[caption id="attachment_474" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Moseley as The Magician, photo by Tammy Sutton"][/caption]
With "The Devil's Carnival" director Darren Bousman and writer/actor Terrance Zdunich (“Repo! The Genetic Opera”) have created a fun, visually stunning and colorful musical which is kind of like the equivalent of a visual short story. The movie stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Jessica Lowndes, Dayton Callie, Paul Sorvino, and one of my favorite actors, Bill Moseley (who recently chatted about the project). This Spring Bousman and Zdunich embarked on a touring road show screening “The Devil’s Carnival” in clubs and theaters across the US with some of the actors appearing at individual events - the same approach they took when “Repo!” was bashed by critics and released in only a handful of theaters. With actress/musician Emilie Autumn and music producer Joe Bishara in tow at Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, the screening was more of a full-on experience than simple viewing party. There was a costume contest, a Q&A, autograph signings, and a really well put together collection of "Repo!" rarities. It was a fun, original concept that drew fans closer to the filmmakers. Fans in turn left excited about the prospect of more “Devil’s Carnivals” be it as a series of online episodes, On Demand, or whatever new concept the filmmakers come up with. Hello, HBO!
Moseley, who was recently in Charlotte as a guest at the first Mad Monster Convention (where he sang a little Devo to our son), didn’t make it back to town for the "Carnival" (he was filming a movie in Connecticut) but he did take time to talk to me over the phone about his role as The Magician as well as some of his iconic characters. After seeing “The Devil’s Carnival” I can definitely imagine his Magician taking on a bigger part in a sequel. Our interview is below.
The tour is currently winding its way through the Midwest. It ends May 12. Watch the trailer here.
When you started your career did you have a fondness for horror?
Like any kid I loved Halloween. I loved monsters and seeing scary movies on TV. I definitely had a firm foundation in it. It’s funny in Hollywood people use you and hire you for what they know best. Certainly in the horror genre I have some good credits. I do seem to enjoy that genre. It’s fine with me. It’s good to get work in your chosen profession. Acting is about as independent as it gets unless you get signed on for a TV series. If you’re a feature film actor like me you’re always…
It seems like a constant hustle.
It is. That’s why it is good to have teamwork - an agent and manager in terms of looking for work for you. It’s nice with the internet people can look me up on IMDB.com and can find my contact info. When I go to horror conventions I’m happy to hand out that information to people who want to work with me. You know it’s a constant effort to get your name out there. It’s…whatever the blue collar approach to (acting is).
So what can you reveal about “The Devil’s Carnival?”
I get to see it for the first time Thursday. That’s the premier that Darren (Lynn Bousman) and Terrance Zdunich are showing here in L.A. So it will be the first time I have seen it. Then I’m going down with Darren and his wife Laura Bousman to a screening of “Devil’s Carnival” in San Diego. I’m appearing at that screening with Clown (Shawn Crahan) of Slipknot, who is also in the film. Then it’ll be on the road for next month. I don’t know that “Devil’s Carnival” would be seen in regular theaters anyway. It's not a feature length film. It's more like TV episode. I haven’t talked to Darrren in terms of what he envisioned in terms of selling it.
How much experience did you have singing and dancing before “Repo?”
I certainly had sung and danced, but certainly not on screen. It was a big leap for me and a happy one. Between Terrance and Darren Bousman and (co-writer) Darren Smith, they saw the potential in me. It was funny because Darren said, “You’re going to have to audition. I know you can kill, but can you sing?” I showed him a cd from a band I use to have with Buckethead called Cornbugs. I did the vocals on the cd. I said, “Well, you’ve heard the Cornbugs.” He said, “Yes, but can you sing?”
The good news is for the past 15 years I’ve taken a weekly singing lesson. I sing Beatles songs at the piano. I do that not so much for my singing career. It’s like a voice gym and as an actor you need your voice in good shape. I was able to take the song Darren wanted me to audition with to my lesson. We figured out the dramatic structure of the song and of course hitting the right notes. I auditioned for Darren, Terrance and (composer) Joe Bishara. I guess I did a good enough job.
