Matt chats to Bill Moseley about the return of Otis Driftwood and the Firefly clan in 3 From Hell.
Shortly after a lunch a couple of years ago, where Rob Zombie and his wife Sheri Moon Zombie sounded out his and Sid Haig’s interest in revisiting their characters Otis and Captain Spaulding from The Devil’s Rejects, Bill Moseley made an aside to the writer/director.
“Kind of off-handedly in case it didn’t happen, so I wouldn’t have to get too embarrassed about it, I said ‘Is there a part for my wife in the movie?’ At the time I don’t think that my wife and I were married. She’s an actress named Lucinda Jenney. I just threw it out there, ‘Ah, it’d be great if you could find a part for Lucinda’.”
And so time went on, Rob called up and said ‘The script is ready, I’m about to send it over and by the way, Lucinda has a part. It’s a bounty hunter named Nebraska.’
I said ‘Ahh, that is awesome.’ He said ‘Wait til you hear the most awesome part.’ I said ‘What’s that?’ He said ‘You get to kill her!’”
I’m laughing down the phone at Bill Moseley, Otis Driftwood himself, as we talk about the release of his new collaboration with Rob Zombie. 3 From Hell is the sequel to House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Otis, a Charles Manson proxy, is as despicable and vile as movie villains come. Bill Moseley, on the other hand, is delightful.
“I went ‘Oh my god, that is fantastic’. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, I’m guessing you have.”
I have seen 3 From Hell. It’s this writer’s favourite movie of the year so far. It’s brutally violent, stunning to look at and surprisingly thoughtful. It’s a film to be experienced rather than picked apart; almost everything you can love in 3 From Hell, you can love by feel. So I tell Bill Moseley that I have seen 3 From Hell and, to prove the point, I tell him ‘You cut your wife’s face off.’
“Yes I do!”
Lucinda Jenney, Moseley’s wife who was rendered just temporarily faceless thanks to the magic of some particularly grim looking special effects, has appeared in movies like Thelma And Louise, Rain Man and Leaving Las Vegas. Movies that are some distance from the likes of The Devil’s Rejects.
“I just thought it was so much fun to welcome her to the dark side,” Moseley tells me with joy in his voice.
Bill Moseley has been a figure on the horror scene for over 30 years. He was cast in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 by Tobe Hooper after Hooper was shown Moseley’s short film The Texas Chainsaw Manicure. Hooper’s sequel, a bizarre and almost cartoonish spin on the original produced by Cannon Films, has evolved into a cult favourite, and at the centre of it is Moseley’s manic turn as spaced out hippy psycho Chop Top.
While he’d go on to feature in several other genre flicks, it was his turn as Chop Top that brought him to the attention of Rob Zombie. Zombie would cast Moseley in his directorial debut House Of 1000 Corpses, another cult hit that would spawn a sequel in The Devil’s Rejects, a stunning film that drew blood from the same vein as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one that served to reignite the Moseley’s career.
Now Moseley is back as Otis in 3 From Hell, his first collaboration with Rob Zombie since his brief appearance in Zombie’s outrageous Grindhouse trailer Werewolf Women Of The SS and a cameo in the bizarro animated feature The Haunted World Of El-Superbeasto. Given the seemingly definitive ending of The Devil’s Rejects, it’s not a return many had anticipated.
“It’s so funny because Sid and I, in the intervening 14 years, had been sitting side by side at many a horror convention and when people would come up to us they’d say ‘So, is there ever gonna be a sequel to Devil’s Rejects?’ and I’d call out to Sid, or he to me, and I’d say ‘Sid!’ And he’d go ‘what?’
‘Is there ever gonna be a sequel to Devil’s Rejects?’ And he’d go ‘No.’
“And then we would count to three and say in unison ‘Because we’re f(a brief cough I let out momentarily obscures the recording)king dead!’
But there was one thing I had not really considered, and that was the bad marksmanship of the Ruggsville Sheriff’s department. At the end of The Devil’s Rejects as you see us driving into a fusillade and getting a couple of hits. Somehow or someway, the Sheriff’s department, they were using rubber bullets or it was the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. So, voila. Part three.”
Director Zombie’s films seem to almost take place in a static world, washed out and populated by dangerous misfits. Yet, while Zombie has been busy making big studio movies (his brutal remake of Halloween and the insane and brilliant sequel, Halloween 2), a collaboration with microbudget specialists Blumhouse (the slow burn spookshow The Lords Of Salem) and a crowdfunded film (the rough and tumble 31), the movie industry has changed dramatically.
