Talking Pleasure And Pain With Pete Atkins

By Ade Cattell
As published in Headcheese And Chainsaws, Issue 6, 1990

With grateful thanks to Ade Cattell for permission to publish this, the first ever interview published in Rob Bewick's the 'Cheese', in full.

Headcheese And Chainsaws, Issue 6, 1990

Ade Cattell : "At the moment you are busy writing the script for Hellraiser III. Why the long gap between Hellbound and this one?"

Pete Atkins : "Just business. New World, the company that made the first two Hellraiser films, was sold to new owners. And then re-sold. And then re-sold. And while all this was going on, all production was put on hold. I'd actually been commisioned to write Hell On Earth while the second film was still being edited, so it's now over two years since I wrote the first draft. In fact it's now over a year since I wrote the third draft!"

Ade Cattell : "So what are you doing now? A fourth draft?"

Pete Atkins : "No, a brand new script! What happened was that the people who are now subcontracted to make this movie by the latest incarnation of New World bought the rights to make a sequel but did not buy the existing script - figuring, quite rightly, that it was going to cost them a lot less money to get me to write a new one rather than to pay them for the old one. Also because the other screenplay is now over a year old, copies have made their way onto the black market and many people have bought and read it. In fact Doug Bradley told me that at a Fango convention about a month ago he signed more copies of the Hell On Earth script than of the Hellbound video! So the feeling was, even if it was only a tiny percentage of the movie audience that read it, it was a lot better to come at them with something brand new."

Ade Cattell : "Can you give away any of the plot and answer the question which must be on every fans lips... are we going to see a return of Pinhead?"

Pete Atkins : "Well, I can't really give away the plot, but yes of course Pinhead is back. You can't have a Hellraiser movie without him. I mean, apart from anything else Doug and Lynne have got a new baby and I'm sure they could do with the money. The new one should be fun. Clive, of course, is still involved as story consultant and executive producer just as he was on Hellbound and has come up with a really good basic premise which he, I and Tony Randel will develop into what we hope will be a very exciting third installment of the saga. One thing I can give away is that The Cotton family won't be involved. I've put poor Ashley through the wringer twice so she deserves a rest. We've got a whole new bunch of people to torment this time."

Ade Cattell : "Earlier this year you appeared on television defending the horror genre on 'The Time, The Place'..."

Pete Atkins : "Yeah, wasn't that a hoot!? I thought I was astonishingly polite given that the people they were wheeling on to oppose me were complete fucking basket cases!"

Ade Cattell : "What are your feelings toward the censorship laws in this country and in particular how did you feel about Hellbound being cut by seven minutes for its UK release?"

Pete Atkins : "Well,that wasn't actually the BBFC you know. The cuts were made in America for the MPAA. As far as I know, the print that was shown theatrically in the UK was the same one as the States. The BBFC didn't ask for any further cuts specifically for the UK release, so I have no argument with them. What you're thinking about is the American video release of the uncut version which isn't available here (unless you know which small ads to answer in various magazines!) and that is because our censors are the reverse of the Americans. Ours are much stricter on video than theatrical, while in the States the opposite is true. As to how I feel about it...well, 'confused' is I suppose the honest answer. I wouldn't particularly want eight year olds to see Browning slash his chest open with a straight razor or to see Channard's head get ripped in half, because I'm far from sure how capable they are of dealing with those kind of images. So I guess in principle I'm in favour of classification, of saying that no, until you're an adult it's probably a bad idea for you to see this. That said, I have to admit that when I was a child I made damn sure I saw everything I was told not to. I'd get up after my parents went to bed to see Hammer films on telly at midnight and when I was twelve I blagged my way past a particularly shortsighted cashier to see 'Bonnie And Clyde' on the big screen. God, that was great. Just what any pubescent lad needed - a heady mix of Faye Dunaway at her most beautiful along with fabulous slow-motion deaths in a rail of bullets and buckets of blood. Wow!
"Anyway, where was I? Yeah, cutting a movie for an adult is a different can of worms entirely. The whole ethos of censorship, of protecting fellow citizens from what you can see but they can't smacks of the worst kind of anal-retentive, patronising lunacy that really sums this fucking country up. That kind of moral policing is so riddled with ironies and idiocies that it's hardly worth talking about."

Ade Cattell : "On the videosleeves for Hellbound, both rated and unrated, appears a still of the cenobites in surgeon's clothes. As this scene does not appear in the two versions of Hellbound does it actually exist, and if so where?"

Pete Atkins : "Yes,it exists. And it is on the cutting room floor. Which, quite frankly, is where it belongs. It was a sequence that just didn't work. Maybe I wrote it badly or maybe Tony shot it badly, maybe Doug and Barbie performed it badly, whatever... it was just naff so we cut it out. It certainly was not a censorship thing. It was our decision to lose it because it simply wasn't working. As to why the people who package the video can be so brain-dead as to feature a scene that isn't in the movie...well, go figure. All it did was whet fans' appetite and then let then down. Bloody silly. Shame as well because it's a potent image... Can you imagine coming up from the anaesthetic, finding yourself strapped to an operating table and seeing those blue-skinned bastards leering down at you dressed in green gowns and wielding scalpels.
"I actually put the scene in as a tribute to Clive because one of his first sketches of Pinhead, before the first movie was made, was of him in an apron which looked like a cross between a butcher's smock and a surgeon's gown. Also,The Forbidden, which is a 16mm film we made years ago when we were all in the Dog Company, was at one stage going to be called 'Surgeons Of God'... so it was a little nod to the past."