So how did prepping for your role in “The Devil’s Carnival” differ?
Going into “Devil’s Carnival” they knew I could sing from my songs in “Repo!,” but they wanted something different. They wanted a different character. I went over to Joe Bishara’s house a couple months ago and they sent me - I don’t know if it’s called a click track, but they sent me the music to the song “The Devil’s Carnival.” It was a relaxed enough situation among friends - Joe and Darren and Terrance. We worked on the song but basically the voice in the song informed me what kind of character they were looking for. It’s a little more high pitched and funny.
Where did you film it?
In Riverside, California on the lot of someone who has collected amazing circus memorabilia. They have booths, a big top and this is all on someone’s property which is not out in the middle of nowhere but right in the middle of town. It was an amazing location. It was all night shoots because, you know, I guess the Devil sleeps during the day. It’s the desert. It’s dusty and cold and we’re dancing around. Fortunately my costume was pretty warm. Not only did I have my red magician’s tux. I had a cape. I was the designated warmer. People that needed to be warmed could spend some time under the cape.
Did it feel like you were stepping into this world? You look at the world they created with “Repo!” and then trailers for “The Devil’s Carnival” is its own unique world.
It’s very exciting because its Darren Bousman’s crazy wonderful vision. He was really fun to work with once again. This was our third project together. I did “Repo!” and I worked with him on a movie called “The Tortured.” It’s fun to work with a director multiple times. You get to know each other. You can get right into your shorthand. You don’t have to worry if this will piss somebody off. (Or ask yourself) "What’s he looking for?" The third time is the charm and we had a great time.
It seems like you’re part of a family of filmmakers that continue to work together with these films and the work you’ve done with Rob Zombie. Is that atmosphere preferable?
In a way with actors being insecure wondering where the next job is coming from. Orson Wells had the Mercury Players. That’s wonderful. You see the same faces pop up. Actors are insecure people craving security. It’s nice to have someone calling you back and when they don’t call you back it doesn’t mean that’s not a good relationship. I had a nice run with Rob - about a ten year run from “House of 1000 Corpses” to “Halloween II.” That’s a long relationship in terms of Hollywood relationships. It’s great to be a part of the “Repo!” family. The familiarity is a happy aspect of it. It gives you a sense of continuity. It’s good for the director’s vision to see how they grow. From a blue collar perspective, it’s nice to keep working.
Mentioning working with Rob Zombie - “The Devil’s Rejects” is such a special movie to me. Did the cast and crew have that same feeling about it? That you were creating something special?
Absolutely. It was a magical experience. It was one of those rare times where all the elements worked together. Sometimes you might have a weak link among the actors, maybe the script doesn’t work or the directing or the plot is thin in places. Sometimes it’s the soundtrack, the marketing. Some fly in the ointment. With “Devil’s Rejects” really everything came together. It was amazing. Rob wrote an amazing script. Sid (Haig) and Sheri (Moon Zombie) and I had already worked together. We were reprising our roles as the Driftwoods and the Spauldings. And again we hit the ground running. I always describe “House of 1000 Corpses” as buying the car and “The Devil’s Rejects” as taking it out for a drive.
I’d never worked on a sequel for any characters I’d created before. Talking about working with directors - In 1986 I did “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and created the role of Chop Top. I had a great experience working with the director, Tobe Hooper. That was 26 years ago. I’ve enjoyed a great warm relationship with Tobe, who also lives in LA. I’m friends with his son. I’ve had a nice personal relationship with him, but I’ve never worked with him again. It just shows you. I did “House of 1000 Corpses.” I come to that as a professional actor. I try to curb the expectation that it’s nothing personal. They use you or they don’t.
