Tootie fucking fruity, the Firefly family is back for more blood in Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell. The highly anticipated sequel to 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects adds an unexpected chapter to the horrifying highways stars, seeing how they were all but dead by that film’s end.
Not so. The three have never appeared more free, and once again, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Sid Haig are ready for terror as Otis B. Driftwood, Vera-Ellen “Baby” Firefly, and Captain Spaulding, respectively. However, they’re not alone.
Joining them for the proverbial ride this go-around is 31 star Richard Brake, who comes in swinging from the Firefly family tree as newcomer Winslow “Foxy” Foxworth. As expected, he’s just as fierce and unforgiving as the rest of ’em, ensuring all kinds of off-road terror.
In anticipation of the film’s premiere this week via Fathom Events, we caught up with Zombie, Moseley, and Brake. Together, we discussed their love for ’70s rock, the current state of Sid Haig’s health, and whether the #MeToo era impacted their approach.
So, grab some ice cream and read below.
On Being the Bad Guy
I love playing the villains. The ones I’ve been offered to play are amazing — like Doom-Head and Foxy. I’m waiting for Rob [Zombie] to write a romantic comedy and ask me to be in that, but until then, I’m happy where I’m at: Killin’ people, raising hell.
On the Advantages of Being Evil
When the character’s well written, you have a blast, and you get a lot of freedom to do some crazy shit. I don’t want to overthink it, but there’s probably a little bit of catharsis there, too. I mean … most people don’t get to go to work and kill people and then come home. I remember when I did Hannibal Rising, I had two young boys at the time. I was going to work, and eating a child, and then coming home and reading my children bedtime stories. And I was thinking, It probably keeps me from eating them when they were refusing to go to bed on time. So, yeah, it’s a strange catharsis in some ways.
On Having Room to Improv
With Doom-Head, there was not a word that I wanted to change because I think he had just written such brilliant dialogue. So, other than that opening monologue, I didn’t change a word. I don’t think I improvised more than a couple tiny moments in that film.
With Foxy he really, really encouraged me to do a lot more improvisation. We would shoot the scene, and then Rob would come up to me and he’d give me some ideas of what he wanted, and then he’d go back behind the camera. So, I’d have about 13 seconds to pull my shit together and go and have to give this whole speech over to Bill.
That was incredibly challenging, but really, really fun because I love to improvise and Rob really encourages it — at least, if we’re working from something on the page initially. With 3 From Hell, there are definitely some moments that we just had a good time playing with.
But Rob, he’s literally this creative force of nature because his mind is constantly creating something new. So, working with him, you have to really be on your toes to channel that.
On Being Rob Zombie’s Muse
I give Jeff Daniel Phillips that one. I think Jeff’s been on just about everything.
I auditioned for Halloween II because with Rob, he’ll typically have the casting director put people he’s not familiar with on tape, and then he’ll look through them and choose. Then I went in and did the scene where I’m in a truck and I’m talking about shagging a corpse, and the next thing I know, my agent calls about a week later and says, “Rob wants you to be in his film.” I’m like, ‘God, yeah, for sure.’ And then we went off and did that. A couple years later, I get a message, “Rob wants you to play this role called Doom-Head,” and I was over the moon, but at the same time terrified, because I really didn’t want to let him down.
Subsequently, I actually learned that he really had to fight for me for that role. The producers wanted somebody a lot more established, and I wasn’t very established at all really. You know, I’ve popped up, I’ve done quite a fair bit. But he really stuck by me and fought, and I’m glad I didn’t know this while we were shooting it because I would’ve been terrified. But, you know, he stuck by me, so I really felt this desire to not let him down, to really do my best, and I always feel like that with him.
He’s my favorite director that I’ve worked with. Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Brian De Palma, some amazing directors. Not to take anything away from any of them, but if I had a gun put to my head, I would choose Rob. He just blows my mind with his creativity and energy, and at the same time, he’s just a lovely, lovely human being — a rare combination.
