Written and directed by long-time Hellraiser collaborator Gary John Tunnicliffe, the latest installment in the franchise is Hellraiser: Judgment, which finds two tough detectives, brothers Sean and David Carter, on the hunt for a gruesome serial killer terrorising their city with a series of murders based on the Ten Commandments. Joining forces with detective Christine Egerton, the trio dig deeper into a spiralling maze of horror that draws them into Hell to confront Pinhead and his evil Cenobite sect.
Starring Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Damon Carney (Fear the Walking Dead), Randy Wayne (Escape Room), and Alexandra Harris (Secret Diary of an American Cheerleader) Hellraiser: Judgment is a very different movie in the series – introducing a whole new work force of evil and a whole new take on Pinhead, played by Paul T Taylor, taking over from the mantle from Doug Bradley, who has played the role in all but one Hellraiser movies.
It was a role that not only had Taylor wanted to play since dressing up at Halloween but was one that felt like destiny (and perhaps even corrupted him a little!).
We spoke to Paul T Taylor about putting on the iconic makeup and how Peter Cushing helped him take on the role of Pinhead…
How did you first get involved with Hellraiser: Judgment?
Well, it’s really very funny, it makes me think that it was supposed to happen. I was living in Dallas, TX. I had moved back from New York several years before because of 9/11, and I got an audition from a casting director in Oklahoma, which is just one state up. A gentleman who has cast me in a lot of movies before just thought that I would be perfect for The Auditor, which was not the role I ended up playing. So I got this audition notice and I thought, ‘wow, this is great’. They were only calling it Judgment at the time, it was a big secret that another Hellraiser movie was being made but just from the description of the movie synopsis and then The Auditor’s first line, which was: “Oh, do come in. We have such sights to show you.” I was like ‘this is a Hellraiser movie, this is so great!’ I wanted to do a Hellraiser movie and with Doug Bradley because I’ve loved Pinhead it since 1987, he’s always been my favourite horror icon.
I read the lines for The Auditor and my impression is he’s a super creepy middle management guy and I’m like ‘this is a perfect role for me’. I do my audition with the casting director and then I get another notice: ‘We would like to put Paul Taylor on tape for Pinhead because Doug Bradley is not coming back.’
I thought ‘there is no f-ing way I’m gonna get this role!’ and that lasted for about five minutes and then I changed my mind. I decided I’d make it the best audition I’ve ever done in my life, which I did. I went in there and apparently I nailed the audition because I got the part! It’s so crazy that I was in Dallas and I got this opportunity because the movie shot in Oklahoma City. So I Just drove up there and shot my stuff. It was a crazy wonderful opportunity that I didn’t see coming but it seems like it was destined to be somehow.
How do you prepare for a role like Pinhead?
I knew that I had to honour what had come before, what Doug Bradley had created, the fact that Doug Bradley is British and Pinhead’s always been British. I knew that that was a requirement I had to do. Plus, I wanted to do that because I just love doing British dialect. It’s probably the best dialect I have besides standard middle American. So I knew that had to happen, but other than that, I took the script as written because this is sort of a Pinhead from another period. He’s older. He’s more jaded, it’s a different time. The puzzle box doesn’t work as well as it used to because technology has passed it by.
I of course watched all the Hellraisers again and that was fine research. But [writer and director] Gary [J. Tunnicliffe] and I agreed that it was [also] time for me to maybe look at performances of other classic, dark villains from other movies like Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List or Hannibal Lecter, to get the stillness and the menace. Just so I can have some examples.
Speaking of examples, [Gary] showed me a scene from Star Wars where Peter Cushing has Princess Leia in the Death Star and the planet explodes and she reaches forward and says “no!” and he very simply says: “You’re far too trusting” and Gary goes: “There, that’s your Pinhead. There you go.”
