On the 26th of December, the UK will be blessed by a great 2 disc ‘Director’s Cut’ DVD of The Devil’s Rejects (courtesy of Momentum) – Rob Zombie’s brutal follow-up to his sleeper hit House of 1000 Corpses. The disc is loaded with goodies, and the 90 minute ‘behind the scenes’ documentary about the making of the movie is a must-see for any self-respecting B-movie buff as such legendary names as Steve Railsback, Ken Foree, Michael Berryman and P.J. Soles are glimpsed in candid and revealing moments.
Kamera caught up with the film’s star Bill Moseley, also famous for his role of Chop Top in Tobe Hooper’s classic sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, for this exclusive chat. A down to earth, pleasant person – this interview took place over coffee in Los Angeles – and Bill could not have been more accommodating or friendly.
How long after the events of House of 1000 Corpses is The Devil’s Rejects supposed to be set?
All I know is that it takes place in the time that it takes me to grow a beard (laughs). I think it is supposed to be about four or five months later.
The DVD for The Devil’s Rejects is unrated – what kind of problems did you have with the MPAA (the US version of the BBFC) in order to secure a theatrical rating?
I think it went to the MPAA eight times – so obviously some cuts have had to be made, but I don’t know how much has been lost due to the ratings board. I do know that a couple of my scenes are pretty extreme, one is a rape scene and the other is a kill scene, and I’m sure that both of these were trimmed quite a bit. It’s funny because I found out that one of the ways you work with the MPAA is on shot selection – so you might keep the scene in there but maybe they will say, ‘We’ll let you do it as long as there are no close-ups,’ or ‘We’ll let you do that in close up but no two-shots or masters,’ so you can just see faces but not what the bodies are doing. So I actually saw evidence of both of those approaches with the finished cut.
What was your impression of The Devil’s Rejects when you saw the finished version on the big screen?
You know, I’m going to have to see it a few more times. Also, when you see something for the first time you think ‘Yeah I remember that day on the set’ and ‘Oh I remember that funny incident by the food truck’- so I’m probably going to need to see it a couple more times. I liked it but I haven’t been able to get a subjective distance from it yet. I ended up seeing House of 1000 Corpses probably at least eight times in the theatre.
Did you pay or did you try and get in for free?
I didn’t get in for free – because I try to support the film. The least I can do is cough up my eight bucks, but with The Devil’s Rejects I might because the price is now closer to about ten bucks… I figure I’ll flash a little ‘I’m Otis’ card or something (laughs).
Why is Karen Black not in the sequel (her character is played by Leslie Easterbrook from the Police Academy series)?
The actors in the first one all worked for what is known as scale plus ten – which is basically minimum wage plus ten for your agent. So I think there was also the understanding, or at least the expectation, that since we all shared the risk of the first movie we would somehow share in the reward. However, sometimes these expectations lead you to expect things that are not going to come… So I think it all came down to money.
Were you surprised when Lion’s Gate opened The Devil’s Rejects in more cinemas than any of their previous releases – and marketed it as a genuine summer blockbuster?
Oh God Bless Lion’s Gate– if it wasn’t for their support of horror movies, first time directors and controversial material like Fahrenheit 9/11… it is probably not a coincidence that they are one of the few studios that still make a lot of money. They know what the public wants to see.
House of 1000 Corpses, and now The Devil’s Rejects, have helped to turn yourself and Sid Haig into genre icons hasn’t it?
I was thinking about that just last night while I was in the local laundrette, putting my load into the dryer (laughs). I’m happy to be unrecognised and to be able to access that once in a while when it is fun. I don’t really get recognised that much – only when there is a big sign at a convention that says, ‘Bill Moseley is here – that guy from that movie.’ What was cool was the other night, at the premiere screening, Sid, Sherri and Ken are all there and they look just like their characters – but I don’t. You know – in real life I have short hair and no beard and I felt like I had to keep saying, ‘Hi, I played Otis’ to people because otherwise they would walk past me.
Do you see yourself coming back for a third movie?
Would I do a third one? It would be kind of hard but, sure – money is thicker than blood.
Let’s talk a little about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 – you got the part of Chop Top because you sent a short video of yourself to Tobe Hooper, is that correct?
