#2 Man: Talking With Bill Johnson by Owen Keehnen

Horror fans are familiar with Bill Johnson – or at least with his work. He is probably most famous for his work as Leatherface “Bubba” in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ opposite Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Kinky Friedman, and racksandrazors/Celluloid Casket subject Jim Siedow. Bill Johnson has also appeared frequently on stage and in a number of non-genre film projects such as ‘Redboy 13’, ‘Talk Radio’, ‘Full Moon in Blue Water’, ‘D.O.A.’, and ‘Paramedics’. He’s also the voice of The Guardian – an ultimate force of evil on the interactive Ultima software game. Upcoming on the Texas native’s plate is a role in Jeff Burr’s newest venture, ‘Demons 5’. Burr is the director of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3’, ‘Pumpkinhead 2’, and ‘The Stepfather 2’. ‘Demons 5’ promises to be pretty unforgettable with one of those casts that makes your heart sing (or scream) – Robert Englund, Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley, Cassandra ‘Elvira’ Peterson, Debbie Rochon, Kane Hodder, Jacki Lynn, R.A. Mihailoff, Tom Savini ---yowsah!

Recently Bill Johnson- a big favorite at horror conventions coast to coast - was cool enough to take a few moments and answer some of questions for this exclusive racksandrazors interview.



Owen: Hey Bill, why don't you tell me how you were chosen for the role of Leatherface "bubba" in 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2'?

Bill: Tobe held a nationwide search for Bubba, I just happened to be living in the town where the movie was to do it’s filming. I auditioned, made callbacks with Caroline in front of Tobe and he cast us. They were in town doing set-up for principal photography and not having found their actor yet to play Bubba, so there might have been a little anxiety, but that’s speculation.

Owen: What did you hope to bring to the character?

Bill: The culmination of all the fervor and focus I could muster to play movie-ball with some outrageous talent gathered to make this movie.

Owen: What was the most difficult part of the 10-week principle-filming schedule for 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2'?

Bill: The broiling Texas Heat. Waiting. The broiling Texas Heat. The general pressure from the studios to finish by their contractual deadline. Then there was the broiling Texas Heat. Even more escalating studio pressure to finish by a quite rapidly approaching deadline. Did I mention the broiling Texas Heat?

Owen: How did you motivate yourself to get into character?

Bill: Just a simple motivating phrase: “What life threatening bastard am I gonna kill today?” Alternating and sometimes in conflict with: “Bubba needs his lovin’, NOW! But seriously, I was surrounded by a super cast and a great director, motivation and inspiration was all around me. A major problem, and this is true for actors making any movie, was to be on hold and wait until the cameras were ready to roll.

Owen: What tips did director Tobe Hooper give to you?

Bill: Tobe communicates a lot of info using very few words so we didn’t really have much discussion after the initial cast read through of the script. He’d give just a brief set-up as we were getting ready to shoot each scene. If he needed to, he would tweak for something specific during each scene, for technical things, specific instructions how to move so the camera could capture what he wanted

Owen: Did you portrayal of a homicidal maniac lead you to understand killers more, fear them more, have nightmares...what emotional repercussions did you have from your immersion in the role?

Bill: After 20 years of performing in live theatre I’d already played some fairly bloodthirsty killers so had some familiarity of them. Mac the Knife from 3-Penny Opera, MacBeth from Shakespeare’s MacBeth, Industrial magnates who kill large numbers of people from a distance through buffers and henchmen. So I’d had practice in learning to leave the character in the dressing room after the day’s work was over to avoid the nightmares, etc. Bubba was definitely less sophisticated than previous characters I’d played. Bubba had more simplicity, savagery and guile. And more innocent in that he grew up believing he was doing a good thing and anyone outside the family was wrong. And a source of protein.

Owen: Thus far each actor has only portrayed Leatherface once in each of the 5 movies --- though you were asked to reprise your role in 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4' and yet you declined.  How come?

Bill: Simple really, even the most minimal standard working conditions for fairness and safety just were not in place. And after asking for them, it was made clear they were not going to be offered. A basic ‘take it or leave it” offer. I left it.

Owen: Bill, you're also a frequent guest at horror conventions...The Spooky, Texas Frightmare Weekend, MonsterMania, Screamfest, Chiller Theater, The Return to Haddonfield Convention etc.  What is that fans usually want to know?

Bill: Many, many fans ask: Was it fun? And the answer is YES it was, big time!

Owen: Director Jeff Burr ('The Texas Chainsaw Massacre #3', 'The Stepfather 2', 'Pumpkinhead 2’) has cast you in 'The Demons 5’, which in my opinion features THE CAST OF CASTS - Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Debbie Rochon, Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley, Tom Savini, Cassandra Peterson, Leatherface #3 - R.A. Mihailoff.  How exciting!  What can you tell me about the film?

Bill: Yes this is a very exciting film project underway. It’s still in “nailing the money down” phase, but recently got word that it could be fairly soon. I’m just waiting to hear the news on the next phase. If the money is in place then it’s a possible Feb/March 2006 start date for shooting.

Owen: With a cast like that were there any on-set tales you'd care to share?

Bill: I’m sure there will be, and I will be glad to share them.

Owen: You also the voice of The Guardian, a supremely evil being, on the interactive software game series ULTIMA.  How exactly do you voice an "almost all-powerful demon"?

Bill: Well, I don’ exactly know. I just open up and speak from my experience doing Shakespeare in live theatre and of course the script and the animation have a lot to do with it too.

Owen: So what else are you working on currently?

Bill: Tentative filming early next year on an Indy here in Austin a Film Noir called “The End That Eats”. Filmmaker Steve Mims wrote and will direct. I’m really looking forward to this project.

Owen: Mummies, vampires, psychos, aliens, creatures, werewolves, zombies -- which one does it for you Bill, and why?

Bill: I’m pretty interested in the psychological aspects so it’s the Psycho characters that I find most fascinating. What twists and turns of logic and behavior will they take? Can they, how will they be defeated? How will they outsmart their pursuers? What secrets will be revealed? What surprises will be unleashed?

Owen: What scares you in real life?

Bill: Any 4 Hurricane headed for my vicinity. Not much is scarier than Mother Nature when she’s got a full head of steam up. But maybe even scarier might be not being able to get out and meet my fans!

Owen: Anything more you would care to add.

Bill: 2006 is the 20th Anniversary of TCM2 so we’re looking for a banner year coming up. Go to my website www.leatherface2.com and get the details on my upcoming appearances in: Dallas, TX, http://www.scifiexpo.com/dcc6.asp England, Netherlands and more. By the way, Caroline Williams is going to be a Guest at Texas Frightmare weekend! http://www.texasfrightmareweekend.com I believe this is her first Convention appearance ever and I think there is a lot of excitement about Caroline being there. Thank you for this opportunity to connect with you all. You fans are the greatest!!!