• Martyn Wakefield

Simon Bamford & Nicholas Vince (INTERVIEW)

Updated: Oct 27

Simon Bamford and Nicholas Vince are two of the biggest names in horror and yet to see them you would probably struggle to recognise them, yet behind layers of prosthetics and make-up they have terrified audiences for decades as Cenobites and monsters of Midian. Now they are sharing their stories alongside a live screening of HELLRAISER as part of BFI's IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS programme.



Hi Simon. Hi Nicholas, thanks for joining us at BloodGuts UK, appreciate your time today.


Nicholas:

Our pleasure, I think I speak for both of us in that.


Great. So you're working with the IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS, which BFI are currently running. So first of all, for anybody who needs an intro... You guys are best known for playing two of the most famed Cenobites across the HELLRAISER series. But more importantly, and as you can see behind me *points to poster*, there is a much bigger film of monsters called NIGHTBREED, both of which from the mind of Clive Barker. But my first question really is less around the specific films, but how did you get involved with Clive and, obviously, the works that he had created?


Nicholas:

I think Simon go first because you worked with him first.


Simon:

Yeah, so I think we both met him, Nick and I were both at drama school together at Mount View in North London and Clive lived around the corner in Crouch End and at the time he was running French theatre company called The Dog Company with Doug Bradley and Ollie Parker and others, both of who have gone on to have great careers on their own. And he came to see a production of KING LEAR that I was doing at Mount View and liked what I was doing as the fool and asked if he could meet me afterwards. So we met up and that he invited me to join The Dog Company when I graduated, which I did. So that's how I kind of got to know Clive, and, obviously Nick, you were there as well at the same time so-


Nicholas:

Yeah, I mean I didn't actually get to meet Clive until I graduated, I think. I believe it must've been you who invited me to a party in Crouch End and I just met Clive and we started chatting and he said, "Oh, would you like to model for me?" Which I did and I ended up on the covers of the BOOKS OF BLOOD, which he was illustrating, the hardcover versions in the UK, so you can see my face and bits of me all over the place basically.


Simon:

In fact, Clive, when he was writing the BOOKS OF BLOOD, hadn't got names for several of them and he came to a party that I was having and I'd made some special brownies, if you know what I mean... Clive, I left them in the kitchen with all these people around and I came back, they were all gone and I said to Clive, "Where are my brownies?" And he's got a notoriously sweet tooth, he'd eaten all of them not knowing what they were. Anyway, he had a amazing nights and he woke up the next morning and he had the titles for all of the BOOKS OF BLOOD, which he'd be struggling with. He's always credited me with helping him to find the titles.



Yeah, that is legacy to leave. So, you guys both play incredibly two of the most memorable Cenobites within the series itself. How was that experience of becoming the Cenobites themselves, how was that?


Nicholas:

Well, both of us found it fairly tough in some ways because, I mean, Simon even worse than me in terms of not being able to see at all, I could see a teeny tiny little bit. It's very physically demanding in terms of just literally being on set just really, in my case, not knowing what the hell was going on around to me the first time I stepped onto set and then they had to work out ways of directing us to... I think basically they got us on set without costume and makeup or without makeup so we could see what was required of us, so yeah, it was tough, it was physically tough.


Simon:

Yeah, the makeups were very intense and it was both of us our first movie, so it was having a pillow kind of gaffer taped around your head and I was completely blind, I couldn't really hear very much, so it was like locked in syndrome, my nose was completely sealed so we could both only breathe through our mouths. So in the dressing rooms, once we were both in our full makeups, all you could hear was *makes gargling noise*. We sucked the saliva from the back of our throats because it was only way we could breathe


Nicholas:

Because we were both wearing dentures, weren't we?


Simon:

Yeah.


Nicholas:

We both had false teeth then, so yeah.


Wow, it sounds fun and how did that compare to, obviously, moving over into NIGHTBREED? The world of Midian, certainly from a visual perspective, it looks more demanding from those kind of costumes that you...


Simon:

Well, in my case it was nice and easy. So I had virtually no makeup and virtually no clothing as well. Clive... on me and gave me the easy job on that one. I just had prosthetic nipples in that one, which was... There were so many... It was in the Guinness Book of Records, I think, Nightbreed for having more different monsters than any film before it, probably. So nobody was ever available to stick my nipples on, so I became an expert on sticking on my own nipples.


Nicholas:

Although to be fair, Simon, I do have a very clear memory of Bob Keen sticking on your nipples one day, I do.


