Shock Interview: Barbara Crampton talks Chopping Mall Blu-ray
One of the great horror icons of the ’80s, Barbara Crampton is more than just another (very) pretty face. From her debut in Brian De Palma’s Body Double through her co-starring role in the revered Stuart Gordon/Jeffrey Combs Lovecraft trilogy (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak), she made an indelible mark on genre cinema as a scream queen with true, classically-trained acting chops.
2011’s You’re Next re-introduced the versatile Crampton to a new generation, and the Barbarassance has continued with hit films like Ted Geoghegan‘s We Are Still Here, Rob Zombie‘s The Lords of Salem and the upcoming festival fav Little Sister. Although we talked to her for the latter film (which opens in October), we wanted to run a separate chat with the fan fav specifically about her role in Jim Wynorski’s 1986 cult classic Chopping Mall, which just got released in a limited edition Vestron Video Blu-ray chock full of features and an amazing HD transfer.
Crampton shared some delightful stories of working with Wynorski (another genre fan fav and subject of the 2009 documentary Popatopolis), the cast and the rampaging shopping mall killbots. Check it out below!
ComingSoon.net: I recently saw another movie — which shall remain nameless — from around the same time as “Chopping Mall” that was also sort of a sci-fi slashery thing. It even had Karrie Emerson in it. And it was just a miserable experience, watching that other movie. It made me appreciate “Chopping Mall” more, because here’s this low-budget flick that’s really vibrant and lively and clearly a lot of love went into it. Can you speak to that difference between mercenary, “anything for a buck” moviemaking, and how you guys made “Chopping Mall,” which is more fun?
Crampton: That’s the mystery of filmmaking. I’m sure that over the 100 movies that Jim has made, he’s put as much heart and soul into all of them. But a movie is a collaboration of everybody. And sometimes I read scripts and I think, “This is the best thing I’ve ever read.” And recently, over the body of a lot of new work that I’ve done, “I think this is going to be a hit. I have to play this role. This is an amazing movie.” And then, it transfers to the screen and I go, “Oh okay. All right.” And then, I have a script, where I think, “It’s okay. You know, it could be better, but I think it’ll do.” And then, it comes out and people go nuts for it. So there’s some sort of inherent personality that’s in a movie, that is a compilation of not just the director and the original story, but of everybody who worked on it. It’s the actors and the production team and the sound design and the music and the editor and everybody. So you don’t really know what you’re going to get until the very end. Specifically, with “Chopping Mall,” it didn’t aspire to be anything other than what it was. It was a teen sex comedy, charming slasher movie, but there’s something inherently sweet about the group that we got together in the movie, the people that we had. We were all quite friendly with one another and really liked one another. And being in a mall late at night, that’s every kid’s dream, right?
Crampton: It had a sly, wry sense of humor. It worked and it elevated it from just another schlocky contribution to that type of movie in that era, but you can’t put your finger on one thing. There isn’t one thing. It’s everything. A movie is the sum of all of its parts. So there’s a little bit of luck involved. There’s a little bit of magic. I do think that most movies have some sort of charm and personality that comes through, depending on who the director is. Most people who know Jim know that he is quite a charming guy. He’s kind of crazy, and he’s very eccentric, but—
CS: As seen in the documentary about him.
Crampton: Yeah, and he can also be a little mean sometimes.
CS: Also seen in the documentary.
Crampton: Right. But you know, if you can laugh at Jim, then you’ll have a great relationship with him, because he wants to laugh at himself and he wants to laugh with you. So I’m just saying that it’s everything, and it’s Jim, and I think this is probably his personality comes through in this movie probably more than some of his other ones. And I’d say every movie has certain aspects of happy accidents in them, but that make up who they are. So with all of that, we have “Chopping Mall.”
CS: Well, I grew up with Jim Wynorski’s movies on “Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater,” and there was always a sense of fun about them. Like yes, there’s lots of action and violence and nudity, but there’s usually enough sort of tongue-in-cheek-ness to make you feel less dirty for watching it, you know what I mean?
Crampton: Yeah, and that’s Jim. That’s Jim in a nutshell. That’s it. That’s who he is. He likes all that stuff, but there’s a certain, “I’ll step back from this and look at this and I’ll laugh at myself and let’s all laugh together, that we’re enjoying all of this.”
CS: Exactly. Yeah. There’s a meta-quality to it.
CS: And you worked with Jim again years later on “Thy Neighbor’s Wife”?
CS: Which I’ve only seen little bits and pieces of. How were the two experiences different?
