Icons of Fright interview with BILL MOSELEY!!!
Anyone who is into horror films knows who Bill Moseley is, that’s just a fact. He’s played some pretty iconic villains, such as Chop-Top in Tobe Hooper’s 1986 classic, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, as well as fan favorite Otis B. Driftwood in Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. He’s also an accomplished musician, fronting Spider Mountain and Cornbugs (a band that showcases Bill in his Chop-Top persona on vocals and guitarist Buckethead supplying some creepy yet fun music). Bill’s made a name for himself in the horror genre as being an intense, sometimes off the wall character actor, and personally, I’ve been a MASSIVE fan of his dating back to seeing TCM 2 for the first time, as a kid. So, you could say I was pretty stoked to be able to call Bill up for an interview and ask him about his recent turn in TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, in which he takes over the legendary role of Drayton Sawyer (“the cook”) a role that was originated in Tobe Hooper’s classic film by the late Jim Siedow. Love or hate the film (it’s made 23 million in its opening weekend, so a lot of folks definitely seem to dig it), it’s pretty awesome to see Bill return to the Chainsaw films either way.
Hey Bill, how’s it going?
Pretty good, just watching Obama nominate two new heads of the cabinet. I like politics.
Right on. I’m not going to take up too much of your time, I just had a few questions and a couple of our readers sent me a couple questions to ask as well. First of all, congrats on TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D being such a success already, 23 million on opening weekend is definitely impressive for a movie like this.
Yeah, thank you.
You’ve played some pretty iconic roles in horror films, with Otis and Chop-Top, and even with the big cult following of REPO! And THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, how does it feel to step into the role of the Cook and be added to the legacy of the first film as well?
Well, it was certainly an odd request. When I first talked to Carl (producer Carl Mazzocone) about participating somehow in the production of the new Chainsaw, I had actually written a treatment, because I was hoping to, if anything, even just write the screenplay. I went into Lionsgate and pitched the treatment, it was well received but as it turned out, I was number two I guess according to Carl. Well number two only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I just wanted to be a part of the production, with the Chainsaw being so important to me throughout my life and really being responsible for my career in movies. When Carl said “well, what about playing the cook?” I thought was just bizarre, because I figured why not just play Chop-Top?, but I don’t think the right package that he had acquired from Platinum Dunes included TCM2, it was a separate entity…therefore Chop-Top wasn’t a part of what Carl had to work with. Given that, when he asked me to play the cook, I likened it to Curly being asked to play Moe in the remake of the Three Stooges., and at the same time I felt protective. The last thing I wanted to do is have somebody who did not have a connection to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or horror movies in general to play that part. I was really protective certainly of the great job that Jim (Siedow) did as the cook, and also Jim himself. We used to be pals before he passed away seven or eight years ago, we had a great relationship Jim and I, and his wife Ruth. We exchanged Christmas cards every year (laughs), so I wanted to make sure that Jim’s legacy had someone who was at least trying to look after it.
Well the producer said to make it look like the cook, but own it, you know, some of those dichotomies that are possible. How do you make it your own but make sure it’s somebody else’s? In service of that, Carl had me go out to KNB (the effects group) north of Los Angeles and get my teeth molded so it would be more of a Siedow dental piece, and Carl then also told me he wanted me to wear a “fat shirt” and that I thought was a little odd because I remember Jim very distinctly being a gaunt man, certainly not being anybody with a paunch. Carl saw it differently, so I ended up wearing a fat shirt, which when you’re working in Louisiana in 106 degrees with 90% humidity, you don’t want to be wearing a fat shirt, you don’t want to wear anything really (laughs). It was interesting because it was basically a two layered t-shirt stuffed with cotton and by the end of my working days, each day it would fill up with about 8-10 pounds of sweat.
The hard part of trying to act like Jim, is that he has such weird body language and body movement, so it took a while to get that down and what I realized is that when he walks through space he kind of just sits back and leads with his hips and I think that’s why there’s an impression that he has a paunch, but really it’s just a gaunt man with a strange walk (laughs).
Were you a fan of the original before being the second one and now this one?
Oh, absolutely. I saw the original, and I’m still trying to figure out if it was in ’75 or ’76 in the combat zone in Boston when I was living there. I had seen the title on a drive-in marquee, and in my head I was thinking “what the hell is that?!” So I then saw it was on a double bill with ENTER THE DRAGON…in the combat zone in Boston, which is like the seedy times square of Boston. It’s probably gentrified now but back then it was funky, so it was a perfect place to see it on a Sunday afternoon. I think it was the old Paramount Theater, so it was one of those formerly great theaters that had fallen into seedy disrepair that was now showing Bruce Lee and Tobe Hooper (laughs).
Hahaha, that’s an interesting double feature.
