Barbie Wilde is best known as the Female Cenobite in Clive Barker's classic cult horror movie 'Hellbound: Hellraiser II'. She has performed in cabaret in Bangkok, Thailand, robotically danced in the Bollywood blockbuster, 'Janbazz', played a vicious mugger in the vigilante thriller 'Death Wish III' and appeared as a drummer for an electronica band in the so-called "Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80's horror" 'Grizzly II: The Predator', a.k.a, 'Grizzly II: The Concert', which starred a then unknown George Clooney. She was a founder member of the mime/dance/music group, SHOCK, which supported such artists as Gary Numan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode and Adam & the Ants in the 1980s.
Barbie presented and wrote eight different music and film review TV programs in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. She interviewed such pop personalities as Cliff Richard, Iggy Pop, John Lydon (AKA the Sex Pistol's Johnny Rotten), The Sisters of Mercy, Roger Taylor of Queen, Pepsi & Shirley, The B52's, Lisa Stansfield, Jimmy Sommerville and Black, as well as actors Nicolas Cage and Hugh Grant.
In 2009, Barbie contributed a well-received short story, entitled 'Sister Cilice', to the 'Hellbound Hearts' Anthology, edited by Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan. The stories in 'Hellbound Hearts' were based on Clive Barker's mythology from his novella 'The Hellbound Heart', the basis for the Hellraiser film franchise. In 2011-12, Barbie contributed three more short stories to three different horror anthologies: 'U for Uranophobia' for 'Phobophobia', 'American Mutant: Hands of Dominion' for 'Mutation Nation' and 'Polyp' for 'The Mammoth Book of Body Horror'.
Barbie's first novel, 'The Venus Complex', a fictionalized diary of a serial killer, was published by Comet Press on the 1st of November, 2012.
Hi Barbie, how are things with you?
I’m a bit stressed at the moment -- juggling too many things, I guess. But I’m happy that I’m so busy!
In five words how would you describe yourself?
Short, angry, bubbly, Aquarian blonde!
You are a modern day horror icon -- were you a fan of genre before you found infamy as a Cenobite?
Thank you! I was never what I’d call a fan of horror, although I certainly watched a lot of horror movies over the years. I actually didn’t want to go to the audition for the Female Cenobite, because “Hellraiser” creeped me out so much. But I do appreciate the genre now, of course.
And what was the draw of the horror genre for you?
My favorite is Sci-fi horror. When I was a kid, both my father and big brother were into Sci-fi novels and introduced me to the genre -- so any Sci-fi films that were on TV had to be watched as well.
Movies from the 1950s like “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “The Invaders from Mars”, “The Thing from Outer Space” were all “Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” TV favs, along with early episodes of “The Twilight Zone”, “Night Gallery” and “The Outer Limits”.
Later on, I really liked the psychological tension of films like “The Innocents”, “Night of the Demon” and “The Haunting” (not the remake!). I also liked the visceral remakes of “The Thing” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. And originals such as “Alien”, “Audition”, “The Ring”, etc.
I like intelligent horror, which is the kind of thing that Clive Barker does. I’m not really into teen vampires, zombies and slashing-just-for-the-sake-of-slashing films.
Because of my interest in the criminal mind, I’m also into serial killer films, which is a kind of realistic horror I suppose: the original “Psycho”, “Se7en”, etc.*
You have had such a varied career, actor, writer, musician, casting director among others, which do you think has given you the most satisfaction?
I loved presenting TV shows and my favorite job was reviewing movies for ITV many years ago on a program called “The Small Screen”. And writing, of course. But my absolute favorite was performing onstage in my music-dance-mime group Shock in the 1980s, supporting such artists as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Adam and the Ants, Ultravox, etc. We toured around the UK and Europe and did a week-long residency at the Ritz Club in New York City. It was a fabulous time!
How exactly did you end up performing cabaret in Bangkok? And how was the experience ?
