11 Questions With Adrienne Barbeau

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC 11 Questions With Adrienne Barbeau

Here we have it folks, the long discussed interview with the brilliantly talented, and supremely gorgeous actress, Adrienne Barbeau!

I will say in advance that this interview is my favorite so far. When I first got the responses back each one made me smile.

As always, for those who may not be in the know, here’s a brief rundown on Ms. Barbeau (2nd piece in a row where that has kind of rhymed.)

Adrienne Barbeau is an extremely talented thespian best known for bringing her above average acting talents to a genre not often known for it’s high caliber performances, that of the world of horror. She has been a queen of the scream in such genre classics as The Fog, Creepshow, Escape from New York, and Swamp Thing. Adrienne is also a world renowned singer and theater performer. And, she also had a major role on the ground breaking 1970’s television show Maude, along side Bea Arthur. AND, she was, is and always shall be one of the most gorgeous women ever to grace a movie screen. I could go on all day, so, for more info than I can dish here, hit up http://www.abarbeau.com/ and get to know her better.

No frills.

Some fluff.

Little functionality.

11 Questions, and 11 Questions Only.

This interview took place via email between myself and Ms. Barbeau’s manager.

As per the format of ’11 Questions’ I submitted my questions cold and let the interviewee do the answering. Any “conversational awkwardness” is because of this and is unintentional.

(The interview has not been edited in any way (for grammar, spelling or otherwise) to make either of us look better.)


DS– Despite having an extensive career in theater, television and voice work you are most well known (to my audience at least) for your appearances in numerous classic horror films (The Fog, Creepshow, Swamp Thing, etc.) and as a major sex symbol of the 70’s and 80’s. Do your roles as a ‘scream queen’ and ‘pin up girl’ bother you after all this time, or is it something you get a kick out of and embrace; and, do you think they go hand in hand (what with misogyny being famously rampant in a lot of horror works)?

AB– The thing I love about being identified with The Fog, Creepshow, Swamp Thing, Escape From New York et al. is that they continue to be honored by horror film buffs all these many years later.  When I made my first appearance at an autograph convention, I was stunned to discover that their popularity hasn’t waned in the least, and that horror fans are rabid in their appreciation of the genre in general and those films in particular.  How fantastic to be a part of that culture!  I just love it.

DS– You’re a talented singer and have headlined a lot of musicals on stage in your time, notably you played the first Rizzo in the original Broadway incarnation of “Grease.” How was it that you weren’t cast in some of the better musicals of the 70’s and 80’s, once again, notably Grease?

AB– By the time Grease came to be filmed, I was doing Maude.  It never crossed my mind to inquire about the casting of the film; I think I must have thought I was too old to play a teen-ager.  And in the 70s, if you were on a television series, no one was willing to cast you in a film.  The prevailing thought in those days was that the audience wouldn’t pay to see someone in a movie theatre if they were seeing them for free at home.  John Travolta turned that around, but it wasn’t until decades later that television stars began crossing over as a matter of course.

DS– In 1978 you played Lauren Hutton’s lesbian best friend Sophie in (then future, now former, husband) John Carpenter’s exceptionally well done, made for TV thriller “Someone’s Watching Me.” It’s one of the first movies that I as a gay man remember seeing when I was younger that featured a strong gay character, and seeing as you are you, star of a lot of my favorite films of the time, it was quite inspiring. As an actress who has been in a lot of controversial works and played a lot of “tough gal” roles was it a natural extension to play a lesbian on TV in a time when that sort of thing DEFINITELY wasn’t the norm and did you intend on such roles being as inspiring as they were?

AB– You know, I never really thought about it.  It didn’t seem unusual to me.  I was just playing a woman who happened to be in love with another woman.  The operative word to me being “love”, which I assumed everyone could relate to.  I think John cast me because he saw something in my portrayal of Carole, Maude’s daughter, that he responded to — strength, humor, whatever…the Howard Hawks woman that he loved to write — that he wanted for the role in “Someone’s Watching Me”.  I was happy to provide it.  If any of my roles became an inspiration to other women, that was after the fact, and in the main due to the great words I was lucky enough to get to say. I never thought of what I was doing as inspirational, I just undertook roles I was attracted to and I was probably attracted to them because they were the kind of woman I wanted to be and hoped I was.

DS– 1980 saw you teaming up with John Carpenter again for “The Fog.” Aside from a couple of scenes here and there most of your sequences in the film were solo. What was it like for you coming from the packed cast of “Maude,” large theatrical productions and films, to act and essentially carry all of your scenes entirely alone (on screen at least)?

AB– I don’t remember being aware of much difference.  I think the location where we shot “The Fog” is as much of a character in the film as the actors were and so I certainly had an incredible locale to work off of.  I’ve always been very affected by my surroundings — we ended up loving Inverness, California so much we bought a home there.  The only quirky thing about my filming in “The Fog” was the scene on top of the lighthouse where the fog rolls in and the leper ghost chases me and then something happens in the inter-cut church scene which causes the ghost to disappear and leaves me no longer in jeopardy or in fog.  Because this was the early 80s, long before CGI, the only way they could control the ‘fog’ (some godawful chemical concoction) was to blow it in with fans.  They couldn’t suck it out.  So I had to film the scene in reverse sequence, acting from the end of the scene to the beginning, and then they flipped the negative or something (obviously more technical than I can explain) and it all made sense.  Not to me, maybe, but to the audience.

