Fantasia International Film Festival Exclusive Interview with Replace Actor and Horror Queen, Barbara Crampton
Interview by Rob DiLauro
Barbara Crampton is highly known for her work in the eighties and the sex appeal that she exuded in every role. She was known as one of the first Scream Queens of the era, but not only has she debunked that moniker in her return to film simply proving she is an actor, Barbara has proven she is one of the finest performers in our genre. She has transcended her expectations and characterizations each time, and has given fans nothing but a memorable experience that is always varied, multilayered, and unique.
The same situation occurs with her role in Replace, the feature film debut of German visionary Norbert Keil with a screenplay co-written by legendary Island of Doctor Moreau director, Richard Stanley.
Replace is a surreal trip with many elements rooted in drama, romance, science fiction, and even horror. There are deep mysteries and great performances in a film that is reminiscent of a small ensemble not too much unlike William Friedkin’s Bug. It is dark, brutal, thought provoking, and absolutely beautiful in its scope and direction.
I spoke to the iconic Barbara Crampton about her latest character, Dr. Rafaela Cober, and how it was working on yet another film unlike anything audiences have seen her in before.
SQ: Hey Barbara, thank you again for chatting with me. We have been talking since We Are Still Here so it’s always great to get to do this. So, when it comes to Replace, and I ask this question of you every time we speak it seems, but how did the part come about? Was it a part written for you or did you have to sweat it out in audition for this one?
Barbara: It was originally written for a man. That was sort of arbitrary, it didn’t have to be for a man or a woman. But when they thought about casting they suddenly felt that it would be interesting to have a story from three womens’ points of view. It is about beauty and it is about holding onto it. It is also rooted in the science of aging, and there is a lot of science in the movie. But at its heart it is about the decaying body and how you view yourself. So they caught that ideal before they started to film and decided that Doctor Crober should be a woman. At the time Colin Geddis who was the former mastermind at T.I.F.F. and his wife were producers on the projects and they had suggested me. So I didn’t necessarily have to audition but I did have to meet the director. We met for coffee and talked for awhile, and he told me during that meeting that he would love me for the part. I told him that I loved the script, and that it was dynamic and had many layers, that I would love to do it. It was about a year later when we began filming, which is how it is with most smaller independent small budget films.
SQ: But the film looks very big.
Barbara: Oh god, yeah! It does look big! I don’t even know what the budget is. But what I think it is it was an extraordinary job. The cinematography is like another character in the movie and the music is just wow, so compelling. They really did a wonderful job.
SQ: So basically you Doctor Who’ed the role (Laughs) No, I’m kidding. But it does make sense to me that she would be a woman because there is a sympathy there that you discover doesn’t exist later in the film, but it is present in your introduction. The Doctor seems like someone who cares for the lead, she doesn’t seem like she would be a villain by any stretch.
Barbara: No, I don’t think you could see her as a villain. In the best sense, she is trying to do something greater. In the beginning of the movie it is told from Rebecca’s point of view, but when I researched the science of it I went to the Buck Institute of Aging. It really isn’t far from me, but they study things like Lupus and Skin Cancer, they do things with stem cell therapy. The science is definitely there in the movie, and the science is something that Doctor Crober is aware of, even though Kira is only focused on the beauty aspect.
She’s not exactly a villain but I am using test subjects in the pursuit of science.
SQ: What really grabbed you when it comes to this project?
Barbara: Well, it’s a different story from a woman’s perspective, and the fact that three women were in the movie was compelling. I also like the story when it comes to aging and how that affects someone, and as an aging actress you do deal with that in your own life from time to time. It’s something that is put on women, and as I get older I do feel my own pressure from others, so it was an important story to tell and it’s very unique. It was all very attractive to me.
SQ: What was is it about the direction of Norbert that was different, and did he allow you to make your own character choices?
Barbara: I really liked the dynamic storytelling that this script has a twist that was in the end of the movie, but they had decided to move it to the middle. I’m not sure why, but they wanted to reveal the reveal a little sooner (Laughs). But I feel that the past and the present meld into one another because it’s in her mind. It is in the mind of the character so well and I never saw it that way. When you watch the movie you really don’t know what’s going on, but the more information that she gets the viewer also gets. I appreciated it from that level. And he definitely did allow me to bring different things to the character. Every director is different and very covetous of their material and I have my own ideas when it comes to my character that I’m very covetous about. (Laughs again) I have been very lucky to work with people who are nothing but collaborative. There were times where Norbert would be more forceful in his direction and I did what I did, and it becomes a perfect marriage and it worked.
SQ: When you were building this character in particular did you take any cues from things you love or watched for research?
Barbara: Actually, it was the men and women I had spoke to at the Buckhead Institute, because they are brilliant but a little weird and quirky. I think that people who work in science have to be a little bit. There was one scientist who was a movie buff and had posters and things in his room.
SQ: Did he know who you were?
Barbara: He did! He was a big fan of Re-Animator! When I called the Institute to talk to scientists he absolutely agreed because he wanted to meet me. (Laughs hard) It was very sweet. He was excited to talk to me and I was so happy to get to talk to him, it was fun. But those minds have to be kooky, they are always coming up with things that don’t exist yet, so I did take that for Rafaela’s character.
SQ: We were talking about the artistry of this film, and it doesn’t really have a true category attached to it, alothough it most certainly has elements of a horror film. I would actually call it an homage to Cronenberg body horror.
Barbara: Oh god! Absolutely, he was certainly an influence to Norbert. The influence is definitely there.
SQ: It also has a bit of a slasher element as well. Especially with Kira’s actions.
Barbara: It does have a little bit of that.
SQ: But it definitely checks off many boxes in terms of style. Well, it is always great when we get to speak and the movie was very entertaining. You did an incredible job as usual.
Barbara: Thank you, Rob. I’m really glad you enjoyed it and we will definitely do it again.