You most likely know her as the female Cenobite from Hellbound: Hellraiser II. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Canadian-born Barbie Wilde. An accomplished author, classically trained mime, and talented musician; there seems to be nothing she isn’t capable of accomplishing. TNC is very pleased that this multitalented artist took the time to answer some of our questions.
TNC: First of all Barbie, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us. How have things been lately?
BW: I’ve been busy working on a few different writing projects at the moment and I’m still promoting my latest book, a collection of short horror stories called Voices of the Damned. Each story is accompanied by one full color artwork or illustration by a top artist in the genre such as Clive Barker, Daniele Serra, Nick Percival, Vincent Sammy, Tara Bush, Ben Baldwin, Steve McGinnis and Eric Gross. The highly respected Publishers Weekly gave the collection a starred review and said: “Wilde’s mastery of shocking violence is given full rein in subjects ranging from reclusive self-imprisonment to the exploration of European nightmares. As much a chilling collection of frightful fiction as a delight for the darker senses, this is a satisfying triumph in a befitting, unforgiving, style.”
TNC: Some people might be unaware of your involvement in the avant-garde performance group Shock, which performed with groups such as Depeche Mode and Adam And The Ants. What can you tell us about that period in your career? Did it have a notable effect on you as an actress?
BW: Well, my career has certainly had an interesting “narrative arc”, as writers like to say. I started attending mime classes as part of my drama studies. I subsequently got involved with a group called SILENTS, which was the brainchild of my teacher Desmond Jones. We performed at a few choice fringe venues, but eventually my partner at the time, Tim Dry, and I started an offshoot called Drawing in Space. Robert Pereno and Lowri-Ann Richards of Shock saw our show and invited us to join their dance group. Shock grew in size, gaining mime artist Sean Crawford and dancer Carole Caplin. We expanded into making music as well.
To cut a long story short: we got management, performed all over the UK, signed a record deal with RCA records, released a couple of singles, did a residency in New York City at the legendary Ritz Club, supported Gary Numan at Wembley, Adam and the Ants at The Venue, Ultravox at the Rainbow and joined Depeche Mode on tour, had a centre page spread in the Sun, went on tour in Holland and Belgium, then split up live on stage at The Lyceum in London.
Robert and Lowri-Ann went on to become Tight Fit, then Pleasure and the Beast. Tim and Sean had a robotic mime-music act called Tik and Tok and at the height of their career performed at the Royal Variety Show. Carole went on to become Cherie Blair’s lifestyle advisor. Our lighting designer, Willie Williams, went on to work with U2, David Bowie, the Stones and more. I returned to acting and appeared in a Bollywood movie called Janbazz, the unfinished, unreleased Grizzly II: The Concert, Death Wish 3 and Hellbound. I was also writing and presenting TV shows such Hold Tight, The Small Screen and The Gig and co-hosting the movie history series, Sprockets.
TNC: You’re most notable role of course was the Female Cenobite in Hellbound, what was that whole experience like?
BW: The whole process was a bit grueling: early calls, the four hour makeup process, long days and night shoots, etc. (Although my experience was relatively easy compared to Ken Cranham. His Channard Cenobite makeup took six hours to apply!) On the up side, my fellow actors were wonderful company and we kept ourselves amused behind the scenes.
The first time that I saw myself fully made up and costumed as the Female Cenobite was an extraordinary moment. I looked into the mirror and thought: where’s me?! I looked so very different from the big-haired 1980s TV presenter persona that I was at the same time as being a Cenobite in Hellbound. But after the shock wore off, I was empowered by the look of my character. After all, I got to tear people’s souls apart. What’s not to love about that job description?
TNC: How did you prepare for the role? Do you still feel any connection with that character?
BW: I read Clive’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, which is the basis for the Hellraiser film franchise. And Pete Atkin’s Hellbound script was also an excellent road map for my character.
Of course, I love the character of the Female Cenobite. And I adore how people still connect with the character, after almost thirty years…
TNC: Aside from the second Hellraiser movie, you were also in Grizzly II, which featured a very interesting cast: Louise Fletcher, John Rhys-Davies, and even early performances from Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, and George Clooney. From what I understand, the film was never completed, and a work print is floating around on Youtube. Do you recall much about working on that one?