On Future Collaborations With Zombie
A lot of people ask, “Is there gonna be a Doom-Head sequel?” What I love about Rob is he never does anything until he’s overflowing with the need to make it — whether it’s an album or a comic or a film. You know, it took him 13 years to finally decide to revisit The Devil’s Rejects, so I have no idea what he has in mind.
All I know is that I’ll get a text going, “So, what are you doing in a couple of weeks?”, and I’m always like, “Nothing, man, nothing if you got something coming.” And that’s just it. Next thing you know, you’re off to the races, making another film. So, it’s all in the mind of Rob Zombie. Whether we ever revisit any of these or whether there’s something else down the line, you just wait for that phone call or that text.
On Creating Foxy Coltraine
Rob is very good in the way he allows you to really bring what you want to the role. He’s not very dictated in that way. With a lot of Foxy, it’s already on the page, so you can see kind of the direction of the character and how he’s going to fit into this world. And then a lot of it just happened as we worked together. One of the things I loved more than anything about [3 From Hell] was the chemistry between Bill [Moseley] and Sheri [Moon Zombie]. I love Sheri, and I love working with Sheri. My favorite parts of 31 are the end bits — the whole end sequence with just Sheri and I. She was just so awesome and so present and so incredible when we shot that — and likewise with this.
My first day … I literally had to fly back from Spain. I was doing another movie in Spain, so I flew home to London, changed my clothes, and was on a plane to LA to start work right away on 3 From Hell. They had already been going for a couple of days, and my first scene was with the three of them, and it was like, “Boom! I have to find my way in this world.” So, I’m in this scene with Bill, and then in comes Sheri, and she’s in full Baby mode, and the camera’s on me, and I’m watching her thinking, She’s fucking awesome. Oh shit! I’m supposed to be Foxy! And then eventually the whole process of the shoot just fell into place because the chemistry between the three of us really found its place.
And Foxy found his place in this family, which was really exciting as an actor.
On Leaving Westeros
It was ultimately a scheduling issue. I was doing another series — it was Kurt Sutter’s series The Bastard Executioner — which, unfortunately, didn’t do very well. But, it’s very difficult to schedule around Game of Thrones. Vlad [Furdik] is wonderful, who took over the role [of the Night King], and he’s a stuntman primarily, so it kind of made some sense anyway for them to do that, so that was ultimately the reason.
A lot of people ask, “Are you sad about that?” I’m not even remotely sad because I would’ve never been able to do all this work that I’ve done subsequently. And I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have been able to do 3 From Hell, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done 31. So, there’s quite a few things I would never have wanted to miss had I continued the role. And I always say that I’m lucky I got to be in one of my favorite episodes, “Hard Home”, so that was a real thing.
I did watch the end of the season. I didn’t know ahead of time what was gonna happen, but I love the way my character ended up dying because Arya was always my favorite. I wasn’t surprised. I thought it was a brilliant development, actually.
On the Similarities Between Otis and Charles Manson
It’s funny because I never really channeled Manson. I just basically went with what was on the printed page, starting with Otis in House of 1000 Corpses. It was only during The Devil’s Rejects when there was the line, “I am the devil and did the devil’s work,” which was good ol Texas Watson, I guess, in terms of the business. That was really when people were seeing more Charlie Manson in the performance, but I actually never really did think much about Charlie in terms of preparing for the character. It’s funny how that works.
I did a play back in 1990 or 91 called Timothy and Charlie, which was based on an historical night in San Quentin Prison when Timothy Leary and Charles Manson were side by side in solitary. It was a crazy two-act play, and I played Timothy Leary. I didn’t play Charlie Manson. And Timothy Leary actually came to maybe seven of our 12 performances — and liked my portrayal of him.
On Following True Crime
My wife and I love watching Forensic Files, but that’s probably as far as I go with it. I always think it’s very cool to to watch the solving of the crime. Although, I did like True Detective, that first year with Matthew McConaughey was just awesome and witty.
