The word Icon is thrown around all the time in the film world. Very few truly earn the title. With over fifty years in the film industry and a plethora of memorable roles throughout the years Sid Haig has truly earned the status of being an icon. Sid is always a fan favorite at conventions and it was an honor to pick his brain for this interview at Days Of The Dead: Indianapolis.
Terror Time: Jack Hill played a significant role in the early part of your career. What were you able to learn from your time with him that you’ve carried throughout your career?
Sid Haig: The area that Jack helped me in is learning the responsibility that comes along with the job as well as the discipline and work ethic because he is absolutely tireless in everything that he does. I was smart enough to watch and learn from what he did both on set and off.
TT: You worked with Lon Chaney Jr. on SPIDER BABY at the down turn of his career. Was it hard to see the deterioration he was going through on a daily basis?
SH: On and off the set he was actually rejuvenated because he was so flattered that someone even remembered who in the hell he was and wanted him for the starring role. To the point that he had it put in his contract that he couldn’t have a drink while he was working on the film. He ultimately became my mentor and he taught me so much in how to handle myself and others so much so that I can’t put a dollar figure on the experience.
TT: You took a break from acting during the middle part of your career. When you returned what was the biggest difference you noticed in the industry?
SH: The biggest difference that I noticed is that there were a whole lot of people who didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I’ve been doing this for fifty-four years and I know how things should operate both in front of and behind the camera. In general, there is a ton of inexperience that is happening and let’s face it. Anybody with a credit card can call themselves a producer or director because the equipment has gotten so cheap. What you end up with is a guy with all the equipment and people who call themselves actors and the guy that’s calling himself a director doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. Sadly, that is where we are at for the most part today. Some brilliance comes around such as a film I did recently called HIGH ON THE HOG with director, Tony Wash. He’s relatively new in the business of feature lengths but he knows what he’s doing. I put my faith in him and I wound up as a producer on that film. Then you have the other side where people are just stumbling around not knowing what the hell they are doing and the film comes out looking like that.
TT: I agree one hundred percent. Is there a type of role or genre that you would like to experiment in before you call it a day acting?
SH: Yeah I could get behind being in a musical or being an action hero. I had a dream role in a film I just finished called CYNTHIA where I get to play a homicide detective. I mean who in the hell casts Sid Haig as a homicide detective? The director knew what I could do and knew that I could stretch the envelope so he hired me and it was such a pleasure to play that role. I’d love to do more of those type roles. If there’s anything that’s true about Hollywood, it’s the fact that you do get pigeon holed. You do a role and the film becomes successful then you get stuck in that damn role forever unless you say “No I’m not going to do that anymore.” like I did in 1992 and walked away and waited for someone to get a couple of synapses put together which happened when Quentin Tarantino called and said “I get it you don’t want to play stupid heavies anymore I’ve written a part of the judge for you in JACKIE BROWN and I won’t take no for an answer.” So I say “OK here’s a guy who knows what the fuck is going on and is willing to work with me.” Then I was back in.
TT: You bring up JACKIE BROWN which of course starred Pam Grier. You’ve worked on many films with her throughout the years. What do you think it is that Pam Grier possesses that actresses today don’t?
SH: She knows herself. She knows how talented she is and she knows how sexy she is. She knows how to use all of that without being overt. She’s just a totally compete person. I love her dearly. I love her like my sister. I’ve always got her back and she’s always got mine. We did a ton of films in the Philippines together and you had to have faith with the people you’re working with because you’re not only fighting the weather and no budget but you’re fighting snakes and spiders. It’s like Oh I have to go potty well you better pick a bush but take somebody with you to watch for snakes. That bonds people. She is just an amazing person because she knows her value. She knows her worth. Not in dollars and cents but in respect and the value that her presence in a film brings.
TT: Note to self. Take weapons if I’m ever in the jungles of the Philippines. You’re a fan favorite on the convention circuit. Out of the countless conventions that you’ve been a part of what’s the oddest fan interaction you’ve encountered at a convention?
SH: Fuck. I was doing a convention down in Fort Lauderdale. It was after the convention was over so it was party time and this young girl who looked like the poster child for the girl next door with the gingham dress and the flipped up hair and she comes up to me and she said she wanted to whisper something in my ear. So I lean down and she whispers to me “Can I lick your balls?” It’s like OK hello guys they’re licking balls in Florida. So yes I would say that was the weirdest I’ve encountered.
TT: Ha ha ha. That would be an encounter that would be hard to forget. Having spent so many years on sets and in front of the camera do you have any plans to move behind the camera to direct?
SH: Yes yes yes. I’ve directed some documentary stuff and I’ve also directed over one hundred commercials but I am looking for my first theatrical release directorial job.
TH: Fantastic. No genre restrictions on this question. What is a film that you feel is neglected that more people need to watch?
SH: I am an absolute sucker for heroic films. Films about people who are facing all kinds of adversity that wind up OK at the end. That’s the type of films that convinced me to do a film called LITTLE BIG TOP. It’s about a guy born into a circus family. His father and grandfather were famous clowns and he’s expected to take over the family business but the problem is he can’t take the spotlight and ends up crawling into the bottle. The first time we see him he’s hopping off the freight train to live out his life as a drunk. He has absolutely nothing. So he has to start from scratch but by the end of the film you know he’s going to be OK. That’s the kind of film that I like.
TH: That’s a great recommendation. For the young actors and actresses that are just getting off the bus in Hollywood with bright stars in their eyes. What do you recommend they avoid in order to be a success?
SH: They need to avoid the idea of what they think being an actor is all about. They’re looking at the spotlight and limousines and all the superficial bullshit. No. Take a look at the eighteen hour days in 110-degree heat while wearing a parka then reassess what the hell being a real actor means. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who wants to get into this business is first a quote from Winston Churchill to the graduating class of Oxford University. They introduce him he goes out stands at the podium and he says “Never quit. Never, never,never quit.” Then he turns around and walks off. To that I add never have a backup plan. Because when things get tough and they will you’ll use that backup plan and your dream will die.
TH: That is honestly the best advice ever. Thank you so much for the time and fantastic conversation Sid. Where can people go online to keep up with your exploits?
SH: Ha ha. I keep shit simple. www.sidhaig.com boom easy as that. Thank you.