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Interview: Rob Zombie and Bill Moseley On “3 From Hell”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 | Interviews

By ROCCO THOMPSON

After almost fifteen years since their last outing, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spalding (Sid Haig) are back from the dead to cause unholy mayhem once again. Bursting fully-formed from the gray matter of musician-turned-director Rob Zombie, the characters first appeared in his debut feature, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003) and became bonafide horror icons with their second onscreen appearance in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS(2005). Though left memorably bloodied and full of lead at that film’s conclusion, Zombie’s follow-up, 3 FROM HELL (2019) continues the Firefly family saga.

For this infernal occasion, Lionsgate and Saban Films are releasing the film in nearly 900 select theaters for a special three-night event September 16-18. Fathom Events will broadcast the unrated version of 3 FROM HELL each night featuring bonus content you won’t see anywhere else. On the 16th, moviegoers will get a special video introduction from Zombie, himself, and the first 50 attendees at each screening will receive an exclusive poster. On the 17th, audiences will get to marvel at a 30-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Finally, on the 18th, superfans will experience the ultimate double feature with back-to-back screenings of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and 3 FROM HELL.

Below, we chat with Zombie and actor Bill Moseley about the genesis of 3 FROM HELL, how it felt to revisit these characters after such a long time, and what they hope audiences take away from this cant-miss theatrical experience! 

What made you finally decide bring The Fireflies back?

RZ: I’m not exactly sure. It never really went out of my mind, because the characters never really go out of my mind. They seem pretty present all the time, but it wasn’t really till about three years ago that I thought, “You know what, I might actually try to do this.”  So, I went into Lionsgate and talked to some of the same executives that I worked with on THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and they seemed down with the project. From there, we just sort of started developing it and doing all the boring stuff that leads up to getting a movie made.

Did you have to convince the main cast that a third film was a good idea?

RZ: Well, Sheri obviously knew about it first and was skeptical, because she was like, “Well, I really like REJECTS, it ended well, do we really want to do this?” but when she read the script, she was like, “Okay, I’m in on this.” Then we got everyone together—me, Sheri, Bill and Sid had lunch to discuss the project and everything. From there it just kept rollin’ forward. 

BM: [For me] it took no convincing at all. And frankly, I never really left that world. Once a Firefly, always a Firefly…even if I’m a Driftwood! When Rob said he wanted to do it again, my response was “Fuck yeah! Cool.” [laughs] That’s all it took me to make that big decision. I was very excited about it. In my blood, I feel like The Rejects have more to do.

How did feel to have the whole gang back together?

RZ: It was…it was weird, you know? It’s been fifteen years since we shot THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and to bring everyone back together…my biggest fear was, will it feel like the same characters, will it have the same vibe? But you know, from day one, as soon as Bill put on his wig and Sheri styled her hair like Baby, shit man, it felt like no time went by.

BM: It was very cool when we kind of got over the initial anxiety. Because you have the previous film as your watermark to try to match and, hopefully, exceed—that’s a pretty high bar! So, I had some initial concerns about how we’d be able to push this thing forward and climb to new heights, but once we kind of got in the rhythm of it, all that stuff went out the door. 

Bill, did you find it easy to get back into the character of Otis?

BM: I did, as soon as “Bill Moseley the Insecure Actor” got out of the way. I found that Otis said, “I can do this, let me handle it.” [laughs] So, I just I became kind of an active passenger and turned it over to him. It was a kind of sense memory, or body memory and I had a ball!

How was it being directed by Rob again after such a long time? 

BM: It really was much the same. He’s so easy to work with, because he writes the script and he’s not translating someone else’s vision. He’s so adept technically, knows what he wants, and is very good at communicating it. He’s a very actor-friendly director, which really helps. Not every director is. When it comes right down to it, he’s also very encouraging: if you have a good idea, he’s happy to listen to it and watch it play out. The whole thing just ends up being a fun time! And we do the devil’s work! [laughs]

Richard Break from 31 [2016] joined the cast in a pretty meaty role, how did you know he’d gel with this group?

RZ: Well, Richard came into it much later and that character was created out of necessity. The “three from hell” were obviously intended to be the main three from THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, but as we got closer to shooting, Sid had been in the hospital and was having all these problems and it was just becoming more and more obvious that he was not physically capable of making an entire movie like this. So, I started rewriting thinking, “Okay, maybe it’s 2 FROM HELL,” or that maybe I’d bring back this character or that one, but it’s hard to bring people back, because I always kill everybody off [laughs]. That’s when I hit upon the idea of creating a new character, and since I’d just worked with Richard, I knew that he would fit the vibe and fit in with everybody. I didn’t even know if he was available! So, I called him, he flew to California and basically had one second to try on some wardrobe and then we were shooting. He just jumped right in. At first, obviously, it was like…where does this character fit with these other characters that are already fully established? But we found a groove and it worked really well. 

It’s a shame that Sid Haig’s role had to be minimized, but was it good for you, Bill to have some fresh blood to play off of? 

