By Owen Quinn
Barbie Wilde is one hell of a lady, literally. She is most famous to you guys as the female Cenobite in Hellraiser 2 but she is truly one of the most hard working, talented and professional people you will ever meet. She has been working non stop in the music and movie industry for years and you name them, she’s met them. Here she takes us through her colourful and action packed life from meeting the cream of the pop industry to working with Gary Numan. She tells us about working with George Clooney, Doug Bradley and the legendary Charles Bronson. So sit back and come with us on a journey that most of us can only dream of. Hi Barbie, can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a bijoux blonde Canadian: actress, mime artist, singer, casting director, now writer.
You started training to be a mime artist. How did you come to be involved with SILENTS?
A friend of mine in the States recommended that I try out some classes at the Dance Centre, Covent Garden when I arrived in London to continue my studies with the Syracuse University Study Abroad program. I chose to attend a mime class, met Tim Dry, became his girlfriend and then was asked to join the fringe theatre mime company that he was already a member of, which was called SILENTS. At that time, it was the largest mime company in the UK.
You toured with several pop stars like Gary Numan, Adam Ant and Depeche Mode (a personal favourite of mine). How did that come about and what is your fondest memory from that time?
After Tim and I moved on from SILENTS, we formed a mime duo act called Drawing in Space. One day, we were performing a robotic shop window mannequins act in a store called The Liberated Lady on the King’s Road. Another couple were performing inside, Robert Pereno and LA Richards, and at the end of the day, Robert asked us to join his group SHOCK, which at that time was a disco dance group. Robert wanted to turn the group into something special involving mime, dance, music and theatre, which is why he was interested in involving us.
We did a lot of gigs in the cabaret circuit, then Steve Fairnie, lead singer and songwriter for the band Famous Names, spotted us and invited SHOCK to tour with them. In many ways, that was our critical breakthrough into the music business.
Soon we were recording our first single for RCA, “Angel Face”, with legendary producers Rusty Egan and Richard James Burgess. Through their connections, artists like Spandeau Ballet, Boy George and Steve Strange were coming to see our gigs. Word spread, and that’s how folks like Gary Numan heard of us and asked us to support them. Certainly, supporting Gary at Wembley was the highlight for me, as well as doing a week-long residency at the legendary Ritz Club in New York City.
You also did several movies like Death Wish III. What was Charles Bronson like to work with? Were you a bit star struck meeting a legend like Charles?
Death Wish III was fun, although the director, Michael Winner, could be a bit trying at times with his waspish sense of humour. Charles Bronson was a lovely guy, but he kept to himself most of the time, as his wife, Jill Ireland, was suffering from cancer at the time.
Even if you are star struck, you can’t really show it, as you’re supposed to be working with these folks in a professional manner and you can’t afford to get tongue-tied in a scene.
What was Grizzly 2 like with Charlie Sheen and George Clooney. Does working with actors like that open your eyes to the industry and how it works?
Grizzly II was strange one. I was part of the band performing a huge concert in a national park, while the giant bear was attacking people on the periphery, so we really didn’t interact with the bear’s early victims (George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Laura Dern), because their scenes were shot in the forest. I did meet John Rhys-Davies (Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and veteran American actors, Dick Anthony Williams and Louise Fletcher.
Sadly Grizzly II was a bit of a disaster, as it was never finished or released. Even the mechanical bear kept breaking down! But it is certainly up there as one of the most bizarre acting experiences I’ve ever had.
You’ve wrote and hosted several shows, The American Hot 100, Hold Tight, and the Small Screen amongst others. How did those shows come about?
After music and acting, I moved into TV presenting, something that I was very interested in. (I’ve always felt more comfortable as myself rather than acting as another character.) My agent at the time put me up for the jobs and I got them, which is always a triumph in show biz!
You seemed to be able to tap into what people wanted to see and talk about through your numerous music stars interviews. What is your own personal taste in music?
My taste is totally eclectic. I love classical music, film music, folk and ethnic music (especially Latin and Mexican), artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, etc. As long as someone is trying to do something a bit different, as long as they have some kind of unique quality, then I’m willing to give them a listen.
Which celebrity stood out for you as being the opposite of what you expected?
Hugh Grant was a bit grumpy, but I suspect he was a little jet-lagged when I interviewed him.
Johnny Rotten was absolutely adorable, funny, completely professional and did everything we asked him to do. As an icon of punk, I was expecting him to be the grumpy one!
And who was exactly as you thought they would be?
Cliff Richard was brilliant, smart, professional and a compete Star Trek fan. Fabulous!
As a casting director, what do you look for in an actor before submitting them for a role?
My job as a casting director was more in the side of finding “real” people to appear in reality shows like MTV’s The Real World or for background artists in TV shows like The Buddha of Suburbia, so personality was very important, coupled with the right “look”. Since I wasn’t a conventional casting director, I guess I was looking for unconventional types to cast in shows or commercials.
You became the Female Cenobite in Hellraiser 2. How did you get that role?
I was asked to attend an audition for the film probably because of my classically trained mime background. I know that Clive had his own theatre company and mime was an important part of it.
Had you seen the first movie?
Yes, I had and it made a big impression on me! It wasn’t the usual kind of horror film, that’s for sure and the cenobites were very effective and scary. (Although Julia was pretty scary as well!)
How did you deal with the prosthetics. Had you had much experience with them before this role?
I’d done some mask work in commercials and music videos before, but not prosthetic makeup. It was a bit tough, but nowadays, spending four hours in makeup is nothing! To be frank, I found the process very tiring and it didn’t do any favors for my skin either. Luckily the makeup crew and my fellow actors were really supportive and funny.
Doug Bradley is the master of Cenobites. Although each was individual, did you sort of work as a team to give the Cenobites a uniform style of movement?
