Depeche Mode, Adam and the Ants, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Morecambe and Wise, Sooty(!), Charles Bronson, Charlie Sheen, George Clooney, Laura Dern, Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Hugh Grant, Clive Barker, Nicolas Cage… You’ve probably heard of some of these (if not, close your laptop, run a nice bath and relax in it with a plugged-in toaster).
Apart from all being huge stars across various mediums (especially Sooty), they all share one specific thing in common… Barbie Wilde.
Chris Barnes: Barbie, thank you, and welcome. You’ve done SO many things that I could chat to you all day about. You sing, interview, act, write, but it all seemed to begin when you studied classical mime in London, then went on to form Shock?
Barbie Wilde: I came to London to study acting as part of my Syracuse University Drama Course and stayed on when I was offered a place in a classical mime troupe called Silents, which was the largest mime company in the UK at that time, led by Desmond Jones. Tim Dry and I, who were in Silents, as well as Sean Crawford, were interested in robotic mime and spent time perfecting the technique, which led to us being invited to join Shock, a dance, mime, musical group that was eventually signed to RCA Records. We released two singles: ‘Angel Face’ and ‘Dynamo Beat’. We performed all over the UK, Belgium and Holland, as well as doing a week long residency at the Ritz Club in New York City. Tim and Sean went on to form the robotic mime and music duo Tik and Tok.
Chris: You’ve supported some WHOPPING acts in fantastic venues (a brief number of which I’ve listed above) – you must have some ace stories?!
Barbie: We had a lot of fun supporting the above acts. I suppose the biggest breakthrough and highlight came from supporting Gary Numan at Wembley. Although sadly, we broke up soon afterwards. The pressure of touring and getting relatively few financial rewards (a common problem in the music biz) took its toll.
As far as stories are concerned, well, you’d be surprised how boring touring can be! Lots of motorway cafes, bad food and dismal hotels. The bright spots were performing, of course, and our stay in New York City was amazing.
Chris: YOU’VE WORKED ON THE SOOTY SHOW!!!
Barbie: Yes! As Technical Glamour, my partner and I taught Sooty, Sweep and Sue how to do the robot.
In the way of all crazy showbiz things, I got recognized more for being on The Sooty Show than almost everything else that I’d done up to that point.
Chris: You went on to write and present a number of review/interview-based television programmes for various networks in the UK and Europe, which is a great achievement – how did this come about? Who was your favourite guest?
Barbie: I have always felt more comfortable as a TV presenter than an actress to be honest. I started out doing “video jock” work for cable channels like Skytrax and Music Box, moving on to The Small Screen, a film video review for ITV, Hold Tight and The Gig (again for ITV), and then Sprockets (a B movie history show) for Sky TV.
My favorites guests were Nicolas Cage (we chatted about his bug collection), Cliff Richard (we shared a geeky passion for the original Star Trek series) and John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), who was just hilarious, but also just as professional as Cliff. It was also very cool to interview the legendary B-52s, who were really funny and surreal.
Chris: In the midst of all this came Death Wish 3. Can you tell us about how you approached your first feature and what Charles Bronson was like?
Barbie: My acting agency at the time, Bovver Boots (who specialized in punky-looking actors), sent me along to an audition with Michael Winner at his beautiful mansion in Kensington. We had a chat and that was it. I played a female hoodlum who was part of chief baddie Gavan O’Herlihy’s gang. Most of the time, I just hung around looking menacing (or as menacing as someone like me can possibly look), but I did have a couple of good moments in the movie: screaming my head off when Gavan went hurtling through the window as Charles Bronson “gatling guns” him to death and then playing the peacekeeper at the end.
Charles Bronson was a real gent. He didn’t spend that much time hanging around the set, as his wife, Jill Ireland, was ill at the time.
Chris: You were a horrid little mugger in that if I remember rightly?!
Barbie: I was one of many in that film!
Chris: Then came the “Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80s horror” Grizzly II: The Concert (aka Grizzly 2: Predator, with George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen no less). Can you tell us a bit about it and why you think it was given such a cult “title”?
Barbie: This film was quite a bizarre experience. My boyfriend at the time, New Romantic and Electronica producer Richard James Burgess, was producing the band that was going to appear in the movie and he was also hired to play the drummer. However, Richard was offered the job of producing Adam Ant in Sweden at the same time as the movie production, so he trained me up to be a “mime drummer” to take his place.
