Though the upcoming soft reboot of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser has taken to lauding its female version of Pinhead as a selling point, the horror icon’s original actor Doug Bradley isn’t ready to sing any such praises until he sees what the film’s production team does with the concept.
Directed by David Bruckner (The Night House), Hulu’s Hellraiser will center on the character of Riley, as portrayed by actress Odessa A’zion (Supercool), who the director described to Entertainment Weekly during a recenter interview as someone who is “struggling with addiction and compulsive behavior, that comes in contact accidentally with the box and unfortunately begins to dabble with it.”
“And chaos ensues,” he added.
As noted above, the film will see the franchise’s iconic antagonist Pinhead, reimagined as a woman, with transgender actress Jamie Clayton (Sense8) set to bring this new version of the Cenobite leader to life on the small screen.
“We felt a kind of anticipation around the fans to reimagine the character,” Brucker told EW. “We knew we wanted Pinhead to be a woman. Jamie was just the right person for the role. A person’s identity can be really exciting for a role in many ways, but I have to emphasize that Jamie absolutely killed, that’s how we got there.”
Turning to how Clayton’s take on the demon might compare to Bradley’s portrayal of Pinhead, a role which the latter actor undertook from the character’s first appearance in the original Hellraiser through to his MMORPG-based outing in Hellraiser: Hellworld, Bruckner admitted, “What Doug Bradley did with the character is so iconic.”
“We didn’t want to do a Doug Bradley impression, we just didn’t think that’s possible to do,” he explained. “There will be suffering, but you’re going to get a sense of what Pinhead’s desires might be in a way that hits a little different.”
The director also noted that Barker himself had been “very involved” with the film’s production, recalling to the entertainment news outlet, “Clive came on before the shoot, when we were in prep, and was really just a wonderful resource for me.”
“He was really generous with his time, and very welcoming of the idea that this was a new group of artists, and that they were going to run with this and land in different places with it,” Brucker asserted. “He was very supportive of that.”
However, despite Bruckner’s apparent belief that the mere gender-swapping of Pinhead is in and of itself a wholly original step forward for the series, Bradley himself is holding his praise until the film can prove that it actually does more with the concept than simply resting on it for easy diversity points.
Speaking to the reboot’s gender-swapping of his career-defining role during an August 27th panel appearance at the Danvers, Massachusets-based Silver Scream Con, Bradley opined, “It seemed like [a female Pinhead] was coming. It’s an interesting piece of casting.”
“I don’t know Jamie,” he continued, as per a recap of his appearance provided by horror-centric news outlet Bloody Disgusting. “Of course, they’ve taken even a little bit of a wrinkle in that, because Jamie is transgender.”
Bradley continued, “I’m not familiar with her recent work, but there was a science fiction series on Netflix several years ago called Sense8, which I was quite a fan of. Jamie was in that, and I really, really liked her performance in that. I really can’t say more than that.”
Laughing, the actor then clarified, “I do like to point out that I did wear a skirt as Pinhead,” before reiterating, “It’s an interesting casting decision” – though this time, he added the caveat, “Well, that only goes so far.”
“We say ‘female Pinhead’ like we know what that means, but there are a million shades of femininity,” said Bradley. “Where exactly are they going to go with that? Everything about Hellraiser has always been transgressive. Everything, always, from start to finish. It’s not a new idea in that sense.”
“But I’m intrigued,” he concluded. “I’m in the same position as all the rest of you, I guess, to see where that goes.”
Both Bradley and audiences will be able to find the answer to that question when Hellraiser hits Hulu on October 7th.