Chances are you’ve seen Richard Brake in icy villain mode — sometimes literally icy, as in his role as the Night King in HBO’s GAME OF THRONES. His resume is littered with role titles like “Villain”, “Belligerent American”, and “The Interrogator”; he’s appeared in both DOOM (2005) and played a character called Doom-Head; his visage has haunted countless television shows like PEAKY BLINDERS, MOB CITY, and ABSENTIA. Brake entered Rob Zombie’s world with HALLOWEEN 2 (2009) and hasn’t looked back — the director and musician’s raw, brutal style is just what Brake needs to inspire his devilish, villainous grins.
Now, with 3 FROM HELL, Brake joins Zombie’s most notorious rogue family from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS as Winslow Foxworth Coltrane, or “Foxy” — a murderer who busts out of jail with Otis (Bill Moseley) and proceeds to tag along on his adventures with Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie). What results is exactly the kind of bloody spectacle you would expect, but it also has moments that feel surprisingly warm and whimsical, which according to Brake may be a result of the three main actors’ camaraderie on set.
Famous Monsters. You’ve been in Rob Zombie movies before, but this is your first entry into the DEVIL’S REJECTS “universe”, so to speak. How did it feel to join the family after two movies?
Richard Brake. Oh, I was absolutely over the moon. As always with Rob, you eventually get a text or an email saying, “So what are you doing in a month?” And with me, it’s always, “Nothing, if you’ve got something going on!” I love working with him. I said, I’m on board no matter what — doesn’t matter if you want me to do one line or a hundred lines. He told me the story and who the character was, and you pretty much had to wipe me off the ceiling I was so excited. I was doing a movie at the time with a very close friend of mine, and I ran down to the room where we were staying in Spain, and I was like, “Look man, you won’t believe this!” It was a dream come true, because both of those previous films are just incredible works. To be a part of the Firefly story in the role of Foxy is mind-blowing. So, “incredibly excited” would be the short version of my long babble.
FM. What about Rob Zombie’s filmmaking and directing style works so well for you?
RB. I’ve said this a lot, but I’m going to keep saying it because it’s so true: I’ve worked with Spielberg, De Palma, Frank Darabont, Ridley Scott, and a host of other really fantastic directors, but if you put a gun to my head and said choose one, my absolute favorite would be Rob Zombie. He’s a force of creativity that inspires everybody around him, whether it’s an actor or one of the crew or producers. Everybody is inspired to do their best work. All three times that I’ve worked with him, that’s been the case. He brings out the best in me. It’s his writing, it’s the way he works… it’s this creative energy that flows out of him. He is, to me, a modern Renaissance man. So there are almost too many reasons I love working with him.
FM. Wow. Effusive praise! And I’m curious, for someone who was born overseas and moved around, as you have, you make an awfully convincing Southern backwoods lunatic. How do you prep for different cultural roles? Have you received any formal dialect training, or do you just wing it?
RB. Well, I grew up in the South USA. I was born in Wales, then went to school in America. I went to university in the South, as well. Once I left university, I came back over [to the UK]. I’ve always had a home in London, as well as LA. So I’m a bit of a mix, as you can probably hear in my accent! I’m very familiar with the American world and Rob Zombie’s crazy Southern madness. DEVIL’S REJECTS is in Texas, right? It’s something I’m familiar with. Then, of course, it’s all just my imagination. I’ve been blessed; my entire adult life I’ve been paid to use my imagination in the most extraordinary and insane ways. It’s fantastic.
FM. I was talking to Bill Moseley, and he mentioned that in the scene in the hotel room, you were sort of freestyling and going with it, making stuff up on the spot. Are there other scenes where you did that?
RB. With Rob it’s quite fun, because he’s very open to improvisation. With Doom-Head in 31, I hardly improvised at all, because that character was so specifically written and had a very controlled way of performing. Rob had written a brilliant character, so there was no need for it, really. Fox, on the other hand, is loose as a goose, and it really calls for improvisation. That hotel room scene you mentioned was actually the first thing that I shot. Rob always shoots what’s scripted first. He writes great scripts. But then he’ll come over and be like well, maybe we could do this… giving me ideas, and he’ll say okay, and then go behind the camera four seconds later and yell “Action!”. I have to pull my shit together and suddenly deliver some crazy ass monologue to Bill. That was our first day, and it was so fun. Bill immediately responded because he’s such a great actor, and he’s so free… he also has an amazing imagination, and he knows that character inside and out, so right away we had this whole riff going on. Then in walks Baby, and Sheri’s so, so good, in full Baby mode. The camera’s on me and I’m looking at her as she comes in, and she’s absolutely brilliant, and I’m thinking “God, Sheri is so fucking good. Oh shit, the camera’s on! I’m meant to be Foxy!” But then I thought, you know — Fox would be admiring her too! There was a real chemistry between all of us that I hope comes out in the picture, because it was definitely there while we were filming.
FM. Yes! It does. And you are incredibly prolific, but as in 3 FROM HELL, you’re mainly known for playing villains and monsters. Do you ever feel typecast, or is that something you do on purpose?
RB. I’m looking forward to when someone… maybe Rob will write the perfect romantic comedy for me! But until that time, I’m really happy playing the roles that I’ve been offered. They’re so much fun. I never feel typecast. Even within the villainous roles, all the bad guys, there’s a lot of variation. I’m just grateful I’m busy, and grateful I get to do films like 3 FROM HELL. Until that rom com comes along — and I hope it’s a Rob Zombie rom com — I’m a happy man.
FM. I would love to see a Rob Zombie rom com. And I hate rom coms. [laughs]
RB. It would be brilliant.
In memory of the great Sid Haig (1939-2019), forever our Captain Spaulding. RIP.