WeHeartHorror: How did you first get into acting?
Suze Lanier-Bramlett: When I was around eight-years old, I was walking through a city park in my suburb - in Dallas, Texas - where I grew up, and I spotted some kids auditioning of a play. I went up and asked to audition for the lead role of Winnie in a silly, amateur production called Winnie, The Littlest Witch. I got the part and then won a best actress award for my performance that summer.
I knew then that acting was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was kind of a nerd back then. You know, thick glasses and freckles. So, I guess getting that role kind of validated me.
WHH: You had a variety of acting roles before The Hills Have Eyes. Did you have a passion for the horror genre, or was it just something that happened?
SLB: I loved horror movies when I was a kid - like Vincent Price in The Pit and the Pendulum. But, acting in horror was not my goal. I wanted to do everything - Broadway, sitcoms - as well as dramatic roles. Before The Hills Have Eyes, I had played on Welcome Back, Kotter as John Travolta's girlfriend, Bambi, and tons of other sitcoms, and lots of episodic TV. I really wanted to make a transition from TV to films.
My agent at the time didn't want me to do The Hills Have Eyes. He wanted me to wait for a "classier" project. When Wes Craven offered me the role of Brenda, I couldn't resist accepting it. I am so glad that I followed my instincts and didn't take my agent's advice. I never dreamed that it would become a classic.
WHH: How did you end up working on The Hills Have Eyes, and what was it like working on the project?
SLB: The casting director, Gus Schirmer, was friends with another casting director friend of mine named Carol Propp. Carol suggested he call me in for the role. I am very indebted to her for that. Like they say in Hollywood, it's mostly "who" you know. After I met with Wes, though, the rest was up to me.
We shot the film in the desert. Day shoots were hot and night shoots were really cold. It was a fairly low budget film, so working conditions were somewhat primitive. However, we all wanted the film to succeed, and the cast and crew were pretty tight.
WHH: Do you still keep in touch with Wes Craven and the other cast?
SLB: There was a screening of The Hills Have Eyes in Santa Monica in 2002 celebrating the release of the DVD. Wes, Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe and I did a Q & A after the screening. Wes was sweet, as always. One of the questions to Wes that night was had he ever thought about doing a remake? I think that's where the seed was planted.
I am still extremely close to Michael Berryman - he's like a brother. We recently did a horror/comedy music video together which is on
YouTube/SuzeLanierBramlett called, Watch What You Ask For, about the perils of internet dating. We always look for projects to work in together.
I just did a film with Dee Wallace's daughter, Gabrielle Stone, called CUT!. That should be released in early 2014. I see Dee pretty often. We all just got back from a Hills Have Eyes reunion in Cleveland at Cinema Wasteland. I saw Martin Speers for the first time since we filmed. Lots of us went: Dee, Michael, Janus, Martin, as well as Don Peake, who did the music. We had a great time.
WHH: Do you still get comments about starring in the film?
SLB: The Hills Have Eyes keeps coming back into my life - like, every year something happens from the experience of shooting that movie. I’ve done many other projects throughout my life, but none come back to revisit me quite like The Hills Have Eyes.
WHH: As you know, we are big fans of The Hills Have Eyes. Sometimes, if you are involved with a particular project, it becomes the one you are most associated with, despite doing other things.
SLB: Right! I would never have guessed, while shooting it, that it would become a classic. I had not seen it in years, and a friend invited me to dinner the other night and her daughter wanted to watch it. So, I bought a copy of it, and we sat around and drank martinis and watched it! (laughs) I literally had not seen it in many years, and she had seen the remake. Whilst we were watching it, she said, “Oh, my god. Why would they even try to do a remake. This is so much better!” It made me feel great. She was a young girl of twenty-three, and she was all into the original. She walked out of the remake actually!
WHH: You mention the Hills Have Eyes remake. What did you make of it? What do you think of horror remakes in general?
SLB: I really like Emily de Ravin. I was happy that she was cast as Brenda. I thought the rest of it was pretty lame; too much violence and grossness thrown in for shock value. Very contrived. I missed the innocence and rawness of the original.
