“Chatterer” Nicholas Vince reveals Hellraiser secrets: INTERVIEW

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Spooky Isles’ ANDREW GARVEY poses some questions for the Chatterer himself, Nicholas Vince of Hellraiser fame

ANDREW: Obviously, I’m going to start with your part in one of the greatest horror films ever made – Hellraiser. That was your first acting role wasn’t it? How did you get the part of the Chatterer?
NICHOLAS: That was my first film role, yes, though I’d done some theatre since leaving drama school. Clive offered roles to people he’d worked with before and I’d modelled for Clive since we’d met three years before.

The real Nicholas Vince, without his famous Chatterer makeup from Hellraiser series of films
The real Nicholas Vince, without his famous Chatterer Hellraiser makeup from the series of films.

How many days filming did you do for the role and how long did your make-up and costuming take?

Now that’s a good question. Hmmm. I have the number of days as 12 in my mind, but can’t be sure. I do remember for a couple of days I was called but not actually filmed and spent those days in makeup and costume. Not the most pleasant way to spend a day as I could hardly see or hear, but as Clive wryly observed during filming when things were tough, “You shouldn’t have joined if you can’t take a joke”.

Physically getting into the costume and makeup for Chatterer was about an hour, as it was a one piece mask which wasn’t glued to my skin. It consisted of the teeth, which were attached to mine using ‘Dentugrip’ that made me salivate copiously. Then they placed the mask over my head and attached it at the bottom of my neck. They cut up condoms and attached those to both the teeth and the mask, to represent gums and to ensure that when I chattered the teeth, the lips of the mask also moved. That was rounded off with KY Jelly, as saliva.

Reflecting on other films you’ve worked on since, how do you think Clive Barker, directing for the first time, made such a classic?

It was down to the script, and the talented cast and crew Clive and producer Christopher Figg assembled. Claire Higgins, as Julia, gives this wonderful performance as a bored housewife who transitions from bored housewife to serial killer in order reclaim her dead lover. Andy Robinson is great as a weak husband and homicidal brother … honestly, I could list everyone on set but I’d like to particularly mention the team at Image Animation who created the Cenobites and Skinned Frank and the cinematography of Robin Vidgeon – as the movie looks so right in every shot. Clive really worked with the crew, and listened to their advice.

How did Hellraiser II: Hellbound compare to the first film, for you? Was it a very different production?

It was very different as Tony Randel was directing a script by Pete Atkins and we moved from Cricklewood to Pinewood. So, the production was on a much bigger scale. It was more or less the same crew and with the exception of Andrew Robinson and Grace Kirby, the same cast plus others such as Ken Cranham and Barbie Wilde. We still had a lot of fun.

The Chatterer had a different look second time around. Why was that? And is it true you were injured during filming? (Wikipedia says you were and it’s never wrong, is it?)

The script for Hellbound called for Chatterer to chase Kirsty and Tiffany down corridors below Channard’s sanitarium – which I obviously couldn’t do in the original makeup. As is the way in film making, that sequence was cut during the edit, so Chatterer just appears with eyes. I rather like that, as you hear him chatter behind the torture pillar then he appears and holy fuck, he’s got eyes!?

Chatterer Hellraiser
Nicholas Vince as The Chatterer in Hellraiser

And yes, during the death sequence, when I opened my mouth to scream a 12” rusty hook attached to a chain on the spinning pillar behind me went point first into the roof of my mouth. No lasting damage, and talk about a million to one shot.

After Hellraiser and Hellraiser II you appeared – in a speaking role – as Kinski in another Clive Barker adaptation, Nightbreed. I always remember him as a really underused character. What are your thoughts on playing him?

Not only could he speak, he could hear and see! I was delighted. I loved playing Kinski, as he looks wonderful, thanks to Neil Gorton, now of Millenium FX, and he has this lovely ‘I want to be a bad guy, but not really,’ vibe about him. There were so many monsters in Nightbreed, it obviously wasn’t possible to give them all a full story. I was lucky enough to write a few issues of the Nightbreed comics where I was able to explore Kinski’s story and others of the Breed more.

Have you seen the ‘Cabal Cut’ of Nightbreed and if so, what do you think of it?

Yes, I’ve seen the Cabal Cut and huge congratulations to Russell Cherrington in getting that together. Personally, I prefer the ‘Directors Cut’ as it’s taken from the original footage, rather than being cobbled together from different sources, but we wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for Russell’s work and the supporters at Occupy Midian. I’m glad to hear the Cabal Cut is being released on international DVD fairly soon.

Now, bringing us a little more up to date with your career, you do much more than acting. How did you get into writing horror fiction?

I left acting to write comics soon after Nightbreed was released and three years later, left writing comics as my titles folded and I needed a regular income. I fell into working in database support. In 2012 I was made redundant and as I had some money decided to give myself a year to concentrate on writing, which led to the publication of two collections of short stories, ‘What Monsters Do’ and ‘Other People’s Darkness’.

What about your work behind the camera, as well? You’ve produced, directed and written for film now. Do you prefer that to acting?

I enjoy both and would love to do more acting, but that relies on others casting me in their films. Writing, producing and directing your own films is really challenging and takes a lot of time and energy, but is also deeply rewarding. It means I get to work with some really talented and fun folks and people have been very enthusiastic about the first film, The Night Whispered.

How did your short film ‘The Night Whsipered’ come about? And do you have any more films on the way?

I’d interviewed so many film makers on my YouTube show, and worked on independent short and feature films, that I thought I should give it a try. We filmed in November 2015, on location, at night, at zero degrees Celsius, with a dog and amazingly I still wanted to make more movies.

At the beginning of June, I worked with the great folks at Celtic Badger Media on two short films, ‘Your Appraisal’ and ‘Necessary Evils’. The former is being submitted to festivals and the latter will be part of ‘For We Are Many’, an anthology of short films on the theme of demons from Hex Media. That’ll be released next spring.

I was going to ask what else you have coming up, generally but, last month Clive Barker announced that the second volume of his Hellraiser Anthology will feature a short story (illustrated by Clive himself) on the Chatterer’s origin story, written by you. So, based on that exciting news, I have just three more questions for you: How did that story come about?

I wrote the story three years ago and didn’t do anything with it and then saw the first volume of ‘Hellraiser – Anthology’ which includes a great short story by Mark Miller and decided to send it to Ben Meares, the editor.

When I looked at the story again, I realised it was a) too long and b) I was writing how I thought I should, rather than what I wanted to write. I cut most of the story and re-wrote the latter half. Possibly one of my favourite emails ever was that from Ben saying how much he liked the story and that he found some parts of it disturbing. So, I really hope people will like it as it really is no-holds barred.

Do you think you’ll ever escape the Chatterer?

Well as long as it’s Chatterer from Hellraiser, who can’t see, then I think I’ve got a good chance.

And finally, would you want to?

Not at all. I’m deeply grateful to Clive Barker for casting me and through Hellraiser, I’ve got to meet so many wonderful Hellraiser and horror enthusiasts; and received so much love and support for my projects from those folks I seriously can’t imagine life without him.


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