December 3, 2019 Interview – Caroline Williams
Straight out of the Lone Star State, Caroline Williams is a working class actress proud of her roots. Now celebrating her 35th anniversary in film/television, Williams has shown a diversity that has allowed her to star in various genres ranging from Drama to Comedy, and of course, Horror. Famously known for her role as Stretch in 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, she has starred in a list of films that include 1989’s Stepfather II, 1990’s Days of Thunder, 2013’s Hatchet 3, plus a whole lot more.
Sharing a passion for music and Horror cinema, Williams continues to play the roles she has always dreamed of while showing no signs of slowing down. Recently taking the time out for an interview, she sat down to chat about her beginnings in film, her memories of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, future projects, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in film and television 35 years now, starring in a list of films. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actress?
Caroline Williams – It has everything to do with Texas and where I’m from. It’s a very eclectic and unusual place; it has a lot of really interesting creative impulses and influences. Music had always been a really profoundly important part of being a Texan and living in Texas. There is such a mix of different types of music that is sort of the soundtrack of your life when you live there. When the ’80s kicked in, the movie industry also began coming into Texas, partially because for that reason. Culturally it was just so interesting; there were so many different settings that you could utilize for movies. Some of the biggest were Urban Cowboy (1980) and Terms of Endearment (1983), those two movies really put Texas on the map for film production.
At the time I was very interested in film: I was working for a film production company, we did a lot of commercials and industrial things. When those films were in town our little company was providing production services, so I was able to see first hand how movies were made and what it was like. I started taking acting classes and within about six months I had my first job – it was a movie called Alamo Bay (1985). It was a very political film and an extraordinary education for me. Everything accelerated really quickly from that moment when I made that movie and that was around 1983. By the time 1985 rolled around, I had gone back to Corpus Christi to do The Legend of Billie Jean (1985). Then within a year The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) came to Austin.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. How did the roll in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 come about then?
Caroline Williams – L.M. Kit Carson and Tobe Hooper both being Texans were really invested in having a Texas girl as their lead in that film. They were getting a lot of pressure from Cannon films to hire out of New York or L.A. My hire was very sort of an outside chance that actually happened.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it is great that it worked out. Of your many credits, you have starred in a list of Horror films through the years, including the aforementioned The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Is the Horror genre something you foresaw becoming a part of, and do you enjoy working in these types of films?
Caroline Williams – I adore working in Horror films, but it is not something I thought would take off for me. Horror back in the day, True Horror, Horror post George Romero and Tobe Hopper, was considered to be porn and so marginalized. It was not considered to be desirable for an actor to do Horror; that is where you began and ended your career basically. The reputation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was really kind of ugly for the film business as a whole based as it was at the time in Los Angeles.
When the opportunity arose, I absolutely knew Tobe Hooper. He was undergoing a bit of a renaissance: he had come to L.A., begun to work, and come to the attention of Steven Spielberg who became his biggest mentor, promoter, and employer. He would later hire him for Poltergeist (1982), but he was a huge fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. His approving of that 1974 film went a long way toward placing Horror a little further into the zeitgeist of the film business. When the opportunity arose to read for Chainsaw 2, I recognized what an opportunity it was. I seized the moment and there you go.
Cryptic Rock – The film has since become a cult classic. Let’s look back a little more into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The sequel had more of a comedic aspect. When you saw the script, were you surprised to see the direction of the story to change a little bit from the original?
Caroline Williams – Everyone was. Everyone immediately figured this would be a revisit of the first, and it most definitively was not. It was a very subversive take on consumerism and sort of rapid greed, which people considered the Reagan era to be a very greedy, acquisitive time in the US. That’s the nature of human beings, they want stuff. It was sort of an underlined theme, but really what came through in the film was the crazy family. The fact that human beings will consume one another if given the opportunity.
It was just such a brilliant time to be able to work with that assembled group of actors, Dennis Hopper primary among them. Also to be able to live out this very rich fantasy which had extraordinary dialogue, scenes, pilot lines, and characters; it was really dense and multilayered. Once it grabs your attention at the very beginning, you never let go until the end, and the end was perfectly executed! There just really is very little with the movie that I think you can truly find fault with.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly is a very fun film and it has stood the test of time. You mentioned how Horror in many was looked at a level below, like pornography. That said, many actors/actresses who have done Horror have been pigeonholed because of that. You stood clear of that: you did many other genres and worked in television too. Was it a challenge to not be pigeonholed?
Caroline Williams – It was more than likely a challenge for my agents and representatives. People weren’t that thrilled to meet me. It was Dennis Hopper who walked me into his agency and said, “This girl is an extraordinary actress. You need to give her a chance, you need to get out there and sell her.” It was really my agent and representatives’ achievement that they were able to get me out there and take me through the television business as they did. It was an extraordinary gift and is a gift today.
