Interview: Barbara CramptonSeptember 21, 2019
Recently we had the chance to talk to Barbara Crampton about her acting career, including her work in daytime television, the horror genre, and her new film Replace.
So was acting something you always wanted to do, did you fall in love with it right away, or did you slowly warm up to it over time?
Barbara: Acting was definitely something I saw myself doing from a very early age. I grew up watching The Million Dollar Movie every day after school at four o’clock and I became enamored with people like Betty Davis and Barbara Stanwyck and I loved the way the portrayed their characters. Those actresses were bigger than life and very broad and passionate and I think when I was about eleven or so I wanted to do what they did, so I set my life in motion to try and make that happen.
Was there ever a Plan B, in terms of a career choice, or was it acting and nothing else?
Barbara: When I was in college my professor said a career in acting is very difficult, it’s like auditioning constantly for your next job and it’s a very difficult life path and potentially not very lucrative. He suggested that unless you could not do anything else you shouldn’t pursue acting or a life in the entertainment field. I really thought about that and I realized there was nothing else I wanted to do, so at an early age, I dedicated myself to my passion which was acting. I do feel like when I hit my mid to late thirties I was in a dry spell for acting, I wasn’t getting a lot of auditions or offers, so I did at that point contemplate perhaps doing something else. I thought about becoming a chef, I love to cook, or maybe becoming a master gardener and working with plants but very soon after that I met my husband, who was my boyfriend for a while, then we got married and I had two kids really quick so I didn’t really have time to have that other career. Then out of the blue I got the call to do You’re Next, that was 2010 or so, and after that movie came out I just started working pretty consistently again, so I haven’t veered too far from that, it’s been my whole life.
You worked on some big daytime television shows over the years. Did one role lead to another or did you simply like the steady work and what it was you were doing?
Barbara: I didn’t think I would become so connected to the soap opera world, or the horror world, and I think the both of them found me and I was pretty happy to embrace both worlds, actually. My very first job in Hollywood was on Days of our Lives and that lasted three years, it was my very first audition in Los Angeles as well. I’m not sure if one role led to another but I think once you work in that field people know you and they tend to hire you a little more often because you’re a known quantity for their audience. The same can be said for horror movies and early in career I worked on Re-Animator and that has become, over time, a cult classic and because fans know me from that movie more up and coming directors might be thinking of me because they watched those horror movies I was in a part of in the ’80s. For example, I know I got hired for You’re Next because Simon Barrett, who wrote that movie, was a big fan of some of my earlier films, so once you do one of those and you’re lucky enough that they become popular, people want to see you again. I guess both of them do have they’re aspects of working on one show that leads into another, so I think your hypothesis is probably true.
The horror genre is definitely well represented on your acting resume. Do you enjoy horror films, not just from an acting point of view, but as a fan as well?
Barbara: Yeah, and I think that’s something I kind of grew into. I didn’t grow up like a lot of horror geeks do, watching these movies from the time I was eight years old. (Laughs) I think once I started working in them I developed an appreciation for them and I really think since I’ve come back in the last ten years, the second part of my career, that I feel more connected to the genre than I ever have before. I think that is due to social media, connecting with the fans and other filmmakers, and also going to conventions, I go to more conventions now than I used to. Meeting fans of the genre and getting excited myself because they get very excited about the new movies that are coming out and that’s fun. The horror genre is a very friendly genre, it feels like a club, like a group of us, with similar likes and dislikes, enjoy talking about films. I feel like I’m a part of this group over the last ten years and because of that, made me re-invest myself more in the genre and really grow to love the horror genre. I think the storytelling has gotten much better, movies like Shape of Water, Get Out, The Purge movies, a lot of movies I’ve been in over the years, they are breaking boundaries. I have a lot of respect and love for the horror genre.
Television seems to have entered a golden era thanks to all the streaming services out there. Has this given women more opportunities to land bigger and better roles or do we still have a ways to go in that regard?
Barbara: I don’t know if it’s television that’s given way to that. At a certain point, it was exposed that we were not getting the same percentage of roles that men were getting so people really started writing more for women. I think in general in the entertainment industry things have opened up for women in a really nice way and women are getting better roles than most of us got early in our careers.
So let’s talk about the movie Replace. How did you get involved with that film?
Barbara: I believe the people that reached out to me about it initially were producers Colin Geddes and Katarina Gligorijevic. Colin was head of Midnight Madness at Toronto International Film Festival for many, many years and I met him and Katarina when we had the premiere screening of You’re Next up there and I just kept in touch with them. They contacted me about the role and I met Norbert Keil, the director, and we got along great and he offered me the role. It’s funny, we’re talking about women versus men, that role was originally written for a man and they thought you know, we should make this role for a woman, it kind of goes with the whole theme of women looking at beauty and what that means to them in today’s society. Having three different women in the movie, and all their feelings of what it means to be a woman, was probably beneficial to the movie in a way that the producers didn’t initially realize.
The film has a nice mix, it has a bit of body horror, some mystery, has a thriller element to it. What do you think audiences will like about Replace?
Barbara: I think visually it’s a beautiful film, it’s really lovely to look at. I also think the set pieces are gorgeous, it’s a very dreamy movie, it feels kind of surreal and it’s a movie that you really have to pay attention to in terms of understanding what’s going on. It might be a little confusing in the beginning until you allow yourself to be absorbed into the film. It’s a little bit like a puzzle and by the end of the film, it all becomes clear and makes sense but again, I hope people like it because it’s looking at beauty and aging from three different points of view. My character is really more clinical and hopes for bigger things and bigger possibilities, as far as the aging process and what that could do for mankind and society. Also, the movie was co-written by Richard Stanley, who was the original director for The Island of Dr. Moreau, famously got fired from that film, lived in seclusion and filmed in France for a long time and just re-emerged into the filmmaking world so it will be nice for people to see his work on screen again.
You mentioned earlier about acting being a tough profession. What kind of advice would you have for anyone that wanted to get into this business?
Barbara: I think what I realized today, coming back to the genre in the last few years, and working on it in the early ’80s, is that today a lot of the filmmakers that I meet, they can do everything. They can act in their movies, they can write, produce and direct their movies, they can do the costume design, they kind of do everything. You have to be a force for yourself, you can’t expect an agent, another producer or somebody else to get you a job, you have to get your own jobs. I still get my own jobs, I don’t rely on people to get me my jobs, you have to do a lot of networking, meeting people and I suggest people make their own short films and go to film festivals and meet other like-minded people, so you can possibly work together. It’s easier now than ever to meet like-minded people in this profession, so I think you just need to keep making your own stuff until finally, you make a name for yourself and people will be calling you instead of you calling them.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Barbara: I have another movie that’s coming very soon after Replace called Reborn, with Rae Dawn Chong and Michael Pare and this new gal named Kayleigh Gilbert, and in it I kind of play myself. I play a has-been B-movie actress who doesn’t have a career anymore and she’s trying to make her way back to the top. I just finished shooting a film in Norway called The Colour of Madness, sort of a Lovecraftian cult movie, a really beautiful location and I also produced the re-imagining of Castle Freak, we shot that recently in Albania and Fangoria is producing that movie. We have a fantastic new take on the Freak and a completely different premise than the original and I’m really in love with the story, we just wrapped principal photography on that a number of weeks ago. I didn’t have a part in that one, I just helped produce, and I’m really excited about it.
I want to thank Barbara for taking the time to talk with us