Morbidly Beautiful

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Raising Hell: Interview with English Film and Television Actress Imogen Booman, discussing her life-changing role as Tiffany in “Hellbound: Hellraiser 2”.

Editor’s Note: Our writer, Billy Stamper, had the pleasure to sit down with Hellraiser 2 star Imogen Boorman to talk about her memorable role in the film, what it was like being a part of an iconic franchise at such a young age, working with horror hero Doug Bradley, her love of horror and the horror fandom, and much more.

Billy Stamper: What inspired you to be an actress?

Imogen Boorman: A few things come to mind. My Uncle John, who was my step Grandfather, loved to play ZOMBIES and had all the children screaming and tearing around the house. He’d push his false teeth out, holding them fast in a big fixed grin. He’d stare morosely through his pebble glasses and stretch out his arms rigid with fingers hooked out like grabbing claws. He’d move forward in a slow sure shuffle that nothing would stop. He’d find excellent hiding places, remaining silent for a long time until the tension was unbearable. Then screaming would be heard from somebody caught and getting the tickling of their life. There were many wet pants, and Uncle John would get told off by my Nanna. “Oh Stop it John!…you’re as bad as the children!”

I was sent to my room a lot as a child, but I don’t remember being naughty…too much. I did argue with my younger sister quite a bit, which my mother found unbearable. In my bedroom was a double doored cupboard, behind which was a large mirror and a sink. I guess to prevent feeling punished, and because I wasn’t much of a bookworm, I’d spend hour after hour in front of the mirror mimicking members of my family…and actresses I’d seen in old movies.

So that’s three three things that influenced me: Uncle John who played many an imaginative game, being sent to my room, and old movies like Gone with the Wind and Rebecca.

BS: When it comes to your iconic character Tiffany, how did you win the role?

IB: So Tiffany was in the very beginning just another phone call from my child agent (Sheila Tozer). She as usual gave me a name, address and time to be somewhere. I was at a posh boarding school back then. It was exciting for me to be going up to London unaccompanied, as I was 15 yrs then and old enough to check myself out of school. I could catch a train, go to a meeting, and sign myself back into school again. In the past, I usually would need an adult to take me, mainly my mother.

My mother an I had had a falling out (about a boyfriend I think), and so I had made it clear that although I was being advised not to get involved with a HORROR MOVIE (back then not accepted as a serious genre), I was going to give it my best shot. I remember my mother laughing. “A horror movie?…seriously? You’re not, are you really?….ahhhh ha ha a HORROR movie…well, I doubt you’ll get it anyway….ha.” (snigger snigger!)

I was just glad to get the afternoon off from school. I remember meeting Tony Randel in a swanky hotel (sorry, don’t recall which one). He was extremely polite and gently spoken. I thought he was probably the kindest director I’d ever auditioned for, and he obviously held the character Tiffany in high regard (I didn’t know back then that Clive Barker’s imaginative genius was about to affect my life from that day forward). I remember thinking that I’d like to work with Tony, and I mostly enjoyed being treated nicely.

But I also like the idea of getting involved with something unlike anything I’d acted in before. I was genuinely impressed with the ambitious storyline and other original characters. I remember thinking, “How are they going to achieve these way-out stories/ locations?” I knew that I wanted to be apart of it, very much, and I was thrilled when I was asked to screen test.

I couldn’t wait to begin after being offered the role of Tiffany. I think Tony mentioned that they looked at around 500 different girls to play Tiffany…. in the U.S. and abroad. So meeting Ashley (Ashely Laurence, the actress who played Kirsty Cotton) in some restaurant in London some months later was a big day.

We did get on. She was also very sweet to me. I watched her working and checking the monitors for technical and continuity concerns. Seeing bits and pieces from the first Hellraiser movie, I remember thinking she was rather beautiful and very American (not very impressed with British food or weather). She and Tony were very homesick during the 6 months of intense filming at Pinewood.

