Interview: Actress Catherine Oxenberg on LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, SHARKTOPUS and Female Sexuality

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THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, Catherine Oxenberg, 1988

SHOCK sits down with veteran actress and now sexual advocate Catherine Oxenberg.

Back in 1988, she was Eve Trent of the Derbyshire B&B, the site of an unusual archaeological find in Ken Russell’s THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM. Working across several genres, Catherine Oxenberg took on iconic roles in TV shows like DYNASTY and THE LOVE BOAT and even tried her hand in reality-TV with an “Osbourne’s” inspired family show.

Moving forward, Oxenberg has decided to devote more attention to a global feminist sexual awareness project in addition to acting and producing.

SHOCK had the pleasure of chatting with Oxenberg from the beach near her Malibu home, about her that project as well as her lengthy career in the public eye, working with the late Ken Russell and most recently, the great Roger Corman.

SHOCK: You come from a royal bloodline. In regards to modeling you were quoted as saying “I’m lucky I don’t have a [royal] title. Being a princess can work against you in an enormous way. A lot of people don’t want a name, they want a face. If models are known too well, it detracts from the impetus of the product.” Is the same true for film and television?

OXENBERG: Wait…when did I say that about modeling?

SHOCK: It’s on your IMDB page.

OXENBERG: That’s hysterical! I must have been really young. Now you can say that I have evolved to the point where I realize you use whatever you’ve got ‘cause nothing is detrimental. I can’t believe it (laughing). Ahhh…oh god, that’s such bullshit I would have LOVED to have the real title. That’s hilarious. Quite frankly, anything you have you will be told is detrimental or is an asset by whomever you run into and in the end you can’t listen to anybody about anything.

SHOCK: So it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of thing?

OXENBERG: Yes! I remember I had a really strong English accent when I started to audition in New York. I got a soap opera audition that I believe was for RYAN’S HOPE. It was in the early 80s, ’82 as I remember. I said: “No I don’t want to do it” and they said “Well you have an English accent. You will have a very very hard time getting any other jobs”. So you see, it depends on what people just say about whatever opinions, and then you can never get caught up in them.

SHOCK: Richard Burton was once your acting coach. Is that correct?

OXENBERG: Okay, so here is the deal. He was engaged to my mom when I was 13. And he was a mentor and he was the person who influenced me profoundly to become an actress. I got to experience him working. The relationship I had with him was so incredibly loving. The way that he treated me as a male authority figure had a profound profound effect on me.

SHOCK: Did he give you any great advice about the film industry and being an actress?

OXENBERG: Well, I was so little then but the one thing he said to me was that I was very shy, which is terrifying to me. But it was more about watching him. I also watched him struggle with alcoholism which also had an effect on me because I was so curious that if in order to be a great artist you had to be tortured by your darkness. He really, really struggled. But he was such an extraordinary human being, he had such presence. He was such a generous person. And as opposed to growing up being around a lot of members of the royal family he didn’t have that glamour for me but his lifestyle fascinated me.

SHOCK: Speaking of the Royals, in 1982 you did THE ROYAL ROMANCE OF CHARLES AND DIANA. You also did a TV movie called CHARLES AND DIANA: UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER which was around the end of their relationship. How was it to play Diana at both of those pivotal moments in her life? From the honeymoon phase to the unhappiness?

OXENBERG: Well, actually the first one was the first acting job I ever did so that was a lot of fun, although I did get some flack from various royals. And I definitely wasn’t invited back to Buckingham palace after it. The second one I was nervous about doing because I didn’t want to become a caricature of Princess Diana but looking back I was a better actress then I thought by then. Both have positive and negative attributes.

SHOCK: DYNASTY was such an iconic television show. Do people still associate you closely with your character Amanda Carrington?

OXENBERG: I think if I have any fans who are still alive who watched the show I don’t think they would remember the name of the character. Some do…but I mean we are talking about the mid 80s. I do have one funny story. A few years ago a visitor came over to my house and appeared confused and said “are you Catherine Oxenberg’s daughter?” because they thought I looked too young to play that character! That was so cute!

SHOCK: Coinciding with your role on DYNASTY, you were on THE LOVE BOAT in the same 84-86 time frame.

OXENBERG: That was mandatory in the contract with Aaron Spelling, that if you were contracted to do one of his shows you had to do any other shows that were his. So I didn’t have a choice.

SHOCK: Was it difficult to work on both series at the same time?

OXENBERG: Not really because I did it during the hiatus. The only thing that was hard for me was for THE LOVE BOAT was I had just been in New York City and I had had a couple of accidents. The first one happened in the kitchen. I turned the oven on, and left it on for a few minutes so when I went to light it with a match the oven exploded and I lost all the front of my hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes. The second happened when I was helping a friend move into that same apartment and the bed fell on top of me and I ripped my Achilles heel. So when I was shooting I had no hair, had to wear a wig and I was on crutches (laughing).

SHOCK: How was it working with the iconic Ken Russell on THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM?

OXENBERG: Oh. My. God, I mean, it’s so crazy. If you ever see the behind-the-scenes on the DVD he says the most wonderful things about me but I think he hated me when we were filming because he wanted me naked in a lot of the scenes and I refused so that was a point of contention. It was a hard shoot. He would have a case of champagne delivered to his trailer every morning.

