Nicholas Vince played The Chattering Cenobite in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound. He also played Kinski in Barker’s Nightbreed, which has found a new audience through ‘The Cabal Cut’; a restoration version much closer to Barker’s original vision for the film.
After working on the movies, Nicholas contributed stories to the Hellraiser and Nightbreed comics published by Marvel. He wrote the Marvel UK comic ‘Warheads’. He was Chairman of the Comics Creators Guild from 1992-93.
He contributed short stories and articles to ‘Fear’ and ‘Skeleton Crew’ magazines, and for the latter created the series of interviews ‘The Luggage in the Crypt’. This featured interviews with Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker.
In 2012, after working in the IT industry for sixteen years, he returned to writing full time with the publication of his short story anthology, ‘What Monsters Do’.
Alex Laybourne: Hi Nicholas,
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Hi Alex. Thanks for calling.
Alex Laybourne: My pleasure. It has taken us a while but I am glad we managed to find time to chat. Barbie Wilde was full of praise for you when we spoke.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Ah, she’s marvelous, isn’t she? I’m always amazed by all of the old photos that appear on her (Facebook) timeline.
Alex Laybourne: She has certainly had an interesting and varied range of experiences. Did you two know each other before filming Hellraiser II?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: No, we met on her first day of filming, when she was jet lagged, at Pinewood Studios. I recall that we chatted for some time that morning.
Alex Laybourne: Most of the cast knew each other from the first movie, right?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: You’re right, Barbie, Ken Cranham and Imogen Boorman were the new guys on the team. They’re all fun people, so we all got on well. In terms of the character, we filmed the early part of the film first (not always the way), so it was the same makeup that I’d worn before. That meant a return to being led around by the hand and having to rehearse the movements.
Alex Laybourne: Did you have any problems slipping back into the character?
I think the first day of filming for the Cenobites on HR2, was our big entrance. I was standing behind the wall which would part to allow us to enter the room where Tiffany was opening the puzzle box. There was a searchlight behind us, shining into the room.
Roy Puddefoot, one of the make up guys, was looking after me and asked if I felt warm.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well, I think we’ll move you,’ he said. ‘You’re smouldering.’
Alex Laybourne: Obviously being a horror movie, the end result is something chilling, but you guys must have had a blast on set together?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Yes, that’s true of all the movies I worked on with Clive Barker. There was usually a great atmosphere on set. Again, because Clive used the same crew behind the camera as in front on Hellraiser, Hellbound and Nightbreed; we all knew the way he worked and how much the movies meant to the audiences.
Alex Laybourne: You and Clive have known each other for a long time now right; before the movies?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: That’s right; we first met in May 1984.
Alex Laybourne: The month and year of my birth. Was it your friendship that led to you starring in his movies?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Gosh, you are young. I was just about to turn 26, when I met Clive. He very generously involved all his mates as monsters in Hellraiser. Simon and Doug had done theater with him and I’d modeled for the covers for ‘The Books of Blood’.
Which day in May?
Alex Laybourne: 31st,
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Ah, I’m 23rd.
Alex Laybourne: That would have been something… a shared birthday.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Yes, I share mine with Joan Collins. Simon Bamford shares his with Lawrence Olivier. It means nothing, I’m sure … (Alex – I share mine with Clint Eastwood and Colin Farrell)
Alex Laybourne: I had noticed that Clive used a lot of people who were, shall we say, unknown before the Hellraiser movies. He is somewhat of an idol and inspiration to me as a writer. Did you you ever have any idea when you started filming exactly how iconic the movie would be? Was there ever a feeling on set that this movie could become something timeless in the genre?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Clive had already published ‘The Books of Blood’ in 1984, with the tag line by Steven King; “I have seen the future of horror. His name is Clive Barker.” ‘Raw Head Rex’ and ‘Underworld’ had already been filmed, badly. So, we knew that Clive was talented and has a fearsome imagination and that he was determined that Hellraiser would be what he wanted it to be.
Alex Laybourne: I have read all of the Books of Blood and think they are some of the finest pieces I have ever read. They border on poetry at some points. Aside from Clive’s movies, you have not done much other acting work, instead you chose to leave the industry and get a ‘real’ job. Was this a conscious decision on your part?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Yes, I consciously wanted to eat and have a roof over my head. OK, there’s more to it than that. I felt that there was more I wanted to say, so I swapped acting for writing and then eventually left comics for computers.
Alex Laybourne: Yes, you never truly left the horror world; you worked on both Nightbreed and Hellraiser comics, correct?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: That’s right. Talk about sweet talking your way into a gig. I used the money from Nightbreed to visit the USA for the first time and bowled up to the Marvel offices, asking to speak to Dan Chichester, the editor of the Hellraiser comics. I pitched him a story, which he bought. The only thing was that I then had to admit I had no idea what a comic script looked like.
Alex Laybourne: I guess knowing Clive on a personal level helps you understand the direction he was aiming for with his work. I guess that kind of ‘insider knowledge’ goes above all others.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: That’s right. I visited Marvel with Clive’s encouragement to write; and also the encouragement of Neil Gaiman and later John Bolton. In terms of the mythos which Clive had created in Hellraiser and Nightbreed, again he’s always been very generous with those of us working on the comics etc. So, I always felt I could ask him for advice on something, but mostly he wanted us to have fun and bring our own mark to the comics.
