After appearing in over 125 movies and TV shows over the last 50+ years, you'd think actor Sid Haig has seen and done it all by now. But his latest project is a first for him and the movie industry — a cannabis-themed, grindhouse-style feature that's being called 'weed-sploitation' in homage to 70s exploitation films like 'Coffy' and 'Foxy Brown,' which both featured appearances by Haig.
In 'High on the Hog,' Haig plays an Illinois pig farmer known as Big Daddy, who runs afoul of the DTA (the film's fictitious version of the DEA) after growing marijuana on the side. Here's what Haig had to say about his latest work when we sat down to chat with him earlier this month.
How did you get involved in a weed exploitation film?
Well, I was offered the job [laughs]. It just kinda dropped in my lap and it was something I wanted to do.
What sort of message would you say 'High on the Hog' makes about legalization?
Let's legalize it. Let's get it out of the alleyways, backstreets and whatnot and put it in a storefront where it belongs. I mean, our country was in bad trouble during prohibition. And when they legalized alcohol, all those problems went away. We were able to tax the maker, tax the seller and tax the buyer, and we got out of financial trouble that easily. The same thing can happen with marijuana.
What would you say is the appeal of a weed exploitation film? I don't think I've heard of that kinda genre crossover before.
Well, I think it's gonna catch on and get legs. Then we'll see more films like it getting made.
Some people think we might see an end to stoner comedies because of legalization. Do you think the same thing could happen to a stoner grindhouse features?
I think they'll be just fine. It's all a part of society and the changes we're going through, so it'll be fine. Nobody's gonna be losing any jobs over this [laughs].
Could you tell us a bit about your character in the movie — Big Daddy?
Yeah, okay, he's a hog farmer. And the farm has been in his family for generations. And he promised his father that he'd never sell out to corporate farming. But he's struggled to keep all of this going, so he decided to throw weed into the corn to feed the pigs. And along the way, he runs into — on separate occasions — women who have been terribly abused one way or another and takes them in as family. And everything's going great till the DTA shows up.
Sounds like it's pro-legalization while also criticizing some of those big, faceless corporations that are taking over agriculture and a lot of other industries.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's only mentioned in one of my speeches. But it's there.
And there was quite a bit of weed smoked in the script. Was any smoked on set or was it all fake?
It's all fake.
Do you know what they were using for fake weed?
We were using tobacco and parsley.
Did that taste as bad as it sounds?
No, actually, it tasted okay. As odd as it may sound, it didn't taste bad. And I used to smoke.
Cannabis or tobacco?
Tobacco. I used to smoke two packs a day for forty years. Then one morning I woke up, reached for my cigarettes and thought, 'Nah.' And I threw them away.
That says a lot about your willpower.
Yeah, that's a thing that very rarely works, but it worked for me.
Were you ever into marijuana?
Yeah, I used to be into it. And I'm into legalizing it. That's the best way to make everything safe. Is to legalize it. That takes all the criminals out of the game.
Could you tell us about your first time smoking up or an early experience with weed?
A friend of mine and I were at a party, and we were outside. And the cops came because the party got loud, and the cop stepped out to where we were, sniffed the air, shook his head, and went back inside [laughs]. They didn't even know what it was supposed to smell like.
Were you nervous when the cop came out?
Not really. I wasn't very nervous. And, you know, I got stopped by a cop just walking down the street one night. He took my ID and said, 'Well, Sid, are you a user?' And I said, 'A user of what?' [laughs]. He said, 'Well, roll up your sleeves.' He thought I was shooting up. But no, no thanks.
What was the best part about shooting 'High on the Hog'?
Well, the people working in the production were really great. They made it easy to work. And some great locations. I had no idea that there was so much farmland just outside of Chicago. That was kinda cool to explore.
Your writer/producer [Kevin Lockhart] said you took a lot of actors under your wing during production. Did anyone ever take you under their wing when you began your career? I looked over your filmography earlier and noticed you once acted opposite Lon Chaney Jr. [in 'Spider Baby'], which is incredible. Two horror icons appearing in the same movie. Did he offer you any advice?
He actually became more like a mentor. He and I talked constantly. And he offered advice about what I should be doing and shouldn't be doing. It was all good knowledge. And I just loved the guy. He was great.
Since you've become a horror icon, I've gotta ask what is Halloween like at your house?
I dress up for a living [laughs].
So you take Halloween off?
People probably assume you'd want to break out Captain Spaulding just to scare the crap out of kids.
No, I love kids. Kids are great because they don't have any filters. They're like little drunks: they just say whatever comes up in their minds. And that's cool. That's special, as far as I'm concerned.
Having a positive effect on a kid's life is pretty cool. I got involved with a summer theatre workshop for 14 years — every summer. It was great, kids are like sponges, absorbing everything. I tried to make it a safe environment so they didn't feel like they were being ridiculed for trying something.
I haven't taught for a while. When I started 'House of 1,000 Corpses,' that time got taken up working as an actor, doing conventions and stuff like that. But it was very satisfying. I was having a good time, the kids were having a good time.
What did you learn from teaching kids?
How to be vulnerable.
That's a surprising answer given some of the characters you've played over the years. Do fans have any misconceptions of you based on your film roles?
Well, I run into a lot of people who are afraid of clowns. They have a clown-phobia, but they're not afraid to talk to Captain Spaulding. Why? He talks. And most clowns don't talk.
If you get exposed to a clown very young, it can be a very terrifying situation to a kid. Here are these people with garish clothes on they've never seen before. They do not look like their mom and dad, and nobody talks, and at the end of whatever it is they're doing, somebody gets hurt — whether it's slipping on a banana peel, a pie in the face, whatever. And that's scary, and it stays with you through your life unless you get over it. That's usually why people develop a clown-phobia.
On top of acting, you're a dancer and a hypnotist, is there anything else about you that people might find surprising?
I was a soccer coach — that was something I loved doing. I started playing as an adult, then joined the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. That took up a lot of time, but I love working with kids.
And at one point, I had a pretty expensive bonsai garden. But then one time I was out of town, it dried up and died.
Was the garden for therapeutic reasons or just part of the landscape?
It's part of how I think. I get bored, I go out and do something. That's it. So I got bored, saw a bonsai plant and thought, 'Wow, that's really pretty.' So I went out and started a collection.
When people talk about your legacy, is there a film you'd like to see mentioned at the top of the list?
I've loved every one of the films that I've done. All for different reasons. Some of them for the script, some for the people I worked with. But for your story, I'd say 'Little Big Top' is up there. And of course, 'Devil's Rejects' and 'House of 1,000 Corpses.' Those kept this kinda stuff going. And 'High on the Hog.' I think when it finally gets its release date, it's gonna be a lot of fun. Fingers crossed.
Last question, if there was a marijuana strain named after you, what would you want it called?