Sean Chapman Hellraiser interview
STEWART KING talks to actor Sean Chapman about his thoughts on horror, violence in society, his life in movies and his most famous role – Frank Cotton in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser
STEWART KING: Your contribution to iconic horror movies is beyond reproach. Do you still keep your finger on the horror pulse and, if so, which movies or books have you enjoyed recently?
SEAN CHAPMAN: I’m happy to say I’m actually quite squeamish and, yes, I still enjoy good horror. I remember having that electrifying chill ripping along my spine when I saw the original Amityville Horror in the cinema. Like most people I find the concept of genuine evil fascinating and repellent and, to this day, I’ve never been able to watch The Exorcist. But slasher and gore fests don’t touch me at all. It’s the psychological aspect of horror, emerging from within human actions, that rattle my cage. Hitchcock’s Psycho strikes me as an almost perfect cinema experience; intriguing, beguiling and exquisitely paced. It’s still genuinely chilling after all these years. That’s what drew me to Hellraiser, I guess, the intricacy and elegance of the plotting; plus I thought Frank was a cool dude from the outset. I loved the dark sensuality of the character; his tortured soul as it were … In purely modern terms I love the interweaving of sensuality and fear in Angela Carter’s fiction. I also have a favourite recording of Bartok’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle; now THAT’S scary.
STEWART: Having appeared at the National Theatre and West End and graced movies as diverse as Hellraiser, The Sea Change and Joy Division do you experience episodes that other actors fall foul of when you struggle to retain your identity?
SEAN: Actually it’s not the different roles one plays as an actor that test one’s sanity, it’s the gaps and longueurs between work. As I get older they become increasingly agonising. One of the reasons I enjoy writing fiction is the autonomy; to be free to work when I choose to, and not to be in the hands of others. But more generally all the good actors I know are very grounded and rational people. You have to be in order to cope with the profession. Hysterical luvvies tend not to last too long. My first novel A Distant Prospect is actually about this very subject, staying sane in the maddest profession on earth.