Interviewed by Michael Juvinall
Recently, I had the immense pleasure of interviewing the iconic and engaging Barbara Crampton. Some of you may remember Barbara from her almost legendary horror film roles from the early 1980’s as she starred in such classic films as Re-Animator, From Beyond, Chopping Mall, Puppetmaster, and more. But this time we talked about her upcoming psychological horror film, Sun Choke.
In Sun Choke, Barbara plays a sadistic caretaker to a mentally unstable young woman. Barbara is brilliant in this role as she straddles the fence between ruthlessness and protection of her young ward. Barbara talks about what it was like to play a role such as this and how difficult it was to prepare for it. Read on for the full interview with the amazing Barbara Crampton, a true one-of-a-kind actress!
Sun Choke is in select theaters and VOD TODAY from XLrator Media!
Horror Society: It’s a pleasure to speak with you and I wanted to thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with me.
Barbara Crampton: We’ve talked before haven’t we?
Horror Society: No we have not.
Barbara Crampton: Ok, I just know your name then; I must follow you or have read your articles.
Horror Society: To start things off here. You’re latest film, Sun Choke. What was it about the script for that film that made you want to tackle the character of Irma?
Barbara Crampton: That she’s insane. Initially when I read the script I thought this character was kind of questionable and I didn’t know if I actually liked her as a person and I thought this is going to be really difficult. Because she tries to do the right thing and she’s making lots of mistakes and making bad choices and I had to justify her actions to make her believable. I thought it was a difficult role and I thought the subject matter was difficult as well. It tells the story of mental illness, isolation and pain and bad choices. I talked to the producers and I talked to the director, he is such a lovely guy. He told me he was brought up by his Grandmother and two sisters and he told me how much he loved women and he wanted to tell a painful story in a beautiful way. He softened my angst about it a little bit and after talking to him for a week or so, I decided I should do it. So, I said yes and then I started working on the character and justify her actions and try to understand why she would do the things she did. She had various methods and techniques to help Janie get better and be stable. I had to do some research into various mental illness and various practices and how could I do that in a way that seemed real. I’m a mom and I have children and so I was trying to look at her as if she was my own child and I valued her as much as someone who is my own child and I really wanted her to get better. I love her and I wanted her to get better. There’s a lot of work there that went into making this character hopefully believable. That’s it basically, just a lot of thought and research into it.
Horror Society: I thought your character was very believable. You and Sarah Hagan give tremendous performances in the film. How fun was it to play off of Sarah and her role in the film.
Barbara Crampton: She was just incredible. I was just in awe of her. Working with her I think really helped me because she is so beautiful in the way she approached the character. It’s interesting because she did so many dark things in the movie but she also has this little girl timbre to her voice and frailty. She’s like this pure spirited being that just came into the world. Everything I tried to do I think could’ve been potentially to no avail anyway because she really was so far gone. I don’t know? Did I make her worse – my character? At times was I making her better, was I making her worse? I don’t know. When I first was talking to Ben, I said am I a good character or am I a bad character? He said, I don’t know, let’s find out together. In working with Sarah, it would be kind of moment to moment. When I needed to be a strong disciplinarian and use a technique that Ben had called for in the script, I would use that technique on her. Then at other times when she was really struggling, I had a softer moment dealing with her, I would play that. Just like any mother dealing with a rambunctious child who can’t be corralled or handled at different moments you’re going to be nice to them and at other moments you take no prisoner.
Horror Society: Interesting. The film Sun Choke is not your everyday psychological horror film. What could you say to viewers that might have a hard time sticking with its slow burn vagueness?
Barbara Crampton: It’s slow burn initially but it’s also really deep and really dark. It exposes the horribleness and the darkness of mental illness in a beautiful, poetic way. If you can stick with the movie, I think you’ll see its uniqueness. For something to be that dark and horrible and also have so much beauty to it is a testament to the director and the writer. I think it’s a movie that will wash over you and fill you with something by the time it ends. It really seeps into your veins. I hope people stick with it to feel the wholeness of the piece.
Horror Society: You’ve kind of career resurgence after many years in the business. Is it hard juggling your family life with your acting career?
Barbara Crampton: Sometimes it is. When I have to go out of town, it’s usually a few weeks. Occasionally it’s as long as a month but those are few and far between. Usually it’s the couple of weeks or so. Then I’m going on festival runs here and there, so I’m trying to do the best that I can. My kids have gotten older now; they’re 13 and one’s about to turn 15. Fortunately, my husband works New York hours and he gets out of work around 2 o’clock. He’s usually here when they get home from school. It seems to be working out ok right now. Tomorrow, I’m headed off to the Fantasia Film Festival for another movie I did and I’m taking my kids with me. So I try to take them with me when I can. As they get older that seems to be easier as well. It’s nice for my kids to see me working and having a career. I think it sends a good message to my kids that I’m working and I’m really there for them.
Horror Society: That’s awesome Barbara. We’re out of time now. I wanted to say it was a pure pleasure to speak with you. I’ve been a big fan of yours since the early days. I wanted to wish you luck with your upcoming films and everything you’ve got going on.
Barbara Crampton: Michael, thank you so much it’s so kind of you. It’s been nice to talk to you too.
Horror Society: Bye bye.
Watch the trailer for Sun Choke here: