Versatility is a word rarely associated with actors primarily known for their genre work. With a genre saturated by films reliant on tropes and conventions to attract audiences, memorable performances come few and far between, especially when many of the times the majority of the cast is out-acted by a silent, hulking monster. And yet, some genre actors embrace the nature of the genre by going completely weird with their savagery, churning out scene-stealing perfomances in every film that are too crazy to be forgotten and too unnerving to be campy.
Out of those actors, the one that can write the book on eerie acting would be Bill Moseley, a character actor with a love for the genre and a dedication to his craft, taking a job as a pre-credit victim as seriously as a Charles Manson-esque lead role. His cadence and physical performance may be bizarre and horrific, but nevertheless always somehow logical and completely effective. With his prolific career preceding him, Moseley is coming to this years Calgary Horror-Con, reuniting with many of his Night of the Living Dead (1990) co-stars as well. Moseley spoke to Diabolique about his career, Calgary and of course, his contributions to the Texas Chainsaw franchise…
DIABOLIQUE: So, what brings you to the Calgary Horror Convention this year? Have you ever been to Calgary previous to this event?
BILL MOSELEY: I’m glad to be coming up to Calgary from good old Los Angeles. It’ll be my first time in the great province of Alberta, and I’m looking forward to seeing the sights and meeting the horror fans!
DIABOLIQUE: At Calgary Horror Con, you will be participating in a reunion panel for Night of the Living Dead (1990). When you boarded this project, how important was it that your role and the film itself be respectful to the legendary source material? Was there anything from the previous portrayal of the character that you specifically wanted to avoid or pay homage to?
MOSELEY: I’d met director Tom Savini on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where Tom was a Special Effects Master, creating, among others, the makeup for my character, Chop-top. When George Romero hired Tom to direct the color remake of George’s zombie classic, Tom sent me a script and told me to pick any character. I pored over the pages, picked the character Harry, the man in the basement, because Harry had the biggest part, short of Ben and Barbara. Tom called, laughing, clarified by saying, “Pick any part- just make sure it’s Johnny!”
Of course, I’m a huge fan of the original, and in particular I loved Russ Streiner’s Johnny. I got the videotape of Die, Monster, Die!, studied Boris Karloff’s voice until I could say “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” with some comfort and skill. Russ Streiner set the bar and I just took a running jump at the character. Hope I did Russ and Johnny proud!
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve been working as an actor for over 30 years now, with directors as varied as Tobe Hooper, Rob Zombie, Darren Bousman and Sam Raimi. What has been the biggest difference you’ve noticed working with the directors of the ‘80s and ‘90s to working with directors now? Have you ever considered getting behind the camera for a film, genre or otherwise?
MOSELEY: The biggest difference between working with directors in the ’80s & ’90s versus the directors of today is, of course, film versus video! The second biggest difference is today’s reliance on CGI versus practical effects. It’s gotten a lot easier to make movies; there are many more distribution channels now versus yesteryear. Back in the day, there were theaters and TV, and that was it! Now, you can get your work out there almost at will.
In terms of the directors, like any profession, the cream rises to the top. The bigger the budget, the better the director will be (or you hope!). I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the best directors in the horror genre, and they’ve helped shaped me as a professional actor. Of course, you always learn something from any job!
DIABOLIQUE: To date, you’ve appeared in two installments of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, including the most recent Texas Chainsaw 3D. What about that franchise in particular is attractive to you as an actor, as opposed to other horror franchises? Do you find it difficult to remain objective to roles that are as immersive and as bizarre as the ones you’ve taken in that franchise?
MOSELEY: I love Texas Chainsaw because of the original [film]! It really blew my mind back in 1976, when I saw it on a double-bill with Enter the Dragon! Chop-top has really brought me my career in horror movies. That’s why Rob Zombie hired me to play Otis Driftwood, for instance. Regarding staying even when I’m playing crazies, it’s not so hard. No matter what the character or the situation, I just think, “I’m the only sane one here.”
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve appeared in several horror-comedies over the course of your career. What do you think it is about horror and comedy as genres that compliment one another? Do you intentionally seek out comedic elements in the genre projects that you are offered?
MOSELEY: Horror and comedy can be a wonderful, even powerful mix. I remember being shocked when Tobe Hooper told me that he considered the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be a comedy! We certainly took that a step farther in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, much to the delight of some fans and the chagrin of others. One of my favorite horror movies of all time is Evil Dead 2, with Bruce Campbell delivering a comic genius performance. I don’t seek out comedy in my horror jobs, but every character I play is happy in his work!
DIABOLIQUE: Out of your many roles over the years, has there been any specific role that you have never played but would have liked to play, or would still like to play? Would you like to work more in the realm of Television, such as your recurring role on Carnivale?
MOSELEY: I’ve certainly always wanted to work with the likes of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and, especially, Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo del Toro. In terms of television versus features, I’ve always been more comfortable with, and better-suited to, the movies. But it does seem like the great writing and chancier [projects] and roles are now on cable TV, so I’m open to both.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any projects currently in development or looking at a release in the near future?
MOSELEY: As I come into Calgary, I have five features that I’ve recently wrapped: Old 37 and Smothered, both with my buddy, Kane Hodder; The Church, written & directed by Philly’s own Dom Franklin; House of the Witch Doctor, directed by Devon Mikolas; and Sean Haitz’s Big Top Evil.
You can see Moseley alongside Tony Todd, Michael Berryman, Tom Savini, Cleve Hall, Constance Hall, Dave Trainor, Patricia Tallman, Jessica Cameron, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Linnea Quigley and more at Calgary Horror-Con, which takes place from Saturday, August 3rd to Sunday, August 4th at Hotel Blackfoot in Calgary, AB. For more on Moseley, you can visit his official website, or you can follow him on Twitter: @choptopmoseley. For more on Calgary Horror-Con, including the full schedule which is now available for download, or to purchase tickets which are still available, please visit the con’s official website, and you can visit their official Facebook and follow them on Twitter: @YYCHorrorCon.
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from MontclairStateUniversity, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.