Bill Moseley knows a thing or two about pulling charisma from dark places.
After exploding into the horror business with his breakout role as Chop Top in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, he’s navigated his way through everything from ARMY OF DARKNESS and Tom Savini’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake to cult sensations like DEATH HOUSE and REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA, often tinging his blood-laden performances with biting humor and satire. Somewhere along the way, Rob Zombie made a movie — HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, the most memorable murderous backwoods family saga since TEXAS CHAINSAW — and Moseley gave us Otis, the corpse-embracing, cheerleader-torturing brother of Baby and Tiny Firefly. It is a character who has been reprised and canonized into the horror lexicon — first as the major psycho in a larger HOUSE, then as one of three unhinged survivors on the lam in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS.
Now, fourteen years later, Otis is back in 3 FROM HELL, the long-awaited sequel to THE DEVIL’S REJECTS that continues the adventures of the Firefly family into unknown territory — after having served a decade in prison. The movie is brazen, raunchy, fascinating, and charged with full-on homicidal glee. FM was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the film and speak to Moseley about his methods, co-stars, and becoming part of horror’s most notable deadly families.
Famous Monsters. Just to get this out of the way, it’s an absolutely honor to to interview someone who I consider to be horror royalty and has starred in so many of my favorite movies and series, so cheers, good sir.
Bill Moseley. Thank you very much!
FM. To start with 3 FROM HELL… I’m always intrigued when filmmakers go back to films that are 10 or 15 years old and make a sequel, or add to the series. How did it feel, for you, to revisit Otis after all these years? Did you learn anything new about him or yourself?
BM. I mean, yeah. In 14 years you learn a lot, whether you want to or not. I was a little nervous about revisiting Otis after all that time. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do as good of a job as in DEVIL’S REJECTS, which was just letting go and becoming the character for however long it took to shoot. I didn’t really know how it was going to work. The second day of shooting, I had a mini-monologue to deliver, and I was flubbing the lines for the first couple of takes. Rob was kind of raising an eyebrow, like, dude. I ended up taking a moment and sitting down, trying to be quiet. Eventually I heard a voice say, “Bill, get outta the way. I got this.” It was Otis. He was saying, we don’t need the insecure Hollywood actor worrying about your better side or what the line is, just sit down and I can take it from here. That was the transition. There were no longer all of those concerns and fears and insecurites. Just — “I know how to ride the bike, so give me the bike, and I’ll see you later.”
FM. That’s great! It sort of relates to my next question, which… you’ve played so many supporting and cameo characters over the years, but with this one, your character essentially carries the franchise. Without Otis, there is no movie. Did that add to the pressure for you?
BM. No, not really, because it was so familiar. Not only was it Rob and Rob’s script and Sheri [Moon Zombie] and Sid [Haig], it was fun to work with the cinematographer, David Daniel, again — he’d been in the camera department on DEVIL’S REJECTS. I felt very comfortable in front of his cameras. And then of course Wayne Toth, who does the special effects makeup and had done it for a lot of Rob’s stage shows. I’ve known Wayne for a long time. And it didn’t take very long to get back into it, once Otis chased “Actor Bill” out of the way. [laughs] We just got rolling. It was a fun story, it was great to welcome a new character in Richard Brake. He’s also a great actor and a great guy, so we had a lot of fun. We bonded immediately.
FM. It sounds like it was like coming back to a family, in a way, which is interesting because you often act in movies as part of a horrible family — whether it’s this family, or the Largo family in REPO, or the cannibal family in TEXAS CHAINSAW. How does that part of the script, the family, enhance your performances and experiences on set?
BM. I think it really just comes down to letting the family dynamics play out, both in front of the camera and behind it. Unless we were born from a test tube, we all come from a family, and there will always be family dynamics. There’s some good stuff, some bad stuff, a lot of politics, and there’s always that sense that when the family itself is threatened, everybody pulls together and forgets their petty differences. It’s really no different with the Fireflys. Obviously, [Richard Brake’s] Foxy has his insecurities because he’s joining us, and as such is insecure and wants to know where he stands. And then we have Captain Spaulding, and his fate impacts a lot of us very deeply. You put it all together, and it’s… okay, it is different from most families, let’s hope. [laughs] But for the most part, it’s something that’s familiar, if not completely identifiable.
FM. Speaking of the dynamic, a lot of moments in 3 FROM HELL struck me as almost freestyle dialogue, like you were just improvising or making it up on the spot. Is that true, or was it all scripted?
BM. A lot of it was scripted. I do have to say that in a couple of scenes with Richard Brake… There was the scene with us waiting for Baby to do her thing. We’re in the hotel room, playing Go Fish. The only time the family ends up really thinking about the future or having any kind of plan at all is when Richard starts talking about his pornography business. It was so funny. He started to go with that, I don’t even know where it came from — I don’t think it was a scripted line! He just started to go for it, and it was so much fun to go along with him. That was one of my high points. And then of course, when Richard is captured by the bounty hunters, and he’s talking to the woman bounty hunter — played by my wife Lucinda Jenney, by the way — she got so freaked out by what Richard was saying to her that she started improvising, saying “Shoot him! Shoot him!” I was right off camera waiting for my cue and laughing my butt off. Richard is so funny, coming up with so many weird and wonderful lines.
FM. You did begin your career as a journalist. As a former journalist, what would you ask yourself, and how would you answer?
BM. Let’s see… I would ask whether or not I was married before I did that scene with Lucinda, or if that scene led to an on-set romance that resulted in a ring. The answer to that is that we were married beforehand. I had asked Rob a couple of years earlier, hey, if you ever do a sequel, can you write a part for Lucinda? She’s been in THEMLA & LOUISE and RAIN MAN, so she’s worked a lot over the years. I thought it would be fun to have her get a little taste of my dark world of cinema. [laughs] I thought she did a great job. Rob called me back and said well, uh, I’ve written a part for her, and spoiler alert, it’s… what I end up doing to her. That just tickled me pink. I don’t know if Lucinda was as happy about it as I was, but I thought it was a great husband-and-wife moment. [laughs] That’s what I would want to know about — the human interest side of things. Or in this case… the inhuman interest.
FM. Thank you so much, it’s been a lot of fun to talk to you. It’s been on my bucket list for some time.
BM. Thank you very much. And remember [quoting REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA], “I am the smartest and the toughest.” [all laugh]
FM. One of my favorites of all time. Love it.
In memory of the great Sid Haig (1939-2019), forever our Captain Spaulding. RIP.