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Fuck the Canon 

A conversation with Clive Barker

Wednesday, Aug 29 2001

Page 4 of 6

Well, your work and my work are about the imagination. So in that way, you are in your work. Certainly, I feel you there, and I imagine that personalized quality of your work is partly what inspires such devotion among your readers.

Yet I don’t think my readers feel the kind of intimacy with me that your readers feel with you. There’s much more of a sense that the world I create belongs to them.


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Well, it’s that balance between what’s yours and what’s theirs that’s so remarkable. For instance, my favorite film of yours as a director is Lord of Illusions, partially because the eroticism in it is so scarily pure. I thought it was a very personal film, much more than Hellraiser or Nightbreed.

Right. It was also my least successful film. [Laughter.] In Lord of Illusions, I got to do all kinds of shit that I wanted to do. The bondage stuff in there, the girl and the ape, all kinds of shit. It’s very funny because Frank Mancuso was head of MGM/UA at that time, and he didn’t like the movie at all. There was one shot of a dead child on the floor, and he said, “This shot will never appear in an MGM/UA movie.” As it turns out, it did, because I took it out, and then when he wasn’t looking, I put it back in. I knew he’d never bother to see the film again.


My understanding is that writing and painting are the two media over which you exert total control, whereas the “Clive Barker” films you don’t direct — like the Hellraiser sequels and the Candyman movies, the video games, the action figures and so on that bear your brand name — are more a matter of delegating creativity under your general guidance. Is that true?

Well, that depends.


Okay, for example, I’m a great devotee of the “spooky houses” and “spooky mazes” that pop up around town every Halloween. The Clive Barker Maze at last year’s Universal Studio’s Halloween event was one of the two or three best I’ve ever seen. It managed to be innovative in a form whose strengths are generally about tradition. I wondered at the time how much you had to do with it?

I had lots to do with it. My husband, David, has really introduced me to this. In England, we don’t have a lot of this. When Universal asked me if I’d be interested in doing one, I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a crack.” I saw it as a four-minute piece of theater that loops. David and I went through it and talked to the actors, and gave them their motivations. So I took it very seriously. You know, the Halloween maze is a very American form. It’s interesting to me that you’re free enough to take them seriously. [Laughter.] That takes a certain amount of courage.


To me, they’re like sculptures in a way. In fact, the people I know who are most interested in them are visual artists and writers. We go around in gangs every year seeing as many as we can, and we study them.

When I started doing mine, people would say, “Why are you doing that?” They thought it was silly. But there are a lot of things you can do with them. To me, they’re like what you thought horror movies would be like before you saw a horror movie. You know, “They’re coming after you — they’re coming after you, and you won’t be able to stop them.” Their interactivity is interesting, too, and their density.


I wonder, then, if one of the more attractive things about Disney buying the rights to your forthcoming “Abarat Quartet” books â is the fact that they’re going to develop a theme-park attraction based on them?

That’s absolutely one of the most attractive aspects. When they offered me that, I just said, “Yes.” The fact that they’re planning to create a film franchise based on them didn’t hurt, of course.


They bought it before you’d written it, right?

Right. They bought it based on the word Abarat, on about 350 paintings I’d done as illustrations for the books, and on a rough idea I had for the narrative. They’ll get the first book in about four weeks.

  • A conversation with Clive Barker

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