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The Life of Sid Haig: Horror Icon Dead at 80

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BY April 28, 2020
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Veteran actor and horror icon Sid Haig has died at the age of 80. Although there had been rumors in recent years about Haig’s health, the news still comes as a shock. The towering actor was perhaps best known for his roles in Rob Zombie’s movies, but he amassed a staggering 149 credits over his career. Today, we remember that career and his life.

The Beginning of Horror Icon Sid Haig

Haig was born Sidney Eddie Mosesian on July 14, 1939. Born to Armenian parents, he would later take his father’s name, Haig, as his stage surname. Unlike some actors, Haig wasn’t naturally drawn to the arts. He had trouble with his motor coordination because he grew so fast, so he began taking dance lessons. The lessons led to performances, which led to Haig also pursing music. He was a particularly talented drummer, and as a teenager, even played on The T-Birds single, “Full House.”

His musical ambitions seemed to fade somewhat, however, as he gained more acting experience. Encouraged by his high school drama teacher and actor Dennis Morgan, Haig would go on after high school to enroll in the acting school the Pasadena Playhouse. Stuart Margolin, who would win two Emmys for his work on The Rockford Files, was a classmate and friend of Haig’s. Later, the two would move together to Hollywood.

Sid Haig’s Early Career

Horror icon Sid Haig Haig, second from left, in Spider Baby, image via Lasky-Monka

That Haig trained in the same school that produced actors like Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman might come as a surprise to folks who knew him best for his genre work. However, Haig showed an early appreciation for the weirder side of Hollywood. This might have been due in part to his work with filmmaker Jack Hill. Hill gave Haig his first acting job in The Host, his student film at UCLA. Haig would also appear in other Hill films, like Spider Baby and his Blaxploitation classics, Coffy and Foxy Brown.

Along with his work in B-movies, Haig found regular work on television. For example, he appeared in two episodes of Batman (as the Royal Apothecary). That only scratches the surface of his TV work, though, as he made appearances on everything from Star Trek to The Flying Nun to Gunsmoke to The A-Team to Just the Ten of Us. On Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman alone, he has 55 credits. And of course, he kept working in movies, like George Lucas’s feature film debut THX 1138.

The Post-Retirement Career of Sid Haig

However, by 1992, Haig was feeling a little burnt out. The roles he was being offered no longer appealed to him. Filmmakers and showrunners had typecast him as what he called “stupid heavies…the same parts, but just putting different clothes on me.” So Haig made the choice to retire and turned toward a career as a certified hypnotherapist. He may have been forgetting Hollywood, but Hollywood didn’t forget him.

Genre enthusiast Quentin Tarantino, for example, offered Haig the part of Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, the role that Ving Rhames would later play. Haig turned down the role, though, a decision he would later regret. When Tarantino wrote a role specifically for him in 1997’s Jackie Brown, Haig accepted it, playing the judge. It was the end of his brief retirement.

Sid Haig Truly Becomes a Horror Icon

Haig’s next major role was the one for which he is perhaps most recognized, Captain Spaulding. He made his debut as the character in Rob Zombie’s 2003 film House of 1000 Corpses. Although it was a miss with critics–it currently has a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes–horror fans generally liked it a lot. For his part, Haig was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at Fangoria’s Chainsaw Awards and inducted into the Horror Hall of Fame.

Horror icon Sid Haig The Devil’s Rejects, image via Lionsgate

He would cement his horror reputation with the film’s sequel, The Devil’s Rejects (2005). Although it received a marginally better critical reaction–54% on Rotten Tomatoes–it is not just a better film than its predecessor. It is one of the finest horror movies of all time. As such, it swept the Chainsaw Awards, winning Killer Movie, Best Screenplay, and both supporting acting categories. Haig himself was named Best Actor. This was the same year that Crash won Best Picture at the Oscars and really, who made the better choice? (Fangoria.)

Haig didn’t stop working after that. In addition to his roles in Zombie films like his Halloween reboot, Haig played in other new horror classics, like S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk. His last appearance, though, was as the character who made him a household name (in very cool households). He returned to his role as Captain Spaulding in Zombie’s 3 From Hell, a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects. The film had a limited release this month; presumably, the rest of us will also get to see it at some point. Another Haig movie, Hanukkah, in which he plays the original “Hanukiller,” is in post-production.

Two weeks ago, Haig’s wife, Susan Oberg, shared that Haig had suffered “a nasty spill” in an accident. She would later update her post to say that he was “winning the fight,” but sadly it was not to be. Susan Oberg posted yesterday that Haig had died on Saturday, saying that he had been “returned to the Universe.” He will be missed.

Featured image via Lionsgate Films

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at salome@comicyears.com.

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