Mr. Moseley is the king of cool. Regardless if the flick is about chainsaws or corpses, you know Bill is going to create a character you’ll never forget.
It was an honor and a privilege to speak with Mr. Top, and he was kind enough to not only give us some insight into his iconic career, but a nice glance into the future of Moseley as well.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: What was the first movie that changed your life?
BILL MOSELEY: Well, that would be going back pretty far. I guess the first scary movie I ever saw, speaking of the horror genre, was THE BLOB with Steve McQueen. When I was a little boy visiting my grandmother in New York City, somehow or other I managed to prevail upon her to take me to the movie theater and see THE BLOB. It really overwhelmed me. I think it was 1956, I was five years old or something, so I wasn’t exactly a fully-formed adult. It really scared the crap out of me. I remember later that night, when I was put to bed in my grandmother’s apartment, I insisted on sleeping with the door open in my little guest room. At the foot of the bed, there was a dresser with a mirror, and with the way the door opened the light kinda glinted off the mirror. That scared me. I remember that was a life-changing experience.
Tell us a little about your experience on TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2.
When I first got to the set of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, back in the spring of 1986 down in Austin, Texas, I remember meeting Tobe for the first time. I’d never really auditioned for the movie – I kind of showed up and met him. I was hired on the basis of a short film I did called THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MANICURE, which I wrote and produced, and actually gave myself a cameo in it as the Hitchhiker. Tobe liked that portrayal so much that I ended up getting hired on the basis of the CHAINSAW MANICURE- which was about a five minute short-for the part of Chop-Top. I had never met him, and I was down in Austin getting my head shaved and getting the Chop-Top make-up done by Tom Savini and his gang of ghouls – in what we called the House of Pain. Tobe showed up and we chatted a little bit. He alluded to how he thought TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was a comedy. He thought it was just really funny. I remember just thinking, “What? That is insane.”
When watching the first one, there are times I laugh, but it’s more like a nervous laugh. It’s like the scene where Jim Siedow is hitting her with the broom handle, and he’s going between manic and apologetic. It’s funny, but it’s the blackest of humor.
It also allowed me – subconsciously, because I don’t think I was thinking along those lines – to trust anyone who thought that was funny. Well then, we’re really in for a big ride on the sequel here.
What are your thoughts on the change of tone between the two films?
I think first of all it came down to his collaboration with L. M. “Kit” Carson. Kit had written PARIS, TEXAS and was more like a serious independent film writer, with articles in a serious magazine called Film Comment. Kit and Tobe got together and wrote the sequel. I guess everyone had been clamoring for the sequel. It took ten years for it to finally come out. I’m sure it’s common knowledge that there were problems trying to get the money that the original CHAIN SAW generated. Somehow there was some funny business, and no one saw the original tens of millions of dollars that the original CHAIN SAW generated. To this day, I’m sure there are people laughing and lying on a beach somewhere that profited from the original CHAIN SAW, and sadly, the actors, director, and producers did not. It was a Cannon film – part of a three picture deal that Tobe had with Cannon. I think the other two pictures were LIFEFORCE and the remake of INVADERS FROM MARS. Tobe was not planning to direct, as I remember, but he and Kit had gotten together and written this crazy script. It wanted to address a lot of their cultural concerns at the time – the rise of the yuppie, consumerism, Texas-OU weekend (when people would go blood crazy over this great football rivalry). There were a lot of things going on that Tobe wanted to incorporate in the sequel.
You once described your acting method as intuitive, instead of technical. Your portrayal of Otis B. Driftwood in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, and especially in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, almost seemed natural. Simply put, it appeared you weren’t even acting at all – and I mean that as a compliment. How did you approach and/or prepare for the role of Otis Driftwood?
