Talking With The Dead: 13 Questions for Actress and Writer Barbie Wilde, Iconic Female Cenobite And Writer of “The Venus Complex”
Exhumation: (n) the act of digging something out of the ground (especially a corpse) where it has been buried.*
Barbie Wilde is best known as the Female Cenobite in Clive Barker’s classic cult horror movie ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’. She has performed in cabaret in Bangkok, Thailand, robotically danced in the Bollywood blockbuster, ‘Janbazz’, played a vicious mugger in the vigilante thriller ‘Death Wish III’ and appeared as a drummer for an electronica band in the so-called “Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80’s horror” ‘Grizzly II: The Predator’, a.k.a, ‘Grizzly II: The Concert’, which starred a then unknown George Clooney. She was a founder member of the mime/dance/music group, SHOCK, which supported such artists as Gary Numan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode and Adam & the Ants in the 1980s.
Barbie presented and wrote eight different music and film review TV programs in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. She interviewed such pop personalities as Cliff Richard, Iggy Pop, John Lydon (AKA the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten), The Sisters of Mercy, Roger Taylor of Queen, Pepsi & Shirley, The B52’s, Lisa Stansfield, Jimmy Sommerville and Black, as well as actors Nicolas Cage and Hugh Grant.
In 2009, Barbie contributed a well-received short story, entitled ‘Sister Cilice’, to the ‘Hellbound Hearts’ Anthology, edited by Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan. The stories in ‘Hellbound Hearts’ were based on Clive Barker’s mythology from his novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’, the basis for the Hellraiser film franchise. In 2011-12, Barbie contributed three more short stories to three different horror anthologies: ‘U for Uranophobia’ for ‘Phobophobia’, ‘American Mutant: Hands of Dominion’ for ‘Mutation Nation’ and ‘Polyp’ for ‘The Mammoth Book of Body Horror’.
Barbie’s first novel, ‘The Venus Complex’, a fictionalized diary of a serial killer, was published by Comet Press on the 1st of November, 2012.**
1. The role that you may be the most famous for is as the Female Cenobite from Hellbound: Hellraiser II. The hardcore fans know that in the original film, the Female Cenobite was portrayed by Clive Barker’s cousin, Grace Kirby. Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved with Clive and the film, what persuaded you to take up the role, and what did you try to bring to the role to make the character yours.
Since Grace didn’t want to reprise her role, the casting director for Hellbound, Doreen Jones, called my agent and I went up for the audition. I think that at the time, directors and producers thought that mime artists were better suited for acting with prosthetic makeup and masks, and I was a classically trained mime artist as well as being an actress. I was a bit reluctant, as the first film had made a pretty weird impression on me. I also thought that I was going up for the Chatterer, and I disliked mask work. I was quite relieved when I found out that I was auditioning for the Female Cenobite! I met with the director, Tony Randel, we chatted about the part, and I got the role.
As far as preparing for the role, I read “The Hellbound Heart” (Clive Barker’s novella and the source material for the Hellraiser films). It’s such a wonderful and imaginative story. And the whole transformation makeup process that I had to go through every day also helped. The first time I saw myself in full makeup was pretty startling, but knowing that you looked like a demon really assists in building your character.
2. Like the other Cenobites, she wears black leather and is mutilated yet still stunning. In Hellraiser, several wires peel back the skin around her neck and exposeher throat, causing her to have a rough and low voice. She has deeply sunken facial features with bluish skin and a few hairs left on her head. In the sequel, four of the wires holding her throat open have been removed, leaving just one frame, and her skin tone is made white with no hairs on her head. Can you tell us why the Female Cenobite’s make-up was changed, how long did it take to apply and considering the nature of the Cenobites and what they do, why didn’t they stick with the “Deep Throat” nickname?
Grace Kirby and I were very different facially, so many of the changes to the design of the makeup were inevitable. Again, since we were so different, they felt that my “throat jewelry” had to be different too.
It took four hours to apply the prosthetic pieces and then the makeup and a half an hour to get into the costume. Of course, a lot of time was also spent designing the makeup, creating a cast of my head, making up the prosthetic pieces and doing countless makeup tests on me.
