Exclusive Interview by Rob DiLauro
The world of Clive Barker and Hellraiser has been a part of our lives since 1987 and has become a massive piece of many horror fans’ dark hearts for many years. The man who placed fear and excitement into everyone’s souls was a young actor named Doug Bradley, and his portrayal of lead Cenobite Hell Priest Pinhead had become not only a pop culture phenomenon but also a legacy. Doug had played the role for thirty-two years and pulled the mask away for good after his final project, Hellworld, in 2005.
Many have been asking for him to return to the role for years, and an answer was never clear if the possibility was only a fantasy. But last week Hell itself froze over and also gave us all something glorious – an announcement and a live feed where Doug Bradley was in the makeup chair and being suited up as his alter ego for the first time in fourteen years. The event Doug has been planning is simply called The Pinhead Experience which will be a part of Mad Monster Arizona. This is a highly immersive opportunity for fans to step into the world of Hellraiser and meet the horror icon in the flesh. The event is a painstaking orchestration by Doug Bradley himself and his longtime significant other Stephanie Sciullo, and the result will be something people will remember for generations.
I have to say, I teared up while seeing Doug suit up, but I realize tears are a waste of good suffering and I simply wanted to go to the source to speak to the man himself about the historic event that may just be the last time he ever becomes Pinhead in our lifetime. Here is my exclusive interview with the icon and his dark queen, Doug Bradley and Stephanie Sciullo.
Rob: Thank you so much for talking with me today. So let’s begin with the simplest question. What was it that made you decide to return to the character you made famous after fourteen years?
Doug: It was very much specifically to do with the conventions. The idea of playing Pinhead as it were was rolling in my head, and in part, it had to do with Robert Englund. I saw him dress as the character at a convention with no green screen, I don’t think he even wore the hat or the sweater.
Rob: He was wearing a t-shirt, actually.
Doug: Right! (Laughs) I sort of looked at that and thought to myself that I wanted it to be more interactive. I didn’t want a green screen and just a face, we wanted fans to truly enter the world of Pinhead. We knew that this was a new venture that a few horror actors were doing because years ago we had taken a picture with Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface. So when we were contacted by Mad Monster, we decided some time ago that this was okay and chose this show to do it. We knew we had a few decisions to make because both the costume and the lifecast had to be made from scratch. None of these two things existed anymore so we went to Steve Tolin and Kyle Roberts at Tolin FX and we talked about how we wanted the design to be reminiscent of Hellbound.
Rob: And if you do not mind me asking how much does something like this set you back? I know from talking to Stephanie that this was something that you both put together, financially as well.
Doug: That’s omelets and eggs, I guess. (Laughs) I knew that we really had to get this right, and yes it did hurt the old wallet, but we wanted to work with someone who could give us the desired look the proper way. We also didn’t want it to be a photo op, we wanted to be a true glimpse into the world of Pinhead so we had to have certain props created as well. Kudos to Tolin Fx, they really captured the look we wanted and I could not be happier with the finished result. We also had the leather costume created by a couple who used to live in Pittsburgh but now reside in Nashville. These two also made a few props as well, everyone did an excellent job.
Rob: I was watching the now infamous live feed from the studio during your makeup test and I had noticed that you weren’t allowed to talk at the time. Was that because something was drying? How much mobility do you have, can you speak pretty clearly?
Doug: Oh yes, I can definitely speak. I think they were telling me not to move because they were working around the edges of my mouth. We wanted to use silicon instead of foam latex, and I have never used silicon before. Silicon barely cracks or peels so it just seemed like the right application to go with.
Rob: And how much did Tom Savini have to do with the process? Was he just overseeing everything or was he integral on the work side as well?
Doug: Well, since we are in Pittsburgh Tom gave me access to his school. We really got the ball rolling with Tom and the lifecast had to have a starting point. I really didn’t think the school had everything we required for the job, so that was why we went to Tolin FX. But no, he looked at the work and everything. But honestly, most of the credit has to go to Stephanie who was there every single moment, looking over the process, and really paying attention to every detail.