That was the first time that I’ve ever revisited a character. In HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, when we first meet Otis Driftwood, I never really merged with the character until after we finished production. It was a collaboration. Obviously, I was pretty close while we were shooting. Rob helped me a lot. Before we started shooting HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, at first I thought Rob basically wanted his own version of Chop-Top, because he seemed to be a big Chop-Top fan. We met when I emceed this little horror awards show as Chop-Top. One of the award recipients was Rob Zombie. I think it freaked him out when he realized that’s the guy who plays Chop-Top. We talked and he had this script. About a month later, he offered me, through his manager Andy Gould, the lead role in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Chop-Top was my big character through that time, and as an insecure actor – like so many actors can be – I was really holding onto Chop-Top like a life preserver. This is my nom de plume. Thank God for Rob. I guess he saw Otis in me when I didn’t. What he did was, gently but firmly, pried my fingers off Chop-Top and led me to Otis.
I remember one scene in particular: We were at the HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. It’s daylight. I’m hiding behind some old washing machines in the front yard. The cops have come – Tommy Towles and Walton Goggins. I have a gun on him and I say, “On your knees, Piggy.” As I’m doing that, I come out holding the gun and say the line and everything works fine, and Rob comes over to me and says, “Let’s do that again. This time, as you’re walking out holding the gun on the deputy, with your other hand, pull your t-shirt up and scratch your belly as you’re doing it.” I went, “OK.” I walk out and the next time, I’m scratching my belly. That to me is brilliant directing. That helped me get a little closer to Otis. Of course he wouldn’t come out tense, he would come out scratching his belly like – You’re mine, Piggy.
HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES was 88 minutes long. There were more scenes, but Universal kind of parted ways with us, and Rob took a lot of the footage to MGM to do editing, then they parted ways too. So there were a lot of moves. I think some of the footage must have gotten lost or something, so Rob needed to shoot more things to make it as close to 90 minutes as possible. We ended up doing some extra pick-up shots and little shots here and there. One of those was the “Run, Rabbit, Run” scene. I’ve got to say that’s when I really identified – Oh, *that’s* Otis! When I was preparing to come back as Otis in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, that was the scene that I would play so I could say, “Oh, yeah. That’s Otis.” I hit the set prepared. I played this character before. The first movie was kind of like the metaphor of buying a car. You go to the dealer, you look around, you know what you want. You kick the tires, you haggle over a price, ask for different options and whatever else. That was HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS was like you own the car, and now you take it out for a spin.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D is currently in post-production, and you’re moving up in the family hierarchy, this time playing Drayton Sawyer, aka the Cook- the character made famous by the late great Jim Siedow. Can you tell us a little bit about that film?
I don’t know how much I can tell you in terms of the plot. I can tell you it does open at the place the original CHAIN SAW ends. I was really happy when the producer Carl Mazzocone called me up and said, “Hey man, I want you to play the Cook.” At first I thought that was cuckoo, because it sounded like calling Curly up for a remake of the Three Stooges and saying, “Hey, I want you to play Moe.” It’s a great responsibility, but at the same time it was an honor to be put in charge of protecting Jim Siedow’s great legacy. I was a personal friend of Jim and his wife Ruth. We exchanged Christmas cards and talked on the phone, so I was very happy that I was going to get a chance to – I don’t know about extend his legacy – but certainly protect it. It’s interesting because he is such a different character from the Hitchhiker or Chop-Top. I obviously did a lot of homework and had a personal relationship to draw from, but it’s weird. His body language is so much different from mine or any character I’ve ever played. I’m certainly not trying to replace – just imitate as best as I could.