Remakes are generally a bust. Carrie starring Sissy Spacek was a masterpiece. I just thought the original Carrie was fabulous. I auditioned for a role in it – not Carrie, but for one of her friends. I really wanted that role, because I thought that the script was really great. I think Amy Irving ended up playing that part I auditioned for. The original was scary enough. Why try to remake it? Why would somebody want to remake something that’s already a classic? Come up with something new, please!
A script that I’m holding now that I’d love to find funding for – it’s very Southern, and would be shot down in the deep South. It’s just a fabulous script. I don’t think it’s even been pitched yet. I read a lot of horror scripts and this one just really stands out.
WHH: Well, if there’s anything we can do to help get the word out…
SLB: Oh, yeah. After we make it, I will be calling YOU! (laughs).
WHH: Magnolia Gold Records is a step taken into the music industry, and your release of Swamp Cabaret. Tell us more about this.
SLB: My late husband was Delaney Bramlett, singer, songwriter, legendary rock/blues musician. We got together in 1977. My life has been as entwined with music as it has been with acting since then. I had a country blues band in the mid-80s and wrote and performed my own songs. I eased up on performing in clubs, but never stopped writing music. After Delaney passed at the end of 2008, I went back to playing in clubs and cabaret, mostly to keep myself busy. I knew that would help ease the pain a bit. And Delaney really wanted me to do that.
Swamp Cabaret is my first CD. It's a mix of country, blues, comedy, satire, rock & ballad. A little something for everyone! It's really the sequence of my one woman show that I perform in LA. It follows my life from my childhood in Texas; to my move to New York City in my teens; to motherhood and moving to Los Angeles and working in TV, to the present day. I add new songs to each show so that the audience can expect something new each time they come. They hate it when I leave out one of the songs they're used to hearing, but I prefer to change it up a bit.
WHH: Tell us what we can expect from you in the future.
SLB: Right now I’m focussing on a new horror film, that I was sent the script to, called The Witness, by a horror screenwriter named Jerry Lee Davis. There’s a wonderful part he’s written with me in mind. I’m really focussing on getting that out there, as well as some YouTube videos of my existing songs. As a musician, actor or entertainer of any kind, you need more of an internet presence than live shows. Although I am scheduled to do live shows, in 2014 I aim to increase my internet presence. Perhaps with that, I can go to Europe to do a live show, and have an audience there.
WHH: By increasing your presence on the internet, you would be able to make people more aware of your music further afield.
SLB: Definitely. I mean, I get a lot of fan mail from Europe – places like Germany, France and the UK – but mainly France for some reason. So, if I were to do a show there - It’s very cabaret. It tells the story of my life, and it’s very funny… but I don’t speak French! (laughs).
WHH: What else can you tell us about?
SLB: I did a new movie with Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables, The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence) a few weeks ago. It’s called either Death By Solicitation or No Solicitors - they’re fluctuating on the title. It centres around a doctor and his family that live in a middle-class suburban neighbourhood home. Eric has a sign out front of his house saying “No Solicitors”, and… he means it! (laughs). Do I need to say any more!? Beware if you solicit! (laughs) I play a rather nasty nurse in that film.
As I said earlier, I am waiting for the release of CUT! which should come out in early 2014. It's a horror film. I play Susan Lanier, former star of The Hills Have Eyes, now a grown up horror film director. That should be fun.
I've got more Swamp Cabaret shows coming up in 2014, so I continue to write and record my own music. That keeps my plenty busy.
I would love to produce and/or direct my own projects, and have been working on a couple of ideas around that.
Working in the arts is like living life. You never know what's going to happen. I like that. You never know what's going to "hit" like The Hills Have Eyes, or just be a project you're working on for that moment. I truly focus on staying in and enjoying the moment - the process of creating. I think that's all that's important. The result will just be whatever it's going to be.
Exclusive Interview: Suze Lanier-Bramlett
Suze Lanier-Bramlett has had a fascinating acting career, playing roles in a variety of productions. Starring as female lead, Brenda Carter in 1977’s cult classic The Hills Have Eyes – directed by Wes Craven – Suze became an instant horror genre favourite.
Since then, Suze has gone on to continue her acting, as well as forging successful turns as a musician and photographer.
We talk exclusively with Suze who tells us of her experiences in starring in a horror classic, as well as finding out about her more recent projects.
By Andreas Charalambous - 9th January 2014