Ah, that pesky nickname! In the first Hellraiser film, Pinhead was actually called Lead Cenobite; the Chatterer was called Chattering Cenobite, etc. By the time Hellbound rolled around, the nicknames that the makeup crew had used during the filming of the first film had stuck, so the names Pinhead, Chatterer and Butterball were used in the credits. Unfortunately, my character’s nickname was Deep Throat (for obvious reasons), and that name was deemed too rude to be used in the credits, especially in the United States.
So, demons from hell ripping peoples’ skin off, insane doctors torturing mental patients and naked women writhing under blood-stained sheets is OK, but an obscure reference to a 70s porno film is not. Go figure.
3. According to the Hellraiser Wiki “Sister Nikoletta was a nun who was very interested in sin, regardless of her spiritual upbringing. Soon it was all she desired and it made her obsessed. One day a man looking for a place to stay gave her the Lament Configuration after sensing her desires and sinful nature. Once she opened the box the Grillard cenobite came and took her to Hell where she indulged in her sinful pains, pleasures, and desires. It has now been suggested that her name is “Falln”. She of course, became the Female Cenobite. What are your thoughts on the character, did you and Clive ever talk about her history and did the character help to influence your writing in any way?
I only discussed my character once with Tony Randel, as Clive was Executive Producer on Hellbound. I asked Tony what my motivation was, and he answered “You’re dead.” So… that was that… To be perfectly frank, I didn’t even consider a back story for the Female Cenobite at the time. The idea that the Female Cenobite was a nun came much later from Gary Tunnicliffe, who was the makeup artist on some of the American sequels to Hellraiser, so it’s a fairly recent development.
4. Speaking of Sister Nikoletta, you wrote a story for “Hellbound Hearts” (2009) entitled “Sister Cilice”. In another interview online you describe the story: “A woman is placed in a convent against her will and fantasizes about power, domination, sensuality and freedom — all the things that are forbidden to her. She finds a key to the Schism that can bring forth the Order of the Gash, and she fearlessly summons the Cenobites, who are astounded at her willingness to trade her humanity for infernal, eternal sensation.” There has been sporadic speculation online about whether this is the true origin of the Female Cenobite or the character of Angelique in Hellraiser: Bloodline. Can you tell us which it is (if either), and what did Clive and the fans think of it?
All the stories in the “Hellbound Hearts” anthology had to be based on Clive’s novella “The Hellbound Heart”. When I read the novella again, I re-discovered that the Lead Cenobite in the story was female, and that was quite an inspiration. Sister Cilice is the story of a female cenobite, not THE Female Cenobite. I haven’t seen Bloodline, so I can’t comment on Angelique’s origins.
As far as the reaction to Sister Cilice is concerned, the reviews and comments from the fans and fellow authors have been fantastic.
5. In November 2012, you continued the story of Sister Cilice with “The Cilicium Pandoric” on the Pyramid Gallery. I have been trying to do research on this place. On it, it appears that you can order different intricately designed music box replicas of French architect, artisan and designer Philip LeMarchand from the Hellraiser mythos. Why did you choose this particular venue to tell the story, is this an actual place and are you ever going to continue the story of Sisterhood of the Cilice?
Last year I was approached by a very talented artist named Eric Gross, who was at that time working with the Pyramid Gallery. He wanted to collaborate on a pandoric dedicated to Sister Cilice, and his designs are fabulous. I wrote the story to accompany “The Cilicium Pandoric”, which is a kind of ‘further adventures’ of Sister Cilice. Eric has now started up his own website called The Followers of the Pandorics. You can read the story and see the designs here.
Of course, if I’m inspired to do so, I will write more Cilicium stories. I’d love to see a Hellraiser movie with Sister Cilice as the lead character, for instance, rather than just a reboot of the original, which is matchless really.
6. Before you stepped on set in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, the year before you had a role in the film Grizzly II: The Concert as Robotic Drummer. The film was supposed to be a follow up to William Girdler’s cult classic Grizzly (1976), but sadly, the film never saw the light of day. The film had an amazing cast of cameo roles from George Clooney, Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern, even though they were featured very little. What do you remember about them on set, what do you remember about the film, and are you upset that it was never officially released?
I got the part of the drummer in an electronica band in the film because my boyfriend at the time, record producer Richard James Burgess, had been producing the movie band and he was going to play the drummer. However, he was subsequently offered the job of producing Adam Ant in Sweden, so he took that job and trained me up to be a mime drummer to take his place.