Simon:

He probably gave me the nipple master class.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah because Bob Keen was with Jeff Porters who was head of makeup and image animation. Yeah, I had five hours of makeup, I had to dye my chest hair black. As Simon has pointed out, I think really I kind of had the easiest part of the job, I wasn't responsible for making me look so good, it it was Neil Gorton and Mark Coulier, who, again, have gone on amazing careers, who were responsible. They run their feet for five hours while they were applying this stuff to me. I just had to sit in the chair and stay awake. Okay, it was 4:00 in the morning but I had a car that came and collected me and brought me there, they had to make their own way there and they were responsible for painting the makeup, taking it all off and whenever it was taken off of me, it was destroyed, it was all peeled off my face. So yeah, it was a very different experience, I mean I could hear, speak, and see and I loved that fact, it made it easier.



Simon:

They also had to prep the makeup for the next day, for morning, didn't they?


Nicholas:

Yeah,


Simon:

I know... and just slept over at the studios, there just wasn't time to go home and sleep and get up and do it all again.


Nicholas:

Yeah, extraordinary, extraordinary experience for them. But as I say, they've gone on to do... I think Neil's doing DR. WHO, Mark has got Oscars, amazing careers.


It's a different time and I think it that's absolutely, I think personally, and I'll share your views in a moment, but that's why for me, Clive Parker's works, especially as a director, have lasted for so long because of those practical effects and those challenging things that he's put his actors through in, and we see the cinemas specifically a lack of vision is pretty much a must have when you're acting. What is it about these monsters and not really just across the two big films that I've just mentioned, but across in general, what is it about a monster that generally lasts so long?


Simon:

I think we all love to... scared. I think it's the same thing as riding a rollercoaster or standing on the edge of a cliff. We like to be frightened, it kind of makes us feel alive and as a child everybody, I certainly did, had a monster that lives in the cupboard or the shadows would become monsters or there was something under the bed. Most people have that experience and I think you hold onto that as you go through life. Maybe not maybe when you get to our ripe old age, but certainly in your teens and 20s, which is why I think they become such icons.


Nicholas:

The monsters for me were always the victims in the films. Talking about NIGHTBREED where it's commonly said where the monsters are the good guys and humans are the bad guys. But the monsters I first encountered where things like Boris Karloff's FRANKENSTEIN creature and he's the victim, he didn't ask to be born, he's rejected by his father, he doesn't understand, nobody treats him with any love or affection or nothing. Same with PHANTOM OF THE OPERA because of his disfigurement, he's hidden behind a mask. THE WOLF MAN in the original Universal Larry Talbot actually becomes werewolf when he's trying to save somebody, he's trying to save a woman from a werewolf attack. And I think that's the other reason people like the monsters is because I think so many of us, particularly in the LGBTQIA+ community identify with them so much.


Simon:

It's interesting also at the moment, governments are being formed by creating monsters, by creating fear of the unknown that resonates and even in the 90s that's basically what Nightbreed was about is that acceptance of everybody and everything even if they are different, it doesn't mainly make any difference, get to know them and that's been used against us so much in the last 10 years by governments across the world.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah, very much so.


Absolutely, we're starting to see those monster surface and we have faces to those monsters now that are far more scary than anything on film.


Simon:

Yeah, and more powerful.


Unfortunately so. And I suppose as you just the LGBTQIA+ community and specifically NIGHTBREED and I love, and I've always referred to this and I know similar films and bigger films have kind of touched on, that and I use X-MEN and I've always compared Nightbreed to that element of X-MEN, of allowing smaller communities and more repressed communities to really become coming out and that's why I think, personally, NIGHTBREED has become such a big cult classic compared to its initial release. I know it's been often referred to as butchered and we've recently had the Arrow release of THE CABAL CUT which has kind of resurfaced that, but you mentioned it there, it's those everlasting themes that people can relate to and I love that.


Nicholas:

Yeah, thank you. I've been amazed by the number of gay people who've come up to me at conventions over the years because, obviously, I don't know what Simon's experience is, but mostly people talk to me about Hellraiser and every so often you get somebody talking about Nightbreed, and I'm always very touched by the gay people who come up to me and say, "This film meant such a lot for me growing up."


