Whether or not they’re willing to admit it, cinephiles are always inherently hoping that actors, no matter how big or small, end their careers with a bang rather than a whisper. Unfortunately, the landscape of filmmaking rarely lends itself to such a concept, as late-career paycheck roles and erratic personal lives either cut careers shorter than expected or end them on an uninspiring note. Looking at the careers of such greats as Sean Connery and Gene Hackman end on such dismal notes only heightens the hope of fans for a last-laugh comeback to which their legacy could fittingly end by. And in a business where most actors end their career simply by ceasing to live, especially within the horror genre as evident by the Hammer icons who acted until their last breath, there is rarely a more satisfying experience than seeing a talented actor break out of retirement to show the current generation not only what they can do, but also show their older fans where they can go.
Those attributes are especially prevalent in the return of Barbara Crampton to the world of horror in Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, playing a subdued and internally conflicted mother who reunites her divided family and unwittingly puts them at the mercy of three mask-clad killers. Crampton excels in this role, offering a new facet to her as an actress as she provides an unforeseen vulnerability to an emotionally damaged individual in a situation that’s spiraled out of control. Affecting, beautiful and absolutely engaging on many psychological levels, there are few comebacks in the world of horror that show as much potential as Crampton’s return in You’re Next, and fans will be keen to see where Crampton will venture to next. For Diabolique’s YOU’RE NEXT WEEK, Crampton spoke to us about her collaborators, the humanity behind You’re Next and the model for her matriarch…
DIABOLIQUE: It’s been a long road for You’re Next, but it’s finally seeing the light of day and I’m sure your fans will love to see you on the big screen again, especially in a role you really make your own. How did you become attached to this project?
BARBARA CRAMPTON: I was skiing in Tahoe and I got a call from my agent to come out of semi-retirement and play the mom in an independent horror movie. I had been taking care of my children for the last number of years, helping on the garden program at my kid’s school and I thought, “Oh, this will just be fun! I’ll be back to where I was before, in making movies.” I had no idea You’re Next was going to take on the life it’s taken on now and hopefully become the hit movie we all think it may be. It’s certainly been a wonderful ride for the past few years and we’re all super excited about it.
DIABOLIQUE: The cast for You’re Next is unique for the fact that there’s a good mix between actors who have collaborated previously and several newcomers to that particular independent horror group, including Sharni Vinson, Rob Moran and yourself. Did you or anyone else amongst the cast work together to establish trust amongst the newer players and those who had worked with Adam and Simon before?
CRAMPTON: As you know, a lot of these guys have worked together before: Ti [West], Joe [Swanberg], AJ [Bowen], Simon [Barrett] and Adam [Wingard], as well as some of the crew department as well. So they all knew each other and there was definitely a great camaraderie that these guys had established, so they just took us in from the first moment we were there and we all just felt like family immediately. Also, the fact that we play a family in the movie- I mean, none of us are shy anyway but we really did impose our personalities and ourselves and our feelings on one another and we all got along really well. I think that established a good feeling for the movie and for the tone of the movie when we were shooting it.
We were all quite familiar with each other and acted like great friends since the first day. We all threw ourselves into You’re Next, and with shooting conditions being so dark at night, we were probably all more tired and vulnerable than we would have been [on a traditional film shoot]. It was easier to establish a nice working relationship from the get-go.
DIABOLIQUE: This film is invigorating because it bounces between genres and veers into unpredictable territories at several times throughout while also focusing on the depth and relationships of the characters. Was there anything specifically about your characters that you wanted to bring to the performance that might not have been on the page?
CRAMPTON: I think every actor does that to a certain extent where you actually see the character through your own eyes. I also knew for my character that she had some certain depression issues and, potentially, she used to drink but she’s not drinking anymore. She longed for her family to be close and to be together and they weren’t, and they had issues with one another. So I had some things that I had to play and I had to look for a role model to use as a marker in my mind as to who this person was, and I actually used my own mother.
DIABOLIQUE: Barbara, you’re best known previously in the horror genre for your work in very high concept horror films, especially your collaborations with Stuart Gordon. Was the simplicity and inherently human elements of this story an attractive concept to you to return to genre films?
CRAMPTON: Yes, that’s a really good question and thank you. I think it was actually because this story feels more intimate and real than a lot of the things I’ve worked on. I feel like You’re Next works so well because of all the relationships between the people in the story, and the story really works because of all the characters involved. It has to, as a home invasion movie. The interdependence we have on one another is really important to the story so we all have to work in concert with one another and you have to believe that this is a family in peril.
There’s a certain level of believability that has to work for this movie to work as a whole and I think it definitely does. I was really blown away showing up the first few days and working with these people because all of the actors in this movie are amazing, even just in the way that they were in the moment and were so real. There were times that AJ would be talking and I’d think, “Is he saying a line to me or is he talking to me?” I couldn’t tell because the line between just being and acting was so marginal. [AJ] was just so real to me all the time, but I was just blown away by all of these people.
DIABOLIQUE: You’re Next is easily your biggest theatrical release in a very long time. If this film is successful, what do you think the future may hold for you as a genre performer? Are you considering returning to your semi-retirement?
CRAMPTON: Being a mother is very hard work and making movies is really fun. It’s the best job when you’re working, and I certainly want to keep working if I could. My kids are 10 and 12 now, and I feel like I’ve gotten them to a point where they’re more self-sufficient and if I leave for a few weeks here or there, it’s not going to matter so much. If I have the opportunity to work a little more, I’d certainly be delighted with that.
DIABOLIQUE: Aside from You’re Next, do you have projects either in development or awaiting release in the near future?
CRAMPTON: Well, it’s all about the money, so I have a few things now since I’m sort of back, I guess. People have reached out to me, saying, “We’re looking to raise money for this project or that project.” I have four in development now that people are waiting to get funds for, so hopefully that’ll happen in the next few months and maybe You’re Next will help us find money for that if it does well, which we all expect it to.
You’re Next, starring Crampton, Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, Rob Moran and AJ Bowen invades theaters from Lionsgate this Friday, August 23rd. For more information on You’re Next, you can visit its official website, like its official Facebook or follow the film on Twitter: @lionsgatehorror. For more from Barbara Crampton, you can follow her on Twitter: @barbaracrampton. You can also see Crampton in Re-Animator, From Beyond and The Lords of Salem, the former two films are currently available on DVD/Blu-ray and the latter hits September 3rd on DVD/Blu-ray.
Don’t forget that this week at Diabolique Magazine is YOU’RE NEXT WEEK, and we will have our review of the film, featured in Diabolique #17, on our website tomorrow. To see our previous interviews for YOU’RE NEXT WEEK, you can find our exclusive with Adam Wingard here, our exclusive with Joe Swanberg here and our interview with AJ Bowen here.
For more on Barbara Crampton, Lionsgate and You’re Next, keep checking back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com! Don’t forget to pick up Diabolique #17, available now for iPad/iPhone at the App Store, and will be on shelves and for other digital platforms this week, which features exclusive comments from Adam Wingard on You’re Next as well as an early look at our official review for the film!
– By Ken W. Hanley