"We did a couple of takes and I kept dropping my lines. I sat down, and I was getting self-conscious. Suddenly I heard this voice in my head say, "Bill, go over there and sit down. I got this." It was the voice of Otis. I realized I had to get out of the
Bill Moseley is an actor, musician and horror icon. He burst onto the horror scene in a huge way as Chop Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and has since starred in movies like Repo the Genetic Opera and the TV show Carnivàle. But perhaps most notable is Bill’s chillingly well realized portrayal of Otis B. Driftwood in Rob Zombie’s Firefly family trilogy, including House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, and the up and coming 3 From Hell.
Bill and I talked about his career history, including a pretty incredible story about how he got on the radar of Tobe Hooper for Texas Chainsaw 2 through a short film he made called The Texas Chainsaw Manicure. We also got into details about his acting process and how he gets into the psychotic mindset of characters like Otis. And of course, we discussed what we can expect from 3 From Hell.
Speaking to Bill was a real treat. I’m a huge fan of him and The Devil’s Rejects is not just one of my favorite horror movies of all time, but one of my favorite movies of all time. To me it was a perfect blend of fascinating (even lovable) characters in a grounded, believable sun-scorched reality that had the Americana flavorings of classic road movies like Easyriders and Badlands. It delivered the blood in the big way and had moments of palpably bone-chilling psychotic brutality. All of this plus a killer soundtrack.
As you’ll hear in the interview, Bill is an incredibly nice guy, he was so generous with his time and knowledge and I was so humbled to be able to speak to him.
Here are 3 key creative lessons learned from this conversation with Bill Moseley.
- Make stuff & put it out there. Bill was a struggling actor who, on a whim, made a fun short film in a day with his buddies called The Texas Chainsaw Manicure. With very little expectation of it getting much recognition, Bill sent it around to multiple networks and it got in front of Tobe Hooper who then cast Bill as Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw 2. This put Bill on the trajectory of being the horror icon he is today.
- Get out of the way! When filming 3 From Hell, Bill began screwing up Otis' lines because he was over-thinking the performance and becoming insecure. After take after bad take, Bill suddenly heard the voice of Otis in his own psyche tell him to get out of the way and let him do his job. Bill said that he sat the performance out at this point and simply let Otis take over which made the performance go much smoother. This idea of getting out of the way is relevant to most artists, not just actors, who often will stifle the flow of their own creativity by over-thinking the material and finding reasons to feel self conscious. This may be part of being human but it's destructive to the creative process. Sometimes, the best way to serve your art is to get the hell out of its way!
- Art is not safe. During a particularly brutal hotel room scene in The Devil’s Rejects (you know the one) Bill struggled to get through the large number of takes and mentioned to Rob Zombie that he was emotionally struggling to get through the performance. Without skipping a beat, Rob Zombie replied “Art is not safe” - meaning, that working in horror and other darker arts, can take an emotional toll on those involved when it's taken seriously. It’s supposed to. Yes, there are those goofy, schlocky slashers and exploitation films that exists for cheap thrills & entertainment, but then there is the type of horror that is meant to portray larger truths about real evil. Sometimes the only way to properly depict evil is to confront and embrace the inherent danger that comes with exploring it. That’s exactly what Bill did which is probably why Otis is such an effective character (and probably why he’s still stuck in Bill’s head).