From Clive Barker's Lost Souls Issue 12 (Jan. 1999)

Clive Barker
an Interview by Michelle Russo
August 12, 1998


M = Michelle
CB = Clive Barker
M: I've heard that there are three new Seraphim lower budget films in the works. Is this true and if so, when can we expect them to start filming?
CB: Well, I have been very cagey about this stuff for two reasons. The first is that the contracts are just recently in the works and I donít want to get too much into the deals until the deals are done, and the second is that Iím slightly superstitious about the stuff.
M: Okay.
CB: I always feel as though you know they say a movie isnít made until you go to the premier. From there in I think that there is a certain amount of truth in saying that there are so many ways in which movies in
the planning, scripting, and production stages can be screwed up. Itís not like a book, you know. I deal with Harper Collins. I write a book, I turn it in, then we edit it together and publish it. Iíve been doing that a lot for many years now. Movies get screwed up in so many ways. What I can say is there is a sense in which our company Seraphim is dedicated to these smaller pictures as a point of principle in a time when it seems movies are getting LARGER and DUMBER. (Laughter) I like very much the fact in the smaller relay you can do edgier material that can go far into sexuality.
M: Right!
CB: That maybe I can deal more directly with issues and ideas that mainstream moviemakers would find problematic. So it is really very much an artistic desire on our part to do, but also if you will a philosophical desire on our part to make these kind of pictures.
M: Excellent. It is true that there is a lack of creativity in the stuff thatís coming out..
CB: Well, part of the problem here now is that many of the so-called independent film companies are actually owned by much larger companies who are exercising their more conservative aesthetic over the brethren that they have taken to their bosoms. Touchstone is owned by Walt Disney. Gramercy is owned by Polygram. It is very hard to imagine the kind of really really edgy work which I think makes up my favorite form of cinema. Talking about Lynch and Croenberg and these kind of guys getting their work supported the way they were in the late 70ís and early 80ís by these kinds of companies, there is a middle brow kind of aesthetic at work here, where you see everything sort of ground down to the same banalities over and over again. I think if you say independent cinema to most people now they think it is a romantic comedy starring a lot of goofy young people
M: I agree.
CB: Independent cinema to me is stuff that is really edgy, surreal. ...probably violent.
M: For example, The Brood.
CB: I love The Brood.
M: It's a very disturbing movie.
CB: A wonderful piece of work. There are a few pieces out there. One movie called Pi which I think was made with a very small amount of money, but you know when Edward Burke pictures are being called independent . . .sweet warm hearted little comedies, nothing offensive about them, but that's the problem.
M: I agree with you. Iíve heard the Thief of Always is in production, is this true?
CB: No, we're in very early pre-production right now over at Universal. We're a long way from the movie, but weíll get there. (Laughter)
  M: I know you will always strive for perfection. I also heard a rumor that there is going to be a haunted house at Universal Studios that you will design.
CB: Yes, for Halloween. You may be talking about a separate thing here, let me talk about both things. Firstly, if Thief of Always goes over at Universal they want to tie it to an attraction which would be the
holiday house from Thief of Always as a permanent attraction as well as one of their parks. The other part is that Universal in LA every year turns over its part to this little Halloween event and this year they
kindly asked me to come in and design. It was going to be a haunted maze but Iíve made it kind of a freakshow. It's called Freakz.
  M: Yes, I see!
CB: Clive Barker's Freakz. I guess it will run through portions of October and I think its going to be pretty intense.
M: I'm sure many people will be expecting a Hellraiser room.
CB: Well, one of the things about that stuff is it is slightly hard to make those characters, those sort of sadomasochistic elegant rather priest-like characters work in the very aggressive and rather frenzied
atmosphere of a live maze. One of the things that work really well with the characters of Hellraiser is their detachment.
M: Right.
CB: It is how coolly and elegantly they present themselves and being artists amongst consummate monsters. Whether they are or not is subject to opinion. It is the way they present themselves and the feeling of a maze is much more chaotic than people jumping out at you. I donít think Pinhead ever jumped out at anybody in his life.
M: No. (Laughter) He was always graciously invited. About the concept of Hellraiser. I had the feeling it could have been influenced by William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell?
CB: Blake is a massive influence upon me. I donít think Blake's vision of sexuality and the vision of sexuality presented in Hellraiser would fit comfortably side by side. I think if you wanted to see Blake's influence
in my work the strongest place to look would be Imajica.
M: Yes!
CB: In which I think it is most naked.
M: What made you decide to take on the huge task of writing something so expansive and complex as Imagica?
CB: Foolishness. (Laughter)
M: Did you write it out longhand?
CB: Yes.
M: Many people don't realize that Imajica isn't just a book, it describes a way of life.
CB: Right, it truly is, I think in a way you pinned it down right there. You ask where the origins of desire. I think really the origin lies in the desire to make a book like when I was younger. Blake was that for me,
Tolkien was that for me. At a much younger age, Lord of the Rings possessed my life for two years. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen.
M: Wow.
CB: It was a world I could enter in its totality.
