She’s gorgeous, she’s talented, she’s charismatic…she’s Barbara Crampton! After making her first film appearance in Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984) she made a much bigger (& bloodier) splash in director Stuart Gordon’s seminal shocker Re-Animator (1985). She continued on to appear in films such as From Beyond (1986), Castle Freak (1995) & Space Truckers (1996) all directed by Mr. Gordon. She’s also appeared in films as varied as Chopping Mall (1986), Trancers II (1991), Robot Wars (1993) & The Lords Of Salem (2013). In addition to all of those (& many more) film appearances, she’s appeared in countless TV shows over the years and after a hiatus she’s back & delivering the goods as Aubrey in You’re Next (2013), director Adam Wingard’s entry into the “Home Invasion” genre that’s been stunning critics and audiences worldwide with its no holds barred attack on the senses! In anticipation of its forthcoming release on DVD/Bluray she was gracious enough to spend a little time with me to talk about what brought her back to the big screen, why she plans on sticking around for a few more years & why she liked a little film called The Lords Of Salem …
Horrornews.net – I was watching the interviews that were included as an extra on the You’re Next bluray and you mentioned that you had essentially retired from acting before you got this part. What was it about this particular script that made you decide to come back to the big screen?
Barbara Crampton – I didn’t mean to retire! Around the time I got married my husband got transferred with his job and we moved to San Francisco. We then proceeded to have two children back to back immediately afterward and it just sort of happened. I wasn’t in the L.A. scene anymore & wasn’t really thinking about acting anymore, I was focused on raising my children so it just sort of happened naturally. And so when I got the call for this role I felt like that sort of happened naturally as well! Somebody called and asked if I was interested, I got the script, read it and thought it was a very good script. I then got some information about the producers, Keith Calder & Jessica Wu, as I didn’t really know them and then I watched some of director Adam Wingard’s earlier work. Then I thought that it looked like a fun movie to be a part of and I hadn’t done a movie in a while, my children were a little bit older too so why not do it for fun? Sort of like a little vacation from motherhood!
Then I got on the set and found that I was working with all of these wonderful and extremely bright collaborators like Ti West, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett & AJ Bowen! These are all people I have immense respect for and the whole shoot went so well and I had so much fun that I realized that maybe I wanted to act again so now I find myself doing a few more projects. I’m not trying to come back…I wasn’t really trying to leave, it all happened naturally. I never really thought about working that hard on my career I guess…it just sort of happened to me. The things that have happened to me in my life just sort of came about. I wanted to be an actress in Hollywood so that’s what I did, I wanted to be a mom and I just sort of did that. Now it just happened that some talented people were kind enough to think “Whatever happened to Barbara Crampton?” so they sought me out and gave me a role in their film. It’s just a really lucky thing for me that they thought of me & called me.
HNN: In the film you play the role of Aubrey, a mother whose four children are now adults. An older woman as opposed to the image a lot of your fans might have of you…
BC: The young femme fatale!
HNN: Exactly! Did you have any issues with coming back in a role you’re not normally associated with?
BC: [Thoughtfully] Not really…maybe only for a moment. I was thinking that I used to be the ingénue, the young girl in the movies and now here I am playing the mother role but it was only for a minute. I really don’t have any issues with my age, I always tell people how old I am…I just celebrated my 55th birthday actually.
BC: Thank you! I think it was a relief in a way. The movie didn’t focus on me so it was really nice to come back in a film that was all about Sharni Vinson’s character (Erin) and she’s fantastic in the role. It was nice for me to come back to work in the first film I’d done in a few years to a smaller role and not have the whole thing depend on me or my character. I enjoyed that and I enjoyed giving that responsibility up to someone as talented as Sharni is. The whole cast was so talented!
HNN: But your role is kind of pivotal in a sense since you’re the first one that hears something upstairs yet not much thought is given to your concerns by anyone else. Did the early demise of your character bother you much when you read the script?
BC: They don’t pay attention to me! But that’s because my character had some issues with drinking. There was a scene that was cut for time issues in which my character takes some pills as well and I think that might have been another reason why her husband didn’t believe her. So I guess it was pivotal in establishing that somebody knows something was going on…something was happening…SOMETHING WAS COMING [Laughing]! But I had no problems that I was done on page 60…no not even page 60, maybe page 40! Like they say, there are no small parts only small actors so I was happy to have a role in a movie that I think was really well done and performed so well at the box office. In coming back I initially knew that I was going to be doing a small independent movie but I didn’t know where it was going to end up but Lionsgate really believed in it so they bought it and put it up on the big screen. I think it was a win for everybody involved and no matter how big or small a role any of us had we’re all collaborators in the finished product and that was the most important part for me.
