Interview: Ross Noble of Stitches

Wild and crazy British standup comedian Ross Noble makes his feature film debut as a murderous kids’ birthday party clown in the 2012 Irish comedy horror film Stitches. (MPI, Blu-ray $29.98,  DVD $24.98, available now)

Directed by Conor McMahon (Dead Meat), Stitches finds Noble portraying Richard “Stitches” Grindle, a weary birthday party clown who’s nastily mocked by a group of kids at a gig, accidentally resulting in his grisly, untimely end. A decade or so later, the degenerate jester rises from the grave to seek vengeance on the children who mocked him and caused demise, using every trick in the clown book (and many that aren’t) to exact his revenge.

Disc Dish spoke with Ross about how he came to be involved in Stitches and his experiences in making the film. Oh, and while we don’t want to give anything away about the deliciously gruesome flick, bear in mind that last year it was awarded the “Best Death Scene” prize at England’s Fright Fest—and that the slaying involves Stitches creating a fatal balloon animal from all-too-human materials that are decidedly not balloons!

 

Disc Dish: Stitches marks your feature film debut. How did the opportunity to do the film make its way to your door and what sold you on the idea to appear in it?

Ross Noble: The Stitches script had been sent to my management and someone in the office who isn’t into horror films mentioned it in passing as being a bit mental and gruesome and daft all at the same time. It sounded right up my street so I read it straight away and, straight off, I knew I had to do it.

DD: Stitches is an over-the-top horror-comedy, filled with all kinds of laughs and splattery gore. Are you a fan of those kinds of genre movies?

RN: I am a massive fan of these sorts of movies! I have never had any desire to play real people in the real world, but rather a real person in a fantasy world or a fantastical character in the real world. It’s long been my dream.

DD: Prior to Stitches, your career has found you on stage, radio and television—how did you adapt your style to the atmosphere, boundaries and time elements that come with making a movie?

RN: On stage, you make a choice and the rest of the show hangs on that. With film, you can try different things and let the director choose it. It’s a new way of working for me but one that is a lot of fun. I normally make all the choices on my own and that’s very rewarding but ultimately it is one point of view. I really liked being able to bounce ideas around get input from others.

DD: How did you get on with writer/director Conor McMahon, whose previous credits include Disturbed, Dead Meat and the web series Zombie Bashers?

RN: Working with Conner was a joy from start to finish. I really enjoyed watching him turning what was in his head into something everyone could see. What was fun for me was being able to go to him with ideas about the logic behind the motivation of an undead killer clown and build the logic of what was going on. We would have conversations about getting to the truth of how Stitches should behave, then fall about laughing when we realized how stupid we must sound to anyone listening in.

DD: Playing a party clown who returns from the dead to get vengeance on the now-teenaged kids who were responsible for your untimely death is quite a unique role. You have experience as a clown, don’t you?

RN: I was a street performer and kids’ party entertainer before I did standup and I have been in the position Grindle was in many times! On set, I did have a terrible flashback to those days and realized that the film could have easily been a bio-pic.

Stitches movie scene

Party clown Ross Noble gets his murderous point across in Stitches.

DD: Apart from your history as a street performer and clown, what other kind of research did you do for your role?

RN: I spent a lot of time playing with how he Stitches should move. He goes through so many different changes over the course of the film and trying to get it right was fun. At the start he’s a low energy slob. Then, as he gets us into the show, he goes from a slow stalker to a crazed beast.

DD: You have a reputation as a very active biker and off-road rider, having competed in the Red Bull Romaniac motocross event this past summer. Did that kind of grueling, physical workout prepare you at all for your work in Stitches?

RN: Because my motorcycle riding has me riding off high obstacles and often crashing, I was more than happy to get smashed about a bit for Stitches. So when I found myself hanging twenty feet up on a telephone pole, it wasn’t a shock to the system! And doing 24-hour off-road racing competition made the night shoots a breeze.

DD: Stitches is filled with a lot of make-up effects and prosthetics, much of it applied to you. What was working with that like?

Stitches clowns around with another unfortunate partygoer.

RN: I did start to feel a bit like a lab rabbit, but after a while the whole thing got faster to get on and off. The only problem I had was with some of the fake blood, which stained my hands. I walked into a chemist and asked if they had anything to clean blood-stained hands. I was lucky they didn’t call the police.

DD: You’re active on Twitter and regularly tweeted comments and pictures as you were filming Stitches. Can you talk about tweeting about your work day with your fans and the kind of reactions you got?

RN: Some people are creeped out by clowns and the Stitches pics really scared some of my followers. Bizarrely enough, the photos of him before his death made some of my followers uneasy, which means we have definitely got the undead version right. The hardest thing about tweeting the pics was trying to explain what people were looking at. This is not a film you can explain easily.

DD: How did your teenaged co-stars enjoy working with one of the UK’s most popular
comics…and then being killed by him while he was dressed as a clown?

RN: It was a bit weird at first, because half of the cast only saw me in the full gear. So then it was more bizarre for them when they saw me in my normal clothes. I did find myself saying at one point “It was a pleasure killing you” and meaning it in a good way.

DD: Were there any scenes in Stitches that made a particularly strong impression on you and the cast as you filmed them?

RN: We had all got so used to the scary look of Stitches after a week or so. But when we had extras in for a scene, they were pretty freaked out! One girl had to be reminded that it was just a bloke in a costume.

DD: And now can you recall one of the funnier moments?

RN: I had one quite bizarre moment while filming. I went to the toilet in a pub, forgetting I had on the full scarred-up face, as well as all the clown gear. The whole place stopped dead! Then an old woman asked me if I was an actor. I took great delight in telling her I was just passing through on holiday.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.