Being a fan of horror, you can only imagine my delight at being able to sit down and interview a Cenobite. My guest today however is much more than that, she is a horror loving, actress and writer who is not afraid to take on the horror world… and win. When the interview was confirmed I had to pinch myself to make sure it was true.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure (and a beaming smile) that I get to introduce you to Ms. Barbie Wilde.
As always, I like to start things off with a nice general opening question, so please Barbie, tell us a little about yourself?
Well, I was born in Canada and raised in the United States: Spokane WA, Utica and Syracuse NY. I moved to London, England to study acting and art history a long time ago and I’ve had a rather strange career: mime artist, actress, TV presenter, casting director and now writer. I’ve appeared in a few movies: most notably as the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, as well as a nasty thug in the late Michael Winner’s Death Wish III starring Charles Bronson.
I think it is fair to say that I couldn’t do an interview without mentioning Hellraiser (II) do you every get tired of being asked about it?
No, it’s inevitable, as Hellraiser is what I’m best known for. And I don’t mind, as it isn’t every day that an actress gets to play a demon from hell that’s as stylish and nasty as the Female Cenobite.
What is your fondest memory of being on set?
The ever-so-patient make-up crew (Mark, LittleJohn, Geoff, Roy and others) and my fellow actors: Nicholas, Simon, Doug, Ken, Clare and Ashley. The cenobites in particular had to keep each other’s spirits up, as being in that kind of prosthetic makeup all day is pretty exhausting. Geoff has posted a bizarre video of the cenobites relaxing behind the scenes on Youtube: Simon (Butterball) Bamford is doing the Can Can and I’m singing Mein Herr from Cabaret – in full cenobite makeup and costume. Insane stuff.
Do you still talk to any of the people from the movie?
All the time – and of course, we hook up at horror conventions throughout the year.
I have long been an admirer of Clive Barker’s work. Have you read many of his books?
I re-read The Hellbound Heart a few years ago when I was asked to write a short horror story for the Hellbound Hearts Anthology. All the stories were based on Clive’s mythology that he created for the original novella. I loved reading The Hellbound Heart again. Clive’s writing is so muscular, sexy, funny and scary. What’s not to love? And of course, I’ve enjoyed his short stories like ‘The Body Politic’ and novels such as Weaveworld.
Did you have to audition for the role?
Yes, my agent sent me to a casting session in Earl’s Court in London. Very odd – it was the first time that I’ve ever been to a house painted completely black on the outside. I auditioned for Tony Randel, the director of the movie. I think that it was the fact that I knew what a cenobite was that got me the job.
How does one become a cenobite?
Days of makeup tests and having my head cast for the prosthetics. Four hours in makeup and a half an hour to get into the costume for the filming days. Then you have to get into character, which wasn’t that difficult: all I had to do was look in the mirror! It was extraordinary seeing myself as a Female Cenobite for the first time. Quite inspiring for the part, but disturbing as well.
Let’s not be coy, you are part of Horror history, yet you didn’t make many movies after Hellraiser II. Do you have any further aspirations to get before the camera?
I moved from acting to TV presenting and doing some fringe theatre work after Hellraiser II. (Actually, the same time I was filming Hellraiser II, I was doing a video review program on ITV.) However, acting “left me behind” as thespians say, in my mid-to-late thirties, which is when I got into the casting business. However, during all this time, I was always writing.
I suppose that I would act again if the right part came along… But to be frank, I’m more interested in directing and writing than acting now.
I don’t want to dwell on the Hellraiser trail for too long, otherwise this interview may never end, so one final question if I may. In the Hellbound Heart, the Lead Cenobite was a female character. Do you think the movies would have been accepted, or viewed in a different light had this characterization been kept?
I loved the idea of the Lead Cenobite being female in the novella. However, I can see why that character was changed for the film, as there were two very powerful female parts already featured: Julia and Kirsty. (Although a Female Cenobite-Julia face-off would have been glorious to see!) After all, there were a fair amount of strong women roles around in the 80s: Ripley in Alien and Sarah Connor in Terminator to name just two. And of course, there’s Kirsty Cotton, who was voted one of the “5 Horror Heroes That Survived Against All Odds” by Bloody Disgusting.