Most of the filming took place in a national park near Budapest, Hungary. The Scottish hard rock band Nazareth was hired to play a free concert to bring in the crowds and the camera crew filmed the audience’s enthusiastic response. In the middle of their act, Nazareth stopped playing, and Predator, our weird little Electronica movie band, ran onstage and performed three songs to backing tracks, with some very unusual choreography by Bruno Tonioli (of Strictly Come Dancing fame). We repeated the three songs twice more for the cameras in front of some very puzzled Hungarian heavy metal fans. Then we dashed offstage and Nazareth came back on.
George Clooney, Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern played “red shirts” who got killed off by the bear pretty quickly, but we did hang out a bit with John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and veteran American actor Dick Anthony Williams.
There were a lot of snags in production: the giant electronic bear never worked properly, the director had a bit of a nervous breakdown, and finally the Hungarians came in to shut down the production because of financial problems.
Many years later, the film reappeared in DVD form (sold at horror conventions), either without the bear at all, which was pretty weird, or with the bear from the first Grizzly film edited in.
Why is it the “so-called Holy Grail, etc, etc.”? Well, that cast, the mystery over why it was never finished and the legendary mess that resulted is probably a good a reason as any other.
Chris: OK, so ALL this is MORE than enough to make a best-selling autobiography in anyone’s opinion, but you’ve also starred in quite a well-known film franchise! Bear with me while I compose myself… I’m interviewing a CENOBITE for fuck’s sake!!! I could bore the proverbials off you about all things Hellraiser, seriously. Right, so you starred in Hellbound: Hellraiser II as the female Cenobite, dubbed “Deepthroat” during filming! Can you tell us a bit about how you nabbed this epic part?
Barbie: I was called in to audition for the part by Doreen Jones, the Casting Director. I’m not sure why they asked me. I can only assume that it was because of my mime experience. The received wisdom at the time was that mime artists were better suited to the prosthetic makeup process. For instance, Kubrick used mime artists in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). A group of mimes were also used in the ape costumes in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984). I trained for two weeks to audition for Greystoke, but I was glad I didn’t get the job in the end. Filming in Kenya in furry costumes in 120 degree heat didn’t really appeal to me!
At the Hellbound audition, I met Tony Randel, we had a chat, and the next day, I got the job. It’s funny, because I nearly didn’t go to the audition, as I thought that they were looking for someone to play the Chatterer character and I found that particular Cenobite far too scary in the first film. I also hated mask work. (I’m a bit claustrophobic.) I was quite relieved to find out that I was going to play the Female Cenobite.
BTW, “Deep Throat” is the nickname that the makeup crew gave to the Female Cenobite character. If you look at the credits from the first film, Pinhead is “Lead Cenobite”, Chatterer is “Chattering Cenobite”, Butterball was “Butterball Cenobite”, etc. By the time the second film rolled around, the decision was made to give the Cenobites their makeup crew names for the credits. However, “Deep Throat” was considered by the Americans too rude to use in the credits (because of the notorious 1972 movie, Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace), so I was lumbered with the rather unremarkable name of Female Cenobite. (Of course, this matches up well with my fabulous character name from Death Wish 3 of Female Punk!)
Chris: After the success of Hellraiser, did you feel any pressure taking up Grace Kirby’s reigns as such an iconic horror character and what are your memories of the process?
Barbie: I didn’t feel any pressure. I only saw the first Hellraiser film once, so Grace’s portrayal didn’t really inform my performance. The makeup was altered to fit my features and the throat jewelry was changed as well.
Chris: How much say did you have regarding your character? As the Cenobites are part of horror folklore, nothing like them had ever been seen before.
Barbie: I think that people often believe that actors have much more to do with their characters than they actually do. (However, if you’re Tom Cruise, then of course you do have a lot of say.) Normally, it’s the directors and writers that run the show. Also, the makeup design was crucially important to the part and really shaped the role. The first time I looked into the mirror and saw myself made up as the Female Cenobite was a pretty startling moment. I really felt like a demon from hell.
Chris: What did Hellbound: Hellraiser II do for your career? Obviously you were very successful in your own right anyway, but being part of the movie must have been a life changing experience.
Barbie: I think that appearing in Hellbound: Hellraiser II has made more of a difference in recent years than right after filming ended in 1988. I had a few more years as an actress and TV presenter, then “acting left me” as thespians say, and I moved into being a Casting Director for commercials and TV shows such as MTV’s The Real World: London and the BBC’s The Buddha of Suburbia.
It was only when I was invited to my first horror convention that I realized the scope and reach of the Hellraiser franchise. Especially in the United States. I had no idea how popular Pinhead & Co. were in America. It felt like overnight I had become a “Female Icon of Horror”, which is pretty damn cool.
