See ya later, Terminator
by Cathi Unsworth
(Originally appeared in Sounds February 23rd, 1991)
What do you do with a dusty, chaotic rock star who looks like the Grim Reaper?
Why, cast him as himself in your movie and send him to the Sahara desert of course, which is exactly what the makers of Hardware did to Fields Of the Nephilim's Carl McCoy. Cathi Unsworth gets the low down about his first big screen role.
Video Producer Richard Stanley's first foray into filming, the sci-fi chiller Hardware, was one of last year's most surprising movie successes. Despite a low budget, the ingenuity of the settings - London's famous Roundhouse theatre recreated into crypto-gothic apartments plus the awesome vastness of the Quarzazate desert provided the perfect, startling environment for Stanley's paranoic, post-holocaust vision.
It's a scenario similar to those of Blade Runner and The Terminator but Hardware is further spiced with threads of Biblical imagery and large chunks of hallucinogenic delusion. Stanley spins a yarn of a soldier returning to his sculptress girlfriend with the present of a Cyborg helmet for her to incorporate into her work. Only, the helmet is self activating and regenerates itself into a Mark 13; a merciless, military killing machine. Which is where the fun begins...
Hardware also marked the big screen debut of charismatic Fields of the Nephilim singer Carl McCoy. Cast as the Nomad, McCoy is a scavenger operating in the radiation zones, who discovers the Mark 13 in the first place. Like fellow co-star Lemmy, he appears more or less as himself, and, it turns out, his part had been specifically written for him.
"I got to know Richard years ago, as he'd worked on some of our early promos," Carl explains. "He became a really good friend. So, when Palace Productions sent me a script and an artist's impression, he'd written me into the script. It seemed like an interesting thing to go in for, as its not that far removed from what I do with the band."
Carl's role in the film certainly suits his perceived public image. By bringing the robot out of the desert and into a place where it can cause the most chaos, he is an effective angel of doom. "I like to deliver a message", Carl McCoy agrees. "And this role suited me - The Grim Reaper! I suppose that is how most people see me! But what interested me most about this film was that its not just a typical Blade Runner scenario; there are lots of parallel themes running through it - like the fact the robot is called Mark 13, a passage from the Bible that directly refers to the end of the world. I know how Richard's mind works. It also suited me in that I didn't have the pain of taking on a full blown role", he continues. "Because I only appear at the beginning and the end of the film, I see it as having my own little video."
Carl's scenes took place amid the dramatic shifting sands of the Quarzazate, a part of the Sahara Desert. "When we went out there they were having the coldest weather for years", Carl recalls, "Which came as a shock, because I was expecting it to be really hot. But it worked well, because there was constant thunder and lightning, and rainbows appearing all over the place. So, apart from the obvious filtering, it looked pretty much how it does in the film. We were totally stranded in the desert for the filming," the singer furthers. "Dumped in the middle of nowhere. Our main shots were at sunrise and sunset, when it was the most dramatic, under this huge red sky."
Sadly, one of the key scenes that would have involved Carl had to be cut. Leading lady Stacy Travis was supposed to film a dream sequence with him in the desert, but she became so ill in the arid surroundings that the idea had to be scrapped. "That was a shame" McCoy muses. "I think that sequence would have added another really good dimension to the plot." But was the he pleased wit the finished film? "Yeah, I was, I hadn't seen much of it until the cast and crew premiere, and I was quite impressed. I didn't think it'd do as well as it has, but because Richard is so ingenious, with a low budget he really comes into his own. "It was a good soundtrack too, loud music that suits the fact it's a very loud film. But basically, the whole experience was a very inspiring one. I'd previously only worked on pop promos, so it was a great thing to be part of the mechanisation's of a feature length film. Seeing the Special Effects department was one of my favourite things. I've been interested in that stuff since I was a kid."
He also sees the commercial and critical success of Hardware as breathing new life into the Independent British film industry. "Hardware has provided a whole new generation of movie makers, new faces, based in Britain. It could so easily have gone the other way, been regarded as a joke, sort of how people often see The Fields of the Nephilim. But Richard has capabilities."
So, having had such a positive entrance into the Barry Norman Kingdom, would McCoy like to further his movie career? "Well, having met some of the leading actors in this film, I know that to take on their roles would be quite hard," he considers. "But really, it would depend on how interesting the part was. I would never want to do anything that was too obvious. In the future there must still be interesting films to be made, though. But on the other hand, I wouldn't go looking for it, I'm busy enough as it is!"