On Playing Villains
I don’t know if it’s just the casting groove I’m in, but it seems to have worked out that way. But I love playing villains. I think it’s certainly a lot of fun. I’ve always loved monsters and Halloween. Growing up as a kid, playing the monster was always much more fun than playing the person that screams or, you know, gets his head torn off. When I broke in to Hollywood, so to speak, with Choptop, that kind of set the tone. In fact that character from Texas Chainsaw 2 was really what attracted Rob Zombie to me to play Otis.
There was a Universal Studios in-house award show back in October of ’99 called the Igor Awards. I was tapped to emcee awards as Choptop, and one of the award recipients on that fateful night was Rob Zombie. At the time, he was recording for MCA records, which is part of the Universal family and, you know, he gets a little demon statue. It freaked him out that I was the real Choptop, so we talked after the show.
A month later, probably November of ’99, his manager called up and said that Rob had just gotten House of 1000 Corpses green lighted, and asked if I would like to be in it. I said, “Sure,” and he said, “Well, you know, I’m gonna send over the script, look at the part of Otis Driftwood.” And that’s how I got the part. So, Choptop has brought me a lot of good stuff, but most of it, with a few exceptions, is the bad guy, which I’m very happy to play.
On #MeToo’s Effect on Horror
I think about the Kahiki Palms Motel scene and Devil’s Rejects. I remember when I read the script and I read that scene, I was thinking, Oh my god. It freaked me out. Rather than say, “I’m not going to do this,” what I did was, in a kind of a cowardly move, I let my then-girlfriend and now-wife Lucinda Jenney — who’s also in 3 From Hell — read the script without telling her in advance to see how she would react. I was expecting her to say, “If you do this, I’ll never talk to you again,” in I could have then had an adequate case to say, “Hey, sorry man, I can’t do it, you know, my girlfriend will leave me.”
But Lucinda, she’s been in Rain Man and Thelma and Louise, and all kinds of stuff, she handed me the script back and said, “This is a great part for an actor.” And really what that told me was, “Dude, this isn’t Bill Moseley making these choices. You’re acting out a part in the scene in a movie.” She was fine with it, and so that really encouraged me to go for it. Obviously, Priscilla [Barnes] and I worked stuff out ahead of time. That’s the way it goes. I mean, if you’re uncomfortable with a scene, or scenes like that, certainly you have every right to pass, or talk to the director, or whatever else.
I didn’t really feel that there was really anything close to that in 3 From Hell, frankly.
On His Own Love For ’70s Rock
Well, I am a total Doors guy. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix when he was touring the Are You Experienced? album. I’m also a Led Zeppelin guy. It scares me to think that it’s all considered Classic Rock, but that’s what I like to listen to. This morning, for instance, I listened to Tommy Dorsey’s Greatest Hits. Just, you know, a tip of the hat to my mom who was a groupie for Benny Goodman.
But I like to listen to a lot of different things. What I have on the car stereo — I actually have an old car so it still has CDs — is Gun Club. I’m revisiting Gun Club now. Yesterday, my wife and I put on Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain. So, yeah, I do like more classic rock. My children I’m sure would consider me something of a dinosaur, but that’s the way it goes.
On the 14-Year Gap Between Rejects and 3 From Hell
The time gap is kind of what attracted me to it because … I knew the way I was going to have them survive. And then I thought, well, what’s interesting is, “What’s happened to them in all that time?” Because basically the time that it was in real life, I applied to the movie time. So I thought, Oh, we see them older and weirder and wiser and damaged from their time in prison, which then transforms all of them into different characters again. So that part, I wasn’t worried about at all.
I thought that was interesting and that would be the reason for doing the movie, ’cause I didn’t want to just kind of get them back together and have them do all the same shit that we’ve already seen them do. But the worry I had was, Would the vibe that the characters have seem the same? Because if you haven’t played a role in 14 years, you might come back and it just doesn’t seem right. But from day one, the first scenes I shot were Otis and Baby coming out of the courtroom and going up and down the stairs, being harassed by all the reporters. Instantly, they were back in character in one second. It was great.