Ashley chatted, like no one I’d ever known before. She was funny, and we got up to some tricks with the crew. I cherish these memories and my time with her — in a world of my own that was far away from dreaded boarding school and my usual cares of the day….like exams!

Oh, I forgot to mention during the initial meeting with Tony, he asked me to imagine and react to seeing monsters from hell. He asked me to mime stuff like opening doors and working out bits of puzzles and expressing curtain emotions without speaking.

BS: Your first scene with Pinhead and the Cenobites was visually stunning. What was it like for you when filming that scene with everybody in their makeup?

IB: I was so stunned by the powerful image before my very eyes, and the first take was one showing my true astonishment! The shock on my face was real. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work — we couldn’t use the first take for technical reasons. I was glad they had to do another take though, as I felt for a few seconds I had been unable to stay in character.

Filming Hellraiser 2 with Doug, Simon, Barbie and Nick, Ashley, Tony, and the crew and makeup ladies had a big impact on me in a very positive way. Of course, it was because I was being introduced to the adult world. It was hard work, and some of the days in the studio seemed like a lifetime. But we got through it knowing we were part of something original, new and exciting. You make bonds and share an experience that is so unique and memorable…it makes you feel like a family.

The makeup room was where all the gossip went on. Simon, Barbie, Nick and Doug were always in before everyone else, along with the guys doing their prosthetic makeup (which took hours). I’d listen to them grumbling about their discomfort and hunger. Coming up from studio to be patched up or allowed to drink through straws and swallow a few painkillers. The costumes were heavy, the make up was uncomfortable, and there were injuries daily on set.

I was glad to be playing Tiffany, and I’m very aware to this day that the success of Hellraiser 2 was largely to do with the suffering of the guys playing the cenobites. That’s what you call dedication to your art!

There were also many happy and fun times…mornings filled with jokes, chit chat, naughty adult humor, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be working with such encouraging and supportive fellow artists.

BS: I love your scene involving the Sinister Carnival, which is a horrifying sequence and always affected me. Were there any obstacles to filming that scene or any others?

IB: There was a lot of running, and a couple of days outside in the Pinewood back alleys with the cameraman and a few others up in a crane doing long shots of me. It was just me….running, running, running….take after take. In those days, I was fit as a fiddle, so it was no problem. I’d probably have to train up for a few months now. If I was asked to do that over again — just thinking about it makes me tired! Not sure the guys were happy being so high up. I think someone was suffering vertigo!

I really enjoyed doing these scenes. Tony was generous in his preparation. He meticulously talked me through all the reactions I needed for the effects to be added later on — like the clown juggling his eyeballs. Other stuff was done in the studio, like the hall of mirrors.

Honestly, the hardest part about playing Tiffany was when it all came to an abrupt end. I hated having to say goodbye, then finding myself back at school catching up on school work missed (which I didn’t manage very well). For 6 months plus, I was driven in a chauffeured car (yes I know…very spoiled). The driver Morris and I had shared many a long journey. He always knew how to cheer me up if I was having a rough day. He was a great friend. I missed him, and I really missed my time playing Tiffany.

BS: Can you tell me what your favorite scene in the film was for you?

IB: I suppose the most fun was pulling Julia’s arm off. It was easy to act in that scene and the closest I got to being covered in blood. I also loved being in the wind tunnel, purely because it was fun to be working with Ashley. We giggled about the fake skin. It was fascinating to watch Claire at work being as experienced and brilliant as she is. I remember it was just a fun and happy day at work.

As far as my favorite scene as a member of the audience…well, it’s got to be the SHOCKINGLY HORRIFIC razor slashing mattress scene. When Dr. Channard lures his patient onto the mattress, knowing exactly what he’s doing — even giving him the razor to kill himself with. OMG, my jaw truly dropped when I saw that at the premiere for the first time. I loved Kenneth’s performance, a truly bad Baddie! When he holds the kerchief to his mouth (when I watch it these days, he makes me giggle at this point, and I’m not even sure why). I think he’s very well cast! And he is such a cool guy. I’m so glad he recently won a lifetime achievement award.

