Interview: Horror Icon Bill Moseley | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, February 27th, 2020  

Bill Moseley in 'The Possession Experiment'

Horror Icon Bill Moseley

Star of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Devil’s Rejects, and Possession Experiment discusses his craft

Dec 06, 2016 Web Exclusive
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With dozens of genre credits to his name spanning the last three decades, fewer names or faces have been more synonymous with the horror genre than Bill Moseley’s. Devotees of ‘80s horror flicks will recognize him as Chop Top, brother of Leatherface, from Tobe Hooper’s wild classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; who could forget him picking at the exposed plate in his skull with a heated coathanger, or his numerous, colorfully obscene turns of phrase? New-school horror fans may better know him as the demented Otis Driftwood in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. Others will know him for his music; in particular, the experimental albums he put out with Buckethead under the name Cornbugs.

Moseley’s latest entry into horror cinema is The Possession Experiment, now available On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD. In the film, he plays a priest who performed an exorcism that took place more than two decades before the film begins, and which the main characters investigate as part of a college religions course project.

We briefly chatted with Moseley about his new film, his background and his acting technique.

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: You’re one of the more iconic actors working in horror today. Were you a big horror fan before you became one of the genre’s recurring faces?

Bill Moseley: I was, actually! I come from a mercifully Halloween-friendly family in the rural Midwest, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. My dad was a very tough guy, a Marine, football guy, liked to hunt out in the woods and do pushups. He would actually become a very different person at Halloween. That was the night that we all just had a great time. I had two brothers, and we’d go around and do grave rubbings in the cemeteries, and my dad would arrange for the cops to show up and turn their sirens on. [Laughs] He took us to an old, abandoned farm and he had some friend up there pretending to be a ghost. And so it was a very friendly time growing up.

And then, when I was in college, I was the co-promoter of a film series that ran for a couple years, even after we graduated and were gone, that was called “Things That Go Bump in the Night.” Every Tuesday at midnight we’d show a horror movie. And so, yeah, I was primed and ready to go. I really feel like a kid in a candy store, because it’s certainly my favorite genre and I’m just really glad to be working in a genre that I love.

You play a priest in The Possession Experiment, and from what we see of you he seems like a pretty level-headed guy. Is it a relief to sometimes play a character that isn’t as unhinged as many of the ones you’re famous for?

I find it’s a little easier, actually, because that’s a little more like my personality. Playing the priest was a challenge, because the drama of the scene [an exorcism] was that it was a competition. Not quite Packers versus Bears, but more like good versus evil. As a priest, my faith, my life is in the church, and the power of good, of God. I come in to the exorcism – which has presumably been going on for quite a few days before [what we see in the film] – like it’s a marathon, like I’m going to run the devil down and that good will eventually triumph over evil. So, it’s quite a surprise when it doesn’t work out that way. [Laughs] I certainly enjoyed wearing a priest’s outfit, with the Bible, the crucifix, the holy water, the incantations and the prayers. The drama of it was very, very exciting.

When you’re looking at a script or considering a new project, what are the things you look for? What makes you excited to play a new part?

Well, it’s cynical, but some things need to be in place. The check needs to clear, and I really don’t want to get hurt, you know? And so if I see it’s a low budget movie and there is a scene, you know, where my character gets dragged by his heels behind a pickup truck over a gravel road, and then gets set on fire…? Those are the kinds of things I look for, which make me ask a lot more questions about the stunt budget. [Laughs] But at this point, I would have to say it doesn’t really matter to me. In other words, I don’t really worry that much about the characters because each time I do a movie, it’s really different. Obviously it would be great to do another Devil’s Rejects or a Chainsaw 2. Sometimes a script just jumps out at you, but it’s really hard to carry that all the way through to the screen. I’ve done some movies where the script was fantastic, but by the time it got to the screen – whether through acting choices, or editing, or whatever it was – what appeared on the screen was not what it could have been. Or had there been more money, or had different choices been made, you know. I can just show and try to kick ass every time I get a job. [Laughs]

I think a lot of must be surprised to learn your background after they’ve seen some of the dark characters you’ve played. You started out in journalism and studied at Yale. Are there any skills you picked up during your journalism days that you’ve found have helped you as an actor?

One of the things I’ve learned from writing is to exercise that imagination muscle on a daily basis. As an actor, when I get a script and things are worked out to where I’m going to do the project, what I like to do is read the script three or four times and just let my imagination go. I just try to figure out how my character can make real choices in his natural environment. It seems to have worked out.

Also, as a journalist, I did a lot of interviews and learned how to ask questions. I’m not afraid to ask the director or a writer what they mean. I also have the confidence to think of movie jobs as collaborations. I kind of think of myself as an advanced scout of reality. I’m kind of being lowered into this movie, and it’s its own, unnatural world, and I can report back and say, “Here’s what I’m seeing.” “Is this consistent with the action?” “What if I say this, or did this?” As long it’s a collaborative effort like that, it’s very exciting. Not to say that I can’t be someone who takes orders and just speaks what’s on the page – I can do that, too, but for me it’s a lot more fun to collaborate and try to figure out how make the scene work.

You’re a musician in addition to being an actor. How do those two creative outlets compare to you? Do you feel one avenue more fulfilling than the other? How do they differ most?

Well, I think you reach a certain kind of ecstasy in both. Ecstasy, from the Greek ekstasis, meaning “out of self.” It happens sometimes in acting. I certainly remember some great moments, as Otis Driftwood or Chop Top, or Largo in Repo!. You get these moments, and they don’t last through the whole production – it may be a minute or two, on one day – but you’re doing a character, and for a little bit, it is real. You are the character, the other people are who they are in the script, and the story is real. You’ve gotten to a place where it is, I guess, truthful. And that’s a big kick.

With music that also happens. Especially working with Buckethead – we had a band called Cornbugs. Collaborating with Buckethead was so much fun. We had maybe five CDs worth of songs and I don’t think we ever did a second take on any of the songs. A lot of them we just made up on the spot. Some of them I would bring in lyrics and we’d kind of hash out the music. Just being able to collaborate like that, all of the experience, the prejudices, the negativity, the self-stuff, it all falls away and you’re just doing it. That’s where I think [music and acting] have something in common.

Is there a type of role you haven’t been offered yet, but would love to see sent your way?

You know, not really one that I can think of. There are certainly people I’d like to work with – like Guillermo Del Toro, or Quentin Tarantino – big-shots like that. But I’m pretty happy. It’s like I can say, “Oh, if only I could play in that romantic comedy,” or dance my way through a movie. But, actually, I did dance, in Repo!... but, no, I’m good now! [Laughs] I’m really good with what I’m doing.

***

The Possession Experiment is now available On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD. For more information, check out its Facebook page.

Follow Bill Moseley on Twitter or head to his official website, choptopsbbq.com, to keep on his latest projects.



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