'Hellraiser's Director, Clive Barker, Learned How To Direct A Week Before Filming

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'Hellraiser's Director, Clive Barker, Learned How To Direct A Week Before Filming

Film Futures

We're a few weeks away from the release of a new Hellraiser movie that promises to be more faithful to creator Clive Barker's original vision than, say, the one where Pinhead goes to space or that Jay and Silent Bob vs. Hellraiser movie Harvey Weinstein desperately wanted to make. And while we haven't seen the movie yet, we already know of one way in which it isn't faithful to the original: they got a director with actual filmmaking experience instead of hiring a guy who tried to cram four years of film school into a single visit to the library. 

Yep, Clive Barker had absolutely no clue what he was doing when he stepped on that set. At the time, he was a book author and playwright who dabbled in prostitution on the side to pay the bills. His novella The Hellbound Heart was not a huge hit right away. Still, he managed to convince New World Pictures to give him $900,000 to adapt it into a movie titled ... Sadomasochists from Hell. A producer later suggested Hellraiser, and they ended up going with the inferior title, for some reason.

Barker insisted on directing the movie himself because he'd already had two stories adapted into low-budget British horror films he called "cinematic abominations." A week before shooting was set to start, he said to himself, "You know, I really should find out about this," and went to his local library to look for books on directing, which was the 1986 equivalent of opening Bing.com and typing "how to direct a movie yahoo answers." Sometimes he claims they had one book, and sometimes he claims they had two, but the point is that they were all out, prompting Barker to say, "Oh, I'm so #$%@ed" (skip to 00:51 on the clip below). 

Barker says he called his producer and asked, "Where can I get a book on directing?" which is probably the last question a producer wants to hear. If Barker did find a book in time it probably wasn't a very good one since by the time shooting started, he still couldn't tell the difference between the various types of lenses. Or, as he put it, "If you'd shown me a plate of spaghetti and said that was a lens, I might have believed you." Luckily, he says the crew was "very gentle" with him, and they sorta taught him the job as he went along. He also credits the cast with being very patient with his "ineptitudes" -- he already had experience dealing with actors thanks to his theater years, but dealing with actors covered in latex costumes, hundreds of pins, and all-black contact lenses was new for him (and for the actor, who kept missing his marks because he couldn't see $#&%). 

It's a miracle that the end result turned out to be a watchable movie, let alone a classic of the genre. As for the claim that Barker had to lie to the studio and tell them he "absolutely knew how to make a movie," we'd be surprised if that was even necessary since the studio in question was owned by Roger Corman, the same guy who let editor Martin Scorsese, art director James Cameron, and PR guy Jonathan Demme direct movies and gave them their big breaks. He truly did not give a crap. 

Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment on every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com. 

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