The horror anthology Tales of Halloween is being unleashed this week. A record 12 directors contributed to 10 vicious vignettes that all tie together like Jim Jarmusch’s A Night On Earth. Barry Bostwick has a devil of a time with a tiny trick or treater in director Darren Lynn Bousman’s segment “The Night Billy Raised Hell.” Bostwick took a call to talk about his latest contribution to Halloween.
Bostwick was on location in Texas making a movie. He only had a two hour break in shooting to find the right fixings for a fishing trip and that was more important than talking to me, he joked. At least I think he was joking. He does have a worldwide reputation for being an asshole.
The first time most moviegoers noticed Bostwick on the big screen, it was as Brad Majors in the revolutionary science fiction send up The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which just celebrated its 40th birthday. The people who were sitting next to them were calling Brad an asshole every time he opened his mouth. Like doing the Madison is the worst thing you could do at a party. It’s not like he was some singing Klown on loan from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He showed off impressive gams and Bostwick’s falsetto was fantastic.
Bostwick hit those doo wop high notes when he originated the role of Danny Zuko in the stage production of Grease. Bostwick’s New York Mayor Randall Winston character on the sitcom Spin City spanned both the Michael J. Fox and Charlie Sheen administrations and he still found the time to play Amanda Bynes’s dad.
After explaining “We’re making a movie here in Texas. Mineral Wells, Texas, and we have two hours off. And the most important thing in Mineral Wells to know is ‘where’s the fishing and what do I need,'” the hard working actor jumped straight into the conversation while he was on the move.
It looked like you were having a blast in this movie.
We did have a lot of fun. It was a matter of being at the right tone and size for the movie. They’re tricky movies to make because there’s all this hyper reality and you have to know when to go and when to slow. I just went for it.
Does the makeup help with that?
The makeup gave me everything I needed to know, basically.
Bostwick was genuinely interested in how the frantically shot new movie played to audiences. He was impressed by it “when you look at how it was done and at the cost it was done.”
What is like on such a busy set?
Every piece was shot in two days. I’m always amazed you can shoot anything in two days. It can take that long to do the makeup and get that costume on. I’m shocked they can get anything together. Ten pieces in a 20-day shoot. I thought it was very adventurous of them to attempt to tie everything together: one scene, one place with so many directors. I never saw Trick R Treat, but, is it a similar kind of movie?
I happened to have just watched Trick R Treat for a Halloween movie list and Bostwick grilled me.
Were the directors going after that kind of approach?
That was their intention. I’m such a fan of many of those directors. Some of them I didn’t know, but Darren Bousman I knew very well because I’d worked with him on Devil’s Carnivore Hallelujah, which is coming also. I was also in a thing he produced, Sleigh Bells, which will be out at Christmas time. I think he’s brilliant. He’s just one movie away from really hitting it. He gives me a lot of freedom. It’s nice to work with people who really respect you and your instincts and give you free reign and say to you ‘you can do no wrong and, if you do, I’ll pick up the pieces.’
Did he have to do much cleanup after your character laid waste to all the neighborhood pumpkins?
This piece was always supposed to be very enthusiastic. I play the devil’s light. He just loves being the devil. He just relishes everything he is. But, like any evil person that you play, you always have to keep in mind that they never feel like they’re being evil. They’re just living their life.
That’s why Billy comes across as just a little devil to innocent bystanders.
Yes, that was fun. I thought it was a ball to do. Even though it wasn’t all improvised, there’s always something of an improvised sketch: Where are you going? You get one take to do this. Then you get a second take and they say ‘try something different.’ You come up with different words and different actions and that’s the joy of working with Bousman.
In the movie, you got to call a nerdy guy in Brad Majors glasses an asshole. How did it feel to get that off your chest?
Oh that’s never off my chest. I will relish that until that day I die. It’s something that I am proud of and it will be the lead line in my obituary: ‘Asshole just died.’
You really have owned that word. Not a lot of movies went into the public consciousness like Rocky Horror. Now, you are part of Americana.
Yes, if you put that together with Grease. Those are fairly iconic reflections of the time and were very influential. Certainly Rocky.
What did we miss by not seeing your Danny Zoku in Grease?
John [Travolta] did the touring company with me and he played Doody. We were on the road for a couple of months, so he really got a feel for the character given my interpretation of it. He had the opportunity to see a lot of other people do it in New York, whether it was Jeff Conaway or, I don’t know if he saw Richard Gere, he did it in London.
When we did it, most of us were in our mid-twenties playing 16-year-olds. So I think what we might have brought a real history and a knowledge of the fifties because we lived through it. We didn’t just send it up. I think the original production was a bit more- it was certainly energetic and silly in many ways. But the show was about these two gangs in Chicago, a girl gang and a boy’s gang. It was originally done in Chicago in the basement of a church. At the time, it was a much more gritty piece about gangs because the guys who wrote it were in those gangs. It was about those guys and they had a group of girls, the Pink Ladies, who were kindred spirits. So what I brought to it was a real sense of having been there.
Both Rocky Horror and Tales of Halloween are love letters to the horror genre. What are your favorite classic horror films?
I have no idea. I don’t really watch horror movies. I don’t know anything about horror movies. I am much more of a tongue-in-cheek guy. I don’t seek out horror movies to watch. I would have to say my favorite horror movie was Rocky Horror.