DS– “Escape from New York” came in 1981, in it you play another tough as nails, bad ass chick. I’d have loved to seen you play a Snake Plissken-esque character yourself. Aside from the whacked out horror film “The Convent” in 2000 you never really got to approach anything like that. Were you ever offered any lead roles as the hard boiled anti-hero back in that time period, or was cinema just not accepting of that sort of thing then?

AB– I’m glad you see Snake in my “Convent” character.  That’s definitely how I saw her.  I don’t think there were many female bad-ass heroines back in the 80s.  The only role of that ilk I can remember doing was on stage at The Roxy in Hollywood when I did Women Behind Bars.  I love those type of roles.  Give me an M-16 and a moral code and I’m in heaven.

DS– 1982 saw the release of two of your most famous films, first “Swamp Thing,” directed by another Master of Horror, Wes Craven. Both John Carpenter and Craven stand in fairly much the same regard as maestros of the macabre, but, aside from technical and stylist differences on screen, how do they truly differ as directors behind the scenes?

AB– I don’t know if they do.  I loved working for both of them.  They both keep a serene set — as serene as possible when making a movie.  By that I mean, they were both low key, no yelling or screaming, no diva demonstrations.  They know what they want and how to get it.  They inspire trust in their actors.  They’re absolutely a pleasure to work for.

DS– Next came Stephen King and George A. Romero’s loving cinematic homage to EC Comics, the deliriously wicked horror-comedy-anthology “Creepshow.” In the film’s most famous segment ‘The Crate‘ you play the scenery chewing uber-bitch Wilma Northrup. I once read somewhere that you consider Wilma the most favorite of the characters you’ve played. If this is so, did you ever expect someone like Wilma to tickle you so much as an actress, and why did she?

AB– Well, she tickles me because she’s so absolutely outrageous.  Because George encouraged me to go over the top with her.  And because, secretly, I like to think she’s so far afield from me that I’m just delighted to know I could come up with her.  I don’t drink, never have, so I really didn’t have any idea if I could pull her off, but she just makes me laugh and I had such a good time with her.  George and Hal and Fritz and Pittsburgh made filming a joy I’ll never forget.  And I bought some great antiques on my days off!

DS– In 1989 you starred in a film which I consider to have one of, if not THE, greatest titles ever, “Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death” with Shannon Tweed and Bill Maher. What drew you to the project (besides the title and whacked out concept) and what was your experience like working on the film?

AB– The fact that it was union approved work during the writers’ strike when no one was working is what drew me to the project.  That and I thought it was an hysterical script (you know, I’m sure, that it’s a re-telling of Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness, with me playing Marlon Brando’s role.  I mean, come on, how could I turn that down?).  If I remember correctly, I shot my entire role in 17 hours.  There were swords fights with Shannon that I filmed entirely alone — just my side of the battle because they couldn’t afford to pay us both to shoot at the same time.  It was a hoot.

DS– You had a son with John Carpenter, John Cody, and twin boys Walker and William with your husband Billy Van Zandt. Do any of your boys have the entertainer bug that their parents share, or are they entirely out of that world for the most part?

AB– Cody is a brilliant composer and musician.  He scored both the episodes of Masters of Horror that John directed, and scenes in several of John’s films and several other short films, but he’s not interested in making music a career.  He is a yoga teacher and a Japanese tutor and the great love of his life is Japan.  William plays guitar and Walker plays drums, but their primary love is soccer.  They’re on a team that’s ranked 21st in the nation and they’re only 15, so who knows what the future holds.  Definitely not acting, that’s for sure.

DS– In recent years you have released several novels; your wonderful and humorous autobiography “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” and two acclaimed fiction works “Vampyres of Hollywood” and “Love Bites.” Do you plan on focusing more on writing now, and will your next novels still stick within the horror genre or do you wish to branch out more there as well?

AB– I truly fell into the writing; it wasn’t something I ever anticipated doing.  I love it, but I still see it as an adjunct to my acting career; something I can do when I’m not performing.  I just submitted a proposal for another non-fiction book, not the horror genre unless  dealing with life in your fifties seems terrifying to you, so we’ll see what happens.

DS– Coming some time this year you’re starring alongside a dream cast of “B-Movie” icons (including Tim Thomerson, Lance Henriksen, John Saxon and Martin Kove) in another wonderfully titled, deliriously meta sounding film that I cannot wait to review (maybe you could hook me up with a personal copy, haha) “Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen.” What’s it been like working on this project, have any secrets from the set you can share and what drew you to it in the first place?

AB– I’ve done two films for the director, Michael Worth, and he’s such a great guy to work for that when he called and asked me to do his “mockumentary” (is that how it’s spelled?) with my old pal Tim Thomerson (we worked together for the first time on a Fantasy Island episode where I played a 200 lb woman out to get Tim by ripping off his toupee), I said I’d be there in a flash.  I haven’t seen any of the footage, but I suspect it’s hysterical.

The other film I’m really excited about and was thrilled to be cast in is “Argo“, starring and directed by Ben Affleck.  It’s a great script, based on the true story of a hostage rescue that took place in Iran in the late 70s, and I think it’s going to be Academy Award calibre.  Look for that to premier September 14th.

See, what’d I tell you?

Wonderful, yes?

Love it, love everything about it. If I could do a back and forth with Ms. Barbeau every week I would! Also, “Give me an M-16 and a moral code and I’m in heaven.”  is a new favorite phrase and life motto for me.

Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did and stay tuned for the next installment of 11 Questions, coming soon!

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