Barbara Crampton is a name synonymous with some of the biggest cult-hit films like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Chopping Mall, Beyond The Gates, Castle Freak, You’re Next, and We Are Still Here.
As of late, the fan favorite actress has experienced a stunning career rebirth as her call back to horror continues to sound off. Fresh off the set from her latest endeavor, Barbara enthusiastically promotes her motherly role in Julian Richards’ Reborn. If the film reveals anything it’s that the beloved actress has the talent, support, ability, and the drive to keep her craft just as sharp and relevant as it was years ago.
Needless to say, it was an absolute privilege to speak with this horror idol about her role as Lena, an actress trying to keep her head above the waters in a difficult film industry and facing the supernaturally gifted daughter she left behind at birth. Barbara’s endearing charisma, realness, and appreciation for the genre is just as charming as you’d expect it to be.
Jessica Rose for Nightmare on Film Street: You just got back from a big trip, how was it?
Barbara Crampton: My trip was great! I was just in Norway filming a movie called The Colour of Madness. It’s a Lovecraftian-inspired cult film in the vein of The Wicker Man. The scenery was beautiful. We were filming in the middle of the fjords of Norway where there’s so much water, the mountains are just popping right out of the water, and then there’s streams and water gushing down the mountains as well. It was a beautiful place for the movie.
NOFS: It sounds beautiful. Is that a place you’ve been to before?
BC: No, I’ve never been to Norway and that’s one of the nice things about working in the film business. Usually many times you get a chance to visit places you never would have gone before. I went to Norway for this movie and right before that I was in Albania for the new Castle Freak reimagining. I’ve done movies in England, South Africa, Germany, and lots of places in the U.S., so one of the benefits of the job is being able to see the world.
NOFS: It sounds wonderful. I’m really excited for the Castle Freak reimagining because it’s one of my absolute favorites, especially that it’s being produced by Fangoria.
BC: Yes, it’s produced by Fangoria and I’ve been with the project from the very beginning. I have a nice relationship with Dallas Sonnier after having worked on Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, so he asked me to be part of the new reimagining of Castle Freak. I was there from the very beginning, from the inception of the script and drafts on that and then through the casting process and being on set for the entirety of the run of the film. We’re just about to look at the first cut of the film in about two weeks.
NOFS: That’s so exciting. Tell me a little bit about Julian Richards for Reborn. I was able to watch it and I thought it was a lot of fun. It has such an old-school feel to it. What was it like working with him as a director?
BC: He’s somebody that I’ve known in the business for a few years. He actually has a sales company and he worked on Beyond the Gates. We had a great experience with him. I met him a few years ago at the AFM in Los Angeles and we hit it off very well. He did great for us on that movie and we stayed in touch. I’ve seen him at various film festivals throughout the years and he actually had me in mind for this role when he was hired to direct it.
They had hired another actress for the role and she wasn’t able to perform her duties on it, so they had to recast her for me at the very last minute. I got a call on a Friday to see if I could show up on Monday to work on the movie. It was one of the only films that I really feel like I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but I thought it was too good of a role to pass up. I feel like the role is kind of me in a way: she’s a B-movie horror actress climbing her way back up to the top and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past eight years or so.
“I feel like the role is kind of me in a way: she’s a B-movie horror actress climbing her way back up to the top and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past eight years or so.”
It’s a role that’s not too far away from who I am now and I really liked the film. It’s kind of a nice, simple throwback story and all the other actors who were cast are really amazing and wonderful. We used Brian Yuzna’s house, he’s the director of Society. He’s been a good friend of mine for over 30 years and John Penny was one of our producers. I know him so well too. I just worked with Michael Paré, so I got a chance to work with him again.
He became my ally on set because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the movie. He and I spent a lot of time talking about the film and kind of what it meant to be an actor trying to continue to work and not being able to and the demons that get at you. He and I have a lot in common, so he was really helpful to me in talking through some of the scenes and what we were trying to do with the scenes and performing them with as much intelligence and insight as possible. I really appreciated working with him again on the film.
NOFS: That’s fantastic. He was great too. Obviously you would never know from watching it that you were not exactly prepared for it or given much time to prepare for it. How does that kind of relate to your life? Do you find that you were similar to that role of Lena or was she someone that you were completely different from?
BC: I’ve been working in the industry for a long time and it’s a difficult career choice because you’re basically freelance unless you get on a series for a number of years and you’re able to put a lot of money away. It’s a very difficult profession that you really have to have a deep love for, to be able to commit to it and see it through. There’s been times in my career, especially when I hit my late my late 30’s, where I wasn’t really working as much. I wasn’t getting calls for auditions and there was just nothing for me to do. Nobody was asking me to be in a film and I wasn’t working.
