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Home | Interviews | Interview: Camille Keaton (I Spit on your Grave – 1978)

Interview: Camille Keaton (I Spit on your Grave – 1978)

Hey Fiend Club! I have got to tell you the month of October, and of course Halloween have always been my favorite moments of the year. But since I have become a writer, well, there has been nothing like it! The reason is the incredible people that I have had the opportunity to speak to, and of course, the legends that I have been an avid fan of for many years. This special interview is no exception to those situations. I first witnessed this lovely woman in her 1978 Meir Zarchi film, I Spit On Your Grave, when I was still in high school. It all began when I was informed by friends to check out this crazy, old “exploitation” film, a film that was apparently filled with extreme images of brutality, rape, and of course, revenge. Seeing situations happen in my real life to women, including my mother, not to mention I was not a sick bastard who got off on seeing women in pain made me a little hesitant. Finally, after having the tape sit there,

I popped the VHS into the VCR. And although these themes were visually apparent, I witnessed so much more. In the character of Jennifer Hills I witnessed true pain, a woman who was justified in everything she had to do, and pure strength. On the surface, I witnessed a horror bad ass, and in many senses of the word a true horror icon to be remembered. She was up there with Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne King, as well as all of the other queens of this genre who were with us, who are with us, and are introducing themselves to the world presently. Of course I am speaking of Camille Keaton.

Camille’s role is one of my absolute favorite horror females, and has been since that moment I got up the nerve to watch a film meant to shock, but a film at its core that was just a very good movie. Now, at age sixty, Camille is as beautiful, strong, relevant, and hardworking as ever. She adores her fans, and of course we love her. With the already acclaimed Toetag Picture, Sella Turcica, as well as her soon to be released thriller The Butterfly Room, whose cast list runs like a high school reunion for Scream Queens, Camille has definitely come back to the horror fold. I received the honor of speaking to her about Italian thrillers, Sella Turcica, and of course a little taste of her feeling on the I Spit remake. So, before you view the newest portrayal of her iconic character by the talented Sarah Butler, sit down with me, won’t you? And listen to the true legend. The woman who will always hold the mantle of Jennifer Hills.

Horror Talk: First of all, Camille, I wanted to tell you what an honor it is to speak with you today. My first question involves your beginning as an actress. How were you discovered? Was it something along the lines of someone witnessing you strolling down the street and noticing you, or was it more realistic? Day after day of grueling auditioning until lightning struck?

Camille Keaton: Well, I met this gentleman on a flight, and he started talking to me. He told me he was an Italian director, and his name was Massimo Dellmano. I then went into Italian director, Zefirelli’s office to take some photographs. I later received a call from the director on the flight who had done a film called The Portrait Of Dorian Gray. He had seen the photographs I had taken before, and he said he wanted me to be the main character Solange in the film, What Have You Done To Solange? . He had directed plenty of Giallo films. Ya know, it was just luck. I’m still proud of the film and it’s huge success.

Horror Talk: You were of course the original Jennifer Hills in 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave, a film that was so shocking that it became imprinted on the Video Nasties List. Do you feel that this controversy helped your career or maybe affected it in some way?

Camille Keaton: It did neither. It neither helped it, or affected it in any way. You have to have focus, determination, and drive in this industry. You just have to be really thick skinned to take the rejection. I mean, I was on the Video Nasties List for god’s sake! (Laughs)But, if you see the list I was in great company. People like Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange who is one of my favorites. Also, I got into my married life, and I got into being a wife so I kind of let acting go. That’s why I didn’t do too many films over the years. Except for some parts here and there.

Horror Talk: You have acted in Giallo films like What Have You Done To Solange? . Do you miss doing those types of films, and if so do you personally feel that Giallo is probably the best form of horror?

Camille Keaton: Well, horror movies come in all forms. My favorite type of horror, Italian or American, is real life horror like Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. I think Dustin Hoffman was in that. A zombie movie or something like that I really wouldn’t like to usually watch, even though there are some good ones. I just like horror where real things happen. A good example of something I enjoy with be a film called Breakout.

Horror Talk: The remake of I Spit On Your Grave has of course been released to the viewing public. Are you interested at all in viewing the re imagining, and if so would you be searching for similarities in Sarah Butler’s performance?

Camille Keaton: Uhh, yes and yes. (Laughs)I am definitely interested in viewing the film, and I would definitely be looking at Sarah Butler’s performance, naturally. I mean, I’m sure anyone who played a part previously would do the same thing, don’t ya think? I just really hope that she doesn’t get typecast. Typecasting is okay if you want to do the same thing over and over again. But she seems fine, she’s in good company. And, I would also be interested in seeing the changes they have made. Also, from what I hear there is a surprise ending, and I would love to see what they have done with that.

Horror Talk: Tell me a little bit about your involvement in Toetag Picture’s Sella Turcica, and what is the main plot of the story?