ENTER THE DRAGON was first, so everyone was fired up and yelling at the screen excited, then all of a sudden the opening image of Chainsaw with the tortured violins and those weird snapshots of the bubbling corpse, it was like “what the fuck is this??”. Yeah so..in fact, I was really disturbed by it. I was a college grad, and I used to have a film series that my partner Gary Lucas and I ran in college, I went to Yale, and every Tuesday at midnight we ran something called “Things That Go Bump in the Night”, so we showed horror movies to all of those tired grinds that got thrown out of the library at midnight, so I’m a total horror fan all the way back but watching THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE freaked me out. I ended up having to see it maybe another ten times which back then videotape was JUST coming out and it was hard to find in theaters so it took a lot of work to see it that many times. The idea was that I would get so familiar with it, that it wouldn’t scare me as much and wouldn’t have that hold on me, but the opposite happened. I made a short film back in I guess it was 1984 called THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MANICURE set in a beauty parlor in Staten Island. In it, Leatherface comes out and gives a woman a manicure, actually a pretty wonderful manicure as it turns out, and I gave myself a cameo in that as the hitchhiker, like 20 seconds really. My wife comes back and she has a great hairdo and a great manicure and she goes “look honey, I got the best manicure ever!” and I go (and he does this in the voice of the hitchhiker): “That’s great honey, we should celebrate with some headcheese!!” and that’s what I did. I even bought some headcheese, which doesn’t look that great on film and on one take I actually licked it, which was really bad idea. Well anyway, I had a friend in Los Angeles that was working as a screenwriter at the time across the hall from Tobe Hooper, who was working on POLTERGEIST. My friend had seen a copy of the Manicure and asked if he could walk it into Tobe’s office, I said sure, he did and Tobe watched it. Tobe called in his producing partner, Steven Spielberg, they watched it and they loved my portrayal of the hitchhiker, and two years later out of nowhere, I got a call asking if I wanted to be in the movie. That was 1986, so I’ve had a long relationship with it.
What I found was that watching the movie a bunch of times didn’t exorcise those demons, but joining the family sure did. It was amazing. You know they say “if you can’t lick ‘em, join em”?, well that was the prescription for me.
How as it working with a director on the new one that didn’t have a horror background as opposed to someone you’ve worked with in the past like Rob Zombie, who wears his love for the genre on his sleeve?
It was interesting because I had worked with the producer Carl before, and I’ve done tons of low budget, independent features over my span, so I’m versatile in terms of how I approach the job. If there’s a director who’s directing me and loves everything, that can certainly fire me up, but in this line of work, you have to be able and willing to work with pretty much anybody that puts the captain’s hat on. I thought John (Luessenhop) was game, there’s also the 3D thrown in there, there’s the Chainsaw legacy to deal with too. Carl impressed me by recreating board for board the original Sawyer house
Yeah, the house looks great.
It was on an Army base outside of Bossier City, Louisiana. There were a lot of pains taken to make it, well at least the opening, look like they were picking up right where the original left off. So with all of that, I had enough inspiration and I thought John did a great job. He seemed very cool and collected, especially when it’s 106 degrees and he was down there a heck of a lot longer than I was (laughs).
You’ve worked with everyone from Clint Eastwood to Tobe Hooper and Rob Zombie, are there any filmmakers that you’ve always wanted to work with but haven’t gotten the chance yet?
Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo Del Toro. I saw Django Unchained and man, it looked like Tarantino would be fun to work with. I’m a fan of his stuff and with Del Toro, I’m a big fan of Japanese monsters and you probably know more about when it’s coming out than I do, but PACIFIC RIM, with the monsters and big robots and Del Toro, that just looks like a dream. One of my favorite stories actually is At The Mountains of Madness, the old HP Lovecraft story, and that had a shelf life for a while with the rumor that it would be Guillero directing and Jim Cameron producing. I just thought “oh my god!” I would wash the guy’s car, whatever it takes to get in on that, I want in (laughs). I guess there were some things with the studio wasn’t happy enough with it to give him the 100 million bucks or whatever they wanted, and then I heard there was some reluctance to do it because PROMETHEUS had basically hit upon a bunch of the themes that are inherent in At the Mountains of Madness, but I saw PROMETHEUS and I could see that if you were having a cocktail conversation, but I think it’d be vastly different. So Guillermo and Quentin, so if you got their ear, please say nice things about me (laughs) .
Right on. Do you have a desire to possibly direct something yourself, or is that something you’re not interested in?
I’m not interested in directed as I am in writing, I’m an old writer. I’m working hard, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I’m doing, one hat that I’m wearing is the Hollywood shuffle. I don’t know, I seem to do best when I’m in actor mode. I just shot OLD 37 with Kane Hodder directed by Christian Winters in Long Island. Kane and I play brothers who drive around an old beat up ambulance and show up at accident scenes before the real ambulance.
How was it working with Kane?
It wasn’t the first time, we were in a movie called FALLEN ANGELS a couple of years ago, and I had worked with him on DEVIL’S REJECTS, he was the stunt coordinator, he did an amazing job. So yeah, I love Kane and of course we see each other a lot on the convention circuit. We’ve been pals a long time and I think it was Kane that was really pulling for me to play his brother, so tip of the hat to Kane. We had a great time, it was a great effort and we really busted our butts and froze and had a lot of dust and stage blood, I hope it comes out well.
A lot of people were excited when it was announced that you were set to play Charles Manson in THE MANSON GIRLS. Is that project still in the works?
I think it’s still in the works. It’s one of those projects that’s been slower to get off the runway than others. Sussana Lo is the writer/producer/director on that one. It’s a cool script, and cool perspective on that, I think it’s going to be awesome when they finally make it, but yeah I’m still a part of it.
Lastly, do you have plans to make anymore Spider Mountain or Cornbugs albums in the future?
Ya know, I’ve been bugging Phil Anselmo from Pantera to try to get together. I have a bunch of songs that I’ve written, and I wanted to get together with Phil. He’s got a studio outside of New Orleans, and that’s my vision, to go to his place in New Orleans, crank out five or ten songs and put out a cd called Bill and Phil. (laughs) I don’t know if he’s that excited about it, but I’m still trying so that’s here my music vision is right now.
Right on, well I’ll let you go with that, I definitely appreciate you taking the time to talk
It was my pleasure man, keep up the good work. Take care.