Simon:

Yeah, and people quite often don't make the connection between us because we look so different from the NIGHTBREED characters. So when they... The conventions and they see the stuff on the table, they go, "Oh, you're that guy too" which is quite fun and it is amazing the amount of people that have seen NIGHTBREED. It's good to know that especially the director's cut is finally out there, it's still not quite the film we started to make back all those years ago, but it's certainly much, much closer than the theatrical cut. There was a huge excitement when we started shooting Nightbreed because there was talk of it being the new Star Wars for the kind of fantasy genre, there was a real buzz around it and the book about was so good and the script just made you weep, it was so moving and so different to anything you'd ever seen, which, of course, is a trademark Clive. So it wasn't quite yet to where it needed to be, but it'll be nice to see it in a cinema with an audience on Sunday.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah, really looking forward to it.


Yeah, that's great. And there's rumour mill going about that there's going to be a TV adaptation of it, which hopefully will do some justice. But I think similar to how HELLRAISER has been recently rebooted, the original still holds a lot of hearts that you can remake it and create a better visual storytelling, but for many people who've been there at the time and that's the film that they've been brought up on, for them these will always be the classics.


Simon:

I think there is certainly huge scope for NIGHTBREED to be made into a TV series because it's so rich in characters and in story, it will be very easy to do. I heard that the Hellraiser TV series has been knocked on the head, I don't know if how true that is, but I heard recently that's not going to happen. They'll just stop with a movie and maybe they'll do another HELLRAISER. But yes, I think NIGHTBREED will make a great TV series actually, especially with the quality of the work that they do on streaming services now.


Nicholas:

Yeah, I don't know about you Simon. I've not had a chance to see the Hulu HELLRAISER yet.


Simon:

I have, yeah.


Nicholas:

You have seen it?


Simon:

Yeah.


Nicholas:

Did you enjoy it?


Simon:

I did. Yes, I did. Have you seen it, Martyn?


I have, yes.


Nicholas:

Just me then, I've not seen yet.


I mean, it was interesting because I have a clear question because of all the Cenobites to return, obviously, we have Pinhead, but of the only other returning ones happens to be the Chatterer.



Nicholas:

Yes. Yeah, and actually Chatterer has been in most movies, and the eight that Doug was in there is a form of Chatterer, including a Chatterer dog. But it was interesting, Clive was doing A and Q when they did the premier, they did a premier in Los Angeles for the Hulu HELLRAISER, the new one, and he was doing the Q and A afterwards and the actor, whose name entirely escapes to me at the moment, was saying that he was going through very similar things about not being able to see and difficulty breathing and so on. But the look of it is amazing, I'm really looking forward to seeing... The trailer looks great and I think the new Cenobites look absolutely wonderful and I know Doug's wholeheartedly behind the new female Cenobite and the design of the Cenobite.


Simon:

I think actually the trailer doesn't do it justice, I think there is more there. I love the way you use the puzzle box and they kind of extend that and look into that. I won't say too much, Nick because I don't want to-


Nicholas:

Yeah, spoilers, spoilers.


Simon:

It would've been lovely to have $17 million to play.


Nicholas:

17 million, Good heavens. You could make 17 HELLRAISERs for that.


Simon:

100,000 pounds to start with when we started on HELLRAISER. I think we had 14 million on NIGHTBREED, which for the 90s was a big budget.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was a huge budget.


Simon:

But yeah, it would've been nice. I spoke to Ashley Lawrence, Kirsty from the original, and she said, "Oh, if only we'd had 17 million pounds to play with."


You mentioned that though, but I think this is why, I mean, I've been in this critiquing/reviewing game for about 10 years now and over time you get to see big budget films at the cinema, you get to see the little budget films, but for those that have the most creative minds can find a way to tell those stories and I think there's always that room for making it better with more money. But for me the creativity behind some of those, I mean, we take that look at THE EVIL DEAD and that for me is still kind of the pinnacle of horror and you think that that was basically a college film, but essentially it lasts forever because of the thought and the, "Will this work? Won't this work?" The experimentation and actually through that process it beats the likes of just chucking some CGI and making it work.


Nicholas:

Yeah.


Simon:

Yeah, you talked about practical effects earlier on and the practical effects in the new HELLRAISER, I think, are the most exciting there. The way the theatricalness of the set and the way... Really exciting and then everything everywhere all at once. I was reading a thing about that, they used a lot of practical effects and a lot of just stuff that they were filming on their phones and it actually makes it exciting, it makes it different other than smooth and eloquence and it's almost slightly difference from going from steady cam to kind of handheld cameras. It's people have got bit fed up with the smooth, beautiful, perfect worlds that are being presented because that's not life, I think


Nicholas:

I was invited to speak to some film students yesterday over the island and I was talking about this and the fact that basically, you just go with what you've got and also but listening to the other people on set who can contribute to your vision, and also stuff just changes on set all the time anyway. But go with what you've got and see. That's often the way that creativity works. There was a play called THE LONG AND THE SHORT AND THE TALL, all about three soldiers who have a Japanese prisoner during the war and the only reason that was written that way was because that was the cast the university had in their drama department when they commissioned the order saying, "Yeah, we got these three guys, one of whom is Japanese," and this is what he came up with. And it's an amazing play, absolutely extraordinary play.


