|Talking With the Dead: 13
Questions with Nicholas
By Michael Jones
Nicholas Vince played The Chattering Cenobite
in Clive Barker's Hellraiser and Hellraiser II:
Hellbound. He also played Kinski in Barker's
Nightbreed, which has found a new audience
through 'The Cabal Cut'; a restoration version
much closer to Barker's original vision for the
After working on the movies, Nicholas contributed stories to the Hellraiser
and Nightbreed comics published by Marvel. He wrote the Marvel UK comic
‘Warheads’. He was Chairman of the Comics Creators Guild from 1992-93.
He contributed short stories and articles to ‘Fear’ and ‘Skeleton Crew’
magazines, and for the latter created the series of interviews ‘The Luggage
in the Crypt’. This featured interviews with Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale
and Clive Barker.
In 2012, after working in the IT industry for sixteen years, he returned to
writing full time with the publication of his short story anthology, 'What
Michael Jones: In 1987, your first role
was as the Chatterer Cenobite from
Clive Barker's Hellraiser. The charac-
ter of Chatterer was first unleashed
upon us in Clive Barker's novella The
Hellbound Heart. He was never called
Chatterer, but was simply referred to as
"the third". His face was peeled back
and scarred, with his teeth exposed
and his only means of communication
was the chattering of his teeth. Can
you tell us what exactly drew you to
play the character in Hellraiser I and II, what was your impression of the
script compared to the novella, and did Clive work with you at all on the
development of the character?
Nicholas Vince: What drew me to the part, pure and simple, was the chance to
be in a movie. When Clive asked me to be in Hellraiser, I hadn't seen the script
and I don't think we initially discussed the character, before I said yes. I do
remember him saying there would be "some makeup involved." A line he also said
to Simon Bamford (Butterball).
In terms of comparing the novella to the script, I
think we're on potentially difficult ground. As I'm
sure you appreciate, books and films are very dif-
ferent media with their own mechanics of storytelling.
Obviously, it's impossible to film the book exactly as
every reader imagined it. Generally, comparing the
book to the film is something I avoid doing and when
I looked at the script, I treated it as a piece of art in
its own right. So, in terms of the Hellraiser and the
Hellbound Heart, I think there were practical consid-
erations for getting the movie financed, which intro-
duced an American Larry, etc. I'm comfortable with
that. Sometimes, to get the movie made, you have
to make these trades.
Obviously, as an actor, I'd have liked lines, but the
make-up made that impossible, and there were
none in the original script. Unlike Simon Bamford,
who lost lines as he couldn't speak with the false teeth for Butterball. There is one
line from the book, which I wish had been in the film. The Skinned Frank says,
looking out the window, something like: 'I'd forgotten it was Autumn.' That makes
him very human to me and something more than a monster.
When Clive and I originally discussed The Chatterer, he described him as the
family dog; the one who'd actually do the violence. He'd be very much a monkey,
leaping about the set. However, there were two problems with that. One, when I
crouched down in the leather trousers they rucked at the knees. You could see
they weren't part of my flesh, but a costume. Clive didn't like that. Two, I couldn't
really see. Out of those restrictions came the very controlled performance. From
an actor's perspective, the part was what is known as 'mask work'; where you wear
something over your face and have to rely on your whole body to convey the
emotion and intention of the character. I remember a lesson at drama school,
where we brought cardboard boxes into class, placed them over our heads and
had to create characters. We weren't allowed to draw anything on the box, it was
just a plain brown box. So, compared to that, Chatterer was in some respects
easier. Clive told us to 'do less', as that allowed the make up (imagined by Clive
and sculpted by Nigel Booth) to really have it's impact. And it worked.
MJ: Between Hellraiser I and II, there
were small modifications made to the
look of the Chatterer. For both films:
how long did it take to apply your make-
up at the beginning of the day and re-
move at the end, were the make-up
changes to the character done to help
you as the actor (for example, it seems
Chatter's eyes are more apparent in the
second film), and did the make-up
restrict you in any way?