On Soundtracking With ’70s Rock
It definitely reflects my taste in music. A lot of the music I use are songs I’ve always loved or bands I’ve loved. But the music, starting with The Devil’s Rejects, I tried to find music that I thought added another level to the characters. It wasn’t just like background noise or background music. At the beginning of Devil’s Rejects, when the Allman Brothers comes on with “Midnight Rider”, it seems like they’re singing the song of these characters — that makes them kind of epic.
So, with this movie, it was sort of the same thing because I always thought that Terry Reid — I used three Terry Reid songs in The Devil’s Rejects — his voice sounds like the voice of these characters. So, I always knew he would play a big part. Same with Slim Whitman. He was such a big part of the first movie. I used an entire song in the whole center of the film. I wanted to bring that back just to have a tie back to the first film. So yeah, all the music becomes very important. I spend forever trying to figure out what songs I need, and can I afford them? Because the soundtrack is always very expensive on my movies.
On Releasing the Film Through Fathom Events
At this point, this is my eighth film and I’ve released movies in every possible way I think you can release them — from 4,000 screens with a major push to 600 screens to Fathom Events. And the way I kind of look at it now is all I try to do is get the film made and make sure it’s good. ‘Cause the releases have become kind of weird. Like even if you’re on 4,000 screens, it’s not like it used to be. It seems like four weeks later people have already moved on to the next movie and the next movie. So this way, we can do the Fathom Events for people that really want to see it on a big screen. And then for the people that only want to watch movies at home, they can. Seems perfect for these type of movies because they’re not mainstream movies.
The problem you run into when you’re trying to make movies that aren’t necessarily mainstream is the money. Because even though I can get the money, I need to make the movie. Then you would need the studio to go, “Okay, well you made this movie, now we need to put $30 million behind it in advertising to get it everywhere.” So at the end of the day you’re like, “Okay, now my little tiny movie has got to earn a profit of $60 million just to break even.” And it kinda sets you up in such a lose-lose situation. It’s just really crazy. So, to have these other outlets is fantastic because you can keep making quality films and you don’t have to rely on all the other baggage that comes with it. I love it. I mean it’s very freeing to be able to work that way.
You used to think, like five years ago, if something was going like direct to VOD, that movie must be terrible. But now I’ll just go click on iTunes and scan through, and I’ll click on something like, “Wow, here’s this movie I’d never heard of with all these big stars.” And you watch and you go, “Wow, this movie’s fucking great.” But you’re also able to tell smaller, weird, or different stories ’cause it’s not necessarily a movie that could be commercially successful; because superhero movies and animated movies and stuff like that is what dominates all the screens. I mean, you really can’t compete.
On Whether #MeToo Has Affected His Approach to Filmmaking
Well, yes and no. Yes, behind the scenes, and no, as far as the movie. I just think art and movies don’t apply to the rules of real life — because it’s fake. It’s fiction, you know? And once you start trying to get involved with the real world with fiction, what are you going to get it? You can’t do that — they have to exist differently. But as far as like behind the scenes, when we were starting, this was at the height of that so they had extra meetings with people talking about things like that.
But my sets are very professional, ’cause there’s always a lot of nudity, a lot of stuff. And everybody I work with is a pro and the people that did these nude scenes, I’d get emails after saying, “That’s the most professional set I’ve ever been on. I would do it again. Everybody is a total pro. There’s nothing weird about it. I felt completely comfortable the whole time.” Because I think that’s very important, not just from the #MeToo movement, but for an actor. Actors have to feel completely protected at all times because that’s how they’re going to work well. If they feel, “That camera man’s kind of leering at me,” they’re not going to do good work. And I’ve had people like that before and I’ve either fired them or taken them aside and said, “Look man, you say one more fucking thing and you’re gone right now.” So when it does happen, it does get addressed. But on this movie, I’d weeded out any of that. So, it was a weird time. But the actual content of the movie never changed.