We didn’t talk about it, but we somehow intuitively worked together to form a Cenobite unit. Also, Nicholas (Chatterer) Vince and Simon (Butterball) Bamford were very limited movement-wise by the fact that they couldn’t really see much through their headpieces, so we had to match their pace.
Are you surprised by the continuing appeal of the movies and that people still love you in that role?
I’m not that surprised, as I truly believe that Clive created something unique and mythological, first with his novella, The Hellbound Heart, and then with the first Hellraiser film, which screenwriter Peter Atkins continued with Hellbound. And I’m really grateful that people are still watching the film and appreciating my performance.
People love that line, “Are you teasing us?” It’s right up there with “Beam Me Up, Scotty”. How did you try to make the female Cenobite stand out to audiences?
I think that people have a tendency to think that actors have more influence and input than they actually do. Clive created the characters of the cenobites, Peter wrote the script for Hellbound and Tony Randel directed the film. My job was to interpret the words and actions in the screenplay as best I could. I didn’t consciously think about making my character stand out in one way or another. Movies are always a collective, collaborative effort. If you’re Tom Cruise, then you might be able to dictate how things go, but not on my level. Of course, I had a lot of help, as the Female Cenobite makeup design was so striking.
Your whole body language was regal in the way she carried herself yet animalistic as if she were about to pounce any second. Did your work with SILENTS help achieve that fluidity?
I think my mime and dance training added a lot, but the costume, which was quite restrictive on one hand, and yet empowering on the other, also helped a lot.
Are you a fan of the horror genre? What is it that appeals to you?
I’ve watched horror films since I was a kid: Creature Features on TV, Sci-fi horror (my dad was a big Sci-fi fan) like the black and white originals of The Invasion if the Body Snatchers, The Thing (1951) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), as well as ghost stories like The Haunting (1963) and The Innocents.
I prefer psychological horror to torture porn. I’m so bored with hapless teens running through the woods being chased by ax-wielding maniacs, I could scream! That’s why I’m excited to see the rise of unusual horror films by non-Hollywood (and fellow Canadian) directors like the Soska Sisters (American Mary), Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird) and Chris Alexander (Blood for Irina).
What made you write The Venus Complex?
I’ve always been interested in the criminal mind. When I first found out about serial killers many years ago, I was intrigued by these humans that were so different from me. Their lack of empathy and lack of regard for their fellow humans was chilling, but fascinating.
Tell us about The Venus Complex. Where did the idea come from?
After reading a lot of books and novels about serial killers, I felt that their sexual motivations had yet to be explored, at least to my satisfaction. I had the idea of writing a book from the perspective of a female forensic psychologist on a case, but then I realised that I was far more interested in writing from the viewpoint of the killer himself. That’s when I started to work on the book in earnest, after doing a lot of research.
Here’s a synopsis-review that my editor on Hellbound Hearts, Paul Kane, wrote about The Venus Complex:
“After purposefully killing his wife in a car accident, art professor Michael Friday finds his perspective on things has become a little…warped. Via his personal journal, we’re allowed into his mind to slowly watch the disintegration of it, bearing witness to his unnerving sexual cravings and ideas about killing: intertwined with the paintings he loves so much. As Michael writes, he’s “turning into something dead”; but at the same time he wants to be somebody, not a nobody.
Using his diary to rant against the world in general – including everything from banks to popular culture, from national holidays like Christmas to politics – he reveals more about the big, gaping hole in his own life. But as the novel goes on the first person narrative tensely builds up, displaying his dark dreams and innermost thoughts; his way of filling that void and presenting his grisly “works of art” to the world. As intelligent and cultured as Hannibal, easily as disturbing as American Psycho and infinitely less ‘reassuring’ than Dexter, this is a sexually-charged real life horror story that will definitely stay with you.”
Are you a regulated writer or just write when the zone takes you?
Many of the subjects I tackle are difficult ones, from challenging perspectives and viewpoints: such as writing in the character of a serial killer (The Venus Complex), or a sex-crazed nun who metamorphoses into a demon from hell (“Sister Cilice”), or a woman with a sky god fixation who was sexually abused as a child (“Uranophobia”), or a born-again preacher with a mutant son (“American Mutant”). I do need to find the “zone” when I write and since I often have a lot of different projects on, it is sometimes difficult to be regulated in my writing.
[You were] hailed as “one of the finest purveyors of erotically charged horror fiction around” by Fangoria and The Venus Complex was well received everywhere and seems to balance horror, sex and human emotion in equal measures. Do you believe that any story needs the human element no matter how bizarre the setting of the book?
It really depends on what kind of book you are writing. My particular fascination is with humans and human behaviour, so the human element is very important to me as a writer and a reader.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a short story called “Zulu Zombies” (and I’m not particularly fond of zombies, so it’s a story with a difference!) for the Bestiarum Vocabulum anthology edited by Dean Drinkel, which should be out in August 2013. I’m co-writing a musical drama for stage and screen, as well as thinking about a sequel to The Venus Complex.
I’ve also been working with Eric Gross of The Followers of the Pandorics, co-designing a box dedicated to my cenobite character, Sister Cilice. I’ve written a “further adventures” story to accompany the Cilicium Pandoric, which you can read here:
Where can people find out more about your career and the books?
For more news, review, interviews, as well as photos and biography, go to:
My Facebook page for my writing is:
And you can follow me on Twitter at:
What advice would you give any artist, writer or actor out there thinking of giving any of these crafts a go?
Just follow a quote from one of my favourite films, GalaxyQuest:
“Never give up. Never surrender!”
Also, if you want to be a writer: write from your heart, write about your passions and be well-informed about your subject, so if you suffer from writer’s block, you can go back to you research to reactivate your inspiration.
Barbie, thank you very much!