Taking the very risky job of the lead role in the sequel to one of the most famous horror movies ever made, Caroline Williams put 110% into her role as Stretch, the radio DJ who has a run in with the Sawyer family. Williams is one of the sweetest and nicest people you could talk to. She goes way out of her way to make her fans know her appreciation for what she has been giving. While at the Flashback Weekend in June of 2008, we sat down with Caroline to talk about chainsaws, Leprechauns, and those wacky creators that helped bring this sequel to life.
Kitley’s Krypt: How did you become involved with Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2?
Caroline Williams: I was living in Dallas, and my agent notified me that I was up to read for TCM 2 in Austin. Before it was my time to go in, I was sitting there listening inside the room. Having read the script, I knew it was suppose to be very physical and not a lot of dialogue. But yet, I wasn’t hearing anything coming from the room from all the other actresses in front of me. The pages of script that I had received, the scene kicked off with her running and screaming down the hallway, and then barricading herself in the ice room. I just thought that if I was going to stand out, I had to do something different. I also thought that if the filmmakers were looking for athleticism, or physicality, that probably wasn’t coming across with everyone else. So I went to the end of this long hallway, where all the other actresses are sitting up and down there. I ran screaming full on, all the way to the audition room, busted through the door, pulled the chairs out from under Kit and Tobe and pushed the chairs under the door. Then I played the scene. I could see the look on their faces that they were impressed, and they liked that I gambled on them a little bit. Later, talking to Tobe, one of the things that he said was that was the very moment that he knew I was the right girl. He knew he wanted to wanted to hire someone from Texas, and from that moment he knew it was going to be me.
KK: Had you seen the original TCM before being cast?
CW: I had saw the original in 1975, after a football game between Texas and Arkansas, in Austin. I was dating an offensive guard for the Longhorns. It was a memorable evening.
KK: Did you enjoy it?
CW: I liked it, but it was like being in a closet watching these murders taking place. I never seen anything like it. I had seen scary movie before, like The Exorcist. So I had seen scary movies, but this was not anything like those.
KK: Having seen the original, did you have any preconceived thoughts about what you might have to go through in the sequel?
CW: No. Number one, it was Tobe Hooper. I knew working for him – not only in a professional sense but also in a personal sense – it was going to be really challenging. I was going to learn a lot. I knew I was going to gain a lot in my career. At the time I read, I wasn’t aware of what the entire script encompassed. It really was an action film. And to be able to play a role that traditionally would probably would have been a guy, I was thrilled.
KK: Up until TCM 2, you’d only had minor roles and bit parts. Suddenly you were basically the lead of a highly anticipated horror sequel. Did you feel any pressure, either self-imposed or from anyone involved on the production side?
CW: Yes and no. On the one hand, it didn’t really hit me full-on what a big budget and important movie it was going to be – or how much publicity it was going to get – until I walked that massive set designed by Cary White, that underground world that the family inhabited. I walked in there and felt like Dorothy in Oz. I walked in and thought, “I get to play here for three weeks. I better make it good.” At that point, the only thing that worried me was whether I would be able to do the stunts, and do the fights, and do each scene 100%, knowing it was going to have to be repeated over and over and over. That was the most taxing part of it.
KK: How much did the script changed during filming?
CW: The script changed a lot partly because of Bill Moseley’s involvement. He and Kit Carson would just kind of riff off of each other. After a while, their comfort level was such that they’re creative sort of symbiosis, they would come up with more crazy dialogue that was fantastic. The spirit of Bill’s character just became so much more menacing and so much more unpredictable. So during the course of shooting, Bill’s id was unleashed. Every moment the camera rolled with Bill in a scene, you really didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew there were certain parameters that were going to be fulfilled within the storyline, certain plot points that had to happen. But what he was going to do, what moves he was going to make….he was moving so fast and so quickly, it made me kind of jumpy.
The bad thing was in the editing later on, when they eliminated so much of the backstory. So much of the other stuff that makes the characters in a horror movie comes to life, and it makes the audience embrace them or reject them. But that investment has to take place.
KK: Was the “Chainsaw meets Stretch’s crotch” in the script from the beginning?
CW: It was in there from the beginning, and I’ll never forget the first time I read it. I thought to myself, “Oh my God, my mom is going to see this!” At the time we shot it, it was considered incredibly daring. We didn’t even get a rating. Today it looks sedate.
KK: As an actor, how did you deal with being basically hysterical for the second half of the movie? How did you keep in the “moment” and turn that on and off during filming?
CW: In a way, I didn’t try to turn it off. In a way, I tried to live the reality of the script for as many months as I could. It was exhausting. I learned how to economize my energy, but I was so invested in the reality of those moments. I wanted them to live and I wanted the audience to feel that mortal sense of fear. Because that was the only way that the movie was going to work.
KK: Let us throw some names out and get your thoughts. First off, Tobe Hooper.
CW: Tobe is so unusual. He started as a film professor. So his education in film and the education that I gained in working with him was so extensive. The guy is deeply underappreciated. He’s doing Buick Eight right now, and I think this could be almost a re-introduction to the public of who I believe Tobe Hooper really is.