Camille Keaton: The main plot is a family slash horror movie. I think it’s done very well. Fred and Shelby were wonderful to work with, and Jeremy Cruz, the effects artist, was great. Everyone who had to do with the film were great. Damian plays my son, and he does a great job. It’s realistic all the way through, well, until the end. I have seen it once, but I cannot wait to see it again. When I first saw it I was looking at myself in a different way. I was looking at every blemish, at every pore. (Laughs)I would like to be able to watch the film again, and enjoy it for what it is.

Horror Talk: On Sella Turcica, you worked with hardcore independent director, Fred Vogel. Do you enjoy working with directors who have a reputation for taking things over the edge visually, or does that just happen for you?

Camille Keaton: I know that he has a reputation for doing over the top horror movies, but he is a great director. With Sella Turcica, he has done something different from what I heard his last films were apparently like. He was steering away from the gore a little bit, although I do get blood on my face. (Laughs)

Before he was apparently controversial, Meir had never made a film before, but he had drive and determination to create his own film. Basically, as an actress in the film industry when you are in a position where you can pick and choose your movies it’s much more comfortable. Like say Meryl Streep. I just do what I have to do, but I love this movie and I’m so proud of my work in it, as well as everyone else’s.

Horror Talk: In the Butterfly Room which is now in post-production, you are in a film with a group of other women with the title scream queen, including Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare On Elm Street, and Adrienne King of the original Friday The 13th. Was it a good experience working with them, and do you think it was the director’s intention to include you all in one film?

Camille Keaton: I do think the casting was very clever! The director’s name is Jonathan Zaratonello by the way, and he was fun to work with. I enjoyed talking to Barbara Steele, she was great. I was only there for two days, it was basically a cameo for me. I spent time with the girl who played Alice, she was twelve and her name is Julia Putnam, she was incredible. The movie is about a girl, Alice, who entices women in their fifties and sixties to receive newfound feelings for her when they have essentially lost children of their own. She plays on the Empty Nest Syndrome that they have. So then Alice meets up with a woman who happens to be psychotic, and Alice disappears. Then Alice reappears and disappears again. (Laughs)There’s alot of that in the filmIt’s going to be a great thriller.

Horror Talk: I never had the pleasure of seeing you at a convention myself, but I know many who have, and they all said how kind and open you were. So my question to you about this is do you actually enjoy the convention circuit, or is it just part of the game so to speak?

Camille Keaton: Absolutely! I love them. It’s always good for the ego also. (Laughs)I’m a people person, and I have made true friends there. I also love going to meet vendors. You get tired before you go, you’re tired when it’s done. It’s alot of packing and unpacking. . but yeah, I love it!

Horror Talk: You had mentioned on Facebook that you were possibly creating a website by the end of the year. Do you have any idea what your site will include, or is it still just a concept?

Camille Keaton: Well, it’s been an idea for way too long, and I’m working on it now. It will have experiences, pictures, and stories of films I’ve been in. I would probably be writing the stories myself, it won’t just be uhh. . uhhh. . uhhh. . . ! (Laughs)I would think people would be interested in the site, and what I would have to say. I think it’s a great idea for the fans and that’s mainly why I’m doing this.

Horror Talk: You spoke on Dai Green’s podcast, The Gash, that you wanted to possibly venture into different genres of film. What style of movies would you like to do as opposed to horror?

Camille Keaton: Ummm. . well, you know, I have done my share of screaming, the horror things, you know. I just want to do some movies with happy energy. I would like to do dramas and comedies. I would like to play a cop or a lawyer. I would like a romantic role. . I could use a little romance. (Laughs)I love horror, but you need a good script. It all comes down to a good script. I would definitely like the chance to try different things also. And I know I will.

Horror Talk: So my last question is about retiring from acting. Has that thought ever crossed your mind?

Camille Keaton: Have you ever thought about dying, it’s the same thing! (Laughs)I don’t want to be part of the real living dead. I want to stay vibrant and still act. I cannot just sit at home, I can’t do that! You need to keep yourself doing something to stay vital. Who can retire in these days? The way things are now? But I have no intention of retiring anytime soon. . not for a while anyway. I love what I do, and I love to act. So, I would have to say no to that question. I’m hopefully going to be here in the industry for awhile.

Horror Talk: Camille, thank you so much for doing this with me, and I cannot wait to view your new projects.

And I’m so glad she doesn’t. By the way F. C. , Camille coaxed me into asking that last question, but it worked, did it not? You can see Camille’s role as the mother of a returning Iraq War Veteran in Toetag Picture’s Sella Turcica out right now, and I will give you more info on the Butterfly Room as it becomes available.

So, there you have it, the words of another legend. Please stay tuned for the latest edition of Horror Talk, as well as more horror punk hi jinks! And please remember, the only thing that can impale your dreams is your own negativity. Scare ya later, Crazies!

Sweet Nightmares and Pleasant Screams!

SIN-cerely, Your Sinister Slasher, Rob Delamorte

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