Well, that follows from the previous question. Shock got the gig in Bangkok, which has to be one of the strangest jobs I’ve ever done. (The manager of the club shot himself in the leg when he was cleaning his gun while we were there!) But it was fun and we had a great time.
You describe yourself as a “classically-trained Robotic Dancer”, how exactly does one become a classically trained Robot Dancer?
Well, I was trained in Classical and Corporal Mime by a teacher named Desmond Jones, who was trained at the Étienne Decroux School in Paris. Using various techniques gleaned from our training, a couple of my cohorts from Shock (the robotic duo Tik & Tok) and I perfected our Robotic Dance.
And how on earth did you end up dancing for Sooty and Morecambe and Wise?
I was working with another actress at the time and we devised a robotic routine. We called ourselves Technical Glamour (or TechnoGlam, for short). We auditioned and got both jobs. It was a delight working with both Matthew Corbett and Eric & Ernie.
Is there any footage of these performances still doing the rounds?
Just check out my Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/barbiewilde
The link for my robotic mannequin performance on The Morecambe and Wise Show is here:
And here’s Technical Glamour on the Sooty Show:
Most of my strange performances are up there.
Can you tell us about “Sprockets”?
“Sprockets” was an overview of the history of cinema that’s still sporadically shown on the Horror Channel on Sky TV. To be frank, I was used to writing my own stuff, so my co-presenter, John Guerrasio, and I weren’t terribly happy with the rather wooden scripts. However, we did have a lot of fun discussing B Movies like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and other classics.
I see you have also interviewed Cliff Richard, Johnny Rotten, Pepsi and Shirley and Hugh Grant. Do you have any titbits you can tell us about these interviews?
I was presenting a TV show called “Hold Tight” in the late 1980s and I was required to interview three or four music celebrities every week. The highlights were Cliff, Iggy Pop and the B-52s, who were wonderfully wacky in a uniquely American way.
Cliff was utterly adorable and a delight to interview. We hit it off because we’re both Star Trek fans.
Can’t remember much of my interview with Pepsi and Shirley -- it was ‘way back in 1987! I interviewed Hugh Grant for “The Small Screen”. He was cute, but tired. He kept fiddling with his hair and being a bit evasive.
How did interviewing Johnny Rotten compare to interviewing Cliff Richard?
Johnny was hilarious and as equally professional as Cliff was, in his own way. I interviewed him in a giant net (we were lying together like a pair of tuna fish) and he was a really good sport about it.
Here’s a clip from the show with a segment from the interview:
How much of an insight into the life of an actor did being a casting director give you?
It was really the other way around. After acting left me, as they say, I went into casting, mostly specializing in casting so-called “real people” in commercials and TV Channel Idents, not actors.
Ultimately, if you still have the desire to act, a casting director is one of the most depressing things you can be! One of my last jobs as a casting director was for MTV’s reality show “The Real World: London”. I seem to remember that I watched over 1000 videos of people auditioning for the show and interviewed at least 500. Or was it 700? It was an awesome task. Luckily I had a brilliant staff working for me.
Do you have any tips for budding actors for getting onto the good books with casting directors?
Be polite and inform yourself as much as you can about the part that you’re going up for. Be on time and don’t complain about waiting too long. And make sure that you don’t have to dash off to another appointment.
Before we talk more about your writing, I have to ask you a few questions about “Hellraiser”. How did you get the part?
Again, my agent sent me for the part, probably because of my mime training. They used mime artists to play the parts of the early humans for “2001: A Space Odyssey” and I think that the received wisdom was that mime artists are ideal for parts that require prosthetic makeup.
Had you seen the first “Hellraiser” prior to going up for the part? And what did you think of it?
I’d seen the film and it scared the beejeebers out of me. Pinhead and the Chatterer freaked me out. But I loved the imagery and I thought that Clare Higgins was amazing as Julia. How glorious to have a woman portrayed as this fabulous, sexually voracious creature who would stoop to nothing to get her man’s skin back. I mean, that’s love!
How much time did you have to spend in make up?
Four hours for the application of the skull cap, prosthetics and the makeup and 30 minutes to get into the costume.
The film has become a classic of the genre -- were you ever aware during the filming of just how important and iconic the films where going to become?
Well, the first film was pretty ground-breaking, but I really didn’t have any idea that all the films would become so popular, especially in the United States. We all thought we were just making a little cult British horror movie.
How much have you embraced the legacy of the film?
To be frank, I’ve only seen the first two films of the “Hellraiser” franchise. Out of the two, my favorite has to be the first one.
As far as embracing the legacy, I love talking about the making of the film and meeting the fans, especially in the company of my fellow Cenobites, as well as Andy Robinson and Ashley Laurence. Doug Bradley in particular is full of entertaining anecdotes about the whole series of the films and their inception.
It’s wonderful being a small part of a vision as extraordinary as Clive Barker’s
Do you ever get tired of being tagged as the Female Cenobite?
Rule Number One of a (rather) limited acting career: Never get tired of being tagged as the part that made you (a bit) famous. I’ve met some actors on the convention circuit who are a little bitter (considering all the other work they’ve done) that they’re only known for just one role, but I’m thrilled that people appreciate what I’ve done. I don’t think this makes me “the best actress in the world” as some fans would put it, bless ‘em, but it’s very nice to see how my performance has connected with so many people.
Did you get to keep any of your costume? And if you did, do you ever put it on for doing the housework?
Ha! I tried to persuade the prop guy to give me one of the Lament Configuration Boxes and he just laughed helplessly at me. Nooooo, no one was allowed to take any souvenirs -- at least to my knowledge. And the leather, KY Jelly-covered costume was quite heavy and uncomfortable, so it would have been totally impractical (and slippery!) for housework.
How much time did you spend with the other actors?
I spent a fair amount of time with Doug, Ken and Nicko, who were all adorable and kept my spirits up. (I wasn’t a very happy bunny dealing with lengthy make-up process.) I don’t think I met Simon until after the shoot, because of the process of putting him in and taking him out of the Butterball costume kept him away from the rest of us.
And did you ever sing "shine on Harvey Moon" to Kenneth Cranham?
This is terrible. I didn’t know that Ken had done that series until afterwards! I had no idea who he was. All I did was annoy him and ask him to marry me as in “Hi Ken, my name is Barbie. Do you want to get married and have lots of kids called Pepper and Skipper?” (I was kidding, of course.) Of course, he had no idea of what I was talking about. (Pepper and Skipper are the names of friends and rivals of the Barbie and Ken Doll range.) It’s amazing we’re still friends!
If they ever get the much talked about reboot off the ground would you be up for doing it?
Of course, although, as mentioned before, acting left me behind a long time ago. However, watching the clips from the latest instalment (“Hellraiser: Revelations”) doesn’t give me much hope for the franchise. I believe Clive feels the same.
Do you take part in many conventions? And if so what has been the strangest
request from a fan?
I’ve done a fair amount of conventions and I’ve enjoyed all of them. I don’t do as many as Doug Bradley, but that makes sense. I was only in one of the movies, he was in 8 “Hellraisers”!
Strangest request from a fan? Well, I actually think this is quite sweet: A fan had the Female Cenobite tattooed on his leg and he asked me to sign it, so he could run back to the tattooist so he could tattoo my signature onto his leg! That’s pretty cool actually.
So let’s talk about your writing. How did you first come to start writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. Being published is a bit of a different story. I wrote a novel called “The Venus Complex” a few years ago that’s finally getting published soon, which is very exciting, but it’s taken me years to get it to the right publisher. That’s all down to Paul Kane, who read and reviewed my book and suggested my new publisher.
Paul interviewed me for the “The Hellraiser Chronicles” and he approached me to do a short story for the “Hellbound Hearts” Anthology. I told Paul that I didn’t think I could “do horror” or even write short stories, but somehow my story “Sister Cilice” just popped into my head and I wrote it in under a week.