Chris: Mr. Clive Barker is a HUGE hero of ours, probably our main inspiration for starting the Slaughtered Bird (he’s from our city, Liverpool, and we’ve met him years ago at a book signing here). Although not officially involved in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, did you meet him at the time? (I know he’s just sanctioned a writing project of yours.)
Barbie: Clive was prepping for Nightbreed at the time, so he wasn’t on the Hellbound set a lot. (Although I spent most of my time in the makeup room, so I don’t really know for sure!) I met up with him more after the film was completed. He is such a funny, talented person and one of those few rare individuals who I would truly call a genius: as a writer, as an artist and as a director.
Chris: You’ve gone on to write about the dark, weird and wonderful yourself, which we’ll talk about shortly, so was Hellraiser the eye-opener, or have you always been a seeker of the macabre, and why?
Barbie: Regarding Hellraiser, I remember going to see the first film and being taken aback not only by the Cenobite and Lament Configuration mythology, which was amazingly imaginative, but also by the dark vein of sexual obsession running through the movie. Both Frank and Julia’s characters were unabashedly passionate and I think that Clare Higgins’ performance is amazing in both films.
Personally, I’ve always been interested in the dark side. I’m fascinated by the criminal mind and the psychological motivations of why some people turn to crime.
When I was a kid, I loved reading Sherlock Holmes stories, but it was Moriarty who fascinated me, rather than Holmes. As a teenager, I enjoyed the gothic horror delights of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book and the Hammer movie), as well as modern horror such as Rosemary’s Baby, but it was the movies of the 50s that were shown on Saturday afternoon TV that really made an impression on me. Spectacularly paranoid sci-fi films like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Outer Space, and Invaders from Mars, as well as horror films like The Innocents and The Haunting really made their mark.
Chris: Hellbound: Hellraiser II kind of HAD to happen after Hellraiser’s success, to appease its huge fanbase if nothing else (this worried me), but thankfully Tony Randel did a very good job and it remained respectful to its predecessor. Was this something you were wary of being a fan of the original?
Barbie: I thought that the script of Hellbound was a great sequel to Hellraiser, carrying on the story just hours after the events of the first film. Although my personal favorite is the first one, many fans seem to prefer Hellbound. A fan recently put it to me best: Hellraiser is almost like a haunted house movie, while Hellbound expands on the Cenobite mythology by actually going to hell and telling us how the Cenobites are created. (BTW, SciFiNow voted Hellbound the #1 best horror sequel around, which is pretty cool.)
Chris: It’s rumoured that Hellbound: Hellraiser II was the victim of blown budgets and heavy editing during and after production. Were you aware of this at the time?
Barbie: No, not at all. I recently watched Hellbound again on the big screen and it holds together brilliantly, IMHO.
Chris: Did you get to keep any cool stuff???
Barbie: I asked for one of the Lament Configuration boxes and the prop guy just laughed at me. HE JUST LAUGHED AT ME. So the answer is “no”, sadly.
Chris: Doug Bradley, another ‘Scouser’ (somebody born in Liverpool!) is now regarded as a horror God. What’s he like? PLEASE tell me he wears his ‘Pinhead’ costume when he goes to the supermarket!
Barbie: No, Mr Bradley does not wear his costume or makeup when he goes to the supermarket! I think that it takes five hours to apply the makeup, so it would be rather inconvenient. (My makeup only took four hours. Luxury, mate, luxury!)
Doug is great — very down to earth and funny. It’s always a pleasure to meet up with my fellow Cenobites at conventions, as well as the lovely Ashley Laurence and occasionally Ken Cranham and Clare Higgins.
Chris: Thankfully, you didn’t star in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth! Was that because they didn’t ask you or because you thought it looked a bit shit?!
Barbie: The whole production moved to the West Coast of America and only Doug was asked to be part of Hellraiser III.
Chris: Do you rate any other Hellraiser revisits on the ever-increasing list? I must be honest, I gave up after Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth! What do you think went wrong with the franchise?
Barbie: I’ve only watched the first two films, so I can’t really comment. From what I can understand, many of the sequels were already existing scripts that had the Pinhead character shoehorned into the story.
Chris: A dreaded remake has been mooted! What do think about remakes in general, especially of such a cult classic that still stands up?
Barbie:I’m generally with Doug Bradley when he says that the current remake frenzy is a “waste of good celluloid”. However, Clive was writing the reboot, which I was very excited about. Like I said before, he is a genius, so the script will be quite extraordinary, I’m sure.