It’s interesting to note that the producers at the time thought that it was Julia’s character that would run and run into future franchises. However, it was Pinhead that captured people’s imagination. Personally, it’s Julia that I truly adore: all that sexual obsession and passion. Fabulous!
One of the reasons that I wrote ‘Sister Cilice’, my short story for the Hellbound Hearts Anthology, was to explore the world of cenobites from a female perspective. (The story is about the metamorphosis of a sex-starved nun into a powerful Female Cenobite.) After all, why should guys have all the fun!
Do you feel that there is a misconception surrounding women in horror, both in terms of in front of the camera and behind the written word?
I think it’s time to move on from the torture porn aspect of horror (in other words, women being perceived solely as screaming victims) and for those of us involved in horror to become a bit more adventurous and imaginative again.
One of the most disturbing films in recent memory for me was Pan’s Labyrinth. The protagonist was a little girl, but she was so soulful and intelligent. The ending of the film was devastating, but I didn’t feel that I was watching something exploitative, like the usual “half-dressed teens in peril in a cabin in the woods” fodder.
People like the Soska Sisters (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary), Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird, Self-Portrait) and Devi Snively (Death in Charge, Trippin’) are showing that women can be strong in front of and behind the cameras and that’s a very good sign.
And speaking personally, I’ve written a book that’s strictly from the viewpoint of a man who decides to become a sexual serial killer — and the book’s received pretty good reviews, so my sex didn’t seem to be a problem for those reviewers. However, if I’d just been promoting my book as being by the mime artist who taught a famous UK children’s TV show puppet called Sooty how to do the robot, or as the performer who danced with venerable comedians Morecambe and Wise in a pink clown suit, I may have had a problem! Luckily, I was able to get people’s attention because of my background in horror. (Although one reviewer did dismiss me as “the chick who played the Female Cenobite in Hellraiser II”. Luckily, he was very apologetic later on in the review because he had to admit that “the chick” could write!)
However, the truth is that it’s a man’s world and men do dominate the genre. It just means that the women have to work harder… as always…
You have lived in a lot of different places during your life; Canada, US, London, Thailand and India. Which one of those countries, or any of the others you have spent time in, has had the biggest impact on you?
I’ve never lived in Thailand or India, I just worked in those places: my 80s dance-mime-music group Shock did a residency in a nightclub in Bangkok and I played a robotic dancer in a Bollywood movie called Janbazz. I would say that the UK is where I began my professional life and that’s the place that has had the biggest impact on me.
Would you consider relocating again or have you found your home, as they say?
I have no idea where I’ll end up! Some place with palm trees, hopefully.
In the past, you yourself have interviewed some of the biggest names in music; Cliff Richard, John Lydon, and also more than a few movie stars. What was it like meeting those people?
Most people in the biz are professional, funny, intelligent folks, so it was a real pleasure to meet everyone that I interviewed over the years. (My favs were Cliff, John, Nicolas Cage and The B52s.) The only person who was a little unresponsive was Hugh Grant, but I think he was a bit jet-lagged when I interviewed him!
As an actress yourself, did you ever find yourself tongue tied talking to fellow artists?
Absolutely! Anyone can get a bit star-struck. I think it’s when you have to work with people that you’ve got to get over that, or it gets in the way of your job. I met Dirk Benedict once at a convention a few years ago and was a bit overwhelmed. (Hello, it’s Face from The A Team!) He was a very nice guy, but quite disillusioned about being known for only a couple of things that he’s done in his life, rather than for his whole body of work. Unfortunately, that’s show biz! So I scolded him at the bar for being depressed about starring at the convention. Scolding a star is a sure way to break the ice.
Do you prefer to ask or answer interview questions?
I like doing both.
You have written several published short stories, but your first novel was published at the end of last year. Did you find it a challenge to move from Short fiction to novels?
Actually, most of the short stories (Uranophobia, American Mutant, Polyp) came after or at the same time as finishing the novel, which took a while to write, so it was more the other way around.
I love writing short fiction because you have to be very disciplined: get your idea, do your research, flesh it out and keep it brief. It’s a good exercise for writing longer works as well.
Can you tell us a little about The Venus Complex?