M: Right.
CB: In which I felt and thought the author understood to the finest degree. Every detail in the work he was creating (the world he was creating, I should say) I wanted to be able to create a similar kind of world for a modern reader. This is very important to me, not to exorcise or expel from that world: sexuality, female sexuality, women. Because if you consider Tolkien, it's not exactly a world in which they have either
power or character.
M: True.
CB: Homosexuality, disease, I mean all of the things that are part of our world. I felt including these things was important if I was going to write one of these complete world books.
M: Yes.
CB: Not turn a blind eye to the things that were part and parcel of my life. Sexuality and certainly death of course are very important and I think the best books contain powerful women. I think fantasy, horror, and
science fiction have been rather remiss in dealing with women and there has been some regression in the last ten years. The great classics of fantasy are not stories dealing with women and where women do appear, for instance, in Lord of the Rings, they appear on pedestals to be worshipped. Rather chilling and detached.
M: Right.
CB: I wanted to make a world that was sexual and sensual and that did embrace the possibility of the flesh, not just in a negative and scary way, but in the way that sexuality in all of its manifestations is a profound
expression of love. Of course I had a place in the story that was dealing with the battle between the negative and positive parts of our soul.
M: So, in your childhood, just out of curiosity, was your belief in these characters so strong that it transcended reality?
CB: I think you can ask most kids at a certain age, "Is your secret friend real?" Or "Is the secret land that you go to when you go to bed at night real?" I think the kid would say yes. What happens when we get older is a different thing. We are told that this kind of imaginative escape within ourselves is not really important in the world. We are told it will not get us were we want to get and it will not get us all the glossy wonderful things they show us in ads. Therefore it is not so terribly important. So one of the thinks that happens in our culture is we become diseased with a damage to the psyche and our imagination. When we are told this stuff is no longer important, the other thing that happens in American culture more than anywhere else in the world, is that other foolishness comes along as a substitute for these imaginative things. For instance, the case of many Americans who believe they are being regularly whipped up into spacecrafts and being rectally examined by aliens.
M: (Laughter)
CB: Aliens are no less fanciful than NeverLand, Imajica, or Middle Earth. Iíve encountered people on the Internet who said they have met angels, or been abducted by aliens or whatever. I find it to be a very dangerous possibility that we are slowly sliding to a place where we cannot distinguish what is real and what is not.
  M: This coming from a fantasy writer.
CB: I am a fantasist, a professional imaginer. Perhaps you would expect me to encourage people to muddy the waters of reality, but I will not. I find the idea of people who believe in angels and abductions uncomfortable. There is a tiny leap from there to the mindset of Pat Roberts and Billy Graham.
  M: Sometimes it happens the other way around.
CB: How true. Either way, the evangelical fundamentalist mode is incredibly dangerous to individuals and to us as a culture, as thinking, intelligent beings.
M: It is dehumanizing to push spirituality into such a small mold.
CB: Fundamentalism empowers a small group of people, usually male. This Priest Class pushes society into its preferred patriarchal mode in a very short time. It does so by selling stories of limitation. For instance, if
you do this, you will be punished, and if you do another thing, you will be rewarded. I worry about the Americans who think these stories are real.
M: They are told from birth to take these stories as real or be damned to eternal Hell. I know. I was raised Catholic.
CB: What I really want to say is that fantasy and imaginative material, when not perceived as literal reality, are extremely important to who we are as whole rounded human beings.
M: Right.
CB: It is not reality and the fact is reality is not the point. It is just a place to play. If I said Imagica existed, then I couldn't play there.
M: (Laughter)
CB: I love the Book of Genesis, it is probably one of my favorite stories to read. But I do not think for one moment that the Garden of Eden ever existed! Fundamentalists never question its existence. Notice the primary lesson of Paradise is that woman was made from man. Check that one out.
M: Coincidence?
CB: (Laughter). Man precedes woman. So you, poor Michelle, are apparently a lesser being according to the Scriptures.
M: Funny, I don't feel any different.
CB: (Laughter). What is really interesting is that your sex produces ours, so that story is an exact inversion of the truth.
M: (Laughter). You got me there.
CB: All of this stuff is part of a package of cultural problems which I think sane people have to address. Now, at the same time, I value my sanity, and let me tell you, sanity is a very important commodity!(Laughter)

Interview and Transcription by: Michelle Russo.

Michelle Russo (age 28), is a contributing writer for many publications such as the Los Angeles based magazine Outburn, and the online music events source Gothic Chicago.
She works at Murray's Partytime, a store that specializes in costumes, props, makeup, decorations, and Halloween merchandise. Murray's carries the Hellraiser robe and the Cenobites masks. Murray's is located at 820 Plainfield Road in Willowbrook, Illinois 60521. Their phone number is (630) 789-8463.

This interview was possible because of Eric Eichelberger, who put me in contact with Clive Barker by phone on August 12, 1998. Here are some excerpts from my interview with Clive Barker.

Thanks again to Clive Barker, Seraphim, and Eric Eichelberger for making this possible!
Michelle Russo