Rob: When you had originally come up with the idea to do this was there someone else you had in mind to do the work?
Doug: Well, believe it or not, I wanted Gary Tunnicliffe to do the makeup, but it was something that could have been problematic due to the fact that he is in Los Angeles and we are here (Pittsburgh). I did actually contact him for pricing but he never returned my calls anyway.
Rob: When I was watching the live feed I have to tell you that when I saw you in full dress I did tear up a little bit because it was so glorious. How did you feel when you finally looked in the mirror with Pinhead looking back at you after fourteen years?
Doug: Oh wow, I am touched by what you just said. But I will say this as well. When I put on the mask and had the full costume on it did feel like a comfortable, old glove. I have been playing the character for thirty-two years so it does suit me, but I also know that playing a character behind a mask is truly a young man’s game. And of course, I had a few thoughts such as this feels great to do this and also why the hell am I doing this?
That is just something an actor who is well known for something does. You just have to think to yourself, “Christ, is this all I really am? I feel I have so much more to offer in my craft than this.” Then I saw the overwhelming response from the fans and read the things they were writing on the message board. I have to be honest as well, I sort of welled up too. It made me feel good to know that a character I have played for many decades still brings so much to the fans.
Rob: That is awesome, and you do have way more to give the world than Pinhead. I know this. So can you tell me a little about the Pinhead Experience?
Doug: Well, the price is going to be $240, but that is for a group of four. Technically, this Experience is about sixty dollars per individual and I will also include my autograph. This is going to be a full experience, and when you meet me as Pinhead I probably spend about a good two minutes with everyone. This is not a situation where you meet me, take a picture, and leave just to pick up your photo, we wanted it to be memorable and the world of Hellraiser in every way.
Rob: I think that pricing is incredible! Honestly, a fan could spend that type of money on one person with no extras whatsoever. I really want to thank you and Stephanie for the care that you have both placed into this. I want to stray off of the path for just a second, but I believe you had said recently that would not lose sleep but would never close the door on Pinhead when it comes to film. Do you still feel that way?
Doug: I would never rule out the possibility if the story was good. The only reason that I had said no to Revelations was I had read the script and it was bad. (Laughs) Also, I believe they only made it due to rights and there was no care placed into it. If it was worthwhile I would have returned. As far as Judgment, I simply said no because of business reasons, that was all it was. I never said anything bad about the people involved or the production. I wish them all well and I hope if it does release that it is successful.
Rob: Honestly, personally, I could only see you come back for The Scarlet Gospels if that was made into a film.
Doug: Oh, I would love that. I really love what Clive did with Pinhead and The Scarlet Gospels, and it would be the greatest bookend. I would absolutely love that.
Rob: This whole time we were talking I thought of something really funny. I remember talking to Steph quite a few years ago and she was not a Hellraiser fan at all. (Laughs) Now she is doing this great thing with you. It’s really cool.
Stephanie: I was never a fan but I have always respected the fans and the legacy the movies have. I have sat with Doug at these conventions for years because I know how important these films are to so many, and I truly honor that.
Rob: Well, I will tell you something. If my significant other was known for a certain character I don’t think it would matter to me either. You fell in love with the man behind the mask, not the monster everyone else knows. I think that’s beautiful.
Stephanie: Right! And I think it was better that I wasn’t a fangirl. I never watched Hellraiser and knew very little about it before I met him.
Doug: It’s a great story, actually. The reason she never watched Hellraiser is because on the poster there are blue lights on the box and she thought it was sci-fi. She doesn’t care for sci-fi. (Laughs) As far as our wonderful ten-year relationship together it was me or Anthony Hopkins for her. (Laughs again)
Rob: Well, I think she made the better choice. Doug and Stephanie, thank you so much for wanting to chat with me and nothing but the best this weekend.
You can learn more about Doug Bradley and the Pinhead Experience at madmonster.com. And if you can make it, please do yourself a favor and attend. If you miss it, I guarantee you will want to tear your soul apart.