Friday, February 12, 2010

Interview with Author and Actress Axelle Carolyn

Axelle Carolyn has been a horror fan for as long as she can remember. Brought up on a steady diet of scary movies and Stephen King and Clive Barker novels, she started out as a film journalist and contributed, amongst others, to Fangoria and IGN.

Her published first book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium, came out in May 2009 from Telos Publishing, and received rave reviews. Her first short stories were published the same year in various horror anthologies, including Dark Delicacies III: Haunted, alongside Clive Barker and Chuck Palahniuk.

As an actress, Axelle has worked on a series of genre features, including upcoming thriller Psychosis with Charisma Carpenter, and Neil Marshall’s Roman epic Centurion, in which she played a Pict warrior called Aeron alongside Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko.

Fatally Yours: What made you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Axelle Carolyn: Ever since I was little I’ve always been attracted by the darker side of things, ghosts and skeletons and haunted mansions and spooky stories. But I think what really made me fall in love with the genre was discovering my dad’s collection of horror books when I was about 7 or 8. He had several books of ghost stories by Belgian writer Jean Ray, and also Dracula, Frankenstein… the classics. A few years later I read my first Stephen King novel, and I was hooked for life.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Axelle Carolyn: Anything supernatural or scary, anything that takes you away from reality. What the French call “fantastique”… Perhaps the reason there aren’t quite as many female horror fans is that the genre is too often confined to gore and cheap scares.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you become involved in the horror genre?

Axelle Carolyn: Professionally? I guess my first taste was when I was still studying, and I got the chance to conduct some interviews for a website. My first interviewee was Stuart Gordon! Soon after that I started visiting sets for Fangoria, and got my first horror script optioned.

Fatally Yours: You’ve been involved with all different aspects of the horror genre – being a journalist, an actress, a model and an author. Would you like to pursue one of these exclusively or do you like to be involved with many different aspects of the horror genre?

Axelle Carolyn: Apart from the odd column piece on IGN, I haven’t written articles in a good couple of years. I’ve never really pursued modeling as a career… So that leaves acting and writing, and that’s the two aspects of horror I like the most. They complete each other perfectly. I have a feature in development right now, based on a script I wrote, and in which I’ll be starring. I can’t wait to see it happen!

Fatally Yours: While working in the horror genre, what do you feel has been your crowning achievement so far? 

Axelle Carolyn: As a writer, I’d say my book, It Lives Again! Horror Movies In The New Millennium (Telos Publishing). It was also hugely exciting to see my first short story published in the new Dark Delicacies anthology this year. As an actor, the most fun I had was on Centurion, with all the fights, horse riding and archery it involved. But as far as achievements go, if the film I just mentioned gets made in 2010, that’ll definitely take the crown.

Fatally Yours: If you could work with any female horror figure, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Axelle Carolyn: Sigourney Weaver. She’s just so great, beautiful, strong… I would have loved to work with Bette Davis, too.

Fatally Yours: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there have traditionally been less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Axelle Carolyn: It’s not exclusive to horror. Even outside the genre, there are so few female screenwriters or directors. It might have to do with the fact that historically, women have rarely been pushed to grab the top positions in society. I often notice amongst my non-industry friends that even women who are brilliant at their jobs often aren’t really interested in becoming CEOs or being in positions of power. They want a family, they have other priorities. But then again, it could be that women are just not that interested in screenwriting or directing. Who knows?

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Axelle Carolyn: Sure. Personally I’ve never really felt discriminated against, or witnessed other women’s work being dismissed on that basis. Although you know what? There’s one stupid thing that bugs me every time I go to festivals or convention booths. I can never find good horror shirts in my size! Guys get those brilliant gory shirts, with Re-Animator or Iron Maiden on them, and all we girls get are cutsy Emily Strange logos – when we’re lucky. That’s a pain.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in the horror genre, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Axelle Carolyn: No. If anything, it helped me stand out. People are more likely to remember the one knowledgeable horror chick amongst the fifty guys. The only misconception I have to fight against is that some people think I’m into horror because of my husband [director Neil Marshall]. That’s silly: I’d been working in the industry and in the genre years before we even met.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera or women writers?

Axelle Carolyn: Not really. I’d like to say there’s been more interesting roles for women in genre films, but I think these kinds of things come and go. Though I would kill for a part like Angela Bettis’ in May or Beatrice Dalle’s in Inside! This being said… one interesting thing is that in the past decade, producers have come to acknowledge women as potential target audience for horror movies. J-horror for instance had a largely female audience.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?

Axelle Carolyn: Amongst directors, Kathryn Bigelow. I’m also very curious to see what Jovanka Vuckovic is going to do now; she did such a great job with Rue Morgue! As a writer, how could I not mention Mary Shelley? And as an actor, I admire what Barbara Steele managed to do, playing all those strong villains. She was the closest thing to a female Vincent Price, I guess. Or Bette Davis towards the end of her career: she perfectly captured both the strength and the vulnerability that some women tend to have as they grow old. Most horror actresses play a fair share of victims (hence the name scream queens), but I personally find that no fun whatsoever. I’d rather be the villain! Even if that means that most of the time, the make-up artist is told to make me look old, sick or insane, rather than pretty and fresh…

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep you working in the horror genre?

Axelle Carolyn: Good books inspire me. Film festivals, too – it’s hugely inspiring and energizing to spend five to ten days watching tons of horror movies and chatting with fans and filmmakers. I also have a great group of friends in LA who are a constant source of inspiration: Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Mick Garris, Adam Green – people who have a true passion for and understanding of the genre. Every time I fly back to London, I can’t wait to get to work! On my last trip I had the chance to visit Clive Barker at his home in the hills, and it was the most amazing place. It seems he lives and breathes horror 24/7. Looking at his work on display everywhere, it just makes you want to work and write and create…

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films and books?

Axelle Carolyn: My favorite horror film is David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I’m a big Cronenberg fan. I also love Re-Animator, The Fog, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Devil’s Backbone, Return of the Living Dead

Book-wise, I picked up my first Stephen King book when I was 10 and I’ve loved him ever since. And I read all kinds of ghost stories. Right now I’m reading The Woman In Black. I’m also reading a lot of Dan Simmons novels these days.

Fatally Yours: Outside of horror what do you enjoy doing?

Axelle Carolyn: Reading, watching non-horror movies, horse riding, traveling, eating in great restaurants…

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Axelle Carolyn: As an actress, as I mentioned… become a female Vincent Price. As a writer: write one really scary or touching film or novel, something that readers or audiences would remember for a long time. Short-term goals include getting that feature made… If it happens, I’ll definitely keep you posted!

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you and your work?

Axelle Carolyn: On IMDB and my book It Lives Again can be found on Amazon, at Dark Delicacies, or on the publisher’s website:

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