You touched on, obviously, the theatrics and, you're taking me back to THE WOMAN IN BLACK,


Nicholas:

*covers face*


I mean that is literally all imagination and I remember walking into that thinking, "Oh, dear." But then within five minutes I'm engrossed in this world of, "Oh, is this happening? Oh, okay." And then by the end of it you're like, well, you are shivering at essentially nothing.


Nicholas:

Sorry, the reason I covered my face is because when I went to see that stage show for the first time, I had proved that I scream louder than a row a 16-year-old schoolgirl because I tend to get very... and anyone who knows me over the years knows I'm very, very squeamish, I get very into things when I'm watching them and it was terrifying, it was absolutely... I'm even getting goosebumps now and it's just like yeah, no, I'd never go and do that again.


Simon:

My partner, a stage manager, and THE WOMAN IN BLACK came through quite a few times, they had incredible sound on that, which people aren't aware of. So they had speakers all around the auditorium they put in so they could have the sounds of people coming past you, they could have a scream that sounded... the person sitting behind you.


Nicholas:

Wow, wow.


Simon:

Subtle but very clever.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah.



That was great. And, obviously, I've got one last question I really I want to touch on. We mentioned about TV and I know you guys have worked with Dead Mouse Productions with Gary Smart with the DARK DITTIES series. How do you summarize that experience as, obviously, there's a lot more storytelling and I think we've touched on things like budget and things, but actually being able to tell a horror story through low budget and good creative storytelling, how is that experience been for you?


Nicholas:

Well, I'm going to pass over to Simon in a moment just because I only did the first one, Simon's done all of them. But funnily enough, the project I'm working on at the moment, I'm here to unashamed plug for the feature film version of my one-man show, I AM MONSTERS, which is very similar, so yeah. But now over to Simon because Simon's done all these films.


Simon:

Yeah, so we both met Gary when he was making Leviathan, the documentary about Hellraiser, and so he kind of came back to both of us, I think there were five of us from HELLRAISER and the first DARK DITTIES, Ken Cranham, yourself, me, Barbie and-


Nicholas:

Oliver Smith.


Simon:

Yes, yeah. So here were five old Hellraisers, in the first one and since then, we've filmed five of the six DARK DITTIES so far, and I've got to play an old woman and somebody running from them, an accountant running from the mob and just endless characters, which for me has been a joy. And I think for all of the people in it, the nice thing is that we get to play parts we would never normally be offered or considered for. So you get challenged again because casting directors tend to play reasonably safe these days, for obvious reasons. So that's been exciting and I've just been chatting more to them, they're starting up a new project, which they're pitching at the moment. So I went over to Birmingham, you sound like you're from that area.


I am, yes. So I'm currently in Dudley. So you mentioned James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN earlier, from my hometown, so there's a lot of connections.


Simon:

So yeah, they've got a new one they're pitching to some American backers at the moment.


Oh, brilliant.


Nicholas:

And I just remembered Simon, it was actually six Hellraisers, Stuart Theobold, makeup artist on the first film and-


Simon:

Of course.


Nicholas:

Yeah, yeah. So six of us.


Simon:

Yeah, yeah, and I love what they do with DARK DITTIES and it is such tiny budgets that they work with, but they're so clever with their writing and with what they do. But it is kind of usually one or two takes and that's all you get the chunk...


Nicholas:

That's called independent filmmaking, Simon.


Oh, that's great and I remember pulling a tear at DAD, that was quite an emotional one. So gentleman, thank you very much for your time and I could absolutely talk forever and ever, but I appreciate the time is running short. So thank you, once again.


Simon:

Cheers, Martyn you're very welcome


Nicholas:

Lovely to meet you. Take care Martyn, take care.


Simon:

Bye.


IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS is a major UK-wide film and events season at BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, in cinemas across the UK, on Blu-ray and on BFI Player.

https://www.bfi.org.uk/in-dreams-are-monsters

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