It goes without saying that there are a ton of no-name actors that have made their mark in the horror genre but sadly disappeared shortly after. These are people that just didn’t deliver the type of performance that it takes to make a long-lasting impression on horror fans. But then there are the Bill Moseley’s of horror cinema—the guys who have stayed true to their roots in the genre and have experienced flourishing careers as a result. Although his first acting gig was as a cab driver in director Alan Rudolph’s Endangered Species, Moseley’s first big break into horror was in the understatedly iconic role of Chop-top in Tobe Hooper’s 1984 humor-spewing sequel to his magnum opus, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He has since starred in approximately 87 roles in film and television—including an appearance in the overlooked Freddy’s Nightmares series as Buzz in the “Black Tickets” episode. Under the direction of special effects maestro Tom Savini, Moseley took on the character of Johnny in the George Romero-produced 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.
Moseley slipped under the radar during the ‘90s, but he made a monumental comeback in 2003 as haggard psychopath Otis Firefly in Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1,000 Corpses, one of the most superlative, eccentric horror films to date since the inauguration of the new millennium, in this writer’s humble opinion. He reprised his role as Otis in Zombie’s 2005 universally revered follow-up to House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects. Since then, he has taken on various roles in a slew of noteworthy independent horror features, including frequent Saw helmer Darren Lynn Bousman’s macabre musicals Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Devil’s Carnival as well as Tim Sullivan’s 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, replacing Robert Englund as the iconic Mayor Buckman.
Outside of his expansive career as a poster boy for outstanding horror cinema, Moseley is an avid writer, freelance journalist, animal enthusiast and singer/song writer extraordinaire. Diabolique got a chance to catch up with him at the recent Third Annual Calgary Horror Con, and it was a definite highlight of the occasion for yours truly…
DIABOLIQUE: How are your enjoying the Calgary Horror Con so far? Is this your first time visiting Alberta?
BILL MOSELEY: This is my first time in Calgary. Calgary has treated me very well. I came up from Los Angeles on Thursday and on Friday, Dan and Sandi—the organizers—organized a bus trip for some of the celebrities to Banff. We had a wonderful day there. It was beautiful. We went up SulpherMountain to the Cosmic Ray Station and also enjoyed seeing the endangered ugly, gray snails in the BasinCave.
DIABOLIQUE: Did you eat one?
MOSELEY: They’re endangered! No! [Laughs] But I stuck my hand in the water in the cave just to see if the water was scalding hot. It wasn’t. But then I saw a sign saying, “Don’t put your hand in the water or you might kill the snails from the oils on your hands.” So, if I killed the snails, I apologize, but otherwise it’s been great.
DIABOLIQUE: You reprised your role as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s Chop-top in All American Massacre. As it stands, the film has not been released. What can you tell us about the fate of All American Massacre? Do you know if it will ever get an official release?
MOSELEY: You know, I think it’s almost gotten to place where All American Massacre has been such a mystery for so long that it couldn’t possibly meet, let alone exceed, the expectations of the fans that have been waiting so long for it. It started out as a 10-minute video, kind of a backyard project by William Tony Hooper—Toby’s son—who really only just wanted to do a little 5 to 10 minute video just to show off his computer graphics skills, and he came up with the prequel/sequel to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; prequel meaning that you see Chop-top and the Hitchhiker together as twin brothers before Chop-top went off to Vietnam. Of course, it’s all told via flashback by an older Chop-top, who has been in a mental institution for ten years, and what was really especially cooler about it was that the plate was so much bigger, because, of course, 10 more years of scratching that plate can only make it bigger as the skin is peeled away.
So it’s a very cool idea and I think it just kind of kept growing and growing and getting so big—and then I think there were some rights concerns, even though it’s his dad who made the original, and you know, I think it just got overwhelming. And there were different funding problems. It just exceeded its scope. It looks cool. We ended up doing some more stuff with it, meaning shooting more scenes than what had originally been planned. Buckethead ended up playing Leatherface, which I thought was hilarious because Buckethead’s as skinny as a bean post, so he wore a fat suit.
