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Monday, 8 April 2013

An Interview with, and an appreciation of, Adrienne Barbeau

The fifth Dimension is very proud to produce the transcript of a short interview with the actress, director, singer and author, Adrienne Barbeau.

Adrienne Barbeau is a much loved favourite of horror fans worldwide having appeared in unquestionable classics of the genre such as as Wes Craven's Swamp Thing  and George A. Romero's Creepshow (both in 1982) . Perhaps her most celebrated appearances took place in John Carpenter's original The Fog in 1980 and his classic Escape from New York in 1981. In addition, who could ever forget classics such as the Roger Corman Burial of the Rats for cable television or the wonderfully titled Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death?…… not me, thats for sure!

Apart from gracing the the plethora of horror productions Adrienne has had a rich and varied career as a singer, talk show host and in the last few years, she has gained a name for herself as an author. The release of her memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do in 2006 which chronicles her amazing life with accounts of being a go-go dancer working for the mob; her breakthrough stage role of Rizzo in “Grease”; her romantic relationships ; marrying the genius of horror filmaking, John Carpenter; giving birth to twins at the age of 51; and talking about her extensive and varied body of horror work. 

After that she turned to fiction with Vampyres of Hollywood, a thriller about an A-list Hollywood scream queen who just happens to be a 450 year old vampire. The sequel Love Bites has also now been released which again follows the exploits of scream queen, Ovsanna Moore.

Adrienne succumbed to my pestering and kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her life and career.

(FD) When did you first start acting & what/who inspired you to do so?

(AB) I started taking ballet when I was 3, and then voice lessons when I was 10.
I don't remember being inspired by anyone, but I did have a mother who was very encouraging. By the time I was in Jr. High school, I was doing school plays and musicals with a community theatre group and really enjoying myself.

(FD) What was your first big break? 

Adrienne centre front as 'Rizzo' in the stage production of Grease.

(AB) My first great job was playing Tevye's second daughter Hodel in *Fiddler on the Roof * on Broadway. I consider that a big break because I was finally supporting myself as an actor!

I stayed in the show almost two and a half years. But it was *Grease *that led to *Maude*which led to everything else, so I suppose you could say that was the jumping off point.

(FD) You have a huge fan-base of horror fans throughout the world. Do you feel as if your work in horror has eclipsed your extensive body of workoutside that genre?

(AB) I don't think so. Depends on your age, really. Most of my *Maude * fans don't even know about the genre films, and then the horror fans probably don't know about the stage work. Probably don't care, either! That's okay with me; as long as there's something I've done that they enjoyed, I'm a happy camper.

(FD) One consistent theme in your characters is that of a strong, resilient woman. The role of Stevie Wayne in The Fog is a case in point. Is that thesort of woman you feel more comfortable playing?

(AB) It's definitely the sort of role that comes easy to me. And that I'm drawnto. Not too comfortable playing victims. 

That smokey sexy voiced DJ in The Fog

(FD) Is that the type of strong female character you feel has been lacking in horror movies?
(AB) Oh boy, I'm not the person to answer this question. I can count the number of horror movies I've seen on one hand. I love doing them; don't like watching them.

(FD) Apart from your fine performance & the sexy radio DJ voice .... What is It about The Fog do you think that now more than ever resonates with fans?

(AB) Maybe the atmosphere? The lack of CGI? The telling of a really good ghost story with characters you care about set in a great location?

(FD) Was it difficult working with your then husband John Carpenter on that movie and indeed also on Escape from New York? 

(AB) Not at all. I love working with John, as, I think you'll find, does every other actor who's had the opportunity. You can read more about ourspecific experiences together in my memoir *There Are Worse Things I Could Do. *I get to tell some fun stories about "The Master of Horror" there.

(FD) In Escape from New York, you appeared with one of my favourite actors, Donald Pleasence. What was he like to work with?

(AB) I loved Donald. He was hysterically funny. There were times when he had me laughing so hard I had to ask John to hold the roll because I couldn't get it together to say my lines.

(FD) In fact, your list of directors in horror reads like a who’s who of iconic directors of the Genre. What was it like working with Wes Craven (Swamp Thing) and George.A Romero (Creepshow)?

(AB) Again, both fantastic men to work for. Brilliant, supportive, kind, knowing what they want on screen and how to get it in the best possible way.

In 'Swamp Thing'

A grizzly end for the scream queen in 'Creepshow'

(FD) These days you're fast gaining a new audience with your Writing career - how did that change of career direction happen?

(AB) I started taking a writing class to fill the void left in my life by the passing of a very close friend. Quickly learned if you're going to take a writing class, you have to write. So I started telling stories from my career -- filming with rats all over me in a studio in Moscow when the government declared Martial Law and civil war was threatened; dating Burt Reynolds long 
before the filming of *Cannonball Run; *making *Swamp Thing *in the swamps with the gators and snakes;  as one of the first go-go girls in NYC in a mobbed up cocktail lounge -- things like that, and that eventually became a best selling book, which then led to the Vampyres of Hollywood books.

(FD) In Vampyres of Hollywood, we are introduced to Ovsanna Moore, who is known as the 'Scream Queen' of Hollywood. Anyone we may know per chance? :-)

(AB) Well, you know what they say..."write what you know". :-)

(FD) I found Vampyres of Hollywood a wholly enjoyable read ...Satire,elements of film noir & Characters full of depth and dimension. Have you had anyone in the film business accuse you of basing any of the characters on them? 

(AB) As you know, most of the recognizable characters are dead. At least, inreal life. So they're not complaining. When I wrote Tom Atkins in as a character, I made sure I read it all to Tommy first to get his blessing. As for the villains, I doubt that anyone would want to be acknowledged as having anything in common with them, save their professions as agents and paparazzi.

(FD) For those who haven’t read ‘Love Bites’, your recent follow up to Vampyres of Hollywood, what can you tell us about that story?

(AB) I like *Love Bites *even more than *Vampyres of Hollywood. *It has more of my sense of humor, I think, and more sensuality or sexuality or whatever you call it, with the love triangle between Ovsanna and her female assistant and the detective, Peter King. And I get a kick out of the scene with vampyre Orson Welles morphing in and out of a rat's body. I haven't got a clue where that came from in my head, but it makes me laugh.

(FD) What does the future hold for Adrienne Barbeau - author? More Ovsanna Moore hopefully?

(AB) Well, *Love Bites *was just released digitally as an e-book on Amazon, soI'm pleased about that. And I'm supposed to be writing a one-woman show based on *There Are Worse Things I Could Do,*but  I my sons' soccer games seem to be taking precedence so it might be a few more months before that sees the light of day. In the meantime, I'm recording a name yet to be revealed video game and waiting for the next good script to come along while I look forward to visiting my son, Cody (Carpenter, for all your horror readers) in Japan.

I'd like to thank Adrienne again for her time. The interview was conducted by email over the 7th and 8th of April.

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