Bill Moseley might not be a name familiar to the average cinemagoer, but to horror fans around the world the actor is a revered genre figure, and quite rightly. Since making his feature debut – and turning it up all the way to eleven – as Chop Top, the deranged member of the cannibalistic family in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (more on that below) Mosely has been working steadily throughout the decades, and has turned into something of a muse for Rob Zombie, appearing in almost all of the rocker-turned-director films, including his upcoming 3 from Hell.
He recently teamed up with other titans from the genre – Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder and The Hills Have Eye’s Michael Berryman – for another distinctly British spin on the popular undead zombie sub-genre, entitled Shed of the Dead. We managed to grab some time recently over the phone with the jovial and accommodating actor, where he chatted about this recent film, his other brush with British cinema, the enjoyment he derives from horror conventions, and his fortuitous occurrence which led him on his path as a horror mainstay.
Shed of the Dead looks like a fun, very British, horror spoof. Was it the opportunity to do something over here in the UK with your fellow US horror veterans which appealed to you?
Absolutely. I love coming to England so I jumped at it. I thought the script was fun. I’m a big fan of Shaun of the Dead so I was raring to go.
Is this the first time you’ve appeared in something based in the UK?
No, I came over a couple of years before and did a very weird movie called Eldorado. It was produced by a guy in Cornwall where we actually shot it on his property. He later ended up in jail for some kind of tax scheme. The film has a sprawling cast. It’s like a B-movie who’s who. I certainly enjoyed working on it but it was a bizarre production. I flew in, travelled down to Cornwall, shot my stuff and got out really quickly in the span of a couple of days. It was really intensive.
With Shed of the Dead, it was a lot more like a regular production. It was fun working with [director] Drew Cunningham and it was a very enjoyable experience on the whole.
Presumably you attend a number of horror conventions?
I do. They’re really a lot of fun. I just came back from one with Sid Haig, good ole’ Captain Spalding from The Devil’s Rejects and 3 from Hell. Sid does a few more than I do over here in the States, but I probably attend around 10 or 12 a year.
Barbara Crampton, who we’ve talked with previously, has said that it’s similar to a family-like environment when all the genre actors meet up. Is it the same for you?
Oh yeah, it’s a lot of fun. First and foremost, it’s just an enjoyable weekend. They fly you into wherever you’re appearing, put you up in accommodation, and give you a table where you sign autographs and have photographs taken with fans. It’s also nice to hang out with your fellow ‘monsters’. It’s great to meet the fans, most of whom are really into your work, although not all (laughs) and I commend the courage of all those who actually make that trip to meet their horror heroes.
The festivals are also a great place to encourage young, aspiring filmmakers who harbour a dream of someday making a horror movie. It’s interesting because over the years I’ve met a couple of directors who stuck to their passion and went on to make a feature.
You first made your mark in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a film which was initially dismissed at the time of release but has since become a huge cult favourite. Did you think at the time it might take a while for audiences to warm to it?
I did not. At the time it was really like winning the lottery for me. I never auditioned for the part [of Chop Top]. A couple of years previous to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, around 1984, I made a short film called The Texas Chainsaw Manicure, which was set in a beauty parlour. I gave myself a cameo in it, basically playing the hitchhiker based on the character from Tobe Hopper’s original Chainsaw film.
A friend of mine, who was a screenwriter in Hollywood, saw the short. As it turned out, my friend and his scriptwriting partner had an office down the hall from Tobe, who was doing Poltergeist at the time. My buddy walked the VHS of Manicure into Tobe’s office and he watched it, loved it and was especially receptive to my little cameo. On that basis alone, he hired me as Chop Top two years later.
Prior to my profession acting career I was a freelance writer in New York City, so this was a new and exciting world for me. All of sudden I’m getting calls asking where my acting contract needed sent to. I has met an agent months back at a Christmas party and she handled it all. I went to Austin, Texas in the spring of 1986 and they shaved my head and [renowned horror makeup artist] Tom Savini attached a fake metal plate to look like part of my skull and I was off to the races.
The idea I was starring in the sequel to the original film, which I was a huge fan of, mostly occupied my thoughts at the time [of filming]. I certainly wasn’t thinking how it might compare to the first film or if the public would like it or not.
What do you think of the genre finally getting the kind of recognition it has always deserved?
I’m not surprised. It happens from time to time. Rob Zombie compares horror to heavy metal music, which is never really given the same love as interesting, alternative music. But heavy metal knows what it is and makes a lot of money from the fans. Horror movies are a lot like that.
I’ve pretty much stuck to the genre myself as a fan, and it’s got so much latitude in terms of political messages, like the original Night of the Living Dead. Recently, I though Get Out was terrific. It becomes fashionable and then the market is in love with horror – big names get into the genre and then it becomes saturated, and then it comes back another 10-15 years later. It’s cyclical, but for some of us who keep trudging the road we just try to make good work. If the corporations get hold of it and get all excited about it, whether it’s The Waking Dead or the Insidious series, it’s all the better.
You’ve worked almost exclusively in horror. Is there any other genre which you’d love to tackle?
Yeah, romantic comedy, of course (laughs).
Watch Shed of the Dead on CHILI now