If you go online, there’s a great All American Massacre trailer. It’s about a minute and a half long and has an original Buckethead guitar score. So I can see how everybody is just dying for it. But I just don’t know. I have faith in Tony. He’s a very good director; a very cool mind. So maybe someday, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.
DIABOLIQUE: You also did the voice of Johnny in the recent Night of the Living Dead: Origins. What you tell us about this project?
MOSELEY: Well, actually if I had been back in town—I was just on vacation—if I had been back in town I would have actually gone to the premiere. I think there was a premiere or a screening. So it’s ready to go. I think it’s actually maybe out at the film festival market. I played Johnny in that. I worked with a guy name Zebediah De Soto, who was the original kind of imagineer of it. I don’t know if he’s still with the project.
But I know that Tony Todd is Ben again. Danielle Harris is now Barbara. From what I saw, it was very cool. It’s all animated and set in New York because, you know, with animation you don’t have to worry about location so much. So it should be very cool.
DIABOLIQUE: How did you end up being cast as Johnny in Tom Savini’s 1990 reimagining of Night of the Living Dead?
MOSELEY: I had worked with Tom on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Tom was the special effects makeup master. He did the Chop-top makeup and the new Leatherface mask, all of the special FX, the blood, the squibs, all the different things that happened in it. So we became great pals because I was in his makeup clutches maybe five hours a day for two months. It was very intimate. So we became great pals.
So when he got the job to direct the remake of Night of the Living Dead, he called me up and said, “I’m sending you a script; pick any character.” So I read the script and I picked Harry—the guy in the basement, played wonderfully by Tommy Towles—because Harry had a bigger part and, therefore, I was going to make more money. That was my capitalistic interest. I told that to Tom and he said, “Pick any part, just make sure it’s Johnny.” So I went out and studied Boris Karloff movies and ended up getting it down saying, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” because that was, you know, the iconic line. I wanted to make sure I got that right.
DIABOLIQUE: How does it feel to be reunited with Tom Savini, Patricia Tallman and Tony Todd at this convention?
MOSELEY: It’s wonderful. I really can’t remember the last time I saw the Night of the Living Dead remake all the way through. And to be able to go to a theater, no less, and see the movie from beginning to end, in the company of the two stars and the director, was not just nostalgic; it was actually a really cool movie. I really enjoyed the experience. I thought the movie was a lot better than I had remembered. And then to do a Q & A and to get even more insight was fantastic. And then when Tom and I drove back to the hotel, we talked even more about it. So it really just brought the experience home, and I was very proud to be a part of it, however large or small.
DIABOLIQUE: Is it true that you’ve been cast as Charles Manson in Susanna Lo’s upcoming Manson Girls feature?
MOSELEY: Yes, I was cast as Charles, I think almost three years ago. The movie is yet to start rolling. I’m looking forward to the day that it does. And yeah, I’ll be Charlie. But they better hurry up or I’ll be kind of a non-threatening Manson if I’m pushing around in a walker. [Laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: How do you feel about being cast as one of the most infamous cult leaders in history? How are you preparing for the role?
MOSELEY: Well, you know what I did was I ended up reading Helter Skelter, certainly. And, I mean, I lived through those days. I wasn’t in Los Angeles when it happened, but of course, that had a major cultural impact on all of us. One of the things I did, in addition to reading Helter Skelter, of course, was to go on to YouTube and look at some of interviews and videos of Charlie behind bars. And, I thought there was definitely a method to his madness—or is, I should say. At one point, he was being interviewed by a famous American interviewer named Charlie Rose, and Charlie [Rose] looked at him and said, “Charles Manson, who are you?” And Charlie [Manson] looked at him and said, “I’m a roll of nickels, I’m a box car, and I’m a straight razor if you get too close.” And for somebody to whip that off the top of his head, I thought, “Now that’s a poet too.” I mean that’s not just whatever else he is. He’s a smart guy. And he’s got a crazy sense of humor like I do. He’s got poetry in his soul, like I think I do. So I just found out a lot, again, by just familiarizing myself with him. I found that we have a lot in common.