I’ve been very lucky to have been asked to contribute stories to three anthologies in the last year: “Phobophobia” (“U for Uranobphobia”), “Mutation Nation” (“American Mutant: Hands of Dominion”) and “The Mammoth Book of Body Horror” (“Polyp”).
And how would you describe your writing style? After reading your story in “Phobophobia”, I would describe it as writing with a punch harder than Mike Tyson.
Thank you! I’ve always admired Clive’s style and Hemingway’s as well: muscular, short prose, no pussyfooting around, but descriptive. That’s what I aim for. My novel is entirely from a man’s viewpoint, which was a challenge, but I like the idea of writing like a man, but from the erotic perspective of a woman. I’m interested in exploring the erotic elements of horror and crime. Violence (although I’m not afraid of portraying violent stuff) is so overdone now. People might be a bit uneasy about the portrayal of sexual matters, especially in the current climate of political correctness gone mad, but I just think it’s fascinating.
How personal is your writing? Do you write from the heart, and put your thoughts, fears, and desires on the page? Or is it all pure fiction?
Ahhhh, now there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say. I remember someone asking Thomas Harris a similar question: in other words, how can you write so feelingly about a serial killer? You must have some thoughts or desires in the same area? Harris was so outraged (he’d been a crime reporter before becoming a best-selling author, hence his expertise), that he never spoke to the press again. (Although this could be an apocryphal story.)
I don’t know where this stuff comes from -- swirling in from my fetid imagination. With the serial killer book, I did my research, which gave me some very nasty dreams, which sparked off some writing that I can almost describe as “channelling” my character. In many way, I just like to create the character and see where he or she takes me. Sometimes it’s to very dark and scary (even for me) places. But you’d be a wimp if you didn’t follow where your characters take you, wouldn’t you?
However, of course, something of me (my anger, paranoia, closeted childhood) comes out in my writing. It’s very cathartic!
Have you ever considered writing a more light-hearted story?
I’ve written a very cute story called “Coco and the Dust Mites” about a Yorkshire Terrier who accidentally eats a magic potion, shrinks to a teeny tiny size and has to fight the terrifying dust mites in his owner’s carpet. Actually, that sounds pretty horrible, doesn’t it?
Funnily enough, I think all my stories have a light-hearted side, even if they do contain demonic nuns, serial killers, polyps, kids with mutant hands and women with Sky God complexes.
You have also written an entry for “Hellbound Hearts”, how did you come to be included in this anthology?
As mentioned before, Paul Kane asked me to write a story for it. He suggested that I might want to explore the mythology from a female perspective, but not necessary from the actual Female Cenobite’s perspective, because that character was from the film, not the original story. I went back to the source material of Clive’s novella, “The Hellbound Heart” and re-discovered that the head Cenobite in that story was actually female, which was pretty cool. I also was inspired by Gary Tunnicliffe’s idea that the Female Cenobite might have been a nun in her previous life.
Your story “Sister Cilice” has been cited in a number of reviews as being a highlight of the anthology. Can you tell us what the story is about?
That’s wonderful. I was very chuffed that “Sister Cilice” got such great reviews.
“Sister Cilice” is about a woman who is placed in a convent against her will and who fantasizes about power, domination, sensuality and freedom -- all the things that are forbidden to her. She finds a key to the Schism that can bring forth the Order of the Gash and she fearlessly summons the Cenobites, who are astounded at her willingness to trade her humanity for infernal, eternal sensation.
You have also written a novel called “The Venus Complex”. Can you tell us what this is about?
“The Venus Complex” explores how an ordinary guy can metamorphose into a serial killer. I wanted to investigate his mental and sexual journey more than the violent elements of what a story like this could normally entail. The lead character, Michael Friday, is lost in an abyss of frustration and rage and he wants out, he wants to create something, but he doesn’t have the talent. So he creates works of art out of destruction, goddesses out of mere dental hygienists and beauty out of death. The book is also about the sickness and obsession that is LOVE.
