Last week I got the chance to speak with Bill Moseley, in anticipation for the Exhumed Films screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 he is hosting over at the International House this Wednesday, March 6 at 8:00pm. The event will be a rare 35mm screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with Bill who played the iconic Chop Top in the film. I’m a huge fan of Bill’s work and when I heard he was in town working on a film I had to interview him for the event.
I hope you enjoy this chat with Bill, we talk about not only the origins of Chop Top and what influenced the role, but also his thoughts on the evolution of technology in genre films as well. I would like to thank the folks at Exhumed Films for making this happen.
I follow you on Twitter and noticed you’ve been working on a project in Philly. Can you tell us a bit about that? And how are you enjoying your time in our city so far?
Well, I am enjoying Philadelphia a lot. Especially after sinking my teeth into one of Jim’s Steaks. Once the director of the film I am working on put me down there that pretty much sealed the deal.
I have been to Philly once before, and that was for a 76ers Playoff game many years ago and they were playing the Cleveland Cavilers, but that was back when Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins were on the team. So that shows you I do go back a bit.
But the name of the movie I am working on here is called The Church, and it’s directed by Dominic Franklin, it’s very much a local Philadelphia production. We are actually shooting at the old First Corinthian Baptist Church, and it is not so much a horror movie as a spooky movie about a haunted church.
I play the pastor of that church Pastor James, it’s been very exciting and I have one more day to go. It’s been a great experience, fun to work and great to be in Philadelphia for a couple of weeks.
So, you’re hosting a screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 at the International House this Wednesday, what is it do you think about that film that 27 years later still resonates so strongly with fans?
I think it’s one of the rare horror movies where, and I think Tobe Hooper mentioned it, broke the mold in the sense that part of the formula of most horror movies is it focuses on the young victims; out of which one or two survive and live to fight another day.
What is interesting about Chainsaw 2 is it focused on the family and it turned out the family was a lot of fun. (Laughs) It’s really Jim Siedow, Bubba and Chop Top; I mean those aren’t necessarily people you would like to spend some personal time with, but certainly a lot of fun watching.
Speaking of Chop Top did you base the role on anyone at all?
Ed Neal. 100% based on Ed Neal.
I think it was explained that Ed and I were twins. So while Ed, Bubba and the cook were doing their thing in West Texas, I was fighting in Vietnam. So then some Vietnamese lops part of my head off with a machete, and I get this head plate under my scalp. But over the time it kept itching, so I developed the coat hanger and lighter method to keep itching that head plate and exposed it.
Also I ended up getting a big settlement from that grievous head wound and that is what is financing our chili business.
I just had a ball; I never had more fun in my life than playing Chop Top.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was your second film role and before that you were a journalist writing for the likes of Omni, what inspired you to make the move from journalism into acting?
Chainsaw 2 was actually my first big job. I had actually as part of my journalistic career, which was mostly in New York City, been the Editor In Chief of a paper called CB bible dedicated to citizens band radio. But it was kind of the wide weird side of citizens band radio.
Part of my editorial crusade was about, and what was going on then in about 76 or 1977, were a rash of mysterious and still unexplained cattle mutilations in the western United States. You know mostly the cattle states like Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, but really all over. Cows were getting mutilated and drained of blood and all kinds of mysterious things were going on. So that was something that really fascinated me and appealed to my sense of the macabre.
Because of that, I ended up getting my SAG card on a film called Endangered Species, which was directed by Alan Rudolph who was better known for art films like Choose Me. But Alan did this studio picture for MGM, about the cattle mutilations.
I contacted the production company, because of CB bible I had a bunch of 8×10 photographs of mutilated cows just lying around, and they patched me through to the producer of the movie. She said he would love to use my pictures in one or several scenes in the movie, but they couldn’t pay me anything or very much.
I said that was ok, I just wanted to get into the Screen Actors Guild. So they gave the part of a cab driver at the very beginning of the movie. I had a couple of lines and that got me into the Screen Actors Guild. From there, I got a couple of commercials out of New York City and all of a sudden I was making more than I ever made as a journalist. I kept writing, but I also kept acting.
There is usually a pitch black humor to your characters is that something you look for or something you bring as an actor?
I think it’s a little of both. You know what I try to portray is, I am always happy in my work, even if that work is bashing your brains in with a claw hammer.
You know I was told early on, acting is a child’s game and children never play unhappy games. That must have stuck with me, because I always find the humor and the glee in the most scary and psychotic things. I don’t know what that says about me, but it makes the job easier.
One of the reasons I am such a fan of your work is you’re not just acting in genre films, but you genuinely seem like a fan of genre as well. How do you feel genre has changed over the years for better or worse since you’ve been acting?
Well certainly CGI has had a lot to do with changes. Technology always gets better.
It’s not a complaint, but something I have noticed let’s put it that way, about for instance the Blu-ray of Chainsaw 2, which came out recently. The problem with a movie like Chainsaw 2 that is supposed to be scratchy and murky, if it gets too hi-def where you can see every pore on everyone’s nose it ends up looking more like a sitcom and it loses something.
That might be the same complaint of going to CDs from good old LPs where you had amplifiers with tubes in them. There is just something fulfilling about having scratches on your record.
Getting hi-def and clean has not necessarily helped horror movies.
But no matter what happens it always comes down to story, doesn’t it? If it’s got a good story it doesn’t matter how much your CGI budget is or how many 3D effects you need to throw at the audience.
Finally, you’re a very busy guy. I know you’re going to be at Monster-Mania this weekend, but are they any other projects you fans should keep an eye out for in the future?
I always have something on the fire. Actually what I planned to do after Monster-Mania is I have a couple of more conventions planned this month. I am going to Nashville for the Full Moon Horror and Tattoo Convention and then I am going to Cincinnati for Horror Hound, so that should be fun.
I am also working on a couple of scripts, one of them for Darren Bousman, my old buddy from Repo and of course The Devil’s Carnival. So that’s fun, he has read some of what I have written and he is very excited about it.
I am also putting together a greatest hits package a CD and DVD of an old band I had called Cornbugs, with a guitar player called Bucket Head. That is kind of fun to revisit some of that material.
I have a very active manager, so there are some irons in the fire in terms of more movies this year. I am also happy not to work, cause I have my kids, a Chihuahua, a bird, a couple of cats, a tortoise and some fish back in Los Angeles. So I am not one of those driven crazy actors who is constantly badgering their agent.
If they want me to work I am happy to do it, I had a great time on The Church, but if the phone isn’t ringing I am enjoying the California sunshine.