'3 From Hell's' Actors Improvising In Rob Zombie's World

Richard Brake, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Moseley in a scene from Rob Zombie's 3 From Hell

Richard Brake, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Moseley in a scene from Rob Zombie's 3 From Hell

Lionsgate

It's been 14 years since director Rob Zombie gave us what many presumed was the final interaction with the Fireflys, the murderous family at the heart of his 2003 film House of 1,000 Corpses and its 2005 sequel, The Devil's Rejects. Since that time his actors have moved on in their careers though according to Bill Moseley, star of Zombie's previous Firefly features, he's often asked when the director will do another.

Thankfully, fans will get their wish this month with 3 From Hell, that reunites the villainous Otis (Moseley) and his deranged sister, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) for one more ride. Following the pair after they escape from prison, the movie is a rollicking ride fans of the previous features will eat up. Moseley and new Firefly family member Richard Brake, who plays Foxy, sat down to discuss taking another ride on Zombie's crazy train.

On Getting the Call to Work with Rob Zombie

Richard Brake: I've worked with Rob twice before and he's without a doubt my favorite director, and not to belittle the others but I've worked with Spielberg and Anthony Minghella and Ridley Scott, Brian de Palma. I've worked with some great directors but I absolutely adore Rob and I love working with him. When Rob asks me if I want to read the script to be in his next project I say, "I don't even have to read the script. I'll be there."

I love working with Rob; he's so inspiring. I know Devil's Rejects and that's a magnificent film, as is the one before, House of a 1,000 Corpses, so to be offered to be a part of the whole world of the Firefly family and all their crazy madness, that was just an added plus. With Rob it's a no-brainer for me. Anytime he needs me, whether it's to say one line or a hundred lines I'm there with him. 

Bill Moseley: It's fun to play in Rob's world. He always writes great scripts. It's a fun story and the character is a lot of fun to play. I do a lot of horror conventions and I see for Friday the 13th there [are] five or six guys [who] have played Jason. There [are] a bunch of guys who have played Michael Meyers in the Halloween franchise. I feel very proprietary about Otis. I'm the first Otis! I want Otis all to myself. I love the confidence Rob put in me to play that character in the first place. It's been really fascinating to evolve as Otis with Rob's evolving vision of the Fireflies and the Driftwoods.

When I first heard that we were putting the band back together I wondered just how it was going to work. I wondered what effect years of jail time had had on Otis. Not as many artistic materials to fulfill myself. Otis is a little more philosophical [in this]. Time has been, I don't know if you'd call it kind, to Otis. I still like murder and mayhem, but I get a little philosophical about Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), for instance. And yet there really is no master plan. There is no 'someday we're all going to make it to an island. We'll drink wine under the willow trees.' Otis is not actually thinking about settling down someday or running a company or doing anything in particular. If there's gas in the tank there's murder ahead and a little bit of mescal. Let's just go for it.

Being the Newcomer to the Cast

Richard Brake: I'm the new guy in a way [which] is always nerve-wracking. How do you find your place in this world that's already been so well-established? The other two, they're so brilliant. Bill and Sheri they've been playing those roles for so long. I was, as any actor would be, a little bit anxious. I was shooting another movie in Spain, so they were about four days into filming when I arrived.

I literally flew from Spain back to London for one day while I did my laundry and then we flew to L.A. so we could work with Rob, Sheri, and Bill. The first scene we shot was just the three of us. It's just Bill and I that begin the scene and Sheri comes into it. I remember sitting there, she comes in full Baby-mode - totally crazy and brilliant - and I'm just watching her and the camera's on me, but I'm watching her not as the character but as me just admiring how brilliant she is. I suddenly thought, "Oh, wait, the camera's on me." I realized that's exactly how Foxy would react to Baby in this moment, just admiration for her absolute craziness.

One of the things I loved about the whole experience of shooting that was finding my place with those two guys [and] the kind of chemistry the three of us had from that moment; from that first scene I knew I was home. As an actor that's a great feeling. You go in, you have all these ideas, but then when the camera starts rolling it all comes together and it came together literally in that first moment. I could feel where I was in this world. It was great. It was absolutely fantastic and hopefully that chemistry comes across in the movie. 

Finding Improv in a Horror Movie

Bill Moseley: Rob's scripts are so good [so] there really isn't much call for [improv]. A lot of times improv will amend a scene, [so] maybe there's a line missing or maybe there's a better line that ties things together and makes a scene more economical. With Rob's stuff there really isn't a call for that. Although, at the same time, I have to give kudos to Rob for being a very collaborative director. It's fun to work with a director who's written his own scripts because then he's not interpreting somebody else's ideas. He knows exactly what he wants. He knows exactly what he wants from the scene, but if you come up with a better line or add something, an action or word or two, and it works and works better, [then] Rob is totally down with it.