Tobe Hooper used to say Horror films were a contemporary version of what Westerns were in the ’30s through ’50s. The ordinary mythology behind human existence, which is constantly contending with the forces of evil, the forces of civilization, the forces of mortality. It just makes it more obvious and evident in Horror in the same way that it used to with two guys drawing down on each other in the middle of a dusty little town.
I do believe the Horror genre has grown, expanded, and continues to refine itself in the most extraordinary ways. It’s truly satisfying at this point in my career to be starring in so many things. I have five projects that will be out the beginning of 2020. I’m really gratified by that.
Cryptic Rock – That is fantastic to hear. Horror is a genre that has a dedicated fanbase like no other; although, perhaps Sci-Fi fans are equal to that. There is nothing quite like it though.
Caroline Williams – What I find is similar, within the music realm, is Metal and Heavy Rock fans are equally as devoted to their musical lives as they are to Horror films. The music and movies are coming together more and more. My incredible director from the movie Hatchet III (2013), BJ McDonnell, did a trilogy of music videos for Slayer and they are phenomenal. They were cut together as a film, Slayer: The Repentless Killogy, and it was shown on November 6th for a one night theatrical premiere in L.A.
I’m extremely proud to be a part of that. I think more than anything it illustrated how music truly brings Horror to life in a way that it never has before. Most soundtracks for Horror are very ominous, they stick to two or three key notes that define the story-line as you go along. Now you have these amazing soundtracks and sound scores with these phenomenal bands that bring these movies so vividly to life. They really make your heart pop, they bring a level of excitement that wasn’t there before.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly is new and unique to see more of that in Horror films. The Slayer film is also very unique and a great way to celebrate their history. What can you tell us about some of the other films you are involved in coming up?
Caroline Williams – There is an amazing movie and role I could have never dreamt of called Ten Minutes To Midnight. It was originally offered to Barbara Crampton. She was going to be shooting Castle Freak, and she very generously passed this on to me with her best wishes saying, “This reads like you.” It’s the story of a Metal/Rock DJ who has been given her walking papers and she has to give the very last broadcast of her career that night.
The music that we’re starting to acquire most principally is by Wednesday 13, but we’re also getting so much amazing music from so many other phenomenal bands. Most of them are just breaking down and they are looking for the opportunity to get their music out there. I’m also hoping to land some really terrific classics for the film. I’m returning to the DJ booth for the first time since 1986. This movie has as much action, a physical challenge, and emotional challenge as Chainsaw ever had. It brings a level of excitement that Horror I think needs to have.
Cryptic Rock – That will be a film to certainly look out for. You have continued to work in recent years with a list of roles in different films. What brought you back into the Horror genre so extensively again?
Caroline Williams – I did what a lot of women do, I got married and I had children. That’s an entire lifetime. I was very much married to my kids. My married life was not so awesome, but I was very married to my children. My older child is autistic. He, and his little brother as well, became the focus of my life. Creating a life and environment for a child with those challenges is a daily thing. I’m happy to say today he lives a very normal life with achievement and friends. He is very social, and frankly he’s my biggest fan. He, like a great many autistic and developmentally delayed individuals, have found a conduit through a lot of these silent villains and heroes in a way.
They see a message in these story-lines – my son fell in love with Victor Crowley. There is poor Victor who can’t talk, he’s different from everybody, he’s mocked, bullied, he has to stay home and no one loves him. He’s filled with frustration and angry, and he takes it out in the worst possible way. Leatherface, in my mind, was simply misunderstood. My son has found a place where he can watch his frustrations and his anger live out someplace else so he can go through life behaving the way that he’s supposed to. Not trying to say Horror is therapeutic, but hey, it can be cathartic in the same way Rock and Metal music can. We all have this volcano of feelings inside of us, and you have to be able to put that to words, action, or story. That’s what gives us our love for our music or movies.
I’ve only been back 100%, I would say, in the last 3 years. In this last year I’ve finally been able to play the roles I’ve always wanted; I’ve finally been able to find the filmmakers and musicians that speak to me. Life of Agony is one of them, Mina Caputo and her phenomenal voice. There is so much out there that is rich and meaty.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and it is wonderful to hear your son is doing well. You are right, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock is therapeutic, it is an outlet for releasing frustration and aggression without hurting anyone.
Caroline Williams – Yes, I wish I could give the appropriate amount of love to every band that I have the opportunity to see. I do have to say the opportunity to see Slayer in concert is something that I don’t want to miss because I’ve never had that. To have been a part of their creative life within these three videos that are now cut together as a movie, experiencing that life was extraordinary. I got to be in Glenn Danzig’s movie Verotika (2019). All I am is an Easter egg, but I got to get a acquainted with him and check out his creative process. He is constantly in an evolutionary stage, constantly creating in a new, aggressive way. It’s a great time, I’m on fire being inspired by all these people!
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