I will tell you about a moment I had: We shot down in Shreveport, Louisiana , outside of a little town called Bossier City – actually on the Red River. You remember Red River Rock and Roll from CHAINSAW 2. Our hotel was on the banks of the Red River. It was shot last summer. I was down there for a week, and the average temperature was about 104. Down there it’s very humid. It doesn’t take long before you turn into a blob of sweat. The producer, Carl, had the original CHAIN SAW house reproduced very faithfully in a field on an army base. One moment, I was lying in the front hall of the CHAIN SAW house. Behind me is the door that has the zig-zag chainsaw cut that Bubba did in the original– prompting Jim Siedow’s immortal line, “Look what your brother did to the door!” For some reason, I’m just lying down on the floor. I’m at the bottom of the stair that goes up to Grandma and Grandpa. I’m looking down where the sliding steel door is open. There’s a red felt background with all of the animal skulls hanging on it, which we remember fondly from the original CHAIN SAW. I’ve got some sticky stage blood on me and it’s 104 degrees; stuck to me are hundreds of chicken feathers, because they’re all over the place. The crew is kind of stepping over me, they’re pulling cables over me, and I’m just kind of an obstacle lying on the floor there. And I’m wondering how many of the crew actually knows the history of what they’re doing, what this is. I had a moment where I was just going, “Oh my God – where I am.” It just struck me: the history of it, what I was doing, just how powerful and important it was. TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE really changed my life, and it has certainly been responsible for this amazing career I’ve had, which is all great fortune.
So after this positive experience, is there any chance of you in any upcoming incarnations of CHAINSAW playing Leatherface, or maybe – even more of a stretch – as Sally?
I hope so. Actually Marilyn Burns was down there, Gunnar Hansen was down there, and John Dugan – who played the original Grandpa forty years ago in the original– returns to play Grandpa. I’ve got to say that I remember a couple of years after CHAINSAW 2 had come out, I was at some kind of a horror function and Ed Neal was there. There was a party of about six or seven of us that went out to dinner, and Ed was part of that party. I had heard through the grapevine that Ed had been offered the part of Chop-Top, and I guess he wanted more than Cannon wanted to pay-which wasn’t very much. So I was afraid there was going to be some bad blood. Ed had meant so much to me, because 98 percent of Chop-Top was based on Ed Neal’s performance. I always give Ed full credit because Ed really blew my mind with the Hitchhiker. The Hitchhiker is definitely the father of Chop-Top, by all means. I was a little nervous because I was afraid the guy was going to be mean to me, and rightfully so. It was kind of like, “You took my job, you son of a bitch!” Instead, we all sat in the big booth at Tony Roma’s and Ed was hilarious. He was a real fun, friendly guy. I got the sense that we were cool. Over the years, I’ve seen Ed at a bunch of horror conventions and at different places, and he’s just the greatest guy. I love Ed.
He didn’t challenge you to a dance-off or anything?
No. I’m grateful for that, especially because I definitely have two left feet.
Though you’ll always be remembered as Chop-Top and Otis, are there any films in which you’ve appeared, that you felt fell undeservedly under the radar?
I had a great experience on a movie called ROGUE RIVER, which I think is just about to come out on DVD. We did it a couple of years ago. It was a first time director named Jourdan McClure. We shot the movie up on the Rogue River in southern Oregon, up by Grant’s Pass. I enjoyed working on it. It was not only a good character to play, but also I got to work with my real-life girlfriend Lucinda Jenney, who is a great actress in her own right. I hope people get to see that. I’ve also had some nice comments on a movie I did directed by Corbin Bernsen of L.A. Law, called DEAD AIR. I play a shock jock disc jockey, and I’m on the air when there’s a zombie apocalypse. That’s a lot of fun.
I’m assuming some horror fans were caught off guard with REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, with the blending of musical and horror – two genres which rarely coincide. They’re probably even more surprised to see you sing. What are your thoughts on making that film, as well as the rare cinematic opportunity to show off your golden pipes?