Yeah, I did. I made a short, five minute video called The Texas Chain Saw Manicure and I had tried to sell that to Saturday Night Live and they didn’t buy it. So I was deeply in debt because I had edited it at Broadway video which was Saturday Night Live’s production house and I owed the company store a lot of money. And I brought it out with me, because I was covering 2010 – The Space Odyssey sequel for Ombi magazine and they flew me out to Los Angeles. I visited a friend of mine called Peter Simen who ended up writing Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Wild, Wild West – a fabulously successful screenwriter. We were pals from school and I brought along Manicure just to amuse him and his wife because it seemed like there was nothing else to do with it except to maybe prop up a door or something (laughs). He saw it and liked it and said, ‘You know what I have an office just down the hall from Tobe Hooper – would you like me to walk it into him?’ And I said, ‘Sure why not?’ So he did and Tobe liked it and my friend also got me Tobe’s home number and so two weeks after this happened and I was back in New York I called up Tobe and I said, ‘I’m Bill Moseley and I’m the guy that did the Chain Saw Manicure.’ And Tobe said, ‘Oh hell Bill, I loved The Manicure.’ I said, ‘Oh great – I’m glad to hear it because nobody else does.’ Actually I didn’t say that (laughs), but then Tobe said, ‘Who was the guy that played the Hitchhiker?’ I said, ‘Well that was me’ and I literally did a cameo – a ten second cameo – with the wine mark on my face and I bought a hunk of headcheese and actually licked it – which was foul, but got me into the part. I said, ‘We should celebrate with some head cheese’ and that was it – that was what got me the job two years later on Chainsaw 2.
It seems that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is now most famous for its troubled shoot – care to comment on that?
It was – but I wasn’t really a part of all of that turmoil. I was having my own personal struggles… actually I was having a ball (laughs). I guess my own struggle was trying to deal with the fact that the lines were created pretty much right as we were shooting the scene. When we showed up (screenwriter) Kit Carson and Tobe had a script that was about somewhere between 70 and 80 pages long and I don’t think it had a third act. It was missing a lot of stuff and I think they were just thinking, ‘Well we can just wing it?’ This actually turned out to be great for me, because although I didn’t know beforehand – I caught fire with the character and a lot of the stuff was improvised and I’m eternally grateful to Tobe for providing that encouragement and that environment. There was one scene where I’m in the radio station and a lot of that was improvised. I’m in the radio station and I’m beating (the character) LG’s head in and it was hot! It was late, it was June – the lights were hot and it was a closed, small room and there was a lot of blood spraying. Tom Savini was spraying blood out of a little tube coming from LG’s ear at the top of his forehead and it was just a hot and unpleasant scene. We were around take 12 – and the claw hammer, which looks really gnarly, was actually just painted foam rubber with a coat hanger core to it. I remember looking up at Tobe because I thought that I was doing something wrong. So I said to him, ‘Take 12… Am I doing something wrong here?’ And he said, ‘Oh hell no Bill, I’m just having fun watching you.’ And I thought, ‘You know what? That is cool – that is really cool.’
Did the shoot for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 at least end well?
Oh – the last day was a 24 hour day (laughs). I remember that Cannon was pulling the plug on July 4th and we started out July 3rd and literally worked around the clock. The last shot was me chasing Stretch (Caroline Williams) up a ladder and then we emerged onto this matter-horn after running through this tunnel. I remember running through this tube and you were supposed to see this explosion over my shoulder, which is a bomb blowing up our house, and I was really tired. That was the last shot – and there were no guard rails on this stair way that I was supposed to run up and I was supposed to have these technicians explode this pile of dynamite behind me and I was exhausted and starting to get paranoid. I began thinking, ‘They’re saving this for last because it will be good publicity if I blow up. They have all my stuff in the can and they don’t need me anymore.’ So I was worried and they said, ‘Okay, action’ and the technicians were these army nuts – I ran past this pile of debris that was to be exploded, chasing Caroline and the cameras are looking down trying to catch this explosion over my shoulder. It was fine and then I heard Tobe saying, ‘I didn’t see this explosion’ – he has been watching on the monitor and apparently there wasn’t enough of an explosion. So I didn’t know what they were going to use now – plastic explosions or what – but they did the second take and I was totally fear driven… I ran right past thing, my adrenalin pumping, and there was this huge fucking explosion (laughs). It was huge! I didn’t know if my hair was burnt or what but I made it out alive and I was just really grateful… that was crazy.
You know Bill, I was watching the DVD of House of 1000 Corpses and the audition footage… you actually bring a girl to tears in that, and yet you seem such a nice guy sitting here…
Actually, that poor girl – who cried – she got the part (laughs).