Taken from The Scotsman, 18 September 1999
HE WAS born in Liverpool 1952. In the mid-Eighties he was a struggling playwright mounting fringe plays such as The History of the Devil and Frankenstein in Love. But Clive Barker was also moonlighting as a writer of horror/fantasy tales and when the first of the six volumes of The Books of Blood appeared in 1984, reader word-of-mouth started him on the road to success. Now, at 46, Barker is the author of such best-selling novels as Weaveworld, The Great and Secret Show, Imajica, Everville, Sacrament and Galilee. Moreover, Barker has written and/ or directed feature films including Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Candyman. Most recently he executive-produced Gods and Monsters.
But Barker's CV doesn't finish there: he has continued writing for the stage Incarnations and Forms of Heaven), tried his hand at children's fiction (The Thief of Always - of which he is working on an animated version) and completed a television series: The A-Z of Horror. All this .is in addition to his work as an illustrator, which appears on the covers of his books and in graphic novel adaptations of his fiction. In 1991, Barker moved to Los Angeles, where he divides his time between fiction and film.
"My great models are William Blake - poet, illustrator - and Jean Cocteau - playwright, poet, novelist," says Barker, "These guys didn't mike a distinction between what they did. There's a certain artificiality - and it's a pretty modern phenomenon - about the way we divide our endeavours up. If you, a writer; are also expressing yourself as a painter; you're still the same person. The manifestations of my interest in the world will be many and multifarious. So my attitude always is that I don't look too closely at myself and my processes. Most times I Just get the heck on with it. I want to have a crack at that, so it's: 'Let's see what we can achieve'."
It was that spirit that got Barker started in the business of directing films. Naturally, his first stab at it was a horror movie. Hellraiser, based on Barker's own novella, The Hellbound Heart, splattered onto cinema screens in 1987, a time when the pre-Scream horror movie cycle was burning itself out While lame jokes and flashy special effects were replacing visceral thrifts in film's like A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Hellraiser took horror fans on a whole new trip, an erotic, sado-masochistic adventure worthy of the Marquis De Sade. Hellraiser spawned three lesser sequels, but the original (the only one directed by Barker himself) remains one of the most distinctive films of the genre. "I'd had a couple of movies made of my stories that I didn't think were any good"' recalls Barker. The little-seen Rawhead Rex, adapted from The Books of Blood, falls into this category and, according to Barker; "It's avoidable. The feeling was that [Hellraiser] was very much a bunch of friends trying something. It was a relatively low budget film that we wanted to have a go at, like George Romero with Night of the Living Dead and the guys that did The Blair Witch Project."
Barker got behind the camera again three years later with Night-heed, an adaptation of his novel Cabal. The next Barker adaptation, Candyman - again derived from The Books of Blood, but not directed by the author this time around - scored nearly the level of praise that had been heaped on Hellraiser. A sequel, Candyman 2 Farewell to the Flesh didn't fare so well, but was notable for being directed by Bill Condon. Condon and Barker were to work together again, as director and executive produce:, on Gods and Monsters which won an Oscar for best adapted screen play.
"Gods and Monsters was a very important picture," says Barker. "As a gay man I waned to do a gay movie about another gay man, James Whale." A British immigrant in Hollywood, Whale was responsible for the seminal Universal Pictures honor classics of the Thirties, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. However, his career was eclipsed by illness, scandal and the changing fortunes of Hollywood. Of his new-found role as a money man, Barker comments:
"If I'm writing, or illustrating, or directing, it's my vision that carries the piece. If I'm producing my job is to facilitate someone else's vision and that's a very important function."
Barker is about to make a return visit to Britain. The main purpose of his trip is to promote The Essential Clive Barker, a self-selected collection of extracts of his own prose; a kind of portable Barker manual. A bonus attraction comes in the form of Jon Pope's well-timed stage-adaptation of The Books of Blood at the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow, which Barker plans to attend. He and Pope will also discuss the piece in front of an audience.
"There was some debate about how we should organize the book," explains Barker. "I was keen that the excerpts should be self-contained and justify them-selves within themselves. So I took all the books away on vacation to Hawaii and looked at everything. Essentially - it's those things that went into the act of why I write that were selected.
"Surprisingly, when I went back over the books I found there really wasn't that much horror, which I've been claiming of my writing for a while. I was surprised at how few 'special effects' there were and how much the books were to do with human beings. There's also a strangeness to some of the writing. I'm talking about books like Weaveworld where characters step through into other worlds. You often write these stories in a fugue state where these lands just rise up in front of you and you describe them. I haven't been back to these lands in a long time. It was a pleasurable experience."
Barker is fir more in the dark about Pope's theatrical adaptation of The Books of Blood. "Damned if I know what we are going to see," he exclaims, The stories do lend themselves to rediscovery; the language is very theatrical But I have deliberately kept my distance; I want to be surprised Am I m capable hands? Absolutely I knew about the Citizens' productions from 20 years ago
large, decadent, they represented a bravery and courage that was inspiring. They had successfully adapted Poe, Brain Stoker and so on and they wanted to have a crack at The Books of Blood. It's an honourable tradition to be in, following Poe."
Barker talks of being at the mid-point of his career, of pausing for a moment and allowing the new book to review his writing to date. But a question about what's next prompts a multitude of answers: "I have an invented world quartet of books for children. I have a book called The Scarlet Gospels, which is a selection of erotic texts together with 100 illustrations. I have a selection of short stories. Basically, I have six books on the blocks right now. These explorations of mine are part of my creative health. The moment you do what's expected you're cheating your imagination and your readers. I want to do what's most exciting to me and if that's erotica then, damn it, I'm going to do erotica. And if it's outlandish children's fantasy then, darn it, that's what we'll put on the page."
Then, finally: "For the moment, I'm on the book tour and the high point will be to just go in and watch a play. How cool is that?"