Years before REPO was going into production, I had actually seen the stage play in a little Hollywood Boulevard storefront theater. A guy had taken me to see it, and it was done with a bunch of black lights and glowing organs. I was in San Jose at a Fangoria convention doing a Q&A. It was in a room that had partitioned walls – so it must have been some kind of a ballroom. I was in one of the rooms and Darren (Bousman) was in the next room over doing his Q&A. I was just finishing up and could hear Darren, because he was amplified. Someone was asking him about his dream project or something like that, and Darren started to talk about REPO. I talked to him later and said to him, “Hey, man. What were you talking about? Because I think I saw that.” As it turned out, Darren had directed the stage production. Flash forward maybe a year later or so, I got a call to go meet with Darren and his buddy Terrance. We met and they were talking about REPO. They said, “We want you to be in this movie. We know you can kill, but can you sing?” And I said, “Well, yeah. Sure.” They had to audition me to make sure I could sing. It’s opera, so there are no spoken lines in it. I auditioned for it – I actually followed one of the Pussycat Dolls – at a sound studio in north Hollywood. I guess I did well enough to get the part, which was good. I’ve been taking singing lessons for about 18 years, with the same voice coach. And I do that, not because I have operatic aspirations, but because as an actor you want to go to the gym to keep your waistline trim, and the voice is so important that it’s great to have a vocal coach. It’s really kind of the gym of the voice. I do that every Wednesday. I go over to the Valley and sing Eagles songs at the piano.
Some of your more casual fans might not know that you are the lead singer of a couple of bands: Cornbugs, and more recently, Spider Mountain.
As Chop-top says, “Music is my life.” I come from a musical family. Music has always been important to me – culturally, spiritually – and when I say spiritually, I mean the Doors, not church music. I’ve always been musical. I had a band with my two brothers, Bruce and Dan, called the Moseley Brothers Band. We would just kind of jam and make up these songs. That actually helped in terms of working with Buckethead. Buckethead was a Chop-Top fan. We got together in the early nineties in Los Angeles. Buckethead likes to jam, but he’s a pretty elusive guy so you have to be quick on your feet. When he’s there, whatever you get is what you’re going to get. You’re not really going to be able to call up and say, “Hey, let’s get together tomorrow and fix this thing or do this thing differently.” Tomorrow might not come for six months or even a year. Cornbugs put out five or six CDs of songs, and there was never a second take. They were all made out on the spot. They were all spontaneous. Sometimes you can tell in the production, maybe a missed beat here or there or something going wrong. But for the most part, the music is pretty good because the spirit was there.
With Spider Mountain, I worked with a guy named Rani Sharone. I had met Rani at a convention years ago and he gave me a copy of his CD. I played it and thought it was awesome. It was kind of a Danny Elfman, Dark Carnival-upbeat wicked kind of sound – completely different really than Cornbugs. When I wanted to do some more music, I called him up and we started working on Spider Mountain. Spider Mountain is actually composed music, which is a far cry from the spontaneity of Cornbugs.
Your music is available on your website. Want to tell our readers a little bit about how they can get in contact with you about your music, movies, memorabilia, pictures, and what-not?
They can do that choptopsbbq.com. It’s a nice family-friendly website with a bunch of crazy stuff on it. You can buy stuff: music, pictures, posters, scripts. There are a lot of fun things to do there, like Chop-Top’s Crazy Piano. We’re just starting to do a refurbishing of Chop-Top’s BBQ, and I’m working with Tobe Hooper’s son, Tony. That’s going to be a lot of fun.
Tell us a little bit about what people can expect from Bill Moseley in the near future.
In the near future, I’m looking forward to playing Charlie Manson in something called MANSON GIRLS. It’s a movie by Susanna Lo that’s going into production one of these days. I’ve shot a trailer for it, but I’m not sure if they’ve released it yet. I’ve also recorded the old Doors classic “Five to One.” I recorded that a couple of months ago with one of the Doobie Brothers. That is going to be the soundtrack to the trailer, so that was pretty exciting. I also worked in Spain with a young director called Marc Fernandez Garcia on kind of a horror version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL called MUGWORTH. I think he’s planning on doing another film later this year so I’m looking forward to working with him again on that. In this line of work, you’ve always got plenty of irons in the fire.
Check out Bill’s site:
And finally, check out this good shit:
Special thanks to:
for her transcription services!
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