BM: I completely fell in love with Richard!  I had seen 31 and thought he was awesome as Doom-Head, but I had never met him until the day he showed up on set to work. The people that he’s worked with, they’re kind of like the new “Zombie Players” as opposed to all of us geezers, but he’s just a great guy and working with him was a total gas!

The chemistry between you both and Sheri really comes through in the movie.

BM: Oh absolutely. He’s funny as shit, but he has a different way of expressing everything. We started improvising during a scene where we’re playing Go-Fish in a motel room waiting on Baby, and he starts talking about his great vision as “Mr. Salami…” where he takes it, I’m like…that wasn’t just off road, that was off planet! [laughs] 

In another scene, my wife, Lucinda Jenney plays one of a couple of bounty hunters who surprise him in the woods, and I was standing off camera laughing my ass off! I hope it didn’t bleed into the sound, it was just so funny to watch him work his weird magic on them. Working with someone like that, who is just balls-out, comes up with some great stuff, and is really in the moment, man you really can’t ask as a fellow actor for anything better than that! 

Rob, you’re a filmmaker with a totally unique style who wears his influences on his sleeve. What stylistic inspirations were you drawing from for 3 FROM HELL?

RZ: The main influence for the first act of the film was just old crime documentaries, particularly ones about the Manson family. I’ve always been fascinated by the footage of them walking in and out of the courtroom or in and out of prison and just, the look of it. That’s what we modelled the whole beginning after…and how they’d interview people on the street and some people were very anti-them, obviously, but some people were very pro-them. You know, early on in the trial, the youth culture had picked up on them and they were kind of hip to it. So, I played with that idea. The middle section sort of becomes more noirish with home invasion elements, and then in the end I wanted to go full-on Italian Western. It’s really three distinct acts, visually. 

How did the visual style affect your approach in regard to sound? 

RZ: The beginning of the movie needed a certain sound since it’s got a documentary feel, and then we needed to emulate Morricone, like THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY for the end. I was throwing crazy shit at the composer [Zeuss] the whole time as to what I needed. He’s like “Oh my god, now I gotta create mariachi music? Jesus Christ!” [laughs]  So,you know he…he had his hands full with the whole thing. 

But you’re happy with the result?

RZ: Yeah, I’m really happy with the music. It worked really well, especially considering that I was throwing him a curve ball every two seconds. Then, of course I like using rock songs to get the vibe from back in the day, that’s how “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” came into it, and Terry Reid was such a big feature in THE DEVILS REJECTS. I wanted to bring back some of his music, because I really feel that his voice, for me, sonically, just sounds like the movie. It’s always very important to have some of his music in there. 

Your first feature film was released in 2003. Is there a sense that you’re reflecting on what you’ve accomplished in your first 15 years as a filmmaker by returning to these characters?

It’s weird, because it’s even older! It came out in 2003, but I found a gift someone had given me from when we wrapped the movie, and it was dated 2000. So we actually finished that movie like 19 years ago, and we probably started production on it a year before that. So, it’s almost 20 years now! It is kind of crazy the amount of time that’s gone by, but I don’t really go back and reflect too much. I didn’t go back and watch the other movies before starting 3 FROM HELL, because I always want the story to go forward. I’m not looking to make a sequel so the same characters repeat catchphrases and we can nod at the audience like, “Here’s old stuff you really like.” I think that’s kind of cheap. How do we take the characters people love, but give them something different? Make them go “Oh shit, I didn’t think that was going to happen.” I don’t really go back and think about the movies too much. 

What do you hope people take away from the film? 

RZ: I actually just saw the movie on the big screen for the first time. Whenever you’re editing, you’re editing on monitors, and you’re watching it on monitors, and by the time I finally saw it in a theater I was like, “Fuck yeah, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.” So, I’m happy for people to see these characters with an audience, because it’s such a different experience. I mean CORPSES and REJECTS both came out in theaters, but I think more people have seen them over the years on DVD than ever saw them in a theater. So, especially for people who are going to see the double-feature on September 18th, I really want people to experience it big, big! It’s such a different feeling. You get so much more pulled into the world when it’s big. 

BM: I think at first, you know, people are going to say, “How did they survive that fussilade at the end of DEVIL’S REJECTS?” I love the fact that basically number three comes down to the poor marksmanship of the Ruggsville Sheriff’s Department [laughs]. What can I say? I hope people enjoy it. That they they appreciate that even though time has passed, The Rejects are still out there somewhere in Movieland ready to fuck shit up!

Tickets for the September 16th/17th/18th nationwide release of 3 FROM HELL are available at FathomEvents.com/3FromHell.

Rocco Thompson
Rocco is a Chicago-based writer. An avid devotee of all things weird and outrageous, he seeks to bring attention to and recontextualize forgotten or misunderstood films through impassioned study and analysis. His heart belongs to Jason Voorhees, Lucio Fulci, and Elvira. Follow him on Instagram: @rosemarys_gayby