NV: In the script for the second movie there were scenes, below the hospital,
where you see Chatterer chase Kirsty down corridors. Obviously, that wasn't
going to happen if I couldn't see. Hence the re-sculpt, which was done by Cliff
Wallace. The scenes were cut and so you only see him at the end, emerging from
the chains, with eyes. Personally, I wonder if Chatterer would have lost some of
his power if he'd been shown chasing down corridors. In the first movie, he hardly
moves. He doesn't hit anyone. In the scene where he pushes Larry back into the
'torture chamber', at the end of the movie, I hardly touch him. I don't throw him
against the wall, there's more of 'Come on, you think you can leave?' vibe going
on. It's worth noting that it's the actors around me, that really sold the terror of
Chatterer. It's the reactions of Ashley Lawrence and Andrew Robinson, which
really make Chatterer work.
I watched Hellbound recently, and I like the moment where he steps from the
chains and it's revealed he has eyes. I thought, 'OMG, he's got eyes. What's he
going to be capable of now?' Recently, one of my friends on facebook unearthed
a German trailer for Hellbound, which features the some of the missing footage,
showing Chatterer with eyes. So, it is possible to get a glimpse of what might have
In terms of getting the makeup on and off, it was very straight forward for me. The
mask was re-usable and not stuck to my face, unlike Pinhead's. I had a bald cap,
which was painted red at the back, to give the appearance the hooks had pulled
the skin apart. Then they put in the teeth, which fitted on dentures over my teeth
and sat outside my lips. Then the mask was put over my head, like a balaclava
and then pieces of condom were super-glued to the plastic teeth and the mask, to
give the impression of gums.
MJ: Through the years, there has always been speculation about the
origin of the Cenobites. All were human at some point, opening the box
and damning their souls for eternity, losing the memory of their human
lives. In Clive's story, when he spoke, “its words corrupted by the
disfigurement of its mouth", but in the films he is mute. When he is killed
by Dr. Channard in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, he returns to a non-disfigured
form: a teenage boy. Between the books, movies, comics and
conversations with Clive, what can you tell us about the history of the
Chatterer, where does he fall in terms of rank with the other Cenobites,
and what are your thoughts on the other variations of the Chatterer from
the later films?
NV: Apart from the conversation I had with Clive about Chatterer in the first movie,
I don't recall discussing with him how a boy became the Chatterer. Of course,
Clive wasn't on set as much, as he wasn't writing or directing on Hellbound.
When Hellbound was released, I was asked to write a short story for Fear
magazine, about his origin. At the time I was pissed off that you didn't get to see
my real face in a movie. The result was 'Look, See', which you can Google, if you
want to read it. Recently, I looked again at how a boy might end up in Hell, and
wrote a new story, but that has to wait while we sort out who owns the rights to the
movie character now. In terms of rank etc. I think it was NECA who introduced the
idea of ranks, when they wrote stories for the backs of the action figure models.
My view of Chatterer going on to re-appear in the later movies is, 'Wow. That's
awesome.' It's a testament to the strength of Clive's original idea and the design
of the make up, that it's survived so well. I particularly like the half torso Chatterer,
who I think is really creepy.
MJ: After the second film, we never saw your version of the Chatterer
again. But seeing how the remake craze has bitten Hollywood, the
rumors have been running rampant of a Hellraiser remake. Having heard
everything from Clive is directing and producing to it will be a reboot and
a straight remake, there is hope and promise that the series will be put
back on track. What (if anything) have you heard about a remake or
reboot, what would you like to see if there is one and would you consider
“getting the band back together” if it was offered?
NV: I'm afraid I can't help you with news of Hellraiser remakes etc., but if asked if
I'd do a movie with any of the folks at Seraphim Films, the answer is 'Hell, yes!'
MJ: 1990, you teamed up with Clive yet again
for his film Nightbreed, playing the character
of Kinski, whose face was moon shaped. When
we first see the character, he is with Peloquin
in Midian when Boone shows up. “If we eat
him we break the law”, he states, showing that
he fears the laws of Midian. What was your
take on the character of Kinski, did you and
Clive discuss the progression of the character
and what was it about the character that drew
you to the project?
NV: What drew me to Kinski, having accepted before
I saw the script, was the chance to be in another
Clive Barker movie. I know. I'm a tart at heart.
What I liked about the character, is that he's pro-
bably closer to me as a person. Then, I was always
more likely to be the side kick, rather than the tough
guy. Kinski's friendship with Peloquin is complex. I see echoes of Jimminy Cricket
and Pinnochio, as Kinski's the conscience, the voice of reason; whereas
Peloquin's the real Beast - but monstrously sexy with it. (I've met a number of
guys who've gone to Halloween parties made up as Peloquin.)