Alex Laybourne: That is quite the backing. I can imagine that freedom being a great liberation; contributing to something with an existing legacy, but few constraints in terms of what had already been.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Yes, I’m just very grateful that I was lucky enough to be involved in both the movies and the comics.
Alex Laybourne: I can imagine. Did you also contribute to the Hellbound Hearts anthology? I know Barbie and Paul (Kane) did.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Indeed. My story was ‘Demon’s Design’, which brings me full circle to walking into Dan Chichester’s office at Marvel. The story I pitched was bought, but never published. I think it was handed to an artist, but the pages didn’t materialize. So, waste not, want not. I used the story I pitched as the springboard for Demon’s Design.
Alex Laybourne: There is no point in letting any good story go to waste
Nicholas Burman-Vince: That’s right. In the original story, the puzzle box was made out of human bodies; as sort of giant infernal game of twister. That became something bigger in the story after I’d seen the turbine hall at Tate Modern.
Alex Laybourne: I have not had the pleasure of seeing it myself, but I will certainly check it out. Do you still speak to Clive or any of the others from the franchise at all?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: I hope to see Clive in the next couple of months, as I’m planning a trip to the US and want to spend some time in LA. Barbie I see when she’s in London – in fact I bumped into her in her local Boots store, last month. Simon Bamford I’ve seen quite a lot of recently as we’ve been supporting the screenings of ‘The Cabal Cut’. Doug I’ll usually see if I’m doing a convention in the USA. It’s unusual, I think, to be able to keep such good friendships going over so many years, based on some acting we did together in the early ’80’s.
Alex Laybourne: I think it is a testament to you all; true friendship survives the tests of time.
Alex Laybourne: Can you tell me a little about what you are working on currently?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: At the moment, after a long break to deal with my father’s ill health and passing at the beginning of April (my condolences on your father’s passing); I’m working on ‘Other People’s Darkness and Other Stories’. This is my second volume of short stories, following on from ‘What Monsters Do’.
Alex Laybourne: What sort of stories can we expect to find in your collections?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Well, they are for over 16’s only; particularly the first volume. Zombiehamster.com said of ‘What Monsters Do’, the stories are: “… a range of stories which will delight, disgust and terrify. An erudite, charming and brutal examination of relationships, obsession and ghastliness…”
Alex Laybourne: Well that has me hooked already.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Some of the monsters are ‘traditional’, with a twist and others are very human.
Alex Laybourne: I like a good mix of monsters I did the same with my collection. Nowadays, short stories are not commonly used by debut authors. How things have changed since the 1980’s. What was it about this form of writing that hooked you?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: It is how I got into horror in the first place. I grew up reading the ‘Pan Book of Horror’ and collections edited by Peter Haining and then moved to reading Dennis Wheatley with a torch under the bedclothes.
Alex Laybourne: I love short stories, and would love to see them complete their come back.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: There’s an interesting interview with Stephen King, where he recommends aspiring authors start with short stories.
Alex Laybourne: Are you also planning on making the move into novels, or longer length fiction?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: The stories in the second volume have higher word counts than those in the first volume, so I think I’ll do a novella, rather than a novel first.
Alex Laybourne: I think it is very good advice, mastering the short story helps you master the art of story telling. All the best authors did it; Clive and Stepgen King to name just two. Speaking of great writers, who would say have been the biggest influence on your own work?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Apart from Clive, H H Munro, aka, Saki, who is the master of the short, short story. Terry Pratchett is who I usually read last thing at night, as I can’t read horror at night, or I don’t sleep. I’ve just read ‘The Psycopath Test’ by Jon Ronson and I’m reading his ‘Lost At Sea’. I’m also reading first hand accounts of a V2 rocket that landed in New Cross Road, London, in 1944, killing 160 people.
Alex Laybourne: I have not read any Munro, but Clive and Terry Pratchett are certainly inspirational figures. Are you a genre reader, or do you have wide ranging tastes?
Nicholas Burman-Vince: I mostly read non-fiction and I’m sitting here looking at my ‘books to read shelf’ which has approximately 20 books on it. I read a lot of fiction, fantasy and horror, but now I am more interested in non-fiction. It is a more fertile ground for inspiration. Unfortunately, I don’t read as much as I’d like. You’ve just reminded me of when I realized my own mortality, i.e. that I too would die; around the age of 6 years. My first thought was; but that means I can’t read every book published and I remember being very depressed by that thought.
Alex Laybourne: I thinking finding time to read is something a lot of people struggle with. I know I do. Maybe this is another reason for more writers to write short stories.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: Good point.Alex Laybourne: To draw things to a close, I guess I will end everything by saying thank you for your time. It was a pleasure and an honor talking to you.
Nicholas Burman-Vince: You too Alex. And, before I forget, I meant to mention the other thing about the Cenobite actors, is that it’s great we’re doing such interesting things. Barbie’s written her wildly, (or should that be ‘Wildely’? No. No it shouldn’t) popular book ‘The Venus Complex’, Doug Bradley’s still making movies and Simon Bamford was in a movie with Tony Todd, as well as doing some voice over work. Plus Simon reviews for ‘The Stage’ newspaper over here. It really is such a privilege to have worked with not only Clive and the talented, talented guys from Image Animation, but also my lovely Cenobite Chums. It also means we get to meet and talk to such interesting people as yourself.
You can find Nicholas Vince on Facebook, Twitter or through his blog
Grab your copy of ‘What Monsters Do’ here