Sid Haig, a towering character actor with a shiver-inducing grimace, died Saturday at age 80. His wife, Susan L. Oberg, reported his death on Instagram but did not mention a cause of death, though she did write, “This came as a shock to all of us.”
Haig is best known for playing the murderous villain Captain Spaulding in the Rob Zombie–directed horror films House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, and the forthcoming 3 From Hell. His intimidating appearance — he was well over six feet — and the combination of his wild eyes and sinister smile made him a standout. His other notable horror credentials include playing the Mummy in an episode of I Love Lucy and an appearance in the schlocky 1967 Lon Chaney, Jr. vehicle, Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told, which shares a title with a White Zombie song.
Zombie remembered Haig in two Instagram posts, showing Haig in his Captain Spaulding clown makeup with the caption, “Gone but not forgotten” and a picture of the first time they met with Haig in a dirty clown outfit but no makeup. “We were both having a good laugh at this crummy, ill-fitting clown suit,” Zombie, who is giving two middle fingers, said in the caption. “It took a few tries to get his look right, but we got there. Who knew that crazy clown would become an iconic horror figure? Certainly not the two guys in the picture.”
Outside of the Rob Zombie universe, Haig was a well-employed character actor with credits on Batman, Star Trek, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, The Dukes of Hazzard, MacGyver, and Just the Ten of Us. His film roles include THX-1138 and Diamonds Are Forever. A role in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown elevated him to a new league in Hollywood, and he starred in House of 1000 Corpses not soon after. He also appeared in Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and Zombie’s 2007 Halloween reboot, among many other roles.
Haig was born Sidney Eddie Mosesian in Fresno, California on July 14th, 1939. At age 6, his mother enrolled him in dance classes, where he learned he loved being onstage. He attended the Pasadena Playhouse, where he got a degree in theater arts in 1961. Asked about his acting influences in an interview for the book Wild Beyond Belief!, he cited his admiration for the work of Anthony Quinn and “the young Marlon Brando.” He also had a short-lived music career, playing drums for the T-Birds, which scored a Number Four single with “Full House,” according to The Wrap.
Since House of 1000 Corpses, he has received numerous awards and nominations related to horror films, including honors from Fangoria magazine and a Scream Award.
In his interview for Wild Beyond Belief!, Haig offered insight into how he found the individual demeanors for his many villainous characters. “I try to find an animal character that is residing in whoever it is that I’m playing and take on that physicality,” he said. “[That aspect of my acting] was pretty much calculated.”