Chris: In 2009, you contributed a short story to the Hellbound Hearts anthology, entitled ‘Sister Cilice’, based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart. This gives your Cenobite a back story – basically, before succumbing to sin, Sister Nikoletta was obsessed with it. How very, very cool! Barker’s character must have really crawled under your skin?!
Barbie: For legal reasons, the story is about A female cenobite, rather than THE Female Cenobite from the movies. However, Paul Kane, my editor on Hellbound Hearts, encouraged me to explore some ideas of the mythology from the female perspective. I took my inspiration from the fact that the Lead Cenobite character in the novella was actually female.
Funnily enough, yet again, I was initially reluctant to contribute a story to Hellbound Hearts because I didn’t really write horror at that time. However, I gave it a go and I’m very pleased with the result. Most reviews of the anthology were really kind to ‘Sister Cilice’, which was great.
Chris: Eric Gross’ artwork of Sister Cilice and the Pandoric are just immense. What is it like collaborating with him?
Barbie: I love Eric’s work. It was a great collaboration and I’m looking forward to seeing the Pandoric in the flesh! I had also written a story to accompany it called ‘The Cilicium Pandoric’, which was published in Fangoria’s Gorezone #30. (Sister Cilice goes back to 17th Century Paris and has the Toymaker construct a Pandoric for her, which has some nasty consequences for their “test subject”.)
Chris: So, Ms. Wilde, you’ve been called “one of the finest purveyors of erotically charged horror around” by none other than Fangoria magazine due to your first novel, The Venus Complex, published in 2012. Clive Barker aside, who influences your work?
Barbie: My favorite writers are: Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train), Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, and Paul Kane. My favorite book was Whitstable, by Stephen Volk (who wrote the screenplays for films like Gothic and The Awakening).
Chris: The Venus Complex is “a transgressive tale that would make Patrick Bateman blush” according to Rue Morgue. I’m a big Easton-Ellis fan, I’d consider that a great honour! Tell us a bit about your lead character Michael Friday…
Barbie: My prime motivation for writing The Venus Complex was to explore the sexual mindscape of a serial killer. To write a “whydunit” rather than a “whodunit”. I initially started writing in the third person, concentrating on the character of the female forensic psychologist, but I felt that it was just too clichéd. I wanted to do something different, so I created the character of Professor Michael Friday, a damaged and frustrated art history professor and then let him take me on his journey down the dangerous road of becoming a serial killer. The book is written in diary form, so you can’t escape his fevered sexual fantasies and his politically incorrect rants on just about everything.
I think that this review from Horrortalk says it best:
“A novel by a female Cenobite that gives the world a smart, artistic, cynical, cultured serial killer who could give Hannibal Lecter a run for his money. On top of that, this is a poignant, funny, sexually-charged, hardcore critique of popular culture and a deconstruction of relationships, academia, and art.”
Chris: You’re writing has really taken off in recent years and you’ve produced a number of stories for a lot of different anthologies – do you ever see yourself stepping behind the camera and making your own feature? Maybe showing some of these amateurs how a REAL Hellraiser sequel should be done?!
Barbie: If the opportunity presented itself, I’d love to direct.
Chris: Right, important question this Barbie, let’s get serious: Who was the most badass to work with, Clive Barker or Sooty? Even though I’ve loved Barker all my life, Sooty sure is iconic!
Barbie: They’re both pretty cool. But Clive wins hands down. (And I somehow think that I wouldn’t have received the great reviews from horror magazines and websites if I’d just been the person who taught Sooty how to be a robot, or just been a dancing mannequin with Morecambe and Wise!)
Chris: Barbie, it’s been an absolute pleasure to speak to you and I’m honoured you have given us some of your time. I’m sure after reading this people will want to find out more, so can you provide some links you think our/your fans would appreciate?
Barbie: You can check out my website at www.barbiewilde.com, and my short stories appear in different anthologies and publications: ‘Sister Cilice’ in Hellbound Hearts, ‘U for Uranophobia’ in Phobophobia, ‘American Mutant: Hands of Dominion’ in Mutation Nation, ‘Polyp’ in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and The Unspoken, ‘A is for Alpdruck’ in The Demonologia Biblica, ‘Z is for Zulu Zombies’ in The Bestiarum Vocabulum and Fangoria’s Gorezone #29, ‘The Cilicium Pandoric’ in Fangoria’s Gorezone #30 and ‘B is for Botophobia’ in Phobophobias.