It's an iconic horror image that's proven inescapable for Barbara Crampton, the much-beloved cult actress and scream queen: being secured to a cold operating table while a demented, re-animated severed head licks at her with perverted glee, supported by it's deceased, but very much active former body. Luckily, the spirited actress is quick to inform all her fans and interviewers alike that scenes like this from Re-Animator may make your average, run of the mill actress run for the nearest phone to promptly fire their agents, but she welcomed it. Barbara Crampton was to be something more than more tits 'n ass slasher fodder, a pitfall often met by young actresses of the time.
This adventurous attitude lead her from the bubbly land of soap operas like Days Of Our Lives to more fruitful work with the team of Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and legendary genre actor Jeffrey Combs on what has become the more seminal genre titles of their time, with a fan base that still grows to this day. Of the fondly remembered projects on her impressive resume - aside from Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator, of course - most notable are From Beyond and Castle Freak. After a hiatus from the film industry to focus on family she is now back on our screens, having been cast in Adam Wingard's mysterious slasher You're Next and Rob Zombie's newest project, the eagerly anticipated Lords Of Salem.
So, what's the word on Lords Of Salem?
It's sort of like The Exorcist with great music, you know, it's a possession film for today's audience.
Can you talk about your character?
Well first of all I have to tell you that my scenes were deleted so I'm not in it any more! If you look on IMBD you'll see that about six people's scenes got deleted. He used a lot of people for cameos which he normally does but then I think in the editing room they decided to go a different way, focus a different way so they cut a lot of us out which we're all sad about. It was a great experience working with him. I love his films, The Devil's Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses, I love both of those, I thought they were brilliant. I was really nervous and excited to work with him. I was on the set really just for one day. I found him to be very collaborative and communicative He allowed us to ad lib a bit and add our own stuff. He was very chatty and very comfortable on the set. He was a real pleasure to be around..maybe I'll get another chance, I'll actually be on the screen! I think in the final version there is one close up of me. You'll see me and think 'oh there's an extra that looks like Barbara Crampton.. Oh, it is Barbara Crampton'!
Can you tell us what you ended up doing?
I don’t think I should.. I actually signed a confidentiality agreement where I'm not supposed to talk about what I did on the set and I'm sure that will be in the DVD extras, all of us cut out. I don’t think that Rob will want me to talk about it. I'll just say that it was very fun and interesting and everyone will be very shocked at what I did. It's pretty radical.
So you've got You're Next ready to be released...
Yeah it was almost two years ago I made that movie. It's coming out in the States on August 23rd. I don't know if you guys have a release date for that where you are now..
Is it a starring role?
Yeah its a really good role. I have a really nice role in that one. I hadn’t really been acting that much for the last twelve years or so. I moved up to San Francisco with my husband and sort of left Los Angeles behind and had two kids back to back. I was really busy, and have been still, raising them and volunteering at their school and being a mom. Two years ago out of the blue my agent called me and said, “Somebody wants you to play the mom in a horror movie!” I said “Well, who's that?” and he told me who they were, Simon Barrett is the writer, Adam Wingard the director and Keith Calder and Jessica Wu, the producers. They said, “You're gonna have four kids and a few significant others, you all meet up at a family reunion, things go wrong and there's a mad killer on the loose.”
I said, “Okay, but let me read the script!” I read the script and thought this is great, its a really good script I'd love to do it but don't they want me to come in and meet with them at least? Nobody's seen me in many years! I had a semi retirement in a way, I wasn't thinking about acting at all. They said no, they just wanna hire you! Two weeks later I was on a plane, I went to Missouri and shot the film with these guys. There's some really talented people involved in this. Ti West who's a director himself plays a part in the movie. Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg who all just wrapped a film directed by Ti West and produced by Eli Roth called The Sacrament. It was such a wonderful experience. Everybody brought so much to it and it came to life. I saw it at the Toronto film festival and I couldn't believe how good it was. It was just fantastic! We've gotten great reviews from all the different film festivals and they're going to show it at South by South West in a couple of weeks again, to create some buzz for the première in August. There's another guy in it, Joe Swanberg, he plays one of my sons. He's been directing movies and he is hilarious in it! It's a very, kind of, dark movie but it's also very funny. The girl who really has the leading role in it is Sharni Vinson, she was in some of the Step Up'movies, she's from Australia. This is a career making role for her and she nails it. After this, people are going to want to see much more of her. You wont believe how good she is in it.