BW: Absolutely! We filmed our scenes in a big nature reserve/park outside of Budapest. My boyfriend at the time — record producer and drummer Richard James Burgess (Landscape, Spandau Ballet, Five Star, Shock) — had been producing tracks for Predator, the movie band, and was going to appear as the drummer for the band, but then he got the gig producing Adam Ant in Sweden. He suggested me for the part as the drummer. The band was performing a concert in the park at the same time the giant bear is munching on various victims like George Clooney, etc. Richard gave me a few drumming lessons and off I went to Budapest. (Luckily, I was only required to mime the drumming, not do the real thing!)
It was a very odd experience. From the beginning, there were massive technical problems with the large mechanical bear they were using and I think that was one of the reasons production shut down, along with various financial problems.
TNC: You made the transition from being an actress to becoming quite an accomplished author. How did this all come about? What inspired you to start writing?
BW: I’ve been writing since I was a kid and I continued to write scripts and novel ideas while I was working as an actress. At some point in my mid-thirties, “acting left me behind” as thespians say. Some actresses can continue on, but for the most part, the ageism that infects show business did stall my career to the point that I moved into casting, working as a Casting Director for commercials, for the 550 extras for The Buddha of Suburbia (BBC) and for the cast of The Real World: London (MTV). Although I was pretty lucky that I was able to keep working as an actress while in my thirties. Many actresses are now reporting that they’re washed up at 28!
Although my first love was writing dark crime fiction, I eventually moved into writing visceral, erotic, “carnal” horror. The authors-screenwriters who have inspired me the most are: Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Kane, Rod Serling, David Cronenberg and The Soska Sisters.
TNC: Have you ever considered returning to the stage or screen?
BW: I was approached by Venomous Little Man productions a couple of years ago with a very imaginative horror script called Bad Medicine. I was offered the juicy role of an unconventional therapist-psychologist. I loved the part, but unfortunately, the production company couldn’t get the funding. But I do hope that VLM will eventually get the finance together to bring this ambitious and unique project to fruition.
TNC: Your debut novel is The Venus Complex, released back in 2012. How would you describe the book for those who haven’t gotten the chance to read it yet?
BW: The Venus Complex is a diary-of-a-sexual-serial-killer thriller. I’ve always been fascinated by psychopaths and serial killers ever since I read Colin Wilson’s excellent Order of Assassins and A Criminal History of Mankind. I wanted to explore the sexual mindscape of one of these individuals in a way that I hadn’t read in previous works of fiction about serial killers. I did a lot of research: talking to homicide detectives, psychologists, etc., and then I set out to write the book in the first person, in other words, from the viewpoint of a damaged, sexually frustrated, forty year old man. It was a challenge (and at the same time, rather darkly enjoyable) to create a character like Art History Professor Michael Friday, a murderer, a misanthrope and at the same time, a charming lone wolf prowling the edges of society, picking off his victims without any guilt whatsoever.
TNC: “Sister Cilice” was a piece you contributed to Hellbound Hearts, an anthology of short stories inspired by Clive Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, which in turn was the basis for the mythology of the Hellraiser films franchise. How does it feel to help expand on the mythos?
BW: I loved the fact that the Lead Cenobite in The Hellbound Heart was female, so I decided to write an origin story of a female cenobite (not necessarily THE Female Cenobite from the movies). Sister Cilice was a nun in her previous life who yearns for the freedom that becoming a member of the Order of the Gash represents. Of course, everyone assumes that I’m writing about my own character, but this isn’t the case.
I’d love to see a movie or graphic novel centered around “Sister Cilice”. I’ve written two more stories about the character: “The Cilicium Pandoric” (where she goes to the Toymaker and orders her own configuration) and “The Cilicium Rebellion” (where Sister Cilice plots a revolt against the male cenobites in Hell). All three stories are now featured in Voices of the Damned.
TNC: Are there any new novels or stories currently in the works? Is there anything we should look forward to on the horizon?
BW: I’ve been asked a lot by fans about writing a sequel to The Venus Complex. A new short horror story of mine called “Blue-Eyes” is going to be published in an anthology called Great British Horror 1: Green and Pleasant Land, edited by Steve J. Shaw and published by Black Shuck Books in September 2016. I’ve also writing a couple of movie projects as well.
Next year will be the 30th Anniversary of Hellraiser and I’m looking forward to attending a few horror conventions to celebrate.
TNC: I would like to thank you for your time. On behalf of all of us at TNC, we wish you the very best of luck with your future projects.
BW: You’re welcome! Please let your readers know that they can get more info about what I’m up to at:
My website: www.barbiewilde.com