SHOCK: Oh, okay, and how much of that was there at the end of the day?

OXENBERG: Probably none, which is why he had a case delivered the following morning.

SHOCK: What is your standout memory of shooting that film?

OXENBERG: I remember I had said “Obviously, that is the temp title. You are gonna change the title right?” “Of course of course darling” and I said “I really don’t want to be in a film called THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (laughing)” Oh God!!

SHOCK: How was it working on ACAPULCO HEAT?

OXENBERG: Well the upside was I got to live in Puerta Viarda where we shot it. And I was staying in a beautiful house and I really liked a lot of the people that I worked with. The downside of working in Mexico is that they built the studio on a pig farm. Every take was interrupted by GIANT SNORTING PIGS!

SHOCK: How was it working with film legend Roger Corman on SHARKTOPUS VS WHALEWOLF?

OXENBERG: I actually worked with Roger in 1990 on OVEREXPOSED. I remember that I had a body double because there was nudity in it. We were filming in Puerto Rico so he wasn’t around. I didn’t really have contact with him but I did have contact with Julie Corman. Roger is hilarious though. He is still making these same films! He is remarkable.

SHOCK: Your accent in the film is really funny. Was that your idea?

OXENBERG: Yes! Where did I get it from…I have no idea. The character’s name is Dr. Reinhart which is a German name and the way the character is written, it sounded sort of like YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and a cross between Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman. That’s who she became for me.

SHOCK: That’s quite the hybrid!

OXENBERG: Yes of course. I was into making hybrids and I came from a hybrid and I create hybrids in the film.

SHOCK: Why do you think that people are still so fascinated with these hybrid Shark movies?

OXENBERG: I promise you, this is not a genre I understand. Then when I read the script I realized the character is written in a very funny way and I have never ever played a character like that. I haven’t seen the film yet so I hope I don’t come off as complete idiot but I couldn’t stop laughing when I was doing the action so we had a really good time on set.

SHOCK: Do you remember any really funny things that happened on set?

OXENBERG: Every scene was funny cause the whole concept is so ludicrous. First my character does these experiments and creates these monsters and then she falls in love with the monster. The whole thing is so tongue in cheek I think I just laughed the whole time.

SHOCK: Have you ever had any close encounters with sharks?

OXENBERG: I do get in the water but I was ruined by JAWS ‘cause I saw it when I was 13. Before that I used to get in the water everywhere and never thought twice about it. After watching JAWS I was scared of the water. I have Steven Spielberg to thank for giving me another phobia.

SHOCK: You are a very spiritual person and an activist for women’s sexual health and understanding. What drives you to share this passion with your ‘Sexology’ project trying to open eyes towards the lack of connection women have with their bodies?

OXENBERG: The fact that I was one of those women for years and then suddenly I woke up and started having experiences in my body that I didn’t know were humanly possible, and which radically transformed every part of my life in a way that I went from feeling broken and defective to feeling so whole, perfect and complete…just total bliss in my body and I said, “oh my god this is my birthright” and it’s every woman’s birth right. It does mean stepping into an arena where I am exposing myself very deeply but I feel compelled to show and at least give women the option to know what they are physiologically designed for. I use the analogy that I was treating myself like a chimpanzee treats a tambourine and then I woke up and discovered I was a Stradivarius. It’s extraordinary what we are capable of especially as women and I really think that a great part of our power is locked up in being able to experience the depth of our pleasure and when we align with that it radically shifts us.

SHOCK: Do you think that once that connection has been made that it will alleviate many mental, physical and emotional problems that women have never associated with their lack of knowledge of their sexuality?

OXENBERG: You get it completely. Now I am not a doctor and I don’t want to make medical claims on that but from my own experience that there is a huge connection with depression and being sexually shut down, with anxiety and being disconnected, and things like Fibromyalgia which is a lack of serotonin in the body. I don’t understand why this is so under-explored. It’s baffling to me which is why I am so impassioned to get this information out. The learning curve is zero because you are going back to your natural essence literally.

SHOCK: What was it like for you shooting the Sexology documentary?

OXENBERG: I produced the documentary with my partner at that time who wanted to make an erotic film for women so we decided to join forces on Sexology. Originally I was going to produce and direct the film and then she asked if she could direct it and I said fine. I don’t know what the status of the documentary is now. The documentary was about my awakening and the journey for her to have her awakening. Then I took her around the world and we interviewed over 40 sexual experts in every area from Evolutionary Psychologists to a Neuro- Scientist who is doing orgasm research, sexual healers, everyone. Then I edited all of the interviews which are on the website. We were also asked to do an advanced sexual curriculum which I hadn’t really thought I was going have to do at the beginning of this project but our backers said we should do it so then I had a concept of doing a couple sexual makeovers. So I wrote, produced, edited all of that material which should be coming up on the website soon.

SHOCK: What are you working on now?

OXENBERG: Now I am working on two more projects one which is Body of Bliss. Sexology is more about exploring the full potential of human sexuality and then providing all the math. Body of Bliss is more focused on providing female sexual activation and what that means is education for women but it is more tailored to that process.