I don't remember discussing any background for Kinski with Clive, as it's all there
in the dialogue. One minute, Kinski's threatening to slit Boone's throat. The next
he's reminding Peloquin about the law. Being friends with Peloquin must be a real
roller coaster ride for Kinski. He's not a complete wimp though. He's obviously
respected amongst the Breed, as he's the sponsor of Boone when he's accepted
into the Tribes of the Moon. He's also one of the 'elders' who take Baphomet to
pieces, to transport him out of Midian, as it's being destroyed by the 'good' folks of
Shere Neck. During shooting, Clive wrote background stories for Kinski and
Peloquin, but I didn't get to see those until after filming had finished. They were
later published as The Nightbreed Chronicles. That book became my main source
of reference when I was asked to write the Nightbreed comic, as it contains back
stories for the main members of the Breed.
MJ: The make-up and the tone of Kinski is
very different than that of the Chatterer.
Being infamous monsters from the mind
of Clive and both having been played by
you, in what ways would you say the two
characters are similar and different, how
would you compare the make-up process
between the two and what may have been
unique to Kinski that we did not get to
see in terms of his personality in the
studio cut of the film?
NV: Chatterer and Kinski are poles apart.
Chatterer and the other Cenobites are definitely 'tortured souls'. How much they
actually enjoy that torture, is one of the unanswered questions in the first movie.
Is their flesh twisted as a punishment or joy? The Engineer from the first movie, is
the creature that remodels flesh, but do the Cenobites actively seek him out for
further enhancements to their bodies, or do they run terrified down the corridors
Hell, pursued by him. None of those questions are asked or answered within the
movie, which is part of the power of the Cenobites. There's room for the audience
Chatterer's blind, but he's still the one who steps forward and actually touches
Frank and Kirsty. There is no remorse in his actions. He's simply there to do what
is necessary; to ensure that Kirsty doesn't escape and gives Pinhead her full
attention. Kinski is very obviously human, although his skull has been
transformed. Well, I assumed it was his skull and those weren't just growths on his
forehead and chin. He joined Midian, not because he was supernatural by birth,
but because our society wouldn't accept him. At the time of filming, I also
assumed he'd been born with his face as a crescent moon.
There's a scene in Nightbreed, which we filmed, but wasn't used in the original and
hasn't made The Cabal Cut, as the footage is still missing, where Kinski is with
Peloquin during the attack on Midian; which says a lot about those two
characters. Kinski says the attack is their fault. Peloquin, says he just wanted
meat. Kinski points out there were prophecies about Boone being a savior and
Peloquin, says that if Kinski wants Peloquin's blood, he can have it. The next
scene shows Peloquin facing the oncoming truck, which you can see in both
versions of the movie. As you see Kinski at the barn at the end of the movie and
Lylseberg's dead, I wondered at the time if Kinski might take over the leadership
role amongst the Breed in follow up movies.
In terms of the makeup, Chatterer was quick and easy to put on, as mentioned
before. The teeth were plastic moldings attached to a denture held onto my teeth
using 'Dentugrip'. That's a sticky pink paste, used by those with more normal
dentures. It has the side effect of stimulating the production of a lot of saliva. The
mask just slipped over the top, and wasn't glued to my face. That said, they did
use Super Glue to attach condoms between the mask and plastic teeth. I still
wince when I smell Super Glue, and remember that in the mask, I couldn't hear,
speak or really see. It took five hours to apply the Kinski make up, as it was a
number of pieces which had to be glued to my face. A car would pick me up at
3am, to be in the makeup chair at 4am and on set at 9.00am. Before filming
began, I also had to dye my chest hair black so it would match the wig they used
on Kinski's mask.
