Remembering Simon Sayce
“I have written what my interpretation of the history of the original box is, because essentially if you want to go back to my research in Pitt Rivers (Oxford), it’s not a Chinese puzzle box, because if you look at the beginning of the film (Hellraiser), you have a Chinese or Asian man with the dark fingernails, but he’s not in China, and he actually looks like he is in an Arab country. And the artwork and the stuff in the background, if you look at it, it’s quite interesting, but it’s not oriental. So I did a back story, based on my original research which linked the making of the box by Lemarchand to the whole French colonial empire at the time. And the French colonial empire covered France and it covered Arabia, and it covered India I believe… and of course, for a while it did go very far East but only for a short time. And so I liked the idea that there was a story behind the design of the box, that was related to one person’s journey.”
Simon Sayce, Episode #116, @Barkercast
Simon Sayce was one of the original 4 artists who created Image Animation in the 80’s. We were lucky enough to have him as a guest on the podcast on episode 116, while he was still under treatment; I remember he told us that he might be a little slow or take some time talking because of “chemo-brain“, but he was going back in time and bringing up memories, favorite projects and reminiscing about his work, in detail – not only for Image Animation, but when he watched the movie Harvey and later started making his little hobgoblins in jars to sell at Camden, where he met Bob Keen, or remembering his work creating the panels for the Lament Configuration in Hellraiser, or building the mask for Decker, bringing Clive’s idea of “Old Button Eyes” to life as worn by director David Cronenberg in Nightbreed.
“I was “discovered” after leaving art college by SFX designer Bob Keen and my first job was to create the, now iconic, Lament Configuration for the film ‘Hellraiser’ for writer/director Clive Barker. I went on to work with cinematic legends such as David Cronenberg, Ken Russell and Hugh Grant – doh – creating masks and monsters that remain the mainstay of horror conventions.”
Simon Sayce, LinkedIn Bio.
When he did the etching for the puzzle box panels for the original Hellraiser, he did it at a company in Oxford. He kept the artists proof of those panels, and he had them near his chair as he spoke to us. I was thrilled to hear him talk about the different icons hidden within the panel elements, like The Beautiful Woman, The Crouching Man and Frank Cotton’s face, in the Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II documentary. Recently he had created a reproduction of the Lament Configuration called the Obscurita Box. There are some lucky collectors out there who got their copy of this amazing piece of Art.
Simon worked in Hellraiser I and II, as well as The Lair of the White Worm and The Unholy, as well as the hilarious I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. He won the International Screen Writer’s award in 2009 “for a film that never got made” and he was Bodywork Engineer of the small BMW Le Mans build team for the 1999 challenge where he did shaping, building and engineering the bodywork on the BMW LMP (Le Mans Prototype) and the winning LMR (Le Mans Racer), among many other different jobs, writing and creating art throughout his life.
He was an absolute delight for me, Ryan and Rob to talk to, and was extremely generous with his time, when we didn’t even expect to talk to him for as long as we did. I hope you enjoy episode 116 on this day, so you can celebrate his career and find out more about this fine Artist. He’s survived by his three sons and one daughter, his brother Warwick, and his partner, the woman he loved until the end.
The following is a personal statement by Ryan Danhauser:
It seems like when a person, or famous person, passes away we all want to share our experience with them, and how we knew them. From our little Clive Barker fan community, there were a lot of people that loved Simon both as a puzzle-box maker and as a genuine, humble and nice guy who wanted to face down his own mortality by making as much art as he could.
In our chat we talked about his beginnings as an artist and creator of Pookas and hobgoblins. We talked about his time with Hellraiser and Nightbreed, of course as well, and the fact that he owned his own printing press! Throughout our talk, we knew him as a funny, quiet yet fierce in the face of the cancer that he fought harder than anyone I’ve known or heard of. I was surprised to get phone calls at work from England, and delighted to hear the secretary announce his name to me over the intercom. This happened a couple times before our interview and even a few times after. We talked about his chemotherapy and how he was feeling, the work he was doing on his puzzle boxes as well.
More than a year ago today he told us in our podcast interview that he hopes he makes it two more weeks so he could collect his pint from Peter Atkins. He fought long and harder than we can ever know.
Rest in Peace, Simon Sayce. You are already missed.