It was sort of baffling to me after working so hard on my craft for so long and being in a lot of cult classics in the early part of my career that there was just nothing or nobody asking me to be in anything. It was really disappointing and, in that respect, I feel close to the character of Lena because I think that happened to her. There just wasn’t anything for her to audition for and nothing for her to do.
Then all of a sudden there’s this big role that’s sort of looming and might happen and she’s really excited and she’s thinking it’s going to be another Second Coming for her, like it will be another big break, another round of her career. I definitely felt that way when I came back with You’re Next. We had made the movie in 2011, but it didn’t come out until 2013. I was very excited about that film and it had come to me at a time when I really gave up on my career and it wasn’t working at all. I was late to motherhood and I was raising my both of my children and I just felt like, “Well, maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m just not going to be an actress. It’s just not going to work and I guess that’s okay. I had some kind of big projects in the early part of my career so maybe that’s enough?” Then when I did that movie and it went to the Toronto Film Festival and did so well there, we got such an amazing response, I thought, “Wow. This could really do something for me”.
Then Lionsgate bought Summit Entertainment and it took them two years after buying it to put the movie out. During those two years how I felt was probably how Lena felt in the film: thinking that she was maybe going to work for Peter Bogdanovich or maybe not going to get that role. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe You’re Next is going to come out and maybe it will sit on the shelf for the next 10 years. Maybe it will never come out. Studios buy movies and then they decide not to put them out for whatever reason. That’s how I was feeling, sort of on the edge of wondering how my life was going to go.
“With You’re Next, I just played the waiting game and it worked out, but with Reborn I had to do a lot of soul searching.”
With You’re Next, I just played the waiting game and it worked out, but with Reborn I had to do a lot of soul-searching. I had to do a lot of internal work coming to terms with my past as it was being presented in front of me and me not knowing what was happening until it is revealed that the girl in the movie is actually my daughter. I had to work through a lot of stuff for that character to ultimately come to terms with who she was in her life and feeling like she was a fully self-actualized person.
She had dealt with a lot of her demons and her sadness so that she could move on and a lot of us feel that way. A lot of us feel stuck or unable to really be happy and move on in our lives because of things that hold us back. In that way it was a little dissimilar. I just played the waiting game with You’re Next, but I had to do a lot of work raising my children and preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the next round of this career that I have now where I seem to be working pretty consistently and getting some of the best rolls of my career. I definitely understand Lena, where she is in her life and what she’s going through.
As far as feeling different, I have never lost a child. I don’t know what that is like, but I talked to a few ladies and mothers that I know who have lost children in childbirth and what that meant to them and how that affected them. It’s a very deep, deep wound that a lot of women feel whether they try to get pregnant and are unable to or lose a baby that starts growing inside of them and they’re unable to bring it to term. There’s a lot of very deep sadness about it. While I was working on the film I actually called a couple of friends of mine. Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to work on the material, after I arrived on set I talked to a few of my friends about that and they were very open about it and helpful to me.
NOFS: Wow. That’s got to be difficult, that you are a mother and playing a role like this. I’m sure that doesn’t translate easily.
BC: Well, there’s a certain connection that I have with my own children emotionally and internally that I can actually use and in times when issues like this come up it is very helpful for me to talk to other women who were in a very difficult situation in their lives trying to get over the loss.
NOFS: Absolutely. Do you feel now that you are back and you are doing a ton of work that it’s easy to balance that with being a mother and having your family?
BC: It wasn’t as easy. Ten years ago, my kids were a lot smaller and I had some help. I had a gal that’s very close to our family who would come over when I was filming and stay in our house because my husband has a very demanding job. She helped me when my kids were very little and when I would go on the road she would come over and stay overnight and help my husband get the kids off to school and buy groceries for us and do the laundry. It was really difficult for me, but now that my kids are older it’s not as difficult. My kids are getting around town by themselves and they’re able to get themselves to school and make their own dinners and lunches and they’re very supportive of me. This summer I had quite a demanding schedule since I was in Albania for five weeks and I was in Norway for three weeks. I really miss the support and the love of home, but as far as the logistics of just everybody getting where they need to be and doing what they should do, they’re much more self-reliant at this point so it’s a little easier.
NOFS: That’s great. Do you see yourself moving forward and doing a lot more work?
BC: You know, I’m taking it every day at a time, every month at a time. That’s kind of how this business is. It’s freelance. You never know what ebbs and flows. My plan right now is to keep working as long as I possibly can and grow into roles as I grow older. Hopefully, if people like me, I’ll continue to act for the next foreseeable future.
NOFS: I can only imagine that the horror community will happily want to see you as much as possible.
Reborn is now out on VOD. What’s your favorite film of this iconic horror actress? Will you be seeing Barbara in Reborn? Sound off with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!