If there is such a thing as horror royalty, Barbara Crampton is it. The actress has appeared in such classics as Re-Animator, From Beyond and Puppet Master, just to name a few. In recent years, Crampton has had something of a resurgence, not just in front of the screen, but behind it as well as a producer. In many ways, Crampton is just getting started.
Barbara Crampton’s latest movie is Reborn. In it, a stillborn baby is stolen and brought back to life using electrokinetic powers. On the baby’s 16th birthday, she escapes from captivity and leaves a trail of destruction behind her as she searches for her real mother. This twisted creation comes from director Julian Richards.
I was fortunate enough to speak with the actress about, not just about Reborn, but her career in general. We discussed her work with Fangoria, the upcoming reimagining of Castle Freak and so much more.
Honestly, and I’m sure everyone who you’ve ever spoken to says this, but it is a genuine pleasure to get to speak with you. It’s pretty rare that I can say that I’m speaking with someone who I would consider to be a living legend, so that’s pretty awesome.
Barbara Crampton: Can you talk to my children for me? They’re being a little rude lately. I think they’re great. Thank you very much, Ryan.
(laughs) Well, we’re here to talk about Reborn. In your own words, how would you describe the movie to people?
Barbara Crampton: It’s a little bit of Frankenstein. The movie is very close to something that I understand very well. It’s about a B-movie actress who has hit a rough patch in her life and in her career, and she’s trying to claw her way back up to the top. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the last few years.
Was this something that was brought to you? Did you audition for it? How did the process go? How did it come to you?
Barbara Crampton: Well, Julian Richards, the director, told me that he had me in mind for the project very early on. But then the role was actually offered to somebody else who was unable to fulfill her duties. And so they asked me at the last minute to replace that actress. That happened on a Friday and then on Monday I was working on the movie. It’s one of the rare times I didn’t have any time to prepare, and I just had to throw myself into it. Julian and I are friends… I knew a lot of people connected with the film, and I guess it was, all things considered, It was fairly easy for me to jump in and do this role that I feel kind of close to me, but I really didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. So I just have to trust myself into every single scene and kind of just what happens. On set, it was a thrilling and scary period of time.
I don’t think everyone could just do that, and you’ve been doing this for a long time. Was it that you felt, over your career and with everything you’ve done, “Yeah, I know how to do this.” Or was it still a little scary jumping into it with not much time to prepare?
Barbara Crampton: It’s a bit of both. If you give me some words, I can say them, you know? But usually I like to do a deeper dive and study some information or material on where I think the character is coming from. Also where the other characters are coming from. What are they trying to say with this movie? What other movies influenced this film? And Julian gave me a few examples, but it wasn’t like I had a lot of time to really craft a performance. I had to just do it on the fly. I have worked in the business for a very long time and I know how to work in a space where we have a very short amount of time to shoot a film and we have to hurry up. I’ve also had a lot of experience on soap operas where often you would have 40 pages a day, and you have to just memorize it and get out there and do it. But those are characters that I lived and worked with for years, working on one character and being on the show. But this is something I did have to throw myself into. I did what I could do with the role of a short space of time, but it was kind of a fun experience to see how that goes, just approaching the role without a lot of preparation. Usually I’m a very technical actress, and I kind of decide in my mind how I’m going to play the role and what things I might bring to It. I might even explore and pin down props that I’m going to use. I usually like to know where the setting is so I could think about blocking even before you get to set that morning, but I had to throw all of that out the window and just show up.
You’ve been branching out a lot lately. One of the things I found really cool is that you’ve been contributing to Fangoria. How did that come about? What’s it been like being a part of the relaunch?
Barbara Crampton: It’s been an honor, really. I mean, I’ve been in Fangoria magazine many times over the years. And when Dallas Sonnier bought the magazine and wanted to relaunch it, he reached out to a few people that he knew in the community, as did Phil Nobile Jr., our editor, and asked who would be interested in writing for it, and they asked me specifically if I’d like to have a column. I could write about anything that I wanted, and I had no parameters. It could be long, it could be short. Would I like to do it? I felt like, yeah, that’s a great opportunity for me to give back to the community that’s been so good to me, and write about things that I care about and that I think the community cares about. Bring to light aspects of the community that maybe people wouldn’t know otherwise. Working with different directors and being a final girl and what that means. In one article I did talk about how acting has evolved over the years and why that is. So it’s also been, you know, interesting for me to look at some of those topics that explore them. And as I said, give back to the community that has supported me for so many years.
You’ve been incredibly gracious, but given the tone of this conversation I would just like to ask, because you’ve had this bit of a resurgence, which is so cool, but it’s because you’ve been doing different things and you’ve been in this game for a really long time. That’s admirable because a lot of people, they come and go. So what in your experience, would you say is the secret to longevity in this business?
Barbara Crampton: I think things change over time, and I would have a different answer for you probably in the 1980s than I would today. What I would say to you today, having come back a few years ago and having this second half of my career, I really noticed that the filmmakers of today can do a lot of different jobs. They’re not just an actor or producer or a writer. They have multiple sets of skills and they put those to use. So I see people writing and then also directing. And sometimes they’ll be in their friend’s film, or they’ll be in their own film… I saw Amy Seimetz who was in You’re Next with me. She directs, she writes, she is an actress. She’s kind of doing everything. I see a lot of people really needing to do that today because the budgets are shrinking for movies and it’s hard to pay a lot of people upfront on these low-budget independents that really rely on film festivals to get the word out that they’re even available for purchase. There’s just so much product out there that if you can streamline things and be able to a bit of everything on a project, I think that will help you have longevity in the business over time and be a little bit more successful financially, hopefully.
Reborn is out now via On Demand from Vertical Entertainment.