The quickest improv [I can remember]...when we're all in a motel room and Baby wants to go out and get into trouble and Richard and I are staying there, a lot of that was improv. I suggested that we play Go Fish and then Richard started riffing on getting into the porno business, and that was not scripted. That was just fun to go with him down that road. Also, when he's encountering the bounty hunters and he starts talking to the girl in it and starts saying weird and sick stuff, that was completely Richard. I was laughing my ass off because I was standing right off-screen because the woman in that scene is my real-life wife, Lucinda Jenny, and it was so much fun to see her and Richard having their scene together and Lucinda going "Kill him! Kill him!" because he was saying so many weird things. We were all just rolling. 

Richard Brake: Rob is a creative force. There's this energy of creativity because he's a filmmaker/artist and that inspires everyone, the runners, producers. There's a scene I had early on with Bill Oberst, who's a lovely actor in loads of stuff, and Bill Mosely's wife, Lucinda, is also in the scene. That was a lot of fun to shoot. Also, unlike Doomhead in 31 where I don't think I improvised a single line because Doomhead was so specifically written and was so distinctive...that I didn't really need to change it. There was no improvisation in that one.

Rob was very keen in improvisation. He loved to improvise and really encouraged it. One of the things with Foxy that was challenging but was incredibly fun was Rob would come up to me and go "Okay, that was great. Now do this" and he'd give me some ideas. "Improvise this. Go and tell Otis this." He would give me some little ideas and I would improvise the whole scene. I don't know how much would end up in the actual film but it was a lot more me making up a lot of crazy stuff as Foxy. That was challenging because Rob doesn't give you anytime to think. He's like "Okay, go on, camera's gonna roll. Action! Why don't you try this? Go for it" and next thing you know the camera's rolling and you gotta come up with this five-minute monologue of madness.

On Meeting Familiar Friends

Bill Moseley: It took me about 16 months, maybe a little longer, to grow that beard. I was slowly turning back into Otis. That was the final shock to the system was the day I sat in hair and makeup and they shaved all my hair off. That was my Otis hair from Devil's Rejects. Rob had put it in some kind of a special humidor or whatever it's called and kept it in its pristine condition. It was very funny because when I did Devil's Rejects I was told the wig was more expensive than I was, so to be very careful with it. It was [probably] made of some kind of orphan's hair from Italy. 

3 From Hell will screen via Fathom Events on September 16th-18.

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It's been 14 years since director Rob Zombie gave us what many presumed was the final interaction with the Fireflys, the murderous family at the heart of his 2003 film House of 1,000 Corpses and its 2005 sequel, The Devil's Rejects. Since that time his actors have moved on in their careers though according to Bill Moseley, star of Zombie's previous Firefly features, he's often asked when the director will do another.

Thankfully, fans will get their wish this month with 3 From Hell, that reunites the villainous Otis (Moseley) and his deranged sister, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) for one more ride. Following the pair after they escape from prison, the movie is a rollicking ride fans of the previous features will eat up. Moseley and new Firefly family member Richard Brake, who plays Foxy, sat down to discuss taking another ride on Zombie's crazy train.

On Getting the Call to Work with Rob Zombie

Richard Brake: I've worked with Rob twice before and he's without a doubt my favorite director, and not to belittle the others but I've worked with Spielberg and Anthony Minghella and Ridley Scott, Brian de Palma. I've worked with some great directors but I absolutely adore Rob and I love working with him. When Rob asks me if I want to read the script to be in his next project I say, "I don't even have to read the script. I'll be there."

I love working with Rob; he's so inspiring. I know Devil's Rejects and that's a magnificent film, as is the one before, House of a 1,000 Corpses, so to be offered to be a part of the whole world of the Firefly family and all their crazy madness, that was just an added plus. With Rob it's a no-brainer for me. Anytime he needs me, whether it's to say one line or a hundred lines I'm there with him. 

Bill Moseley: It's fun to play in Rob's world. He always writes great scripts. It's a fun story and the character is a lot of fun to play. I do a lot of horror conventions and I see for Friday the 13th there [are] five or six guys [who] have played Jason. There [are] a bunch of guys who have played Michael Meyers in the Halloween franchise. I feel very proprietary about Otis. I'm the first Otis! I want Otis all to myself. I love the confidence Rob put in me to play that character in the first place. It's been really fascinating to evolve as Otis with Rob's evolving vision of the Fireflies and the Driftwoods.

