(This interview with the superior Caroline Williams originally ran on the original Big Gay Horror Fan blog in November 2010. Since we are a week into February 2012’s rollickingly spectacular Women in Horror Month, I thought now was the perfect time to re-run this bouncingly informative interview with one of frightdom’s most powerful heroines! Enjoy!)
Spending time with actress Caroline Williams is like basking in healing sunshine. Down-to-earth with a salt-tinged humor, Williams has never looked better and her life’s lessons have left her percolating with vocabulary and wit. Primarily known to the horror community as Stretch in the uber-chewy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and as a well-regarded Terror Sequel Queen (with delicious work in films like Leprechaun 3, The Stepfather 2 and Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2), Williams career arc is, both, long stretching and extremely eclectic. Emphasizing this point, Williams recently took some time to talk with Big Gay Horror Fan about some of her detailed work in varied films such as Louis Malle’s violence accelerated racial examination, Alamo Bay, the fast paced action-adventure Getting Even (which is graced with some nice science fiction-horror ascetics) and the big budget Tom Cruise spectacle Days of Thunder. And while Getting Even’s Joe Don Baker would have obliterated Dallas due to Williams’ explosively chunky demise, after reading this exhilarating interview,you will know why BGHF would take on the whole world for a single harmed hair on Williams’ ever lovely head.
BGHF: So, Caroline, what primary word would you use to describe working on Alamo Bay with Louis Malle (the director best known for Au Revoir Les Enfants, but also the force behind Black Moon, ‘the apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland’ starring Joe Dallesandro)?
CW: Terrified. It was my first theatrical role. I was so young in my career and Louis Malle was a god to me.
BGHF: And that was the film that Ed Harris and Amy Madigan met on, correct?
CW: They had met previously and were already married. Alamo Bay was their honeymoon.
BGHF: A rather intense honeymoon, but so cool!
CW: I was just hopelessly intimidated. I was still a party girl – a singer. I had been following Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings around. I sat in with the bands. Texas belonged to the youth in the 70’s. It was excitable, combustible. I knew there was a direction there for me and I embraced it. I only had 6 months of acting classes behind me, though. I was still an amateur. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. Louis Malle liked non-actors, though. He hired me for my rawness. He was enormously spiritual and so patient. When he smoked up the set he used frankincense and myrrh. He wanted the scent to permeate the set.
BGHF: And you’re so good in the film!
CW: Louis Malle talked me through it. He catapulted me into a different actor. I didn’t know that measure of growth would happen to me.
BGHF: And this led you to other films such as the truly fun Getting Even starring legendary Joe Don Baker and the sumptuous Audrey Landers (of Dallas and such modern noir epics as Deadly Twins).
CW: Oh, I had to ride a horse in that – and horses despise me! But, that was Dwight Little and I did both that and The Legend of Billie Jean around the same time and they were both smashing experiences! I got to wear this stunning party dress for one scene. It was my first glamour scene and I had a zit! All I could think about was that zit! I was mortified.
BGHF: Well, fashion is murder! Do you have any other memories of that set?
CW: Joe Don Baker’s character spied on me while I was in the bathroom and I had to step out of the shower and let my ass show! I never thought I would go naked so early in my career!
BGHF: Well, you looked gorgeous! (And now Amazon.com is going to be flooded with VHS requests, based on that info alone!) – So, you were still based in Texas, then?
CW: Yes, I was still based in Texas. Getting Even was shot in Dallas. In fact the original name was Operation: Dallas. I’m so glad they changed it, right?! –
CW: And Jimmy White, the fabulous make-up artist, was one of the reasons why I moved to LA. We were in the house we shot at and Jimmy was covering me in body make-up. I’m stark naked – and Audrey Landers is helping him make up my body! She was putting foundation on my body and was so admiringly supportive. She was touching my ass and saying, so sweetly, you have such a beautiful ass! It was all so innocent – that noncompetitive female admiration. That togetherness and that cohesiveness is what I love about film and another reason why I moved out West. I haven’t found it on every project I work on, but it’s what I search for. Joe Don Baker was so nice to me. He took me aside and said, “You should be LA. But I hate to tell you that. They’ll ruin you!”
BGHF: Well, you definitely keep your own special essence and raw originality with every performance, though.