My little tag line is: “Enter into Michael's world through the pages of his personal journal, where every diseased thought, disturbing dream, politically incorrect rant and sexually explicit murder highlights his journey from zero to psycho.”
Have you found a publisher for it yet?
Yes, I’ve just been signed by Comet Press for “The Venus Complex”, thanks to a recommendation by Paul Kane. (Of course, it may not have that title when it finally comes out.)
In the dawning of a new era in publishing have you not considered self publishing it and sticking it up on Amazon?
I thought about it and even tried one self-publishing company, but they took my money, messed me around and then went bust! I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about self-publishing, so I was very happy to be accepted by a publisher in the end, although it was a long process.
I've just finished reading “Phobophobia” and your entry in it was in my opinion a
highlight. The story is simply brilliant. Intense, and full of primal rage. How do you channel such feelings into a story?
As mentioned before, I have no idea where this stuff comes from. I do my research, then an idea hits me and I run with it. Although, for a short, blonde person, I do seem to have a lot of pent-up rage. Maybe it’s a Napoleonic complex of some kind?
How angry are you as a person? And what are the things that really set you off?
I’m adorable as a person, what are you talking about??? Step outside, bud. (Ha, ha, ha!) I don’t think I’m an Angry Type, but like my serial killer, I do get enraged by the stupidity, pettiness and pointless violence of the human race. However, I just came across this quote the other day, and it’s so damn beautiful that I resolve to always read it when I despair of the human race in the future:
“But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.”
― Robert Ardrey
You attended the launch party for “Phobophobia”. How well did that go?
Oh, it was great. So lovely to meet some of my fellow authors. And then we all went to the British Fantasy Society annual do, which was fun.
I see Doug Bradley also appeared; did you get a chance to catch up with him at all?
We went for a Cenobitesque drink afterwards. I adore Doug. I adore all my fellow Cenobites! We always have so much fun when we get together.
Has there been much interest in the book (“Phobophobia”)?
At the moment, we sending out the manuscript and waiting for reviews. Thanks for your review, by the way. It was brilliant that you reviewed every single story!
You have also just had a story published in “The Mammoth Book of Body Horror”. What can we expect from this one?
Well, “Polyp” is truly the most disgusting story I’ve ever written. In many ways, it was written from the heart, but I don’t want to go into too much detail. It’s a crazy, absurdist, visceral journey. (I also think it’s very funny in a surreal way.)
And how did you come to be involved with this anthology?
Again, Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan invited me to contribute. They’ve been unbelievably helpful and supportive of my writing over the years.
The anthology has some of the biggest names in horror fiction. How do you feel about being part of this excellent collection?
I’m very honored to be in the company of such horror luminaries as Clive Barker, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell and John W. Campbell, as well as the first lady of horror, Mary Shelley.
What would you say is the perfect place to start reading your work?
Oh, I wouldn’t have the first idea. I’m a chronological person myself, so I’d start with “Sister Cilice”, if you don’t mind erotic imagery, that is! Of course, the first thing that I wrote was my novel, but that won’t be out for a while.
Do you have any final words for the readers.
I’m so pleased that people are interested in reading my work in the first place, as I came to it quite late in my weird career. So, just a big “thank you!”
Can you tell us about any future projects?
Well, I’ve got a few novel projects on the go: one is an erotic (of course) vampire novel with a very different twist and the other one is a crime novel about a homeless guy who solves a murder. And I’ve just had a new idea for a very unusual haunted horror story, either as a novella or a film script, I’m not sure yet.
I’m also involved in the writing of the book for a musical drama that’s basically “Inglourious Basterds” meets “Moulin Rouge!” in a crazy cocktail of the themes of war, violence, secrets, revenge, love and forgiveness.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk to one of my all time horror icons. It has been a great honour.
Thanks for your questions!
One last question, and you slap me for being cheeky. Is there any chance I could get an autographed photo? It would be the highlight of my year.
Of course! ***