Simon Bamford has been announced as our first guest at the Oz Hellraiser/Clive Barker film reunion in Australia 2015!!!
Steve Dillon was lucky enough recently to interview Simon Bamford, who besides being one of Clive Barker's oldest friends, is one of the stars of Hellraiser 1 and 2, and Nightbreed.
Steve: I’d like to ask you about ‘The Cabal Cut’ and what that’s meant to you, personally? Because I guess there’s been a lot of travel involved?
Simon: Yeah. Absolutely- we’ve been all over the place. It’s been really nice. And very odd! And we’re going around with a film that’s 20-something years old!
Steve: It seems to me like it’s one of those… it’s almost for me like I’ve gone back in time- down a timeline back to 1990 – very strange. But between then, and now… when the movie first came out there was a lot of ‘hoo-haa’ about it. But it’s been pretty quiet since then. Have you been involved much with Clive Barker or the whole thing since Hellraiser and Nightbreed?
Simon: Well, Clive and I have been friends for over 30 years. In fact, we started doing conventions with the Hellraiser stuff 10 years after that came out, so 1996/97 I think we started- for a long time it was only Hellraiser. I always took pictures from Nightbreed but there was never any interest. Then suddenly, about 10 years ago there started to be an interest in it again, and it was picking up increasingly in interest. I mentioned it to Clive and he said ‘ Oh, maybe the time is right’ and Clive feels that because of the current films about vampires – love story/vampire movies (Twilight etc.) – he thinks they have changed the game a little bit, in that people now accept that the characters on the outskirts can be the heroes and can be the sympathetic characters, whereas at the time? Clive has always been well ahead of his time, so…
Steve: Absolutely! He’s always had this affinity with the Frankenstein concept, hasn’t he, really? Sympathy for the monster- it’s not really a monster, it’s just something different, and not through its own choosing.
Simon: It’s right back down to people just not being able to accept anything that’s different, and we’ve always been a bit like that. Part of human nature- it’s how we’ve always protected ourselves- by being wary of the unknown. But I think these days we’re more interested in embracing the unknown, which is healthier.
Steve: Yeah- the whole resurgence of the counterculture thing- alternative culture and pop culture I think has helped that. I think also people are looking to be a bit different, and looking for the ‘stuff’ that is different.
Simon: Yeah- it’s interesting isn’t it? It goes in waves. Because in the 70s, David Bowie was kind of starting this whole thing of being different could actually be quite cool, and then that kind of waned a little bit, and then punks came along, which was my generation, and we were really proud to be alternative and to be different. And then of course, Malcolm Mclaren exposed us all for just following the new trend with his ‘Great Rock and Roll Swindle’. I remember going to see that dressed as a punk. And everybody was dressed as punks. And we all came out very subdued… because basically he said ‘you’re just following a trend and you’re not being an individual; you’re not being alternative- you’re just being manipulated by commercialism’
Steve: Yeah- And you’re being different like everybody else is- “I want to be different like all my friends”
Steve: One thing I’ve never understood is – The character you play in Nightbreed- Ohnaka – He’s a great character and everybody loves him- And very pivotal to the plot as well. He’s the one that befriends Lori and helps her navigate through, past the Berserkers and helps her out there. He’s also I think the first one to go- dragged into the sunlight and so on. So quite an interesting character. Did that come out of the blue for you- that whole role- You knew Clive already, and there was the Hellraiser films…
Simon: We did three films in a row- We did Hellraiser, then the following year we did Hellraiser 2, then the year after we did Nightbreed. I wasn’t actually cast as Ohnaka to start with – I knew that it was happening and stuff was going on, but my phone was staying remarkably quiet! (Laughs). So I was ringing up Doug Bradley and saying ‘what’s going on? When are we going to start doing this?’ And they were saying- ‘Well- we’re already cast, aren’t you?’ So I buzzed Clive to try to find out what was going on. And they’d cast the part to a singer called Marc Almond- he’d been originally cast as Ohnaka. I suppose because he had a high profile. But thankfully for me at that time he was just signing up with Sony records. And he had quite a wild public image. Sony wanted him to be more of a crooner, so they wanted him to tone it down, and of course Clive was really known for Hellraiser, and they thought him being in a kind of Hellraiser-type film would not be good for where they wanted his public image to go to. And that’s how I got it. So all the prosthetics for the scene where I was burning up where all actually done on Marc Almond. It was lucky that they fitted me.
Steve: Really? That’s funny- so you pipped Marc Almond to the post really. And I loved Marc Almond, but I don’t think- it’s difficult to say but I don’t think he would have been right in the movie. And you certainly seemed to be a perfect fit for that role.