DIABOLIQUE: That’s kind of scary.
MOSELEY: Yeah, I guess.
DIABOLIQUE: How do you think Manson Girls is going to differ from other movies that have been based on Charles Manson and the family?
MOSELEY: Well, you know, it looks like—just from the title alone—that it’s going to emphasize the girls. And the girls were all under Charlie’s spell. They used sex to entice a lot guys and get a lot of favors. So I would imagine that it’s going to be a pretty crazy, sexy movie. And even if Charles Manson’s part isn’t that big in it, it depends, we’ll see. I’d go see it just to see crazy, sexy girls.
DIABOLIQUE: The greater part of your acting career has been based in the horror genre and in darker roles in general. Do you feel as though you’ve been typecast? Why do you think so many filmmakers approach you for roles in horror films?
MOSELEY: You know, it’s funny, I was doing a movie called White Fang—a Disney movie, very PG family friendly—back in the early ‘90s, and I was working with an actor named James Remar, who plays Dexter’s father on Dexter, among other roles. He’s been in a lot of movies and TV [shows]. So much more the senior actor, even though I think I’m a little older than he is. Anyway, one day we were standing on the set of White Fang and I was saying to him, “I just don’t know if I want to be typecast,” talking about horror movies or whatever. He looked at me, I think, with a little bit of derision. And he said to me, “You’d be lucky to be typecast.” And I thought about that.
It was a funny thing to say, but we were pals, so it was friendly. But I thought about it and I thought, “You’re right, I would be lucky to be typecast.” I’m perfectly happy to be working in the horror genre. I think it’s got so many opportunities. There are so many different roles you can play. I enjoy it. I love the horror genre. I’m a horror fan, first and foremost. I’ve always been into it since I was a kid. I consider myself a very lucky guy, because I feel like I was one of those kids that wanted to run off and join the circus, and I did and they let me stay.
DIABOLIQUE: You’re also an avid singer and musician. What inspired you to pursue music? Is it something you’ve been doing your whole life?
MOSELEY: It is. Actually, I come from a musical family—especially my mom. My older and younger brothers are both piano players. My older brother also plays bass guitar. So we had a band, a home band, called The Moseley Brothers—my younger brother on piano, my older brother on bass guitar and me on drums, harmonica and vocals. That was just something we loved to do. It kind of helped me in terms of improvising lyrics and being able to just make stuff up. And then I started working with Buckethead—the world’s greatest guitar player.
Buckethead is a very improve-friendly musician. So we had a band for a long time called Cornbugs, with his drummer, Pinchface, from a band called The Deli Creeps. And then I had a new band called SpiderMountain, with a guy named Rani Sharone, from a band called Stoning Babies. So we have a CD out called No Way Down. Then I’ve worked with Ogre, whom I met on Repo! The Genetic Opera, which also required singing. And Ogre, I worked on his album, Devil’s in my Details, and did spoken word on that. The Repo! gang got back together again for The Devil’s Carnival and so I sang in that as well as the musician. I’ve also done work for metal bands like Generic Christ, Combi-Christ and Sinner God out of England. So I love that. I’m still trying to do a CD with Phil Anselmo of Pantera. We’re pals. I just actually visited him down in Louisiana about three weeks ago. So that’s my goal, to do an album called Phil and Bill. We’ll see how that goes.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any plans to reunite with Cornbugs?
MOSELEY: I literally haven’t seen or talked to Buckethead in nearly three years. He just kind of comes and goes. There’s no way to call him or even to flash like a Bat insignia on a cloud. So I don’t know.
DIABOLIQUE: You also have a background in journalism. Do you still freelance for any publications?