HNN: What I really loved about it was that although it didn’t really do anything that I hadn’t seen before it still felt fresh and new to me.
BC: Well that was because of the story, the actors, the characters and their interactions! I think it was Shakespeare who said that there are only eight stories in the human condition and how many stories do film makers make every year? How many books are released every year? You can’t reinvent the wheel but you can manipulate it a bit to make it appear or feel fresh. I think the commitment to the story, to the moment and to whatever is going on can make it feel fresh. It’s all in the execution!
HNN: I noticed a quote attributed to you regarding the lack of female directors in the horror genre and I was wondering if you ever had any interest in either producing or directing a horror film in the future?
BC: I’ve definitely thought about it but it wouldn’t be something I would attempt until my children were a little bit older. I really love acting and coming back with this film has shown me that so I’d like to act for a few more years but I wouldn’t rule out the role of producer afterwards. I don’t think I’d like to direct but the challenge of putting a film together is very attractive to me so that’s something I might attempt in the future.
HNN: I also noticed that you had a small role in last year’s The Lords Of Salem but it must’ve been cut because I don’t recall seeing you in the film…
BC: There was just a quick close up of me when I hear some music. They had about six or eight people do cameos in the film but I think they cut all of us out in the final cut. I saw the film afterwards and I really enjoyed it but I could see where cutting us all out of it might’ve made the film a bit tighter. The director, Rob Zombie, is very fond of using actors who are popular in the horror genre in cameo roles but I think he just felt like it didn’t really work for the film as a whole but I got to work with him and I had a great time on set.
HNN: It’s interesting for me to hear that you liked it because along with You’re Next I thought Lords Of Salem was one of the best horror films I saw last year but I got so much flack for saying that! I was amazed at how many people disagreed with my opinion of it.
BC: Because it’s not a traditional story! It’s not told in a way that most people are used to hearing or seeing stories revealed. Rob is an intensely artistic individual and aside from his Halloween films I think his movies are always going to be controversial. The Devil’s Rejects and Night Of 1000 Corpses aren’t for everybody, they’re just not your “Run of the Mill” horror movie. Normally that’s the kind of movie he makes so I can understand where someone might not like The Lords Of Salem but if you’re a true horror fan I think you have to look at what he was trying to do…what he was trying to execute with it and in that regard I think he succeeded wildly.
HNN: Isn’t it interesting that both You’re Next and The Lords Of Salem are films with stories we might be familiar with but are told in a non traditional manner and you appear in both of them?
BC: But I think You’re Next is a far more traditional story than The Lords Of Salem is! It has a beginning, middle and end and it makes very clear what happened, why it happened and who it impacts. And the roles of hero and villain are clearly defined as well and I think that’s what one should look for in a horror film. But the added element of comedy potentially made it something that was a bit different from the normal horror movie. In that sense it’s akin to another film I did called Re-Animator, there was a lot of comedy in that one as well and that wasn’t a normal horror movie either! Some people don’t like comedy in horror movies and some people do, that’s just personal taste. Thanks to the proliferation of film blogs and film critics on the internet we can read so many different views on how people feel about these movies. They’re inspected & dissected so much more nowadays so it’s interesting to read all of the reviews that are available. The people who are easily scared are the ones that probably welcome the comedy!
HNN: Speaking of Re-Animator did you ever get a chance to see the musical version?
BC: I saw it three times and I loved it! It was so funny and campy! I thought it was great.
HNN: I think it’s fair to say that you can be considered a Grande Dame of the horror genre for your era. If you had to stop making films today what would you consider your legacy to be?
BC: My legacy? Well, I had the opportunity to be an actress on & off for over 30 years. I started in college and then right out of college I moved to L.A. and acted in soap operas for many years. I did a lot of horror movies, commercials, episodic TV and things like that. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life so if I never worked again I would look back on my career and feel blessed that I worked with as many amazing people as I have. And it was really nice to come back with a film like You’re Next as my first foray back after a long absence and have it turn out to be the spectacular film that I think it is. I’m content.
You’re Next will be available on DVD/Bluray/Digital Ultraviolet on January 14th from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.