On Sid Haig’s Current Health and Its Effect on the Film
I don’t know anything about his condition at the moment because I think only his wife and maybe his daughter are involved when something like that happens. They don’t call up me. But I talked to Bill Moseley, who sees Sid Haig a lot more than I do, ’cause they see each other like every weekend at these conventions. He didn’t know anything either. But I have a feeling I know a little bit what’s going on. I don’t want to say because Sid’s been having health problems for a while. I mean that’s why he’s not in the movie very much.
I’ll tell you the whole history of it. When I started 3 From Hell, the idea, I got together for lunch with Sheri [Moon Zombie], Bill and Sid, and we all had lunch to discuss the movie and Sid looked like Sid always did. He’s, you know, 6’4″, this big burly guy. Everybody looks the same, you know, let’s do this. And then a year later, as we were getting ready to shoot, I hadn’t spoken to Sid in a while … and he was to come in for a wardrobe fitting and he didn’t show up. I didn’t think anything of it. And then something else would happen and it would get canceled. Eventually, he called me and he told me he had been in the hospital, had had an operation, I don’t want to say what it’s related to, but that he was now recovering, and we were three weeks from the first day of shooting.
I’m still picturing the same guy that I had lunch with. So I went to visit him and he looked like he had lost half his body weight, ’cause he’s a tall guy, but now it looked like he had lost like 80 pounds or something. He was like a skeleton, and he seemed very, very frail. So I’m like, “Oh man, there’s no way that this guy can do this script. It’s just no way. It’s physically not possible. So I started rewriting the script, making his role a little bit less, not what it is now, but just a little bit, thinking, Okay, I’m going to take this scene away. This’ll be easier on him in this scene. I’ll just have him sitting in this chair in this scene. I was trying to accommodate where I thought he was at health-wise.
But then another week went by and Sheri and Bill came with me to visit him and didn’t really seem like he was any better. So I just kept rewriting. Unfortunately what happened was, Sid’s 80 years old, so he has to be cleared by the studio through the insurance company, so he’s insured so he can work, and he wasn’t. They were like, “Nope, we don’t clear him to work. He’s not okay to work.” So at that moment in time, he wasn’t able to be in the movie at all. They said no. But I had already spoken to Sid about how important it was for him to be in this movie and it was important to me. It was important to him. It was important to the fans. So Lionsgate let me bring him in one morning to just shoot some scenes so I could at least have his character’s story come to a conclusion — so he didn’t just disappear from the world. And then I tried to find ways to keep him alive sort of throughout the movie as much as I could. So, once that happened, I had rewritten the whole script rather quickly and that’s when I created a character for Richard Brake to come in. But that was such a last-minute thing.
On Taking the Fireflys to Mexico
Yeah, the ending of the movie was something I messed around with for a really long time because I knew that once they were free, I was like, “Where do I go with them?” This movie has to go a whole ‘nother place — like they can’t just be held up in somewhere that we’ve seen before. And that’s when I thought, Mexico. And once I got into Mexico, when I was sort of location scouting and looking at it, I thought, I’m just going to turn the last act of this movie into a complete Italian Western — with all the weird characters you would see in, you know, A Fistful of Dollars or some movie like that. And Richard Edson plays Carlos, the hotel owner and I always loved him, especially the first time I saw him in that movie Stranger Than Paradise. He’s just an interesting, bizarre guy. Just trying to fill that world with like lots of interesting weird people, and the music at that point shifts to sort of like [Ennio] Morricone style, Italian Western music. The whole movie takes a shift. I just wanted to end it on a big sort of grand note, the whole trilogy.
On Whether the Firefly Characters Will Pop Up in Future Films
Probably not. I have no plans for that. I mean, never say never because this movie happened 15 years later, and I had no plans in making either, so I don’t know, but there’s no plans for that.