Exclusive: Bill Moseley Talks Manson Girls, Dances with Werewolves, Holy Oak and More!
On January 8, 2011, this writer took a trip up La Tuna Canyon just outside Sun Valley, CA, for a visit to Frank Ippolito’s then-shooting short film "Night of the Little Dead" (set visit and photos coming soon) and while there chatted with one of that film’s stars, genre vet Bill Moseley, who talked up a few of his other horror projects, including Susanna Lo’s upcoming feature Manson Girls.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said the actor, who is familiar to horror fans for his turn as ‘Choptop’ in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as well as for his portrayal of ‘Otis’ in the Rob Zombie films House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, of his role in Manson Girls. “It is kind of funny to have these brushes with Charles Manson over the years. I did a stage play many years ago called ‘Timothy and Charlie’ about a historic night when Timothy Leary and Charles Manson were side-by-side in solitary (confinement) in San Quentin, and the play kind of took off from there – certainly fictitious. I played Timothy Leary (in it), and my buddy Gill Gayle played Charles Manson. Of course, a lot of people really think that (the character of) ‘Otis’ (in The Devil’s Rejects) has a lot to do with Manson, too. There’s that Tex Watson line (in the film) that goes, ‘I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work,’ so it does seem to be something that’s a recurring motif for me.”
Dread queried the prolific actor as to the approach he plans to take in informing his role of Manson, and he expounded, “The person as an actor I’ll probably go to for reference would be my Devil’s Rejects buddy Steve Railsback because his portrayal of Charles Manson in (the Tom Gries 1976 made-for-TV film) Helter Skelter is the high-water mark. What I remember too is that, ‘It is an actor playing a part’. When I did the ‘Timothy and Charlie’ play, a lot of actors better than I turned it down because they were asked to portray a living and breathing human being, and Timothy Leary was living at the time. What I did was instead of trying to mimic Leary, and to look like him and to talk like him, was that I actually sat with it for a while. While he was a Harvard professor of psychology, he also grew up in Boston and was a tough Irish-Catholic kid from the streets. So what I tried to do was to not simply emphasize the intellectual but to give him a strong physical presence, too. Somehow it turned out with a nice balance. Timothy Leary came to maybe seven of the twelve performances, and we became pals after that. I don’t necessarily see that happening with Charles Manson though, but as I said, it’s a role, and I’d be more inclined to speak with Steve first and kind of find my way through it.”
The topic of America’s fascination with serial killers came up, and we asked Moseley if he felt any particular responsibility in accepting such a role and as to whether or not he feels that these types of films glamorize their subjects and/or further their dubious notoriety.
“I’m not a method actor per se,” replied Moseley, who interestingly enough prior to working as an actor was a seasoned journalist, penning articles for such respected mastheads as Omni and Psychology Today. “The first thing I do is approach it as a role, and I end up reading the script a bunch of times and try to capture the essence of the person as they are portrayed in the screenplay. I think that also in approaching it in that way, it provides an emotional and psychic safety net.”