MOSELEY: I don’t really have time to work for other publications. I was an English major in college. I started out in advertisement as a copywriter, but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So I ended up, I moved to New York from Boston where I worked in the ad agency, and I worked on the campaign trail for a Democratic presidential candidate in ’76—writing ads and things for him. I did a lot of freelancing for magazines like Rolling Stone and Omni and Psychology Today, which I really enjoyed. I love that work. But when I got into acting I joined the Union, the Screen Actors Guild, and all of the sudden it opened up a whole new world for me that just seemed to pay better. So then, when I had kids, that really was important. There’s one thing that I promised my kids as my dad had promised me and my brothers, and that was that I would pay for their education, instead of as they graduate they get saddled with a big IOU. I think that’s a little tough on anyone.
DIABOLIQUE: Are you working on any writing projects now?
MOSELEY: I haven’t had any fiction published. I’ve written a couple of screenplays and I’m actually writing one now. It’s really a lot of fun. I’m not a good writing partner these days, especially the last couple of months, just because I’ve been working and I’ve been on the road. I do have a writing partner and we’re on about page 80 of a great first draft. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But I’ve written a few screenplays and, of course, lots of lyrics and things. So, of course, I keep pen to paper.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any plans to direct in the future?
MOSELEY: I don’t. I think I’d be too hard on actors. [Laughing] Also, you know as an actor, I can’t wait ‘til I wrap and I get to go home. And the poor director and the DP are still out there cranking away. I think in order to be a good director you have to be called to it. It’s a calling. And I just don’t think I have it. I’m not a director.
DIABOLIQUE: You mentioned you’ve been a fan of the horror genre since childhood. What are your favorite horror films?
MOSELEY: I guess the top five on any given day would be: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the original Night of the Living Dead, Dracula, Frankenstein, Evil Dead 2, and Carnival of Souls. And I love some of the new movies. I loved both Human Centipede films. I really loved that movie The Descent. There’s a lot that I like. I loved Hostel. I thought that was really cool because I had been over in Poland making movies and it was so credible. I just thought, “Man, it’s hilarious.” And of course I love the movies that I’m in. I have a pretty wide taste. And also, I gotta say, I loved A Serbian Film. It’s really hard to watch. It took me two days to watch it all the way through. I love the use of horror films as metaphor and as political statements, and I thought it was just amazing. However disturbing and disgusting, I would really give it five stars.
DIABOLIQUE: What are you currently working on?
MOSELEY: I just finished doing a movie called Smothered, directed and written by John Schneider. It’s basically about over-the-hill horror icons that aren’t selling too many pictures at a convention, and get an offer to haunt somebody’s trailer park. So we jump in Kane Hodder’s van. Kane Hodder and I are pals and we’ve done two movies in the last six months. In Smothered, it’s Kane’s motor home that we all get into and travel to the haunted trailer park. Before that, in December, Kane and I worked together on a movie called Old 37. We play brothers that drive around in a beat up old ambulance and listen to the police scanner. We show up at accident sites before the real ambulance. I can’t tell you what we do but we do have a wood chipper in the back of the ambulance.
For more from Moseley, you can visit his official website, or you can follow him on Twitter: @choptopmoseley. For more on Bill Moseley, All American Massacre and Old 37, check back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com! Also, don’t forget to pick up Diabolique Issue #17, our incredibly great and star-studded horror-comedy issue, which is available for preorder now, available at the App Store now for iPad / iPhone users (Free with a Digital Subscription!) and will be on shelves and available for Digital Download on other platforms VERY soon!
– By Lacey Paige
Lacey is a devoted horror enthuasiast and movie collector. A recent journalism school graduate, she is currently a contributing writer for Diabolique, Cinesploitation, Absolute Underground and Fangoria. She likes taking long walks in dark, eerie places; reading true crime and horror fiction; and sharing her borderline-obsessive love of horror with just about anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter: @LaceyPaige88.