[Interview] Meet the New Pinhead – Paul T. Taylor on ‘Hellraiser: Judgment’

In HORROR FILMS by Steve0 Comments

It’s no mystery that a new Hellraiser film is on the way entitled Judgement. It’s also no mystery that actor Doug Bradley will not be reprising his iconic role of lead cenobite, Pinhead. In his place will be an actor by the name of Paul T. Taylor. We recently got a new glimpse of Taylor in makeup. Unfortunately, the image isn’t terribly clear and judging by some of the comments, fans were not too pleased. I can assure you that smokey image doesn’t do the new design justice, but patience is a virtue, my friends.

In the meantime, as we wait for any kind of official release information, I was able to chat with Taylor about his background, his take on the character, and just what we might expect from the 10th film of the franchise. Taylor, a self-proclaimed “freak for Halloween and all things horror” won me over with his candor and excitement during our conversations. He seems to be extremely proud of his work on the film and recognizes that fans have been unhappy with most of the recent entries in the franchise. I know you guys might be finding a new actor in the role of Pinhead to be a prickly pill to swallow. However, I can tell you my biggest takeaway from the interview is this: Taylor is an incredibly charming, excited fan of the works of Clive Barker who wants nothing more than to do right by the franchise and the people who love it.

We started by discussing his background and just what lead him down the path of becoming an actor.

I grew up watching my dad do community theater. I took to it, and then I started doing community theater…I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And also, being taught that was an impractical choice for a career, but I really just didn’t care…It’s in my blood.

Taylor’s first film took him a short distance from his home in Dallas to Austin, TX for a small role in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City. The size of the part (credited as “Assistant DA”) didn’t dampen Taylor’s excitement one bit. “I don’t have any lines, but who cares?! I’m recognizable in it. I’m in SIN CITY!” While the film opened doors for Taylor, it wasn’t long before his path became obstructed by disease, Hepatitis C. Upon diagnosis, he continued to try and live his life as normal as possible, however, as the years went on he began to slow down. This sent him into a downward spiral of depression.

I had stopped enjoying the business. I had started just being a hermit, staying home. [I was] just eating pizza while watching movies, and that was my life…I felt like shit all the time. I felt like I had the flu all the time. Hepatitis C is a horrible, horrible disease.

As his condition worsened, thoughts of suicide began to pollute Taylor’s mind. The same week news coverage had become over saturated with word of Osama Bin Laden’s death and at the end of his rope, Taylor decided to reach out to his doctor one last time. He was informed of a brand new drug with a high success rate in curing patients with Hep C. The news of the drug’s release was, of course, overshadowed by Bin Laden and came as a surprise to Taylor. Thankfully, it proved successful in his case. This miracle provided him with the new lease on life that he had desperately needed, “I got my life back. Not something I was prepared for…It took me awhile to get back on track.”

With a new found optimism, Taylor jumped back into the acting gig, booking numerous commercials and some small film roles. One day an email arrived from his agent requesting an audition tape for a mysterious role.

The role they wanted to put me on tape for was The Auditor, and I read the description and I read the first side. With the first line I read, they were keeping it a secret then that it was a Hellraiser movie. They were just calling it Judgement…The first line I read, I said, ‘This is a Hellraiser movie.’ I knew it, because I’m already well versed in the language of Hellraiser. I’m a huge fan. This is a Hellraiser movie!

The tip off? “It had something to do with ‘We have such sights to show you.” This audition was quickly followed by another email requesting Taylor audition for the role of Pinhead. Doug Bradley had declined again, much like he did for the previous film, Resurrection.  Taylor’s response, “I’m like, there’s no frickin’ way I’m going to be Pinhead. This is a joke from the cosmos!” With only four days to prepare for both roles, Taylor gave it his all. At the time he was acting in a play, Martyrs, about religious fundamentalists. Taylor played the role of a priest. He managed to continue memorizing his lines while waiting offstage in between scenes. Taylor managed to get away with it by hiding his sides within his stage prop, a Bible.  Suffice to say, after weeks of nervous anticipation he found out that he’d nailed the audition.

Naturally, with a new actor taking up the mantle of Pinhead, there was bound to be an uproar in the fan community. Taylor admits he actually hadn’t considered such a backlash until director, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, brought it to his attention.