Crampton: Well, that movie wasn’t a comedy, you know? It was more of a thriller. And I was called in to replace somebody at the last minute, and I don’t know what happened. But they called me with three days’ notice and said, “You know, we need you for this part. Can you play it?” And I did. And I mean, it was wonderful to work with him again and be on the set, but it was a completely different type of movie. Around the time that I did that movie I met my husband, we were just dating at the time. And you know, my husband’s not in the business at all, but he likes the business and he thinks that it’s fun and he likes going to parties and meeting people and he loves the movies. I introduced him to Jim and he just fell in love with Jim. There’s something about Jim that my husband just went nuts for. He just was like, “I love this guy. He is so over the top and so funny and so self-referential and just really out there.” He’d never met anybody like Jim Wynorski. And so, he always says like, Jim and I are good friends on Facebook now, but I’ve seen him over the years a few times and my husband always says, “What’s Jim up to? What’s Jim doing?” Even after all this time. He’s a larger than life personality and he definitely has an affect on you. And you know, he comes into a room and it’s all about Jim. So he has a huge personality and some of that transfers to the screen, who he is as a person. I mean, I really feel that way, as I’ve gotten older. I’m really seeing that all these different movies that I’ve been in with all these different directors, some of their personality comes through. If they have a cool personality that you want to be around or you want to see, in my experience, a little bit of that is going to bleed through. It’s become very interesting to me.
CS: Well, yeah, because on paper, just breaking it down mathematically, it would seem like Stuart Gordon and Jim Wynorski are interested in the exact same things, but their movies are totally different.
Crampton: Yeah, the tone and everything. I mean, it’s all about tone, right? For me, I want to be in your movies, so I always talk to the directors about, what’s this movie like? What do you want it to feel like? What other movies can we reference? They’re all totally different. So just like any actor is going to approach a role very differently and play it very differently, and once that role is embedded in your mind, you can’t see any other actor playing it, it’s the same with directors. They’re going to approach the material completely different, depending on who they are, how they see it. It’s subjective.
Crampton: So that was a perfect movie. “Chopping Mall” is a perfect movie for Jim to do, you know? In all the nice, right ways, it brought up all the great qualities that Jim Wynorski has.
CS: Absolutely. I love the documentaries on the Blu-ray as well. Were there any sort of crazy stories from the making of it that were maybe a little too wild for the documentary? Any sort of on-set hijinks, pranks, nutty stories?
Crampton: I don’t remember any specifically, you know, sometimes you have these little off-set romances here and there. We never had any of that. Karrie Emerson was married at the time, for god’s sakes. We were in our early 20’s, but everybody was very friendly and we were just having a great time. And it was sweet. I don’t remember anything crazy. I do remember when I was on the couch with Nick Segal, we were kissing or something, and then the robot came in and blasted the glass. I did my own little mini stunt, where I jumped away and something got me and I got a very nasty gash in my arm from some piece of shrapnel that got me in the arm. Other than that it was just super fun and silly and I remember bringing my pillow and blanket with me, because when they said, “Oh, everything takes place at night in the mall,” I didn’t realize that meant that we were shooting in the mall at night. That was a night shoot. I never experienced night shoots before. That was my first foray into that, and I was sort of shocked that, “Oh yeah, the mall closes down and then we work all night.” So that’s the first time I’ve been up all night. That was super crazy for me, but that’s the extent of it. I mean, I just had a great time working with everybody. It was silly, and also I met one of my dear friends, Kelli Maroney. We’re still dear, dear friends to this day. I met her on that movie.
CS: That’s awesome. And I know you said in the documentary you were very proud of getting injured during the stunt, you felt like it was a badge of honor?
Crampton: Yes, oh yes, yes, yes, I was proud, yes. And I was like, “Oh, I’m in now. I’m a real movie actor.” Yeah, I got hurt during a stunt, yeah. (Laughs)
CS: Now this question is kind of a weird question, but because this is a Roger Corman movie, this is literally a financial question. Are you humming “Stranger in Paradise” during your love scene?
Crampton: Oh. (Laughs) That’s funny. I don’t know – do you sing during your love scenes with your regular people in your regular life? In the scene from the movie of your life? No. Yeah, humming whatever songs my lover and I are humming together. Yes. you need no words for that music, darling.
CS: The tune sounded like “Stranger in Paradise.”
CS: And I was just wondering, I was like, “Can Roger Corman afford that song?”
Crampton: (Laughs) Was that more than 25 years old at that time? How old was that song? Some of them are public domain.
CS: That’s true, yeah. No, that song definitely would’ve been 30 years old by then.
Crampton: Yeah, it was probably just public domain, so it doesn’t matter. You can use it.