I was over in Manchester at Grimmfest recently and got the chance to do a short interview with Barbara Crampton. She is best known for her roles in cult classics like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Chopping Mall, Body Double and many others. More recently she has had a career resurgence in indie horror flicks like Beyond The Gates, Dead Night, You’re Next and the absolutely brilliant Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
What’s a memory from Re-Animator that you’ve never shared before ?
Oh Jeez, how can you ask me that after 35 years? There’s nothing else to say. We did a lot of cocaine. How about that? I’ve only said that a couple of times. I think I’ve said everything I needed to say. But, if you really want to know, we did. Only because we had to stay up, and it was the ’80s. Most movies, they shoot for 10 hours a day, and Stuart Gordon would never stop filming. He just kept saying “No, we’re not done, we have to do more of this, and more of this”. We went overtime every day on the film, and we’d shoot about 14 to 16 hours a day. It was getting towards the end, and it was right before Christmas, and we had to get done, and I think the last day we shot for 24 hours. So, I think the last week, I don’t know who it was, one of us or all of us, we said “We gotta stay up, we can’t go to sleep”, and for energy, if you must know, yes, that’s about it. But apart from that, I think I’ve said everything.
What was your experience of working on Chopping Mall, which is one of my favourites? I just saw Office Uprising, and that definitely had a bit of Chopping Mall in there…
Ah, I didn’t see that.
It’s like Office Space meets Dawn Of The Dead.
Oh, ok. well, Chopping Mall was super fun. All young people on the movie. I met Kelli Maroney on that set, and we’re still friends today, really the best of friends. It was all shot all in the evening, when the mall was closed down. I didn’t realise that when I got the call sheet. It was my first-night shoot, which I’d never done in my life. I thought, for a normal movie they’d call us to work, y’know at 7 or 8 in the morning, but every day our call time was like 5 or 6 in the evening, right before the stores closed down, and I didn’t realise that. So, my first day I was like “We’re doing a night shoot ?” So for 3 and a half weeks, I showed up every evening for work and I’d never done that before in my life. Quite hard to adjust, but super fun with all the kids on the film. I was pretty young at the time, Jim Wynorski was crazy and wonderful at the same time. It was silly, and cheeky, as you would say. Kind of a cheesy movie, and I think we knew it was a little bit of a cheesy movie. There was this famous movie out called Valley Girl and people were talking with this valley girl accent, and they said “You’re gonna be the valley girl. The dumb chick valley girl. That’s you, Barbara, that’s your character”. So, I was like “ok, I know what I’m doing”. We don’t really make movies with this “Valley Girl” moniker anymore.
Yeah, it was a very specific time…
It was a specific time when we made fun of people who lived in L.A and were, sort of, vacuous females. I remember thinking, at the time, haven’t we done enough of these movies, where somebody plays the typical valley girl? Well, I guess not. Anyway, that was me, and I had really dumb lines like “Hey, babe…it is babe, isn’t it?” Or, “They’re trying to French Fry us”. I had these silly lines of dialogue, and I was thinking “How do I make this sound real ?” But, y’know, you do the best you can, and surprisingly, that movie has really stood the test of time, mostly because I think it’s just a really fun, throwback, silly kind of movie.
I think there’s some good satire thrown in there, as well and I think that elevates it compared with other films of that time. What’s your memory of working on From Beyond, because that’s my favourite of Stuart Gordon’s movies.
Really? More than Re-Animator? Wow…ok, why do you like it more?
It has more of a Lovecraft element to it.
You know, for me at that time, it was a great part. I played a scientist, psychologist, doctor, trying to save a man and understand what happened and then became, kind of, the mad scientist herself and then went crazy at the end of the movie. So, I got to do a lot of things in the space of that one film that I don’t think was offered to a lot of women, at that time. Aliens came out around the same time, so Sigourney Weaver also had a great part in that film, and Linda Hamilton did The Terminator around that time, but there still wasn’t a lot of movies being offered with these big, substantial roles for women collectively so I really felt like it was a gift to me that they asked me to do the movie. The whole totality of the part was something I was really grateful for.
Stuart wanted me to play the part in the movie because we’d worked so well on Re-Animator together, and he knew that I was not afraid to go places that no man has gone before or no woman has gone before! So, he asked Jeffrey (Combs) to be in the movie, as well, but there was some pushback from people, maybe it was Charlie Band, but I’d heard they’re not sure if you’re old enough to play this part, if you have the gravity to play this part, because it was quite different from my role in Re-Animator and I was only 26 or so, so perhaps I was kinda young. But, Stuart was like “No, no, no…we’re gonna put Barbara’s hair back, we’re going to put glasses on her and make her look older, more mature and I tried to use a deeper voice, and just tried to make myself and people believe that I could carry that role and do it. So, just the fact that I got to play that role was great, and it was my first time in Italy, and because Re-Animator had done so well on such a small budget, they gave us five times, or six times the budget for From Beyond and we had a lot more time to shoot, and some of the greatest special effects people who are working in the world today started on that movie, so it was a really great time for all of us.
So, given your track record in genre cinema, do you ever feel like you get typecast?
No, I don’t. I feel like I did in the beginning of my career, yes, playing the screaming young femme fatale fighting for her life, right? Except for From Beyond. That was an anomaly. That film was different from the other movies I was cast in. But, now that I’ve gotten older and I’ve come back to working again, since coming back with You’re Next, I feel like lately I’ve been offered the greatest roles of my career… We Are Still Here, and Sun Choke, Beyond The Gates. I feel like the roles now are more multi-layered and deep, and probably more befitting my age. But, thank God I’m still around and I have the opportunity to play these roles. Now, I feel like I’m getting some roles I can actually sink my teeth into.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich should be out soon and yes it lives up to the title.