under all that makeup?
SB: There were several faults, to be honest. Even psychologically… it was interesting, a few years ago I went over to a convention in the states and a guy called Eric Fisher has collected costumes from several of the Hellraiser films and he had the Butterball costume there. And just seeing it really made me feel very uneasy and kind of brought back the true horror of wearing all that stuff.
HB: Yeah, I bet.
SB: It was kind of incredibly claustrophobic. There were no eye holes, there were no ear holes, there was no nose hole. So you’re kind of pretty much deaf, blind and dumb, because I had false teeth I wore over my own. It was kind of like sensory deprivation for 14 hours a day. And it kind of really screws with your head because there’s not much you can do, you can just sit in the dark and think about life. Which is kind of nice. People pay a lot of money for that. But not for 14 hours a day. And I suppose if you’re a really balanced, really nice kind of guy, it would be okay… but I’m not. I’m just a good old unbalanced person. I’ve got my own demons, and you end up visiting them and analyzing life. So when it actually came to being on set for the first time, obviously the special effects people knew our position. They led us onto the set and the first day they were saying, oh you need to move here, do this, do that… because we’ve got these dentures glued onto our own teeth, we couldn’t speak, and we were trying to explain that we couldn’t see where our marks were, what the set looked like, which direction they were pointing us in. Um, so we just went up wandering off in the wrong direction on the first take, which made everyone very angry. And eventually they kind of caught on. And they had this draft exploder on the floor, so we just walked forward until we hit that and turned until they said stop. So I was very much acting by numbers. But even scenes like… they had a scene where I had to stab—or go to stab—Kirsty in the back. I hadn’t got a clue where she was. (laughs) They had to talk to me, “stand there, lift your arm, bring it down, stop now!” It was a nightmare. There was a scene where the house… right at the end of Hellraiser the house is falling down on me and they had all these huge blocks of foam… and they called action and, uh, they dropped all this shit on my head. I didn’t have a clue that they’d done it. I just stood there, as it all collapsed. So I had to go again, by which time the foam had already stuck to all the makeup. And we did it again and again and they had to tell me when it came down. So it was challenging, but we got there. When we did the second one, I thought long and hard about whether I really wanted to put myself through that. I asked them if he was going to take his glasses off and they said no. SO I gouged holes in this very expensive makeup so I could see a little bit.
HB: What elements of that first film do you think hold up best?
SB: I think the 80’s haircuts and the shoulder pads. No, really… the characters, I suppose. I think Clare Higgins’ performance is just beautifully played. She just perfectly knows where it should be. Because if you think about her journey, it’s completely ridiculous. But you still believe her enough to go on that journey with her. And she has that lovely, dark edge to her. I like the idea… at the time, most of the movies started with a party full of teenagers somewhere in a suburb of L.A. having a really good time. Hellraiser starts with this very dysfunctional family. They’re arguing, they’re not getting along… so I think that makes it stand out from other movies. The thing at the end, the thing that really makes it stands out is the makeups. The makeup is amazing. And it was those, I think, that when they saw the rushes in the states when we were filming it made New World Cinema realize they had a hit on their hands, well before we finished filming.
HB: First of all, I have to agree that Clare Higgins is amazing in both films. How did you become a part of the sequel? Did you have any idea when you were working on the first that there would be a Hellraiser II?
SB: As we were filming Hellraiser one, they saw the rushes and they asked Clive to rewrite the ending so that there could be a sequel. So the whole theme of the dragon/devil-thing at the end, and the part of the tramp I believe was increased… just so there could be the sequel. So no, we weren’t surprised. I think at the time they knew there was going to be a sequel and said “we’d like you to be involved in it.” And I think we filmed it the following year. It was nice, though. We filmed the first one at Crinklewood Production Village and the second one at Pinewood Studios. So at the time we were thinking it was only logical that the next one would be in Hollywood. Which of course it was, but only with Doug. A great shame for us.
HB: How did you become involved in Nightbreed?