The production was filming near Budapest, Hungary. The film company hired the band Nazareth to play a free concert in a national park to lure in the crowds and they filmed around the concert. Then in the middle of their act, Nazareth stopped playing and Predator, our weird little electronica movie band, came onstage and performed three songs repeated three times for the cameras in front of some very puzzled heavy metal fans. Then we ran offstage and Nazareth came back on. As you can imagine, it was pretty bizarre.
I don’t remember seeing George, Charlie or Laura, but we did hang a bit with John Rhys-Davies and veteran American actor Dick Anthony Williams.
As far as the film never being released, there were so many snags in production that it wasn’t very surprising. The giant electronic bear never worked and there were many other problems.
7. In 1979, you along with Tim Dry, Robert Pereno, LA Richards and Karen Sparks teamed up to produce SHOCK: a rock / mime / burlesque / music troupe. You guys had several line-up changes through the years you were together, but you played shows all over Europe, with your biggest show being at Wembley Arena. You even released several singles. Can you tell us how you first got into that scene, how your music shaped and influenced your career and what was it like playing at Wembley Arena?
I met Tim Dry in mime class some years before, and we were both in the UK’s largest mime troupe, SILENTS. Robert approached us one day, as Tim and I were doing a “store window mannequin” mime routine and asked us to join the group. We did a fair amount of gigs on the cabaret circuit, and then we were asked to support a band called Famous Names, which starred Steve Fairnie and Bev Sage.
That tour got us noticed by the record business and then producers Richard James Burgess and Rusty Egan got involved. We signed to RCA and released a couple of singles: Angel Face and Dynamo Beat. However, although we played a weeklong residency at the famous Ritz Club in New York City, extensively toured with bands like Depeche Mode and Naked Lunch, and supported acts like Adam and the Ants, Ultravox and Gary Numan, record success eluded us.
Gary Numan had come to see our show at the Embassy Club in London and loved it, so he asked us to support him for his three night show at Wembley. It was an amazing experience and really heightened SHOCK’s profile. We created a very imaginative production, incorporating mime, dance and some of our own music. However, it wasn’t long until the constant touring and lack of any real financial or musical success took its toll and Robert and LA left the group. We continued on as a foursome for a while, doing some TV shows and a live gig at the Heaven nightclub in London, but in the end, we finally called it a day and I returned to acting.
8. You have also done lots of TV in your career as well appearing on shows such as The Morecambe & Wise Show, Lubo’s World (Channel 4), The Sooty Show, The Children’s Channel, Action Stations (Germany), Seeing And Doing, Rebellious Jukebox (BBC2), Hale and Pace (LWT), Six of Hearts (Channel 4), Pulaski (BBC1-A&E Network) and Comics (Channel Four). How much did you enjoy working in television, how much differently do you prepare for TV than movies and which do you prefer?
As a professional, the preparation is basically the same: you learn your lines and blocking. You create the character, etc. I really enjoyed working with TV legends like Morecambe and Wise. Pulaski was fabulous, as it was shot on location in the south of France. Although doing TV is fun, obviously acting in movies is my favorite.
9. You are quite the interviewer yourself. Over the years, you have interviewed such personalities as pop personalities as Cliff Richard, Iggy Pop, John Lydon (AKA the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten), The Sisters of Mercy, Roger Taylor of Queen, Pepsi & Shirley, The B52’s, Lisa Stansfield, Jimmy Sommerville and Black, as well as actors Nicolas Cage and Hugh Grant. How different is it for you to be the interviewer as opposed to the interviewee, have you ever been intimidated by an interview and who would be your ultimate person to interview?
I really enjoyed being a host for various TV shows: interviewing music or film stars, reviewing films, etc. In many ways, I preferred being myself than acting in TV or movies. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin than someone else’s.
I’ve never been intimidated by someone, although I’ve had a couple of difficult interviews: Hugh Grant was a bit unresponsive, but he may have just been jet-lagged, and Nicolas Cage didn’t really open up until we got talking about his enormous bug collection.
My ultimate interview would be with Quentin Tarantino, as I adore his work. Alive or dead: I would’ve loved to have interviewed Orson Welles. What a career he had!
10. The Hellraiser mythos is not the only horror you have written. Your other stories include “U for Uranophobia” for the anthology Phobophobia (Dark Continents 2011), “American Mutant: Hands of Dominion” for Mutation Nation: Tales of Genetic Mishaps, Monsters, and Madness (Rainstorm Press 2011) and “Polyp” for The Mammoth Book of Body Horror (Constable and Robinson 2012). What can you tell us about the stories, what inspired you to write them and were you commissioned to write them or were they submissions on your end?