3 From Hell was shot in just 20 days. Yet, the film hasn’t particularly shrunk in scope, nor is it a notably shorter film. There was simply less time and fewer resources. And, we assume, more pressure on everyone. Moseley corrects us on that last point.
“You know, not particularly. Once you get going, once the blood starts flowing and you get into the rhythm of the production, whether it’s frenetic or whether it’s slow moving like a glacier, it’s got lots of different speeds. But working with Rob and Sheri, getting back into it, it just seemed to go very smoothly. It didn’t feel like it was rushed. It didn’t feel like we were being asked to do three days work when we were on the set. It just felt perfectly ok.
For an actor the pressure is really about getting the job and so, having already gotten the job, it was really about letting go and turning it over to Rob, which I am happy to do because he’s a great director. He’s a lot of fun to work with. I was just willing to say ‘point me in the right direction’. I guess that’s a long way of saying it didn’t seem like anything was particularly frantic.”
3 From Hell features some of the most bleak, deep-clean-inducing moments of grubby humour in cinema. Whether it’s odd asides from action, such as the elderly witness alternating breaths between an oxygen tank and a cigarette returning a confused wave to Sheri Moon Zombie’s Baby follow a jaw-dropping act of violence, or a turn-the-air-blue ramble through Richard Brake’s new character Foxy’s plans to set up an adult movie studio, there are few jokes in in 3 From Hell that you won’t feel deeply ashamed for laughing at.
Moseley’s most famous horror roles mix horror and comedy, all in different, slightly off-kilter ways. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, as Moseley points out, some of the genres most famous performers have found their greatest successes mixing the two genres.
“I mean I look at Robert Englund doing Freddy Krueger, there’s a lot of comedy in that. Or Bruce Campbell. It does seem to be that a lot of the horror actors have as much to do with comedy as with scaring the wits out of people.”
Moseley certainly raises several laughs with us during the interview. It makes sense that even when chopping your face off he’d be able to bring a few good gags to proceedings.
“Whether it’s Chop Top, Otis, Luigi Largo in Repo, even Johnny in the remake of Night Of The Living Dead, I always play characters who are happy in their work. By that I don’t necessarily mean that they’re happy people, but with Chop Top there’s a glee, with Otis there’s kind of a deadpan, so to speak, sense of humour. But there’s always a sense of humour. Maybe that’s just what I bring as an actor, I don’t know. Maybe that’s my own lubrication, if you will, as I do these characters.”
For Moseley, this interview is taking place in what feels like the final stretch of a particularly gruelling run.
“What a last couple of weeks it’s been with the premier, we had the three-night events screenings of 3 From Hell here stateside, and the very sad passing of Sid Haig. And then I took off last weekend for my high school 50th reunion. It’s like, that’s enough. I’m waving the white flag.”
The passing of Sid Haig hangs over the release of 3 From Hell. While Haig’s Captain Spaulding was originally figured as one of the 3 From Hell, illness meant his role was dramatically reduced. Then, shortly after the movie had its first screenings in the US, came the sad news that Sig Haig had passed away.
“I go to a bunch of horror conventions every year and for the last 15 years I’ve been doing the lion’s share of them with Sid. Sid and I have covered a lot of miles, we’ve had a lot of breakfasts sat beside each other. So that was a tremendous blow to lose him last week,” Moseley tells us.
It’s a difficult conversation. It’s inevitable that we talk about Sid Haig. Moseley seems keen to tell us about his experiences working with him.
“We only had that one scene together in House Of 1000 Corpses but then I had one of the most fun days I’ve ever had working on anything, when Rob called Sid and Sheri and me in to do the DVD menu stuff, the stuff that came on the House Of 1000 Corpses DVD. We just had so much fun working that day doing Easter eggs and just doing our little schtick, dancing around and jumping around.
Working on The Devil’s Rejects was a different deal because then we spent a lot of time together. We had our ‘no ice cream in your future scene’ which was just a classic. We ended up, you know it’s funny because I guess there’s some sort of rivalry when you’re two actors and you always want to be number one to his or her number two, but early on in this whole journey, which I guess began in 2000, I remember Rob pulling me aside not for any particular reason, but just to offer me some insight. He said ‘You know, Captain Spaulding is the Ronald McDonald of the franchise.’”
We share another laugh. That’s Bill Moseley, bringing his sense of humour, this time to real sadness rather than imagined horrors.
“I just remember thinking ‘Yeah, you can’t compete with Ronald McDonald.’ Maybe I’m The Hamburglar.”
3 From Hell is available on Digital Download, Blu-ray and DVD 14th October from Lionsgate UK.
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