When Rob, I think it was a Superbowl party at his house in 2004 or 2005 - he said we’re going to do another movie, “The Devil’s Rejects.” I said, “Wow that’s cool.” He goes, “But this time I want Otis to look a little different.” He described one of the Allman Brothers. He had a paper plate. We’d been eating Cheetos. And he took a pen and sketched out this Allman Brothers looking character. I said, “First of all you have to sign and date that” - I still have it somewhere. The second thing I said is, “I’ve never grown a beard.” He said, “Why don’t you just stop shaving and see what happens.” So for about four months I let my face grow. Low and behold this amazing beard came out of me. I did not know it had been hiding in my chin and in my cheeks for all those years. It was amazing. That certainly started me on the road to Otis number two. They did shave my head for that. The long hair was a wig. If you watch the “making of” special disc documentary “30 Days in Hell” it shows the day by day video diary of shooting the movie. There are a couple of scenes of me working out stunts with Kane Hodder with this nice beard and bald head. They told me the wig was worth more than I was.
You mentioned doing the “Texas Chainsaw” sequel in `86. Aren’t you in a new version. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D?”
Yes. It’s coming out in January (2013).
How does it fit in with the story?
It picks up where Tobe’s original leads off. After Leatherface is pirouetting in the road with his chainsaw and Sally, with her mask of blood, is laughing in the back of a pickup truck. It cuts back to the Sawyer house.
But Chop Top wasn’t in the original, was he?
In “Chainsaw 3-D” I’m playing the cook (aka Drayton Sawyer). I figured when they contacted me they’d want me to reprise Chop Top. I don’t think they have the rights to “Chainsaw 2,” which is owned by Sony. The hitchhiker (in the original) had been run over by the truck. I was asked to play the part made famous by Jim Siedow. I said, “I’ll try.”
It was a great honor to play that part. I had a great warm and long lasting relationship with Jim and his wife Ruth. It was important for me to play that part and do it justice. I’d rather do it and have someone who wasn’t just hired, who has history and knows the actor. Jim and I are different types, but I did my best. I did have a moment. We filmed it in Bossier City, Louisiana on an Army base. They’d built a replica of the Chainsaw house. There was one point where I was lying on the floor at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the next shot in the front hall of the Chainsaw house and I could look down and see the sliding silver door and there was this red or purple felt against the walls and all these skulls hung up on it like in the original movie. I was covered in stage blood and chicken feathers and it was about 104 degrees with ninety percent humidity. All of the crew were pulling cables and stepping over me and being annoyed with me lying there. I looked up the stairs and looked down past the wall of skulls to the silver door. I saw the blood and had a flash of where I was and just how special it was. I don’t know how many people felt that same way and knew what I was thinking in terms of the history of the movie. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” - becoming a part of that history changed my life and gave me this career. It felt like an honor to be lying there as Jim in that costume in that same character and what that meant. It was short-lived. I’m sure someone asked me to get out of the way, but it was a special.
You’re also taking on a pretty big role as Charles Manson, right?
In “Manson Girls,” which is directed by Susanna Lo. We’re still waiting to shoot that. There is a trailer out for it. I sing the old Doors song “Five to One.” That’s in the soundtrack for the trailer. I can’t wait for that to get into production.
I imagine the Manson murders happened when you were growing up? How much did you remember from that time?
I was aware of it. I was a younger guy. But Charles Manson has been a recurring motif. People were comparing Otis to Manson. I’ve read “Helter Skelter” and gone online and seen some of the interviews. I was also in a play. That’s one of the reasons Susanna hired me. Years ago I was in a play here in L.A.called “Timothy and Charlie.” Historically Charles Manson and Timothy Leary were in San Quentin in 1974. Playwright Tim Riehl took that piece of history and created a two act play based on the proximity of Timothy and Charlie. They barked back and forth. Timothy Leary talking about experiences with drugs getting you closer to God. Manson is shirtless and screaming, “I did it because I liked to get high." I actually played Timothy Leary in the play.
To play a role like that do you have to identify in some way with the character? In this case the real person.
It’s a fine line between actually taking on that persona and being real in it as opposed to very expert mimicry. I find that with my style I just have to go to those places and let my imagination take me to those places as opposed to trying to approximate and act out something that I may not agree with. I just find it work a little better when I am that person. Not necessarily like Robert Deniro gaining fifty pounds to play “Raging Bull.” With Manson it's going to be a little of him and a little of me.