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Doug Bradley Talks Hellraiser Legacy

Doug Bradley Talks Hellraiser LegacyThere are many iconic visages in the horror world: Frankenstein, Dracula, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface. Another who stands right up there in the pantheon of horror villains is Pinhead, created by the legendary Clive Barker and brought to life by British actor Doug Bradley.

What’s interesting about the story behind Pinhead becoming a horror icon is that initially the character didn’t even have a name, and no one working on the original Hellraiser film could have ever dreamed that the first movie would spawn seven sequels. “I earned the union minimum rate to play this character,” explained Bradley. “I was buried in the credits and was probably on screen in the original for about 10 minutes so at first I didn’t have a whole lot to be excited about.

I didn’t really see the big picture at the time, and I certainly didn’t think my character would be part of a franchise either. What I did know is because it was Clive’s material, we were doing something really exciting and special. But no, I had no idea that we’d be having this conversation some 23 years later,” Bradley added.

While a lot of the horror films of the ’80s were centered around a slasher, Barker’s Hellraiser brought fans something else: a visceral glimpse into the sins of the flesh. Bradley credits his previous collaborations with Barker in the theater as the inspirations behind his portrayal of Pinhead.

I had been involved in playing in Clive’s imaginary landscapes for years before the first Hellraiser,” said Bradley. “The first time I read the script, I got the Pinhead character (originally named simply ‘Priest’) pretty quickly, and I knew what Clive would be looking for with him. I drew on a few of Clive’s other characters that I had been previously to flesh him out and find his dark places.”

Even though it’s been years since Bradley donned the Pinhead make-up, it doesn’t mean that the actor wouldn’t enjoy suiting up as everyone’s favorite priest of Hell again.

Especially when it comes to the upcoming Hellraiser remake.

Doug Bradley Talks Hellraiser LegacyBradley explained, “Having someone else play Pinhead and the fact that they are doing a remake bothers me on so many different levels. That character, much like Robert (Englund) and Freddy, is one that I really worked hard to make mine, and seeing someone else become Pinhead feels like a kick in the teeth.

The studio hasn’t asked me to come back as Pinhead, and they really couldn’t care less what I think about the remake,” added Bradley. “I think studios need to be looking for the new Tobe Hoopers, John Carpenters, or Clive Barkers rather than taking a ride on someone else’s work. It’s cheap, and it’s disrespectful I think.

Another concern Bradley has with the upcoming Hellraiser redux is that the studio will shy away from the controversial content Barker explored with his first film. “Hellraiser deals with the ideas behind sado-masochism and nothing else. I don’t think it would even get greenlit these days when you take into consideration the very conservative stance most studios have right now. I’ve seen some stuff on the Internet that indicates Dimension wants to soften it a bit, and I guess then my reaction is this: Why bother remaking something if all you want to do is butcher it?” said Bradley.

So why do studios keep going back to the well and drawing on previously released movies for material? Bradley offers up his theory.

Studios don’t respect horror fans or just how much devotion they show for the genre,” explained Bradley. “Horror fans are not a dumb audience by any means, and I think studios forget that all the time. Of course they show up for the remakes in theaters — fans show up to support their genre, no matter what the product is. That’s their devotion.”

If studios started to realize that there are still great original stories out there and that fans will show up to theaters for those films, too, then maybe this whole remakes phase would start to dwindle. I guess, from a fan’s perspective, I just wish more horror movies would be made by people who actually love the genre and want to give the fans something new,” Bradley added. We do, too, Doug; we do, too.


Our thanks to Doug Bradley for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

Heather Wixson

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  • cinema13

    Original stories? A great idea, IF people would actually support them, but they don’t. Even with Sam Raimi, DRAG ME TO HELL tanked. PANDORUM was another good film that was DOA at the box-office. Richard Kelly’s THE BOX died, even with major stars attached! But folks came out in droves for the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake and FINAL DESTINATION 3D. So what would you expect a studio head to think?

  • Carrion

    I was lucky enough to work with Doug Bradley (he provided voiceover on my new animation ‘The Hairy Hands’) and he dryly voiced the same opinions after the recording – that the industry is just chasing its tail (rather than chasing the tales). There’s genuine talent out there and people willing to give horror fans what they want, if only the industry would invest in them instead of photocopying originals and giving us bad copies.

  • LifeMi

    Great interview, nice to hear Doug Bradley’s honest opinion. I can’t imagine anyone else as Pinhead.

  • Floydian Trip

    I do love it. It’s a breath of fresh air. Or stagnant depending on how you look at it.

  • Floydian Trip

    Hah, brilliant. Someone who gets what’s wrong with the horror genre today. The studios don’t fucking care about the genre or its fans and yet the fans continue to give them a pass. Blind devotion?

    • The Woman In Black

      You gotta love how Bradley tells it like it is and pulls no punches.

      • Nomad

        Ok you’ve all read enough articles now go the fuck home.

        That’s almost a Bradley quote. heh