I was asked to contribute to all the anthologies, which was great. For the Phobophobia anthology, I wanted to write a story about home invasion, because that is a pet fear of mine, but then I was stuck with the letter “U”, which was a bit difficult. However, I discovered Uranophobia (a fear of the sky, or the sky god, Uranus) and created the story of a woman abused by her uncle as a child who then becomes a shut-in. Some burglars break into her house and she takes her hideous revenge.
“American Mutant” is about a TV preacher who discovers that his illegitimate son has special powers for healing and destruction. “Polyp” is about a polyp that shoots out of a patient’s butt during a colonoscopy and proceeds to kill everyone in the hospital, eviscerating its victims, consuming their colons and growing to enormous proportions. It’s probably the most disgusting story I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something!
I have no idea where these ideas come from. I know that they come from my head, but beyond that? Who knows!
11. Your first dark crime novel, “The Venus Complex”, was published by Comet Press on November 1, 2012. I have not had the chance to read it yet, but all of the reviews so far have been outstanding. Can you please tell us a bit about the book, how you got the inspiration for it and could you see it being optioned for film?
I like to use award-winning author & editor Paul Kane’s description of my book, as he says it best:
‘After purposefully killing his wife in a car accident, art professor Michael Friday finds his perspective on things has become a little…warped. Via his personal journal, we’re allowed into his mind to slowly watch the disintegration of it, bearing witness to his unnerving sexual cravings and ideas about killing: intertwined with the paintings he loves so much. As Michael writes, he’s “turning into something dead”; but at the same time he wants to be somebody, not a nobody.
Using his diary to rant against the world in general – including everything from banks to popular culture, from national holidays like Christmas to politics – he reveals more about the big, gaping hole in his own life. But as the novel goes on the first person narrative tensely builds up, displaying his dark dreams and innermost thoughts; his way of filling that void and presenting his grisly “works of art” to the world. As intelligent and cultured as Hannibal, easily as disturbing as American Psycho and infinitely less ‘reassuring’ than Dexter, this is a sexually-charged real life horror story that will definitely stay with you.’
I’ve always been fascinated by the criminal mind, especially serial killers, the lone wolves of society, as they are so far removed from what I am! When I was a kid, I even made up a back story for Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, to give him a bit more personality, so my fascination with the dark side goes back a long way.
Of course, I would love to see “The Venus Complex” as a film, preferably directed by Quentin Tarantino.
12. You have covered just about all of the artistic mediums that a person could! What can we expect from you in the coming years in terms of your acting and writing, and with all of the rumors circulating out there, if the supposed Hellraiser remake /reboot happens, what would it take and could you ever see yourself returning to the “Order of the Gash”?
I’m co-writing a musical drama at the moment, which involves love, violence and revenge, set in the ruins of post-war Marseille. (I think it’s about time that Quentin Tarantino directs a musical, don’t you?) I’m in the midst of writing a vampire novel, but I want the whole twinkly vampire thing to die down first. (My vampires definitely do not twinkle.) A sequel to “The Venus Complex” is on the horizon.
My latest short story, “A is for Alpdrück”, is featured in the Demonologia Biblica anthology (edited by Dean M. Drinkel) and is out now on all the Amazons. Another short story, “Zulu Zombies” is going to appear in the Bestiarum Vocabulum, also edited by Dean, in late summer. My short crime story, “Beauty and the Skell”, will be appearing in The Screaming Book of Crime in autumn of this year.
Re: returning to The Order of the Gash. If the script was good enough and I felt comfortable with the part, then of course, I’d love to be involved in a reboot, although Hellraiser: Revelations looked so terrible, I really hope that someone can come in and do the source material justice, instead of just turning out some cheap remake done for contractual reasons. It’s very sad to see the Hellraiser ‘brand’ cheapened like this. I know that Clive was very angry and disappointed with the whole thing.
13. Thank you so much for the interview and all of the countless hours of entertainment you have given us over the years. What else would you like to say about your work and what would you like to say to all of your fans?
As always, I’d like to thank the fans for all the years of devotion and respect that they’ve given Hellraiser, a very special horror film indeed!