Inventing Elliot

Regardless of the Hellraiser script you’re working with, do you build your own background for the characters you play and do you use that in your performance? For instance, Elliott Spenser was “an explorer of forbidden pleasures” after WWI. Do you have any thoughts on what Captain Elliott Spenser got himself into prior to opening the box?

Doug Bradley:
Firstly, in relation to Pinhead, Iíve never made the assumption ĎI know what Iím doing, I donít need to think about this any more.í I hope I do know what Iím doing with the character by now, but Iíll go to the opposite extreme as a way of fighting against any sense of complacency. Itís important to keep it fresh in my head. Also, because Iíve worked with so many different directors down the series, Iíve always wanted to make sure that thereís no sense in which they might think ĎI canít give Doug direction or make any suggestions about the character.í

I am a believer in research, but Iím also a believer in the maxim laid down in one of my favourite books on acting, Uta Hagenís Respect For Acting that you do whatever you have to do to get you to the character but (and hereís the important bit) you donít share it with anyone. I get irritated with hearing so many actors talking at length in interviews about the privations they put themselves through. Thereís almost an assumption that if you live in a tree-house for 3 months or walk backwards for a week or whatever, your performance must be good. Well, no, you can do all that and still give a lousy performance - and look stupid in the process.

By the same token, I also very much believe that you can have the script thrust into your hand that morning and be brilliant. Now, to break Utaís rule a little, I will say a bit about Elliott. A lot centred around discussions with Clive around Hellraiser and Hellbound and with Pete Atkins when it came to Hell On Earth. The moment it all came alive for me was watching a BBC documentary about survivors of the Battle of The Somme (the failed attempt by the British Army to break through the German lines in 1916 which resulted in the heaviest losses ever sustained Ė 60,000 dead or wounded in the first 24 hrs. The battle ground on for months with scarcely any ground gained by the end of it). One survivor said that he felt he had no right to have lived and that he felt he belonged dead in the mud of the Somme with his comrades.

And that was it. That, for me, was the link from Spencer to the Ďundeadí state of Pinhead. Both Pete and I would have liked to explore his Ďdeath-wishí downward spiral in greater detail. There would have been restraints on it, given that Elliott chose to continue as a serving officer in the army, but alongside the obvious Ė sex, drink, drugs (opium, I think) - there would have been interest in the wilder shores of poetry, art, religion and music expoding out of the fractured post-war world, eventually leading to whispers about a strange little puzzle-boxÖ

Stop playing with your box, girl!

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