Ade Cattell : "In the past we have seen works of fiction from you, such as a short story in Fear magazine, and more recently your work on the Hellraiser comic book. Do you intend to have more of your work published in the future?"

Pete Atkins : "Well, I certainly intend to. Whether I will or not depends on finding willing publishers! No, joking aside, once I'd finished the third draft of the last version of Hell On Earth and done my three week stint as a second-unit director on Nightbreed, I conciously stayed away from movies for nearly a year because I was determined to get a novel out. It was actually broken up by a three month stay in Los Angeles last winter working with Tony Randel on a science-fiction script, but apart from that I was a very good boy and stuck with it. The novel is called 'Morningstar', and is currently being looked at by several publishers - so keep your fingers crossed for me! In the last month or so, I've also written a one-act Grand Guignol comedy with my buddy Erik Saltzgaber for a couple of Off-Broadway producers in New York."

Ade Cattell : "How about comics?"

Pete Atkins : "Well,my friend Neil Gaiman and I have been asked by the guys at Marvel to collaborate on a full-length story for the Hellraiser comic, so we'll probably do that. I assume you know Neil's stuff. He's brilliant. We're also writing a screenplay together called 'Light Fantastic'. One Hollywood executive has already seen a treatment we did for it and he said it was fabulous, wacky, original and that nobody in their right mind would even finance it... so I guess we're fucked on that one! I've also just started working on my second novel. At the moment it's called 'Big Thunder' but don't hold me on that, 'cos it'll probably go through umpteen changes before it is finished."

Ade Cattell : "Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?"

Pete Atkins : "That's a tough one. Have you got all day? Well, let's see. Tell you what, I'll name some names on the strict understanding that this is today's list and if you ask me next week you might get a completely different set. Actually, of course, there is a big difference between who you think influences you and who actually does! Why don't I just say that these are people I've loved reading and made me want to do it myself... As a kid it would be Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dennis Wheatley and C.S.Lewis. As a teenager... P.G.Wodehouse, Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury...yeah, I think I'd started reading Poe by then as well, lotsa science fiction too... Ballard - though I don't think I understood him very good at the time. Once I'd turned eighteen it was anything and everything - Scott Fitzgerald, Chandler, Henry Fielding, Webster, Congreve, Patricia Highsmith, Blackwood, Machen, Mark Twain... I'm just pulling them off the top of my head, there's hundreds more. Over the last decade it's been mainly the genre giants... King, Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Clive of course... Thomas Harris, Jonathon Carroll. Actually, I'd rather stop there, because with contemporary writers I'm in the potentially embarrassing situation of offending by ommision. I mean, I actually know a lot of writers and I'd hate to miss out on a round of drinks at the next convention by not citing someone!"

Ade Cattell : "How did you feel about the overall poor press reaction to Hellbound and it being compared to Clive's Hellraiser and not on it's own merits?"

Pete Atkins : "Actually the overall press reaction wasn't too bad,just sharply divided. Gorezone really liked it, we got a rave from the Great and Good John Martin in Samhain, Hollywood Reporter called it, 'the most nightmarish horror movie ever made' and Shaun Usher in the Daily Mail said that Clive, Tony and I should be jailed for inciting moral degeneracy... and you can't get better than that! But there were also papers that hated it...Shock Xpress, Time Out etc. Good or bad, press notices are only people's opinions and I'm much more interested in the opinions of people who actually pay to see the movies - the number of young and not so young fans who have spoken to me at festival screenings both here and in the States, and told me how much they love the movie is staggering and gratifying and their opinion is what finally counts. As to the comparisons with Hellraiser - well, we expected it. It is a sequel after all. I got off fairly lightly, but Tony came in for some stick - a lot of it, I think, unfair and based on prejudice and preconception which is not to say that, looking back, we don't have our own reservations about the picture, but that's natural."

Ade Cattell : "Finally; you appeared in some of Clive Barker's films - most recently Nightbreed - would you like to get into the acting side of the film industry?"

Pete Atkins : "Well, the two tiny bit-parts I had in Nightbreed both ended up on the cutting-room floor so I think that should stand as a lesson on any ambitions I had in that direction! I'm quite relieved - I'd hate to spend the rest of my life having people come up to me and say, 'Ere, weren't you that bearded transvestite in Nightbreed?' The other one you're thinking about must be the independent movie I mentioned earlier, The Forbidden. I did in fact have the lead role in that but, as it was made in '78 on 16mm, I don't think it likely that many people are going to see just how charismatic and beautiful I was before drink, drugs and social diseases rendered me the sorry creature you see before you today!"

Hellraiser II
Hellraiser III
The Forbidden

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