KK: Dennis Hopper?
CW: Brilliant. And that is a deeply overused word. But the man is a dictionary. He is an encyclopedia of cinematic history. He’s worked with some of the famous directors in film history: George Stevens, Nick Ray, David Lynch…
With his sense of artistry and his sense of technical know-how, he taught me so many techniques. I didn’t know anything about techniques. He taught me so many tricks of the trade that I still use today. That was unforgettable experience. And one of the reasons that made the whole movie so attractive.
KK: You knew he was going to be in the film when you were reading?
CW: Yes, he was signed on before I was hired.
KK: Bill Johnson?
CW: Bill Johnson is one of the most deeply committed and emotional and intellectual people I’ve ever met. He was exactly the soul of who Leatherface was supposed to be in that movie. And we’ve remained friends to this day.
KK: Jim Siedow?
CW: He was so dear. He and his wife were just so dear. They were deeply loving and wonderful people. His sense of commitment to the movie, physically, was incredibly taxing for him. It was very difficult shoot for him. The man never gave up and never gave in. He could have had breaks but he didn’t take them. God bless him. He is missed.
KK: Lou Perryman?
CW: I adore Lou to this day. Lou and I made a genuine connection the moment we met. I walked onto the set. He saw me and knew who I was. It was my first day of shooting, downtown Austin. He walked over to me, hand outstretched, walked in close to me and said, (with thick southern accent) “Hello, Darling”. The first convention I ever did was the Texas Frightmare Weekend. The limo pulled up in front of the hotel to drop me off, and he’s sitting there in front smoking a cigarette. He walks over to me, with a twinkle in his eye, and says, “Hello, Darling.” It was the most poetic moment. That’s the way Lou is. The guy is poetry.
KK: Bill Moseley?
CW: I adore Bill. I’m friends with Bill to this day. There is a secret side to Bill. Bill is pretty mysterious. He has a supreme sense of confidence. He’s incredibly creative. He’s incredibly well educated and intelligent. And you can see in his work post-Chainsaw, he’s finally moving into the kind of career he should have. He’s a great character actor, but I think Rob Zombie has found that deep wellspring of intelligence, and almost madness, that makes Bill’s characterizations so indelible. It’s a perfect marriage.
KK: Did he stay in character in between takes?
CW: Pretty much all the time. Everyone was so committed to the whole project. We were all enthusiastic about it.
KK: Did you ever see his Texas Chainsaw Manicurist?
CW: Yes, I did. But what you want to see is The Vegetable Man. The next time you see Bill Moseley, say “Bill…The Vegetable Man.” He’s fabulous.
KK: 20+ years later, how do you feel about Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 now?
CW: I’ve been through a real sort of evolution. It’s gone back and forth. When I first arrived in L.A. and the movie had been released, it took a lot of hits from agents and managers in the business. People told me, “No, you don’t want to be any more horror. It’s a wonderful launching pad, but you don’t want to do any more.” But I sort of permitted myself to be persuaded. I ended up, of course, doing Leprechaun 3 and I ended up doing Stepfather 2. They heavy duty pushed me into television, which I enjoyed a lot. And I’ve had a pretty decent career. But I can say just from the fan response from being at the shows, I’m ready to get back in the blood. I would love to have something interesting to do in a horror movie.
KK: Any stories about Leprechaun 3?
CW: I loved Warwick Davis. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Once again, a very intelligent, very well educated man. My fondest memory is sitting next Warwick, we’re both in full makeup, I’m about to blow up in the doorway. And there’s a photo of us reading the newspapers.
KK: I am a huge fan of Terry O’Quinn ever since the first Stepfather movie. So what was it like working with him on Stepfather 2?
CW: That first film to me was really a classic of the genre. The director was Joseph Rubin, right? His technique and his abilities were apparent from the very beginning of that film. So with Stepfather 2, those were heavy shoes to fill.
Terry is great. Wonderful man. I had a great time working with him. He deserves so much, with his success from Lost. Terry O’Quinn is the kind of an actor, like Bill Moseley, when they make it big, they’re getting what they deserves.
KK: What about Meg Foster?
CW: I adore Meg, but I don’t know what happened to her. Her eyes are so unusual. She really stands out, but she also a voice and a delivery that are also extremely distinctive. I hope she’s doing well.
KK: How do you like doing these conventions?
CW: I’m digging the conventions! We’re keeping me on a very light schedule. But what I’ve gained from this, from the fans, is that it brings back to me that if it wasn’t for all these people that have seen my movie, I never would have moved to California. I never would have married my husband. I wouldn’t have my children. The life I’ve had as an actress would never have existed. I think it’s always important to remember that. That’s why I try to never sit down. I want the fans to see me and feel welcome. Because I so deeply appreciate it.
KK: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
CW: I don’t. I had a meeting with New Line about the new Friday the 13th remake. But it went to Nana Vistor, a wonderful sci-fi actress from Battlestar Galactica. I would have loved to have a part like that. If something like that comes up where I could really shine and really go for the gusto, I’d love to be in a horror film. So I’m waiting for opportunity to knock.
KK: Well thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
CW: No, thank you!.