Simon: It was great for me, because it was nice not to have all the heavy make up, and to see what I’m doing…
Steve: Unlike the Hellraiser movies! I believe you couldn’t see in those could you?
Simon: No, I couldn’t see, I could only just hear because they didn’t have any holes. I couldn’t breathe through my nose. It was pretty cruel actually. It was a pretty nasty experience. But I’m not complaining because it stood me in good stead for the last 30 years.
Steve: So the other thing is, with Hugh Ross (Narcisse) and yourself - There was a great on-screen relationship, albeit brief. Did you know Hugh already?
Simon: No…. He had been involved in The Dog Company, but I don’t remember him. So whether we weren’t involved at the same time – That was Clive’s previous Theatre company. Actually we met up in MELKY??? We met up a few times at these screenings all over the place. I was talking to him about the ‘Sailors!’ line- it was his; it wasn’t one of Clive’s. He put that in as an ad-lib.
Steve: It seemed to be very natural, the way he said it, and the ‘tattoos’
Simon: He’s a great guy, and he’s a great actor, he’s just been working with James McEvoy in a West end version of Macbeth- excellent reviews- it was an amazing production.
Steve: The other thing about Ohnaka is, he’s also the most human character, right? Superficially at least.
Simon. Yeah. I don’t know why Clive- I suppose, because he’s pivotal to the whole section that I think that maybe he decided that a character that looks more human would be easier for an audience to empathise with. He really didn’t have anything outward that showed that he was any different to the human beings.
Steve: That’s right- it was just the nipple ring- which back then would have been a lot more extraordinary than today. And the necklace- it looks to me like its blackbirds’ heads and rats’ heads combined.
Simon: It was supposed to be chicken heads. Clive said to me… well, you know the film ‘Death in Venice’? It’s about a man who goes to Venice and falls in love with a boy, this young man. He becomes obsessed with him- He said to watch that film. He usually gives film references as different character references on movies. He gave me a whole list of films, and most of them were so obscure, and of course it was before the days of the internet, so I just couldn’t find them. I’d check the library, but there was no internet- and you forget how much we’ve become obsessed and how much we use the technology these days. And I thought ‘How am I going to find these films?’ This was kind of a mainstream film so I managed to find that. And the boy in that- he doesn’t really say anything. He’s just… beautiful, I think was his idea.
Steve: And that was the thing about Ohnaka, is that he was angelic, compelling, visually stunning.
Simon: (laughing) – Yeah. I read afterwards that Clive said or wrote somewhere that ‘he was so perfect in every way that the angels decided that they couldn’t have such perfection so they came down and gave him tattoos to make him easier to look at. I don’t know; it sounds very immodest of me to say that- I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time!
Steve: Oh! I didn’t know that. But even so, you much more fit that description than Marc Almond, so….
Simon: I suppose you have to imagine it in a kind of ‘end-of1980s’ beauty, and what was perfection in those days, rather than what might be now.
Steve: And the other thing you did was the voice in one of Clive Barker’s computer games? According to something I read on IMDB…?
Simon: Oh, Did I? Oh! No, the Jericho one is a new one I only did this year- it’s not one of Clive’s ones. It’s called the 11th hour- I play Commander Elgine who’s one of these – not superheroes but special agents who’s got super powers.
Steve: Well, that’s an interesting connection then, because I immediately connected it with the Jericho computer game of Clive’s.
Simon: It was quite interesting to see yourself as a cartoon character from a book. That was quite bizarre.
Steve: Yeah, but then you must feel a bit odd when you see yourself as Butterball?
Simon: Kind of- it’s such a long time really. You know how you go back a couple of decades in your life? We’ve done something with some collectors who’ve got the original makeup from Hellraiser 2 I think, and they occasionally turn up at conventions in the States with the makeup. And the first time I saw those after about 20 years, they still send a shiver down my spine. Not because of the film, but because of my memories of wearing them!
Steve: The thought of having to put them on again?
Simon: To see if they will fit… or try them on. I wouldn’t have done they’re very, very fragile now because the latex doesn’t really last. It brought a lot of memories flooding back- bad memories!
Steve: Thank you very much –it’s been fantastic of you to talk to me. Again, thanks very much- it’s been great chatting to you and hopefully we’ll get to chat again and maybe have you here in person as well for something in the future.
Simon: Yeah that would be lovely, I’d love to – I’ve travelled a lot, but the nearest I’ve been in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been to the States quite a lot but never made it to Australia! I hope it goes well, just give Russell a hard time, he can talk for England!
Above: Simon Bamford as Ohnaka in Clive Barker's Nightbreed.
Below: As Butterball in Hellraiser 1 and 2