MJ: There have been rumors for years that there was a “Cabal” cut of
Nightbreed,. “In 2009, Mark Miller, co-head of Barker's production
company, Seraphim Films, helped track down the missing footage that
was cut out of the director's cut of Nightbreed. A VHS copy of Barker's
145 minute version of the film's mid-1989 work-print was recently
discovered. It does not feature any of the re-shoots of Decker's
murders. An extended 159-minute cut version, from another VHS found in
July 2009, was premiered on March 27, 2010 as part of the HorrorHound
Weekend in Indianapolis. This new version adds almost a whole hour that
was cut from the theatrical release, including a musical score and more
animation. Finally, in early 2012, Russell Cherrington created a composite
cut of the film using the footage found on both VHS tapes as well as the
Warner Bros DVD. This version is the most complete version of Barker's
film available and has been dubbed The Cabal Cut. The cut runs 155
minutes long and was shown at this year's "Mad Monster Party" in North
Carolina.” What were your initial thought on the theatrical cut of the film,
are you surprised the film got the huge cult following that it did, and
which (if any) of the above cuts have you seen?
NV: I was disappointed in the theatrical release as it wasn't Clive's original vision.
I'd spoken to him at least once during the process of editing and I remember him
saying that one of the studio executives said he should be careful, as otherwise
audiences would sympathize with the monsters. D'oh!
In the middle of 2012, I was treated to a screening of The Cabal Cut at the home
of the Restoration Director, Russell Cherrington and I've attended a few of the
screenings in the UK. I'm delighted with the new version. It's practically the movie
Clive had wanted to make in the first place. Even more exciting, are people's
reactions to it. In spite of the poor video quality in some sections, people really
like the telling of the story. As I understand it, there will be a few more screenings
of the movie in the USA up till 20th October this year and the DVD/Blu-ray will
available after that.
MJ: "Occupy Midian" is a movement and website to see the full version
of this film restored and re-released in a full and unedited version, much
closer the story Cabal that Clive wrote years ago. How sad is it in your
mind that we as fans of Clive's film basically have to beg and plead to get
his original artistic version to us, do you think the website and fan
support will have a positive impact on Morgan Creek giving Russell
Cherrington and Clive the negatives they need and will the other two
films ever get made to finish the proposed trilogy?
NV: Hmm. I think your question is slightly misrepresentative of what's been
happening. It's not like Morgan Creek are hiding the negatives from Russell. It's
just that noone knows where they are. As I understand it, they're most likely to be
with the distributors, 20th Century Fox. The bottom line, is that films cost a lot of
money and Nightbreed was expensive. Monsters are expensive, and "he who
pays the piper, calls the tune". And that story, of the conflict between the artist
and the benefactor/sponsor/man with the money; is as old as Da Vinci and the
Medici and beyond. The producers, over twenty years ago, don't appear to have
understood either the book Cabal or Clive's script. As Russell tells it, they thought
they were getting another Hellraiser and Nightbreed wasn't that.
Last year, once Morgan Creek got over their original disbelief in people wanting to
see Nightbreed; I understand they've have been supportive of what Russell's
aiming to release as The Cabal Cut. There is a season for everything. When
Nightbreed was filmed, there wasn't an internet. It wasn't possible to create a
website such as Occupy Midian. I remember receiving a large padded envelope in
the early 1990's containing photocopied letters, in support of something or other.
At the time to expand the petition, you had to photocopy all the letters, 15 times
and then send out 15 more big padded envelopes to friends who you hoped could
also afford to repeat the process.
In terms of the remaining films in the trilogy, I'm not sure if Clive actually wrote the
subsequent novellas. There is talk of a TV series, so maybe we'll get to see more
of the Breed based on Clive's ideas.
MJ: After you were done with the Hellraiser series and Nightbreed, in film
you went on to write several comics for Marvel's Epic line, which was a
more adult oriented branch of the comic company. You were responsible
for writing issues for Hellraiser Vol 1 #4, #7,#10, #12 and #14, as well as
the Nightbreed Vol1 #21, #22, #24 and #25. How much did you enjoy
moving to the comic field and expanding the universes that you were
instrumental in the development of and were you given creative reign or
did you you have to answer to a suit or Clive?
NV: I really enjoyed working on both titles. In terms of creative freedoms, all the
writers were given a brief which outlined what they could and couldn't do, mostly
so they could stay true to the spirit of the original movies. For the Hellraiser
comic, there was a series of stories called The Devil's Brigade. For this, we were
given an outline of the story written by Dan Chichester (an editor at Marvel, who I
don't recall wearing a suit) with certain incidents which we had to include in our
When it came to writing the Nightbreed comic, Clive suggested I concentrate on
the characters from the movie, rather than the new ones created by Dan. For the
last two issues in the series, #24 and #25, I was originally commissioned to write 6
issues. Unfortunately, the series was canceled and I had to compress the story
into the last issue, hence the newspaper article in issue #25 which summarizes the
'missing' issues. I did discuss with Clive the idea of killing Boone off in the last
issue, but he said he wanted to keep him alive as he had other stories for him at
some point. So we agreed I could kill him off, as long as I brought him back.
