The name Doug Bradley might not ring any bells right away -- except of course if you're a serious horror fan. Mr. Bradley holds the distinction of playing the immortal Pinhead in all eight of the Hellraiser films. So when I heard that A) the first four flicks in the series would soon be broadcast in Hi-Def, and B) I'd be able to share a few moments chatting with the British actor ... needless to say, I was more than interested. Below, we talk all things Hellraiser, and ask Bradley if he's involved in the new Hellraiser remake. (Regarding the Hellraiser HD marathon, it'll play on the Monsters HD network on October 27 and 28, beginning at 9pm on both evenings. Click here for more info.) And now on with the conversation...
Cinematical: Pinhead was your first role in a feature film. Did it ever occur to you that the character could go on to have this sort of shelf life?
Doug Bradley: Absolutely not..For two reasons: Firstly, in the first film I'd been paid union minimum rates for a character with no name completely in latex on screen for less than 10 minutes -- so I didn't think it was going to amount to much, but I was excited to play the part. The makeup was extraordinary and the film was so different than any horror film I'd known of. Secondly, as an actor you don't think like that and you shouldn't look at it like that. You should be focused on the work as work and not looking at it as a meal ticket or the next big franchise. If you had told me the first day I started on Hellraiser that 20 years later I'd be here (conducting this interview) and have the type of fans I have, I wouldn't have known what planet I was on.
Cinematical: Do you find that being known as a "horror icon" has prevented you from acquiring roles in different genres? Is there a downside to being a "horror guy"?
DB: I don't think being known as a "horror icon" has prevented me and I've never looked at it as a downside. I suppose if they're casting for comedies, they don't automatically think to themselves that guy who plays Pinhead in Hellraiser seems terribly funny. You have genre roles and genre filmmakers looking for you. I was a fan of horror films long before I even knew I wanted to be an actor, so I definitely don't look at this as a downside. I have no problem with being in this genre and I haven't found a downside. The fans are wonderful and everything is tremendous fun.
Cinematical: Clive Barker is an old friend from back in school. When did you realize that one of your old mates had become a worldwide superstar? Did anything about his successes surprise you?
DB: It wasn't surprising at all. Actually, another mutual friend of ours, Oliver Parker (also in Hellraiser and Nightbreed and a movie director in his own right) said it best about Clive. He said, "We knew he was going into orbit, it was just a question of which rocket he'd be on." I knew he would be great when I started reading some of his small horror stories -- he had hundreds of manuscripts -- and they became his first volume of The Books of Blood. While this launched his writing career, I knew it would take him beyond. It was just three years after that we started to discuss Hellraiser.
Cinematical: The original Hellraiser trilogy has a fairly cohesive arc, as trilogies go. What would you say to the fans who are looking for 'continuity' across the five other sequels? Aside from the first film, which would you call your favorite?
DB: I think that arc does continue -- especially into Bloodline. If anything, Inferno is the first in the series that really breaks the arc. Out of the five, I would have to say my first pick is Bloodline and then Hellseeker is in a short second.
Cinematical: Horror fans are known for being both fiercely loyal and notoriously fickle. What was your best -- and worst -- experience with a fan?
DB: I don't know about fickle -- loyal, absolutely. I haven't come across fickle yet, but the loyalty of the fans is very much at full at the moment with all the talks of a remake in the air. While I was at the Screamfest convention in Orlando (and all of the conventions I've been to in the past year since word of a remake came out) everyone wants to know if I'll be in it! I'll probably not be involved, or at least, that's my suspicion since I haven't been asked. All the fans keep saying "it won't be the same without you and I won't go see it if you're not in it because you're the only reason we've been watching these films." I had no idea they felt this way and I was kind of taken aback. It's extraordinary that people care this much about me and Pinhead. It's very humbling and rewarding.
Cinematical: Indeed, recent word indicates that French filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury will be remaking Hellraiser for the Weinstein brothers. Would you be willing to participate? Perhaps as someone other than the lead Cenobite?
DB: At this point I know as much as everyone else, which is what I've heard from friends, colleagues and fans. I know the IMDb claims that I am "in talks" for the remake, but that is nonsense because no one has spoken to me about it yet. I would be willing to participate if someone does ask because I think they are going somewhere entirely different -- from what I've heard than just a "remake."
Cinematical: Hellraiser is now generally accepted as a true horror classic of the 1980s, right up there with The Evil Dead and Re-Animator. When you were making the film, did you feel like you were pushing the envelope in some way? Blazing a small new path in the genre?
DB: I wasn't thinking about that at the time. I wasn't evaluating Hellraiser against what other people were doing at the time, I was just focusing on the work. I mean it was clear we were doing something different, something interesting, something good. Hellraiser is more of an "idea" or intelligent horror film, not just as a slasher, blood and guts film. Clive was reinventing the gothic horror film with the cenobites, but a gothic horror film for its time.
Cinematical: Regarding the Cenobites, we all know Pinhead is the king, but which of your undead cohorts do you like the best?
DB: I quite liked the chatterer. I think, universally, he seems to be the second most popular of the cenobites.
Cinematical: Tell our readers what you can about this Dominator X project. It sounds pretty slick.
DB: It's a computer generated animated film that has been an ongoing process in the UK. Tony Luke is the main animator and director of the film. I am the voice of one of the main characters – Dr. Payne. He's kind of a paranormal investigator / undertaker. I'm also involved in the production side, which is quite interesting for me to be part of because I'm helping with the look of the film and the editing process and it's an enjoyable departure. We made one Dominated film a few years back with Danny Filth from the band The Cradle of Filth playing the dominator. This time we have Billy Boyd playing the dominator.
Cinematical: The first four Hellraiser films have been available on widescreen DVD for several years now, but this may be the first time they're being screened in Hi-Def. What can fans expect from the Hellraiser event on Monsters HD?
DB: I wish I knew! I have no idea what they will look like in HD. I do know that HD is changing the field and people are talking about how it has already changed the way news anchors are applying their makeup because it's not as forgiving. I have no idea how that will work with the prosthetic makeup, but it certainly will be exciting to see.
[ Special thanks to Erik Martin and Megan Buehrer for all their help! And if you're a Cenobite junkie -- and you have Monsters HD on your cable box -- definitely tune in this weekend to see all the high-def hellraisings! ]