BS: With so many character twist and turns and bloody good special effects, what was your favorite special effect in the film?

IB: My favorite special effect was being put into a painting, and being hung by a harness over green screen up in the roof of the studio — then seeing it all come to life in the cinema with Tiffany nearly falling into the abyss of hell. It looked very effective!

BS: If you were asked to be in another Hellraiser film, would you?

IB: Yes… for sure!

BS: What was it like working with Doug Bradley while he was dressed as Pinhead?

IB: Doug just wasn’t Doug when dressed as Pinhead. Once dressed as Pinhead, he became Pinhead. I never experienced a bit of Doug in a bit of costume. Not that I remember anyway! Maybe only once when Pinhead came up from the studio to the makeup room and had to have assistance from one of the prosthetics guys to swallow some painkillers. Then for a second or two, Pinhead looked remotely human. Doug was the person I least saw, though heard most about — rather like Clive himself!

BS: Hellraiser II: Hellbound is a masterpiece in the horror genre. What has been the most positive outcome for you since making that film?

IB: The most positive outcome has been getting to guest at horror conventions and meeting the fans — and being part of something great that’s stood the test of time.

BS: I would love to hear your overall thoughts after seeing Hellraiser II: Hellbound for the very first time?

IB: What comes to mind straight away is how funny and empowering it was having my mother run out of the premiere screaming and being sick! She had been really annoying me! Aside my mother getting her ‘just deserts’ after insisting she (and not my boyfriend) accompany me to the first showing in London. I somehow felt empowered by watching ‘HELLRAISER 2’ for the very first time.

First of all, it was ten times better than I thought it would be. It boosted my confidence, which I needed because my parents weren’t the easiest of people. And I was not having a great time at boarding school. My life was somehow better, smoother for having a big ego boost! I enjoyed the film… loved the journey it took us on… and think it is a great example of HORROR!

BS: Were you a fan of horror films before landing the role of Tiffany?

IB: What do you think? That’s a big YES! It was a thing back in my teenage years, that whoever had gotten their hands on the newest American Horror movie was sure to have lots of friends want a ‘SLEEP OVER’ and a good party! It was also a popular way for a good cuddle up with your girl/boyfriend. And you knew someone really liked you if they invited you to a ‘HORROR MOVIE SLEEP OVER’…best nights ever!

I think my first ever horror movie experience was when I was 13 yrs old. We (my mum and 3 sisters) were staying with a family of boys up in Scotland (The Buchan boys). And HALLOWEEN and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET were in their collection.

Alas, these days being a full time single Mum means I rarely watch anything other than Disney or Ceebeebies. And if I do get to see a horror, I’m asleep before the end!

BS: Outside of being in one of the most amazing horror films of all time, what do you like to do in everyday life?

IB: Everyday life is very happy these days. I’ve had to start all over again a few times. Moving away from my roots to simplify and distress my life. Concentrating on my girls and being a full time Mum. I feel very blessed, and despite having had a few scrapes with the law when my addiction to alcohol was getting the better of me, I have come along way and manage my quirks like the happy, healthy, thankful person I always wanted to be.

My day to day routine consists of chores tidying, cooking, cleaning, washing. Looking after my girls and three pets: a horse, a dog and a cat called Pudding. It’s lovely being needed all the time and busy doing what fills your heart with all the good stuff. I’m lucky and I know it, even though it does mean a lot of pooper-scooping!

BS: I would like to take the time and thank you so much Immy for doing this interview with me. I’ve always found Tiffany to be a, inspiration to face your fears, and I’m a huge fan.

IB: Thank you Billy for giving me opportunity to chat with you…and share with you memories of special times filming Hellraiser 2.

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