Going back to your first big role – it was for Brian DePalma's Body Double.
When I first auditioned for that movie, there were a lot more scenes involved! I think it was the day before shooting that they said pretty much every scene is cut except for that one scene. I thought, I wish I had a little more to do but working with Brian will definitely be a great opportunity and I'm sure it will lead to working with him again! But it never did! We had a great time, again that was a cameo role for me so I was only on set for one day. We probably did that scene sixty times! It was long, I mean, for hours we did that scene, just to get different looks.
What was the direction like for a scene like that?
It was so long ago its hard to remember but I don’t really remember him giving me that much direction for it, just “keep doing it, and do it differently” and see what happened and he would try for the best take.
Re-Animator was pretty extreme for its time. What was your initial reaction on reading the script?
Definitely extreme but anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a shy person. The boldness of it did not bother me at all. I thought it was funny, cool and so outrageous! I loved that aspect of it! We all got to rehearse about four weeks before we started filming so we all got to know each other pretty well and I think that added a lot to our relationships with one another. I think the film is so popular because of Jeffrey Combs and what he brought to that character. If somebody else had played that part it would have been a different movie. That was a star making role for him. We all had to rise to his level – hopefully we did. I think between he and Stuart Gordon on that movie –
I feel that Bruce [Abbott] and I were along for the ride! I was able to be in such a wonderful film and something that people remember! Its thirty years now since we made that movie and its still so popular! A lot of people that I meet at conventions, they’re twenty years old and they say 'I just saw this movie and I love it!' It’s quite gratifying , really.
Do think your past work and cult status is why the film industry still calls for you?
Well yeah, I think that's why, especially being away from the business in the last ten years, I'm kind of back in it now, the kids are a little grown up a bit and I think I can work a little bit more. I'm sure that's why the people from You're Next called me, because of the cult status of Re-Animator and quite possibly From Beyond.
I noticed there's a deleted scene on YouTube for Bride Of Re-Animator with your character Megan Halsey – but it’s not you. Why didn’t you come back for that?
In Bride Of Re-Animator, I didn’t really have much to do. I wasn’t really there. They did ask me to play Megan for that one deleted but at the time my agent thought it was too small a part..actually now, thinking back on something like that, I probably would have done it. He suggested that I shouldn’t do it and I thought, “Oh, Okay. I shouldn't do it because it's so small”' and I had such a big part in the other one... I think that was kind of silly, thinking back on it. If somebody asked me today to play that part in Bride, I would have done it. If Stuart had written it and directed it, his theory was that – and I don’t want to misquote him – he wanted Bruce and I to live as a couple, and I was to be the re-animated bride.
You also appeared in a pictorial for Playboy called “Simply Beastly.”
Yeah, they approached me because I think From Beyond was getting a lot of attention at the time and they wanted to do something monstrous. I'm not sure if it came around at Halloween time, it may have..I'd already shown everything and they were going to take some beautiful photographs of me and make it lovely. We were going back to Italy to shoot it and I thought,why not? That would be fun! At the time my manager said that a lot of people that had done these pictorials, it really advanced their career..of course it didn’t advance my career at all but I still have that legacy. I got to meet Hugh Hefner and get my picture taken with him and get his autograph. Its a very, widely read and respected, loved magazine.
You met Hugh Hefner? No way!
Yeah, I went to the mansion! It was really fun. I went to a party there shortly after I did the pictorial. Then I went back one other time. Its an amazing place and he's an icon himself, so I didn’t have an misgivings about doing it at all. I enjoyed it, very much so.