My first response was ‘Oh shit! Damn, that’s going to be hard. Oh, poor me.’ And then, that didn’t last long. I thought, you know what, fuck that. I’m not here to try and get approval from everyone. I’ve spent my…almost my entire life trying to get the approval of others. I mean, I’m an actor so first of all, you’re going in and asking for rejection all the time anyway…I know a lot of people whose goal in life is to be liked and to please everyone, and it just kills you. I don’t care if these people don’t like me. They don’t know me. I care if they like my performance…

…What Doug Bradley has created, what was created before me – Those are big shoes to fill, and I am super grateful for that and for the opportunity…There had to come a point where I said, ‘Nope. It’s time to make this mine.’…You can try as hard as you can to ape [another actor’s] performance, but then it’s going to lose its life.

On how he brought his own spin to the character:

You know how in the third movie Pinhead comes back and he’s in that column? Things have changed, and he’s changed. He has no rules. There’s no Leviathan controlling him, and he’s just off the chain. He’s doing whatever the hell he wants. Hell on Earth, yeah, okay. He’s making jokes and he’s Freddy Krueger-ing it up. In this script there’s none of that from Pinhead. He’s a totally serious individual…I think he’s older, if you can even age as Pinhead. He’s a little over it. And yet, this is what he does….I do think he’s in a different phase of his existence.

Taylor further explains the evolution of the series and where he believes it has landed with the upcoming Judgement:

It used to be Pinhead just came in and just does his job because you opened the box. There’s no judgment because this is what you wanted…Here is this physical experience that you wanted. It’s changed over the years and become ‘You’re a bad person and we’re here to punish you.’…The script [for Judgement] is making an effort to get back to the original concept of what the puzzle box is all about.

I pushed Taylor for a bit more information in regards to the plot and the various factions of hell presented within the film. He explained to me there are different levels throughout. “There’s a very creative serial killer” who is being hunted by the detectives in the film, and “There’s the cenobites and the [hell] workers and Leviathan who are doing their job.” Some of the new characters such as The Butcher and The Surgeon “seem to be on the team of The Processor of Souls.” Taylor also promised we’d be getting a peak of an old fan favorite, Chatterer. He further added: “It’s certainly not a comedy, but in its structure it’s a little bit like Office Space in hell. It’s nothing like the Mike Judge film but it goes to a different place that we’ve never explored before.”

Hellraiser: Judgment images courtesy of Gary Tunnicliffe

On a recent conversation with Tunnicliffe, Taylor revealed Gary’s influence with writing the script wasn’t tied exclusively to Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart so much as the style of a lot of Barker’s early work including The Books of Blood. Regarding the style of the film itself, “He said it was really driven by what he calls the ‘Three Davids’ who are Cronenberg, Lynch, and Fincher.” He also wanted to clear up a previous statement where he referred to the film as “horror porn”. Taylor felt he’d misspoken.

There’s a difference between creative and disgusting…I think [the gore in the film] is done because of the style and aesthetics in a beautiful way. I just didn’t want to get it across that it’s torture porn…This is not self indulgent. This is not masturbation, and let’s just throw blood at the screen.

He revealed he hasn’t seen much of the finished product, but he has seen some footage from a rough cut trailer shown to him on an iPhone. The excitement in Taylor’s voice is infectious as it becomes obvious that he’s as much a fan as we all are of the series, and he’s truly hoping for the best of this sequel. While he hasn’t been signed on for any future films in the franchise, Taylor expresses he has “really high hopes” that he’ll get the chance to do it again. “The bottom line is that if people like me as Pinhead then that’s really the most important thing.”

I think that this movie could possibly reignite the franchise. Yes, it’s a low budget film, but these days low budget horror is huge. It doesn’t matter so much what the budget is…I’m excited about it because it’s a Hellraiser movie, and it might be pleasing to some people. The franchise is not exactly a healthy one, and I know that…It’s a real Hellraiser movie, and it’s a passion project [for Tunnicliffe].

While we all wait impatiently wait for any release news or at least a trailer for Hellraiser: Judgement, Taylor promises to continue making his name known in the horror genre. Sick for Toys is an upcoming film where he gets to be “creepy as hell” playing a drunken pedophile, and several other local Dallas horror projects are presenting themselves to the actor. For those looking to stay up to date on his future projects (including Judgment), he can be found on Twitter and Facebook and check out his official website here.