SB: Um, it was an interesting journey for me for Nightbreed. We finished Hellraiser II and within six months they were in pre-production for Nightbreed, and I didn’t hear anything for ages. And then… I think I rang Nick Vince. And he said “oh, yeah, we’re all cast.” And I said “what? Oh no, they left me out of this one…” And so I contacted Clive at the production office and I contacted him at the right time because… I don’t know if you remember a singer called Marc Almond, he was cast originally as Onaka. But he just signed I think with Sony Records and they wanted to change his whole image to a kind of Jazz singer. They didn’t think a Clive Barker movie was the right path to be going along. So they pulled him from Nightbreed. And it was at that time I rang them and they said “this is your part, then. It’s for you.” And all the prosthetics when Onaka dies, they were all actually cast on Marc Almond. Luckily enough we were the same sort of size, so they fit me fairly well.
HB: What were the major differences between filming Hellraiser, which was a small and independent film, and Nightbreed, which had a little more money but a lot more studio involvement?
SB: Nightbreed had loads more money. It had a huge budget, it had huge sets, we actually had the James Bond stage which is enormous. It was a completely different kettle of fish. There was a great deal of excitement around the movie because the two Hellraiser features had been successful, everyone was eager to see what Clive would come up with next, there was a lot of talk at the time that it was going to end up becoming the Star Wars of its genre. Of sort of the fantasy-horror genre. Sadly, that never materialized. But when we were filming, it was just a relief honestly not to have the sodding makeup on. My time in the makeup room took minutes rather than hours. I could wander around, I could see everybody, and it was great fun. The studio involvement… it came primarily after we finished filming, when Clive moved production over to L.A. for the editing and took his editor from the Hellraiser films to do it. I think that’s when the studio interference started to happen. Which really did change the film completely. The book Cabal, I think, is a beautiful book. Very moving, very sad. The screenplay was actually better. The original screenplay was just so devastating to read. And I think that’s why there was so much excitement. I’ve never read a screenplay as good as that. It was just… you just thought “this is going to be sensational.” I think there were several problems. I was reading today an interview with Image Animation, with Bob Keen, how they used… obviously the monsters were supposed to be the goodies in this film. And he was saying the designs of the monsters had over 200 different designs on them, he used a whole different color palette, different techniques on the way they looked, and what they were trying with all these different creatures was to try and not make them as scary, bring some aggression and empathy to those characters. That was kind of easier for me, obviously, because I didn’t have tons of makeup on. And there were still other creatures that were nasties, the Berserkers, who were locked away.
And there’s lots going on with Nightbreed now. The Cabal cut I think showed for the first time in North Carolina. Mark Millar and Rose Charington have been working on it, did post-synching with Doug Bradley, put back some of the footage that was originally taken out back in the late 80’s, 90’s. When the first edit was done. There’s lots of talks of screenings over in the states and here in England as well, and I’m hoping to go to one. I’ve heard talk of one in Boston as well. There’s also now talk… Clive Barker’s film company, Seraphim Films, has announced last week or the week before about Nightbreed TV. Which again would be incredibly interesting to be involved with. Its early days, but I think that could be fantastic. Really fantastic. I think the technology now could do that, before it was too big a budget to work on with all of the creatures and all that stuff, but the technology is there now so you could achieve that with a much smaller budget.
HB: Yeah. I think a lot more people can come around to the core of the story now too, I think we’re a lot more sympathetic with monsters than we used to be.
SB: Yes… I think we’re a lot more sympathetic to all sorts of stuff. Clive has always been ahead of his time. In some ways that’s been his downfall, and in other ways of course that’s his genius. Right down to the opening sequence of Nightbreed, all these monsters dancing around. The camera is jutting around and moving all over the place. These days it’s completely normal, you’re so used to seeing that. But that had never been seen before to my knowledge. At the time it looked like this awful mistake, like maybe the camera man was drunk. People weren’t ready for that. I saw… was it the Tree of Truth? A similar film that’s way ahead of its time recently with Brad Pitt.