Which was cool because it was very subtle. It was Peter Cushing, which is perfect. So while Gary was directing me on the set, if maybe I wasn’t trusting that I was already terrifying and it needed to be subtle before he said action, I would say: “You’re far too trusting.”
I just had to work on the ‘no fear’ thing. Pinhead has no fear and it was basically a matter of getting to a place where I knew the lines cold and where I could just have no fear whatsoever.
That was basically what it is all about. I just had to bring it, because Pinhead was a very A-typical role for me, it wasn’t something I normally do. So to get to do it was a challenge, but it was one I loved.
What was it like putting on that iconic Pinhead make up and costume?
It was so surreal because here I am this kid who grew up just loving Halloween so much and loving to be monsters. Halloween was always my chance to be a monster and my requirements were: scary, grotesque and unrecognisable. Pinhead had always been my favourite Eighties horror icon, really second only to the Frankenstein monster.
So sitting there, getting that makeup put on me, being made into this favourite monster by these Hollywood makeup effects specialists… It was a dream come true.
I didn’t have my contacts in and I don’t see very well so I couldn’t really see my face in the mirror as they did it, but when Mike, the guy who was applying, would go out for a cigarette, I would get closer and just go: ‘Wow this is the coolest’.
It was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me, but it was surreal. I’d never played this large of a role before. I’d never played a movie monster in a horror film before. I’d never had such good make up on my face before. It was a thrill and as far as acting with it, all I had to remember was ‘you look terrifying. You are captivating without even trying. We’re fascinated by your makeup, fascinated by you. You have this whole new Pinhead costume design. We’re going to watch you.’
Knowing that gave me the strength. The first day that I was in complete makeup and costume, we were in a warehouse, so I walked across the sidewalk from the trailer. They open the double doors into the warehouse and there are all these crew members standing around chatting or whatever and they all turn and take a step back and I hear audible gasps and “oh my God!”.
It was just this feeling of power, which of course is perfect because Pinhead is arrogant. He is so arrogant in Hellraiser: Judgment. I mean he’s been arrogant in many of the films, but his arrogance gets him in trouble [in this movie].
It felt so fun. Power is fun. It’s so fun to have power and that’s why so many people in the world are so messed up because they have power and it just drives you crazy. Absolute power corrupts absolutely!
As you mentioned, this is a very different Pinhead and a different Hellraiser movie. What can audiences expect from Hellraiser: Judgment?
This Pinhead is a little more jaded. Perhaps he’s a little unhappy with his circumstances because he’s a little bit bored. Not enough is happening with the puzzle box. People are finding sensations in other ways, like technology through their laptops. He’s a Pinhead who’s older, he has aged, and when his power is threatened by another entity, he certainly gets to go to town.
Gary has written some brilliant Pinhead dialogue. Some of my lines I just relished saying them because they were classic Pinhead stuff.
Also with this particular script, Gary’s introduced a new world with the Stygian Inquisition. He’s introduced this new faction that is related to what we already know of the Lament Configuration and Leviathan and all that world but now there’s this new world.
I say ironically, that it’s kind of like Office Space in hell. We have cubicles and I have, of course, the largest, grandest, darkest cubicle with this fantastic throne that is made of stone and I don’t think in any other horror movie have we ever seen Pinhead sitting. I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like we’ve ever seen him sitting on a throne. Just waiting and listening to the sounds of the agony in the other rooms while these other souls are being processed. It’s kind of like the meat packing plants to a certain extent, and then we have the human story of course and it all comes together at the end.
Gary introduced some really great new elements and ones that could continue in a sequel. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but he did a really interesting take. I think it brings us back to classic Hellraiser. Many fans have said to me personally: “My favourite movies are one-two, maybe three and yours because of the classic Hellraiser element.” Some people have told me that Judgment is their favourite! I think that for hardcore Hellraiser fans, all they have to do is give it a chance. Forget the fact that I’m not Doug Bradley and just watch the movie with open eyes. I think it’s going to thrill a lot of people.