20th Dec2021

Interview: Horror icon Barbara Crampton discusses ‘Sacrifice’

by Phil Wheat

With one of her latest films, Sacrifice, now screening on the Horror channel, actress Barbara Crampton reflects on the early days of her career, tackling a Norwegian accent and the rise of pagan horror.

Can you recall how you felt the first time you stepped onto a TV or film set?

Yes, it was for the soap opera, ‘Days of Our Lives’, and it was my very first job, and I had one line, “Hi. I’m your cousin Trista from Colorado”. It was to the character Marlena Evans and subsequently I had whole storylines that lasted for about a year.

I had extensive experience on stage but the first time I was on a television set it frightened me to death and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get through that first line out of my mouth and I thought I was going to forget it, that I was going to screw it up. Then the spell was broken, and I was able to go on and start my career on screen.

Days of Our Lives had been going for so long was it surreal to be on that set?

No, because as an actor you usually watch the show to get to know the characters. I knew about a month before that I was going to be on ‘The Young and the Restless’, so I was watching it almost every day, getting to know the characters and the actors to get the flavour of that show for about a month to get to know the characters.

Can you remember the first time someone asked you for your autograph?

I think I was probably on a plane; I can’t remember exactly. In the very early days of my career, I worked on a number of soap operas, and they were very big 35 years ago, and I think something like 15 million people a week used to turn into soap operas. So if you were on a soap opera you were quite famous, and I do remember being on different planes and everybody would recognise me. The Stewardesses would be very fond of soap operas for whatever reason, maybe to do with their schedules of overnights, and between flights and things, so I always got bumped up to First Class if there was an extra seat. Perks of the job

Your career has lasted far longer than some, and apart from being such a fine actress, why do you think it has lasted so long?

Well, I think careers wax and wane, as they always do in a business that is always freelance. You’re always looking for your next job and I think the trick is just to stick with it Many times, in my career I’ve thought, “Oh well, that’s it”. I never said to myself that I was going to give up though. When I was in my early 20s I worked a lot up until I was 30, and then maybe the roles weren’t coming as much between 30 and 40, but then after that I started to get more roles and now, in my 60s I’m getting roles more than I ever have!

Let’s talk about Sacrifice, how did you become attached to this movie?

I got an email from Sean Knoop who was one of the producers and he and I had worked on a movie called ‘Replace’, and he said that he was putting together this film called ‘Sacrifice’ and it feels a little Lovecraftian although it’s not based on any particular story and that they were thinking of a role for me and would I like to read it. So, he sent it to me and I read and I thought it was great, I loved it. They were shooting it in Norway and they told me who else was going to be in it and I thought that it sounded like a nice adventure and I said yes.

It was quite exciting to be in Norway where I’d never been to before and that’s one of the perks of the job too as you get to go to places you wouldn’t normally get to and experience it almost like a local. I was also really enamoured of all the actors I worked with on set; especially Sophie Stevens, because the weight of the picture really rests on her and she has such a wealth of humanity and heart to her performance.

Did it take you long to prepare to play the character of Renate Nygardand and work on the accent?

Yes. I hired somebody who was a Norwegian speaker, she taught Norwegian at the Scandinavian School in San Francisco so she came over to my house and I worked on my accent with her and I said I really wanted a heavy accent, really want her to feel like she’s really embedded in this town, and she’s really from this place and she’s more of an old world Norwegian person so a lot of my accent was probably heavier than some of the others. I said if I’m the head of this cult I really need to be steeped in the history and lore of this town, and the place we’re from and the mythical island that we lived on. I prepared for it heavily for about two months.

Did you and the cast have much time to rehearse together?

You never have enough time. I remember on ‘Re-Animator’, one of my first movies, we had a three-week rehearsal period, and we worked every day, 5 days a week so we had 15 days of rehearsal 3 to 4 hours at each time. In my early career I thought that was the norm but that’s never happened to me since. So usually you show up on a set, maybe 2 to 3 days before you start filming, do wardrobe fittings meet the director and get to know that cast a little, and if you’re lucky you’ll get an hour here or there to run the scene with the other actors and hopefully the director. Most of the time you just need to grab the other actor or actors when you can and talk about the upcoming scenes, and work with them and run the dialogue so you’re really rehearsing as you’re filming. That’s normaly how it works.

I have to ask, how cold was the water?

It was really cold! We had wet suits on underneath our robes that we wore, those ceremonial robes, it was freezing. Thankfully there are only a few scenes in the movie where we have to be fully submerged, and the wet suits were really welcome. I don’t think we could have done it without them because its many hours of being in the water (laughs) for three minutes of film and so we were in that water for many hours for a few days.

What’s it like shooting a film entirely on location?

It’s fantastic. I don’t think I work in LA that much anymore, I don’t think a lot of people do.

There are a lot of folk/Pagan style horror movies at the moment, why do you think everyone seems to be looking towards nature and the environment for their horror kicks?

The world has gone topsy-turvy and crazy and we all seem to be in our different camps trying to understand the nature of humanity and we all have our own feelings and thoughts on life and what it means, and ideologies are split more than they ever have before, or maybe they always have been and we’ve not noticed before. I don’t know. I think people sometimes look to religion and some deeper meaning and where does it come from and I think Pagan horror is at the top right now and there’s been so many movies of late that have come out, and ‘The Wicker Man’ is one of my favourite movies and this harks back to those types of films. We are all looking for our place in the world and where we fit in, and I think movies like ‘Sacrifice’ ask those questions and allow you to kind of look deep in yourself and find what’s important to you.

How would you describe ‘Sacrifice’ to an audience?

I think it’s a film about a couple who are trying to find their roots, especially for Ludovic’s character and finding where he came from and understanding who he is as a person, and then finding out that what you think about your life is not really what it was at all. It’s a shocking film, it’s a dangerous film and it’s also a fun a human film.

What are you up to at the moment?

Well, I’ve moved into producing over the past couple of years. I produced ‘Beyond the Gates’ with Jackson Stewart, and, most recently I produced ‘Jakob’s Wife’. I’m working with a film company now, Amp Films, to develop some other projects and we’ve just finished filming a movie which hasn’t been announced yet and that will be exciting news when it comes out. Also, I have two movies coming out next year, one is called ‘King Knight’ where I play Matthew Gray Gubler’s mother and the other film is ‘Alone With’, where I play somebody else’s mother (laughs). Those are coming out in the first quarter of next year, so you’ll be hearing about those pretty soon. I’m also n development on another couple of films I may be in, or I might just help produce.

Sacrifice is screening on Horror Channel now. You can check out our review right here and our previous three-part interview with Barbara Crampton here, here and here.

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