HB: Oh, yeah, The Tree of Life.
SB: Right. Have you seen it?
SB: It’s great. It has a little technique which I bet will be around for years, be used much more in ten years time, which is snippets of images that don’t really make sense, but which make a lot of sense when you’re thinking about memory. I just watched it and I thought “this is fascinating.” Again, it’s way ahead of its time. At the moment you watch it thinking “what is going on?” but I’m sure it will be used more and more. And Clive’s always been like that. He’s always been a visionary and a trendsetter.
HB: What’s your opinion on the proposed Hellraiser remake?
SB: Well again, there’s so much news this week. The Hellraiser remake has been on the cards for so long now. It’s two or three years we’ve been talking about it. It’s been on and it’s been off and there’s been directors attached to it and directors left it. I’m of slightly different opinion to the rest of the cast. I understand the reason for doing it, I do understand there’s a whole audience who don’t want to watch a film from the eighties. They want to watch a film from the 2012’s. And that’s a big audience. I know Clive was quite involved with the whole process and as long as he can keep a strong handle on that and they listen to what he says, then the remake will be guided in the right direction. I think it’s a mistake to do it without Doug. I haven’t seen Revelations, but I heard so many people talk about and I haven’t heard anything good about it.
HB: Yeah, I… I saw it. Gary Tunnicliffe wrote the script and I thought that if it had had some more time and more care off of that script it could have been something a lot closer to the first couple.
SB: Yeah. I’m sure if there’s a remake it will be with a big budget. And I think you’re right, it just shows otherwise if you don’t have that time and care and thought put into it. The other news this week has been the Hellraiser TV, which Sonar Entertainment has been in pre-production work with. I don’t know if you’ve heard about that.
HB: Yeah, haven’t they been trying to make that for about forever now?
SB: (laughs) Oh I don’t know, I’m out of touch. There’s been a lot of talk on the net about it. It was in Variety, so it must be true. I know a few things, and I know some people who have been asked to be involved with it, but I probably shouldn’t say anything more about that. So I think it is moving forward.
HB: In general, what direction would you like to see the Hellraiser mythology take?
SB: That’s an interesting one. I’d like to see it going back to its kind of more religious roots. I think I miss that. To be honest, I’ve only seen the first four Hellraiser films, so I don’t know where it went after that. But the feeling that there was this strong history involved was one of the strong elements in the first two Hellraisers. With the characters. There was a kind of mythology that you felt had been aroud for a long long time. And there was that sort of religious tie, with them being four priests from Hell. Sort of Hell’s guardians. Where, certainly with Hellraiser III, suddenly they were just people off the street being made into Cenobites. Although it was an interesting direction to go in, I think a lot of the strength is that it was Hell you were looking at. These were people from Hell. More interesting than if anybody could be turned into a Cenobite.
HB: My last question. 25 years later, the character of Butterball and the other Cenobites from the first film, they can still be seen on Halloween costumes and action figures, and in the new Hellraiser comics written by Clive himself, why do you think that character and the Cenobites of the original movie have survived as this iconic image?
SB: I suppose because we were the first. We were the ones who set the conventions, they were the ones most people had seen. We were the ones that were there first. I’d like to say it was our performance, but I won’t… well, I will say it but I won’t believe it. It’s very flattering. I’ve got a whole load of the different Hellraiser… I’ve got the Screaming models and all the different merchandise, and it is a constant surprise that it keeps going. 25 years, who would have believed… well, none of us would have believed all those years ago that we’d still be talking about it. Especially because it was a small budget movie, had a budget of about 300,000 pounds that none of us thought was going to take off. It’s been a huge surprise. And it’s led on to other things for me as well. I’m filming this week called Dead of the Night with Tony Todd, the Candyman. It kind of started my horror career, which I’ve been very, very grateful for.
HB: Well, thank you so much for doing this. It’s been great to talk with you.