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Bill Moseley


An Interview With Bill Moseley
Interview conducted by Faye Coulman
July 3, 2012

Face of a thousand psychopaths, sadistic carnies and serial killers, horror veteran Bill Moseley’s affinity with the dark side of the silver screen has long been nothing short of notorious. But despite being expertly versed in playing the legendary likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s Chop Top and Rob Zombie’s iconic Otis Driftwood, 2012’s Exit Humanity sees the genre heavyweight getting under the skin of an altogether different breed of villain. As the zombie epic’s anticipated DVD release draws near, Faye Coulman braves an audience with the talented and unexpectedly affable Mr Moseley.

Bill: "As an actor, you're adjusting to this new world in order to try and make it real".

Hi Bill, how are you?
I'm doing well, thanks. It's a sunny day here in Los Angeles and I'm feeling good.

So, what was it that first attracted you to the script of Exit Humanity?
It was certainly the very complex character of General Williams. He's a Civil War general on the losing side which is very galling and, even though the war is over, he hasn't quite stopped fighting yet. He's like a big frog in a small pond, insofar as everybody is either dead or zombified, but he's still fighting the Civil War which was lost years earlier and trying to get the South to finally prevail by raising an army of zombies.

You're best known for playing murderous outlaws and outsiders, whereas in this movie, you're a military leader who's completely lost his grip on sanity. Do you think this total departure from order and discipline makes for a particularly disturbing breed of villain?
Absolutely. I think that sense of discipline and the fact that General Williams still demands military order - even though his world has been reduced to a series of underground tunnels where he imprisons normal human beings - is highly disturbing. In terms of that spectrum of madness, a character I channelled in particular was Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Basically, you're the only authority figure so you are god in a small way because you're making these life and death decisions. You know, you're it and you find there is no higher sense of authority than your sense of honour and duty and the memories of the South and the ambition to lead everyone to victory. And it's interesting that, every once in a while, you can see there is something rational left in him when the excitement wears off and the pain becomes unbearable.

I understand this is John Geddes' debut film. How did working with him compare with more established directors?
I've worked on a lot of independent features, a lot of first time directors, and what was very satisfying about working with John - above and beyond the great script he wrote and the wonderful art direction and being up in Ontario shooting the movie - was the fact it was a collaborative process. Sometimes, first time directors are so wrapped up in wanting to be the captain of the ship that they don't want to hear anything from their actors. That's not a bad idea exactly, but it's like, my way or the highway, that kind of authoritarian approach and I've certainly worked well with directors like that in the past. But for me personally, it's a lot more fun when we're collaborative.

Bill: " I think it's a wonderful movie in terms of the grandeur of the setting and history".

As an actor, you're adjusting to this new world in order to try and make it real and there are things between the script and what is being said in the moment that are considerably different. So it makes sense to report back and say things like "What about this? This feels a little more real and natural." It's fun for an actor to work with a director who'll actually allow you to raise those questions and just goes yes or no and makes a bloodless decision based on whether it suits the production or not. Working with John was very much like that. We had an opening scene where my henchmen and I come upon Edward Young sitting around a campfire. Several weeks before I got up to Ontario, I had tried to make that scene work, but the way it was worded made it hard for me to work through and I got onto the set and mentioned it to John and said, "This is the one scene where I've been having trouble." And what he was able to do was to say, "Let's just improv it and figure our way through it in a way that's comfortable to act." So John and I worked on it, and when I saw the finished scene I was really happy with the way it worked out. I thought it was very natural, very comfortable and real, and it also made me very grateful to John to have the confidence and also the leeway to try out a different approach just to make sure that it worked.

As seen in Exit Humanity, what do you think often makes horror and the western genre such a successful mix?
When you add in the Civil War, it was such a carnage that the idea of dead people walking around the woods isn't so far removed from the reality of that terrible era. It's as not as if the Civil War needed any more embellishment for its horror, but just adding in that supernatural element in was very exciting. When you have that very western sense of duty and honour, I think it ends up slowing everything down and you end up with a movie that has a lot more scope and depth. What I appreciate about John's approach is that it ends up really taking time for the emotions to unfold, for the narrative and scenes to unfold. For people who aren't the impatient, three-second cuts-type of viewers, I think it's a wonderful movie in terms of the grandeur of the setting and history.