When I first heard that we were putting the band back together I wondered just how it was going to work. I wondered what effect years of jail time had had on Otis. Not as many artistic materials to fulfill myself. Otis is a little more philosophical [in this]. Time has been, I don't know if you'd call it kind, to Otis. I still like murder and mayhem, but I get a little philosophical about Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), for instance. And yet there really is no master plan. There is no 'someday we're all going to make it to an island. We'll drink wine under the willow trees.' Otis is not actually thinking about settling down someday or running a company or doing anything in particular. If there's gas in the tank there's murder ahead and a little bit of mescal. Let's just go for it.

Being the Newcomer to the Cast

Richard Brake: I'm the new guy in a way [which] is always nerve-wracking. How do you find your place in this world that's already been so well-established? The other two, they're so brilliant. Bill and Sheri they've been playing those roles for so long. I was, as any actor would be, a little bit anxious. I was shooting another movie in Spain, so they were about four days into filming when I arrived.

I literally flew from Spain back to London for one day while I did my laundry and then we flew to L.A. so we could work with Rob, Sheri, and Bill. The first scene we shot was just the three of us. It's just Bill and I that begin the scene and Sheri comes into it. I remember sitting there, she comes in full Baby-mode - totally crazy and brilliant - and I'm just watching her and the camera's on me, but I'm watching her not as the character but as me just admiring how brilliant she is. I suddenly thought, "Oh, wait, the camera's on me." I realized that's exactly how Foxy would react to Baby in this moment, just admiration for her absolute craziness.

One of the things I loved about the whole experience of shooting that was finding my place with those two guys [and] the kind of chemistry the three of us had from that moment; from that first scene I knew I was home. As an actor that's a great feeling. You go in, you have all these ideas, but then when the camera starts rolling it all comes together and it came together literally in that first moment. I could feel where I was in this world. It was great. It was absolutely fantastic and hopefully that chemistry comes across in the movie. 

Finding Improv in a Horror Movie

Bill Moseley: Rob's scripts are so good [so] there really isn't much call for [improv]. A lot of times improv will amend a scene, [so] maybe there's a line missing or maybe there's a better line that ties things together and makes a scene more economical. With Rob's stuff there really isn't a call for that. Although, at the same time, I have to give kudos to Rob for being a very collaborative director. It's fun to work with a director who's written his own scripts because then he's not interpreting somebody else's ideas. He knows exactly what he wants. He knows exactly what he wants from the scene, but if you come up with a better line or add something, an action or word or two, and it works and works better, [then] Rob is totally down with it.

The quickest improv [I can remember]...when we're all in a motel room and Baby wants to go out and get into trouble and Richard and I are staying there, a lot of that was improv. I suggested that we play Go Fish and then Richard started riffing on getting into the porno business, and that was not scripted. That was just fun to go with him down that road. Also, when he's encountering the bounty hunters and he starts talking to the girl in it and starts saying weird and sick stuff, that was completely Richard. I was laughing my ass off because I was standing right off-screen because the woman in that scene is my real-life wife, Lucinda Jenny, and it was so much fun to see her and Richard having their scene together and Lucinda going "Kill him! Kill him!" because he was saying so many weird things. We were all just rolling. 

Richard Brake: Rob is a creative force. There's this energy of creativity because he's a filmmaker/artist and that inspires everyone, the runners, producers. There's a scene I had early on with Bill Oberst, who's a lovely actor in loads of stuff, and Bill Mosely's wife, Lucinda, is also in the scene. That was a lot of fun to shoot. Also, unlike Doomhead in 31 where I don't think I improvised a single line because Doomhead was so specifically written and was so distinctive...that I didn't really need to change it. There was no improvisation in that one.

Rob was very keen in improvisation. He loved to improvise and really encouraged it. One of the things with Foxy that was challenging but was incredibly fun was Rob would come up to me and go "Okay, that was great. Now do this" and he'd give me some ideas. "Improvise this. Go and tell Otis this." He would give me some little ideas and I would improvise the whole scene. I don't know how much would end up in the actual film but it was a lot more me making up a lot of crazy stuff as Foxy. That was challenging because Rob doesn't give you anytime to think. He's like "Okay, go on, camera's gonna roll. Action! Why don't you try this? Go for it" and next thing you know the camera's rolling and you gotta come up with this five-minute monologue of madness.

On Meeting Familiar Friends

Bill Moseley: It took me about 16 months, maybe a little longer, to grow that beard. I was slowly turning back into Otis. That was the final shock to the system was the day I sat in hair and makeup and they shaved all my hair off. That was my Otis hair from Devil's Rejects. Rob had put it in some kind of a special humidor or whatever it's called and kept it in its pristine condition. It was very funny because when I did Devil's Rejects I was told the wig was more expensive than I was, so to be very careful with it. It was [probably] made of some kind of orphan's hair from Italy. 

3 From Hell will screen via Fathom Events on September 16th-18.

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I'm a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic whose work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. Writing about film and entertainment is a full...