CW: Well, thank you! I try. Joe Don is my neighbor now. He lives around the corner from me. I haven’t seen him yet, but we share the same lawn person. He says, “Joe Don knows you.”
BGHF: And moving led you to such opuses as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Days of Thunder!
CW: Days of Thunder kept me on the payroll for 11 weeks! Don Simpson was the last of the show off’s, those big time mogul filmmakers. He wanted to put the money on the screen. Every car was specifically built for the racetrack. Nothing was mocked up or cheated. I told the costume designer, I have my own underwear. She said, “No, Don insists. You are the wife of a race car driver. You wear only the best.”
BGHF: Method acting at its most intricate!
CW: Yes! – And Don loved to have parties. At one event, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson were the band! But, he was also caring, kind, incredibly generous. He was a hearty partygoer and, unfortunately, with his early death, I think that’s primarily what people recall about him – that reckless nature. But he was so much more!
BGHF: That’s nice to hear.
CW: (Director) Tony Scott was also amazing. He has an inner momentum that you can’t resist! I like being directed and to have my performances predicated by others’ inspiration! I go to a comfort zone and I like to be challenged – even if it’s by a question from the costume designer or make-up artist, I love it! And that’s what I got from Tony!
BGHF: Now, you may have lost a round with Terry O’Quinn in Stepfather 2, but you did gain photographic composure with a stint on the glossy television soap, Models Inc.
CW: Oh, my God – is that on my IMDB?
CW: Well, first of all, it was a soap coming out of the 80’s, so it was all about designer clothes and shoulder pads. Secondly, we filmed in this wonderful old house. Emma Samms (General Hospital, Dynasty, Humaniods of the Deep remake) was just gorgeous and was already segueing into her next career, so we talked a lot about decorating. She was finding these ancient doors in England and shaping them into these beautiful headboards. They were just amazing.
BGHF: Cool. In her Tales of the Crypt episode she plays an antique dealer, as well.
CW: Then they completely re-wrote the scene and I was freaked out! I do a lot of prep and always learn those lines! So, I didn’t know what to do. But, I let it go – and the magic descended. It just flowed. It was then that I realized I was a quick study.
BGHF: That’s an awesome story. And from art house films to horror shenanigans to prime time episodics, you have had such an eclectic career, as well.
CW: Well, thank you so much. I like to think so.
BGHF: Considering that then, out of all you’ve done, has there been a specific project or career moment that has truly stood out for you?
CW: Well, I don’t know if it is a moment or specific project, but, you know, it’s almost like the 70’s again. There is this creative impulse going throughout film today and only technology could release it. Now truly creative filmmakers can afford to make their projects. It’s just an extraordinary period of filmmaking.
BGHF: Is there anyone particularly inspiring you?
CW: Alan Rowe Kelly, Anthony Sumner, Bart Mastronardi.
BGHF: They’re all amazing – and Bart’s Vindication (with Clive Barker’s gracious endorsement) and Alan’s A Far Cry From Home truly speak to the queer community, as well.
CW: Yes. But beyond that, Vindication spoke to me. It spoke to me as a mother. It spoke to me about family. Family chosen. Family given. It truly exceeded everything that it could have been!
BGHF: True. And Alan and Bart have really created a community for themselves on the East Coast.
CW: Yes, I feel a sense of envy of them. They work together all the time. They have such a rich company of players. They have a need to work.
BGHF: You’ll be working with them on the upcoming re-imagining of Don’t Look in the Basement, as well, correct?
CW: Yes. I knew I wanted to work with them. They just amaze me. What Alan Rowe Kelly did, as an actor and director, with A Far Cry From Home in 40 minutes is just amazing! He took off his shoes, literally and figuratively!! I was like – You took off your shoes!! – Like I said, it’s just an extraordinary time for filmmaking.
BGHF: And your enthusiasm for it is contagious, as well!
CW: Well, it’s like that Chuck Workman film Precious Images. Have you seen it?
CW: Well, you should find it out online, because this era of film is definitely a Chuck Workman moment!
BGHF: I will! Thanks so much, Caroline.
Check out the filmmakers and films, our favorite maverick Caroline mentioned at:
www.rsquaredfilms.com (Bart Mastronardi – Vindication)
www.slicesoflifemovie.com (Anthony Sumner)