Bill Moseley was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever interviewed, so it was hard to picture him as ‘Chop Top’ Sawyer from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” let alone a baddie in the new film “Prisoners of the Ghostland.”
“Prisoners” at first sight is a wild ride (even Nic Cage, who also starred in the film, called it “the wildest movie I’ve ever made”). It seems reminiscent of a cross between “Waterworld” and “Mad Max” – only maybe even wilder than both combined. Moseley plays a cruel and crazed Governor who wants his adopted granddaughter (Sofia Boutella) back after she goes missing in a supernatural place called Ghostland, and coerces Cage, who was jailed for life, to go get her. Sion Sono directed the film.
Here, Moseley takes the time to talk to Moviehole about “Prisoners,” the “Chainsaw” films and how and why he’s had such a long and productive career.
MOVIEHOLE: How did you break into the business?
Bill Moseley: I ended up making a short film; back in 1984 I made a short film called “Texas Chainsaw Manicure,” I wrote it and produced it and gave myself a cameo as a hitchhiker, all the while working as a journalist and a freelance writer in NYC. I was covering the making of “2020: The Year We Make Contact,” and showed “Manicure” to a friend of mine who wrote “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”; he had an office across the hall with Tobe Hooper. Tobe watched it and loved it, and a friend gave me Tobe’s phone number and said to call in ten days, so I called up Tobe and said I’m the guy who did “Manicure” — he asked who played the hitchhiker in “Manicure,” and I said “me,” and he said if he did a sequel, he would have me in it.
Two years later, that started my acting career with “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” It was literally like winning the lottery, that’s how I look at it, and I kept that in my mind that I’m a lucky guy. I didn’t have any ambition, it didn’t occur to me that Tobe would like it. Originally the first “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie freaked me out so much, I did “Manicure” to relieve the terror I felt at seeing the original film. I enjoy becoming part of the Sawyer (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) family, but I had no idea there was a career change afoot and I had no idea I would earn a career in movies.
MOVIEHOLE: You were a journalist first before becoming an actor, did this help you in acting?
BM: Absolutely, it gives you confidence in words, and a lot of what I’ve done, where delight turns to the chagrin of both writers and producers, is that I can improvise words in interviews and roles, which has been invaluable.
MOVIEHOLE: What do you owe to your longevity in the film business?
BM: I have to say I try to get there early or at the latest on time, I know my lines, I’m fun to work with and I let the director direct, that’s basically it. I do have some talent and there are a lot of people who have talent who aren’t fun to work with. Nic Cage was certainly on time, he wasn’t spending lot of time in his trailer duking it out with a producer, he was right there and fearless, he gave it his all.
I’ve worked with directors who like chaos because they like bringing order out of chaos — I’m not one of those persons. I like to show up, do my homework, I like to work and play characters who are frightening and horrible. All of my characters are happy to work (laughs), Otis loves being Otis, the governor loves being a governor. Sometimes I’m asked, how do you play a psycho so well, and I say, I’m the only sane one in the room. Like Anthony Perkins said in the end of “Psycho”, saying “I wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
MOVIEHOLE:How did you get involved with “Prisoners”?
BM: I am friends with Reza Sixo Safai and I invited him to see the “3 From Hell” premiere, he’s a friend and he had written “Prisoners of the Ghostland.” He thought I’d be a good governor and Sion Sono was a fan of mine, so he said I’d love to have him.
MOVIEHOLE: The film has a bit of a “Waterworld” vibe, with humor, special effects and wacky characters – is your character more grounding?
BM: He’s wacky but knows exactly where he is, he’s grounded and he knows who he is and what he can do. If there’s any trouble, he has a preeminent martial artist with Tak Sakaguchi, he plays a character called Yasujiro and I call Tak forward in the film to chop anybody to ribbons.
MOVIEHOLE: You were in “Carnivale,” one of my favorite cable miniseries — is there any news about something new there?
BM: Not so much. I stay in touch with Nick Stahl, but I haven’t heard anything, I played Possum the cook, that was really a good part; not because of its dramatic value, but it got me my medical benefits that year.
MOVIEHOLE: You’re a musician too, are there any new music projects?
BM: I’ve done videos with the band “Ice Nine Kills,” and there was a new series of videos called “Assault & Batteries,” where I play a hardboiled detective. Also, Rani Sharone put out a CD called “Spider Mountain” and the album was called “No Way Down”; thanks to Covid we are working on a new “Spider Mountain” CD. His twin brother Gil is the drummer from Marilyn Manson.
MOVIEHOLE: What about new film projects?
BM: There is “Chastise,” “Nightstalker,” “Jasper” and “Sin Eater” (“Nightstalker” and “Jasper” are slated for 2022 while the others don’t have a date – Writer’s note).
MOVIEHOLE: What is your advice to newbies trying to break in?
BM: I think the best thing to do is to take advantage of YouTube and Instagram and make your own videos so you have something on film or tape, that you can show people if you are trying to get some kind of a gig, like I did with “Manicure.” Now with and iPhone and cameras, you can do it pretty easily, just put some catchup on your face if you are doing horror.
MOVEHOLE: Anything to add about your new film?
BM: “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is epic and you should try to catch it on the big screen, it’s a visual action adventure with horror and science fiction.