MJ: Those two were not the only comic series you worked on. You were
also a writer on Mortigan Goth Immortalis Vol 1 #1-#4 and Warheads Vol 1
#1, #2, #4, #5-#11. What can you tell us about these two series and was
there ever any consideration of a film based off of them?
NV: Mortigan was always a limited series, and there were only 4 issues planned.
He was a new character in the Marvel Universe, so that allowed me to write Dr
Strange into the first issue, which was a blast; as I'd read Dr Strange comics as a
kid. Mortigan is immortal as he sold his soul to Mephisto. I really liked my work on
the first three issues, but not so much the fourth, as I seem to have run out of
ideas for the story.
Warheads was part of a group of titles published by Marvel UK. These shared
some of their characters. It was issued in 5 page parts in a weekly series, and
collected into a monthly issue. Again, I was given a set of characters and back
story around which to work new stories.
Nope. No plans for movies at any time, as far as I'm aware.
MJ: For those that may not know, you are also
an accomplished writer. You wrote the short
story “Demon's Design” for Hellbound Hearts,
the seven story anthology What Monsters Do
and you were one of 26 authors in The Demon-
ologia Biblica. What can you tell us about how
you come up with the ideas in your stories, have
any of the been optioned for film and would you
consider directing one of them?
NV: For Hellbound Hearts, again I was working with
certain restrictions in place. Most specifically, we
couldn't use the characters from the movies, only the
ideas Clive had come up with in the novella The Hell-
bound Heart. For my story, I used an idea which I'd
had for a comic story all those decades ago.
Demonologia Biblica is an A-Z of demons and I was asked to write 'Z'. That meant
I had to research demon's names. Fortunately, I have a copy of a book called the
'A-Z of Demons', so research meant walking to the bookshelf. I had one of those
moments, where I got angry about religion and wrote from about 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Some of those ideas made the final edit.
What Monsters Do, has the tag line: 'It is not our flesh, but our acts; which make
us monsters.' I drew a mind map on the whiteboard in my study showing
everything I could think of to do with monsters. Then I sat down and wrote the
No plans to make any movies based on these stories at the moment. Would I
direct? Probably not. It's a long, intensive and bloody exhausting process as far
as I understand and I think you'd have to really love directing movies. On the
other hand, if someone asked me, I'd be unlikely to say 'no'.
MJ: Luggage in the Crypt was a series of interviews you did several years
ago that appeared in Skeleton Crew from Oct. 1990 till April 1991.
Interviews included Clive Barker, Charles L. Grant, Dave McKean, Joe R.
Lansdale, Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, Steve Gallagher and Ramsey
Campbell. What can you tell us about this series of interviews, and have
you ever thought of reviving this series?
NV: The interviews were based on the idea of the Egyptian burial practices and
the idea; you can take it with you. I asked people what music, books and films etc.
they'd take with them into the afterlife. Really, it was my unsubtle way of finding
out what influenced them and where they got their ideas from. No plans to revive
the series, though it would be quite interesting to find out what the interviewees
thought of their original answers and how much had changed. Neil Gaiman asked
to see his interview last year.
MJ: Thank you so much for this interview and
all of the art you have shared with us in its
various genres. What else would you like to
tell us about your work, what can we expect
from you in the future and what would you
like to say to your fans?
Next up is the very, very overdue second volume
of short stories 'Other People's Darkness' and
Other Stories. I'm expecting to return to that some-
time in the middle of May. They say the second
album is harder than the first and that's certainly
true in my case.
I've been asked about acting in a couple of films,
but that's always wait and see situation—and
crossing all available fingers and toes.
And lastly, I'd really like to say THANK YOU! to my fans. Honestly, I'm very
fortunate; as I get to attend screenings of The Cabal Cut and horror conventions
in the USA, where I meet a lot of fun people. We always have very interesting
conversations and I'm delighted when people turn up at the table asking for copies
of the comics or book to be signed.
Thank you Michael. This has been fun.