HD: Your performance will always be a part of Horror legend: Leviathan's messenger of order a Cenobite. affectionately known as the "Butterball Cenobite". How did you get this role? Audition, luck, were you a stuntman who stumbled on the role?
Simon: Ha! More like an innocent, fooled into exploring purgatory from within.
I had known Clive and Doug Bradley for several years. They saw me playing 'The Fool' in a production of 'King Lear' and invited me to join their fringe theatre group 'The Dog Company'. Clive had recently decided to stop acting and concentrate on writing and directing instead. We went to the Edinburgh Festival as well as playing at the Cockpit Theatre in London and touring The Netherlands.
They were heady days. Clive's plays were both artistically exhilarating and technically challenging; In 'Frankenstein in Love' the, now, film director 'Oliver Parker' had to be transformed into a skinned man with muscle and veins exposed from head to foot, on a budget of tuppence ha'penny (about a dime). Clive was honing his horror antenna in retrospect.
Art is nourishing but hunger eventually becomes overwhelming. We were a profit share company and the profits were slim so eventually we all decided to disband the company and take our separate ways in search of more lucrative contracts.
A couple of years later I rang Clive to see what he was up to. He had completed a couple of screenplays which had been made into movies but felt let down by the standard of production so the producers allowed him to write and direct the next project. He immediately asked if I would be interested in playing a monster in his new project...he said there may be a little makeup involved. Ha!
HD: You played the role with a bit of whimsy, a tad amused at the fools/or scholars who negotiated the Lament configuration. Was it difficult to show emotion through the extensive makeup?
Simon: The initial makeup tests should have rung alarm bells. The prosthetics company 'Image Animation' run by the wonderful Bob Keen was based at Pinewood Studios. I was completely overwhelmed at visiting the birthplace of so many fine movies and would have probably agreed to having a limb removed if they had said it was important to the character.
Butterballs head was two inches of foam latex covering my entire head with just a hole in the mouth to breathe. As it was built for me it was skin tight and took three technicians to stretch it over my skull. Once inside I was totally blind very nearly deaf, my nose was sealed and false dentures were then glued on top of my own teeth.
I could breathe through my mouth but only if I constantly sucked in the saliva that accumulated from wearing the large false teeth.
On the first day on set, we were called to makeup at 4am glued into the makeup and stayed there until 6pm. It was the closest I can imagine to being a blind deaf mute and it nearly drove me insane. Twenty five years on it still makes me uncomfortable to remember. I had several panic attacks from the claustrophobia but hid them as I was also worried about suspending the filming and getting a reputation.
Because of the makeup the first I saw of the rest of the human cast and technicians was at the wrap party. They hadn't got a clue who I was or that we had been working together for three months.
You say I played him with amusement and whimsy but the truth is I was trying not to bump into the furniture or walk into the walls.
HD: Can you give a bit of background for the Buried.com fans how the "Butterball Cenobite became from human to Hell's messenger? I'm guessing greedy business man, maybe in junk bonds? HA HA!
Simon: You know I haven't got a clue. Clive's remit was that we were high priests of Hell and that we pursued pain as a means of ecstasy. I assume each cenobites self mutilation was a clue to their past life and as Butterball had sewn up his eyes, cut off his ears and had created a huge hole in his torso that he was perhaps an executioner? I do know that the belt he wears carry a selection of tools designed for torture so maybe he emerged from a war in the same way that Pinhead did. Perhaps a senior figure in the Nazi SS.
HD: Has this role typecast you in your acting career, or expanded it?
Simon: Ha! Typecast as a sadistic demon. No thankfully I look the antithesis of Butterball in real life. If anything I have had to fight against constantly being cast as the juvenile innocent or more recently the thoroughly nice dad.
That said, Hellraiser has been a constant influence on the last 25 years. The initial movie led to the sequel 'Hellbound' and then to playing 'Ohnaka' in 'Nightbreed' I also played Seymour Krelbourn over here in the first UK tour of 'Little Shop of Horrors' which was enormous fun.
More recently I had a cameo in the movie 'The Book of Blood' and am waiting for production to start on 'The 4th Reich', a new Second World War zombie movie, again working with Doug Bradley in which we both play sadistic Nazis. It is also a chance to work with Tom Savini who I have been lucky enough to meet at several Horror conventions around the world.
HD: Finally was the character truly destroyed in Hellbound, or will we see Butterball again, especially in the rumored Hellraiser remake, and will Clive himself be a part of the re-imagining?
A good question. In the first movie the four cenobites were ripped apart. Butterball had a house collapse on him but they still reformed for 'Hellbound' so I like to think that Hell is infinite and whilst Dr Channard managed to become head cenobite in a power struggle the cenobites cannot be destroyed. Imprisoned yes, perhaps their vision of hell would be somewhere beautiful. Perhaps their purgatory is heaven?
I try to visit Clive in LA once a year and I know he has a very strong influence on the remake and especially its writing. He has been talking to Bob Weinstein regularly and is keen to explore the back story of the original film. So I expect if it ever finally gets made it will not disappoint. Whether the original cenobites appear? If they don't I will damn the Weinstein's souls to an eternity of excruciating torment.
HD: Simon it has been an honor, and thank you for reading my Herr Doktor horror page for so long.Cheers my friend and fellow fiend!
Simon: A pleasure as always...Sorry for the procrastination, it is my middle name!