I love the description and review that Paul Kane wrote for me the best, so I’ll quote him:
“After purposefully killing his wife in a car accident, art professor Michael Friday finds his perspective on things has become a little…warped. Via his personal journal, we’re allowed into his mind to slowly watch the disintegration of it, bearing witness to his unnerving sexual cravings and ideas about killing: intertwined with the paintings he loves so much. As Michael writes, he’s “turning into something dead”; but at the same time he wants to be somebody, not a nobody.
Using his diary to rant against the world in general – including everything from banks to popular culture, from national holidays like Christmas to politics – he reveals more about the big, gaping hole in his own life. But as the novel goes on the first person narrative tensely builds up, displaying his dark dreams and innermost thoughts; his way of filling that void and presenting his grisly “works of art” to the world. As intelligent and cultured as Hannibal, easily as disturbing as American Psycho and infinitely less ‘reassuring’ than Dexter, this is a sexually-charged real life horror story that will definitely stay with you.”
How long did it take you to write?
It took a while, as I wasn’t able to work on it every day. I also wanted my extensive research to make the book as real and believable as possible. I read around 60 books about forensics, homicide detection, serial killers, forensic psychology, art and alchemy. I also interviewed a few forensic psychologists and a homicide detective from the Manhattan North Police Precinct.
As the subject matter would suggest, the book is certainly dark in all the right places. I hear that this led to some, shall we say ‘sticking points’ along the publication trail. Is that correct?
It took a while to find a publisher (Comet Press) that understood me, that’s for sure. But I’m pleased to say that The Venus Complex is getting some great reviews from some well-respected publications, so it was worth the wait.
I love a dark character, I think the more flawed they are the more realistic. However, it is rare to find a main protagonist that is, in essence the villain. Did you always want to write a book from that point of view?
I did start out writing from the third person, following the character of the female forensic psychologist who was assisting on a serial killer case. In the end, however, I got a bit bored. I wanted to step away from the more traditional format. I also wanted to get into the killer’s head and follow his journey from “zero to psycho”, as I put it. And it was a very interesting voyage, as I had to start all over again, writing in the first person from the viewpoint of my Art History professor and serial killer, Michael Friday.
What are you currently working on?
A lot of people are asking about a sequel to The Venus Complex, so I’m considering some ideas there. I’m working on some short stories and co-writing the book and screenplay for a musical drama. I’ve got a vampire novel on the back burner, because I want people to get over the whole sparkly, vanilla vampire trend. I’m also working with Eric Gross of The Followers of the Pandorics on ‘The Cilicium Pandoric’. I’ve written a short story to accompany it, which is a kind of “further adventures” of my character Sister Cilice. You can check out the Pandoric and my story here:
I’ve also got two more short stories coming out in two different anthologies: ‘A is for Alpdrück’ in the Demonologia Biblica (Western Legends Publishing) and ‘Beauty and the Skell’ in The Screaming Book of Crime (Screaming Dreams Publishing).
Which author has inspired you the most, have you learned the most from, either through their writings or in person?
I could never focus on just one writer, but here’s my top five: Patricia Highsmith, Ernest Hemingway, Colin Wilson (for his non-fiction crime books), Clive Barker and Raymond Chandler.
Be gentle on this next one, for I am currently self-publishing a short horror story series while waiting for my second novel to be released, but what are your thoughts on the exploding self-publishing industry and ‘Indie’ author phenomenon?
The publishing industry has changed for all time now. I’m not one of those writers who look down on self-published authors, as too many of my friends are doing that. (I even tried myself a few years back, but I got ripped off by the self-publishing company.)
If you can get your work out there, get some attention and sell some books, then more power to your elbow — as my Dad used to say. My only advice would be to make sure that someone edits the work properly, as a lot of complaints about self-publishing seem to center around grammatical and spelling errors.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Lunar by Paul Kane, an author whose work I really admire. (And of course, my editor on Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror.) I’ve got so many books on my Kindle that I really want to get down to, but time is my enemy! Here are some titles:
The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez (one of the books used as the basis of the film ARGO)
The Steel Valentine by Joe Landsdale
The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell
ScriptShadow Secrets by Carson Reeves
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Not a problem! I enjoyed the interview!
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