I think that particular genre mix also worked exceptionally well for you in The Devil's Rejects.
Yeah, I love that. I think it's no accident that, both in The Devil's Rejects and also in House Of 1000 Corpses, it's kind of pre-cell phone, and I'm all for telling a story without the interference of technology. It's so funny, because when you look back to the '80s movies when cell phones were so large and clunky, or you see an old Apple computer or something, that immediately dates it too. And so I appreciate Rob's approach and John Geddes' approach that you end up with a certain timelessness that isn't destroyed by obsolete technology.

Bill: "For me it's not so much the gore that bothers me, it's bad storytelling".

Following the torture and gorenography trends of recent years, do you think horror fans are, to an extent, beginning to tire of this and seek out more original movies like this one?
It's possible, but for me it's not so much the gore that bothers me, it's bad storytelling. So, as long as the story is good, you could have two or so hours of some brutal surgery and I'd be happy with it as long as the story was compelling. But the problem is that sometimes you end up getting into gratuitous stuff which some people like - certainly the special effects makeup artists because, for them, it's all about out-goring and out-grossing one another. I know a lot of special effects makeup people so I'm always happy when they get jobs. But speaking of torture, I just did a movie called The Tortured, so that certainly is kind of the central theme of it. It's about a family whose child was abducted by a paedophile and brutally murdered, but they intercept the paedophile on his way to jail and take him to a remote cabin and do to him what he did to their son, so that's more of a compelling story at least.

Also, I can say that one of my favourite movies is one with plenty of gratuitous gore in it. I had been over in Poland where I'd done a couple of movies, and when I returned from doing the second movie, I saw Eli Roth's Hostel, which I thought was wildly entertaining. I'd just been in Eastern Europe where I'd seen a lot of the same landscapes and cultural features so I could just imagine somebody grabbing a couple of tourists and doing all kinds of horrible things to them for a price. So if the story is good, I don't really mind the gore and, having been in the genre for so long, I'm pretty good at assessing it in terms of how good it is, how imaginative it is. But I probably won't be showing it to my thirteen-year-old any time soon.

Bill: "I would much rather - and maybe it's just my own psychological warp - play bad guys".

You've played many a psycho and sinister character throughout your career. Precisely what is it that draws you to the darker side of the human psyche?
Well, frankly, for an actor there's some very juicy parts. Some of the parts that I've been given have been really fun to play. And I would much rather - and maybe it's just my own psychological warp - play bad guys than good guys because I seem to have a lot more emotional tools to play the bad guys. I think you'd have to take a good look at my psychological rap sheet though. *Laughs* Also, having played a character or two, I think it all goes back to playing Chop Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 back in 1986. I think success breeds success. Because of Chop Top, that's why Rob Zombie hired me to play Otis Driftwood in House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. Then you make friends in the genre, young filmmakers see you and get excited and inspired by your performance and so they want you to be a psycho in their movie. So by doing enough movies, you also become a name on the DVD box so that ends up being helpful in terms of financing your bills and it all kind of beautifully weaves together into role after role.

I remember one time I was doing White Fang, a Disney movie, up in Alaska in the early nineties. I was walking along the banks of a river in Alaska near where we were shooting and I was playing the henchman to an actor named James Remar. But it was so funny, I was just openly opining and I said to him "I don't know if I want to get pigeonholed as a bad guy or a monster." And I remember him looking at me in a rather intimidating way and saying "You'd be lucky to be pigeonholed." I laughed because I thought, it's really hard to get jobs in the acting profession and, no matter what you do, you have to be fun to work with and not be a pain in the butt. The fact that I get pigeonholed in the horror genre makes me very happy though, because I love the genre, I love the characters I play and I love the work.

Bill: "The fact that I get pigeonholed in the horror genre makes me very happy".

Well, as a big fan of your work, I'm personally very glad the horror genre was something you found yourself "pigeonholed" into.
I'm a horror fan too so one of the things that I appreciate about the work is getting to give back to the fans in the genre. I've watched a lot of horror movies in my day and not all of them are the cream that rises to the top and I also go to a bunch of horror conventions so I meet horror fans all the time and they're such a loyal and dedicated bunch. So I take it personally in terms of not phoning it in or not being too cynical about it. It's what I do, it's what I love to do and every time I try to do the best I can because I appreciate a good performance as much as anybody.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Bill.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."


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