SR: So what do you think about the violence in horror movies versus in say the violence in action movies. Over the course of your career you’ve also done a lot of action movies. Do you think it’s the same sort of problem? The audience has become more and more immune to the violence of these movies?
TT: I think society has become more and more immune to reality television, [Laughter] which is the most frightening thing in the world to me. And I watch some of these things. I mean, I cook, so I watch Top Chef.
SR: Well, Top Chef, and all those shows, those are like competition shows.
TT: Yeah, I like that. On occasion, I’ll watch Top Model or whatever that is – America’s Next Top Model – for the chick factor, you know. I think we all agreed to take a bunch of Xanax at some point. [Laughter] But it’s gonna calm down though, because, remember in the fifties there was a war movie every week and then they ran out of that and there was the old cowboys, the western period. When I was a young kid, almost every other show on television was a Western. And some of them were part of my childhood, I loved them. Like, Rifle Man, I absolutely adored. So, I think everything comes in a cycle.
But I know one thing is that they are running out of things to remake. So, we are going to need more young people now in film school, or even if you don’t go to film school, you don’t necessarily have to go to film school to be a brilliant film maker. If you are a good listener and you study life, and you find that story that is buried within each and every one of us, and you figure out a way to bring that out. And sometimes it doesn’t necessarily mean money or winning the lottery.
TT: You know, look at Paranormal Activity, for example. Made on, proportionately, a shoe string. You know, Blair Witch, shoe string. You know, as long as it’s original. I think the more abundance of originality we can come up with, the better we’ll be, as a civilization and as a film culture. Because film is one of America’s – besides the car – is one of our few pure American exports. Now the French may disagree on that, in terms of film, but you know they love Jerry Lewis so…
TT: And I did too.
SR: Well, who doesn’t like Jerry Lewis? But, it’s like a national pastime in France.
TT: I remember one day I was at a convention – it was at Dragon Con in Atlanta – and across from me is uh, Mickey Rooney. You ever been to Dragon Con?
SR: No, I haven’t.
TT: Mostly it’s a gamer convention, you know, they dress up and they play Magic. It was the first time I actually saw people dressed up as stuffed animals and I didn’t know what that was. Okay, but there’s Mickey Rooney and I’m sitting there. This man was like, Mr. Hollywood at one point. He’s done over – what? - 250 films, easily. And nobody – I think he got maybe one signature per half hour. And I felt, I mean he was just sitting there, and I could just feel what was going through his head. Here’s a man that if you just, if you could talk to him for ten minutes, he could lay down for you all the people that he knew and the changes he saw in Hollywood. What I’m saying is sometimes people in search of a better fishing hole can’t see the body of water in front of them.
SR: I don’t know how much you can say about it, but I know you were involved in Transformers 2, and you’ve been in several Michael Bay films.
SR: Well, two.
SR: Well, you were in my favorite Michael Bay film, The Rock, so…
TT: Of all the films that I like that are popular, and The Rock plays what? Once a month?
SR: Sometimes it’s on TBS just like, 24 hours in a row.
TT: Who knew? But I do think that’s maybe one of his best works.
SR: I like it the best. The others can be sort of cheesy, but he does what he does. Michael Bay knows what he does, and he does it to the n-th power, you know?
TT: I always equate him as a kid; a big grown up kid that has a huge erector set. When we shot The Rock, we would shoot, my death sequence for example in The Rock, when he’s up on the pole? That took two weeks to shoot. Now that wasn’t necessary to do that, but he shot every single angle with every single type of macro lens and da da da, and it ends up being like five seconds on film. But he did it in a way that’s just love of the equipment, love of what can be done with a budget.
And then you counterpoint that with a small independent film, where the film maker is working with something of love and he’s using his family’s money and you maybe have a $200,000 dollar budget, but you might come up with something like a Sling Blade. So, there’s value to both. What we need to do is kind of combine them all, and all the money that Transformers II made, that $700 million and counting, you know, and try to turn that into making maybe 70 more good films.
SR: So let me just ask, are you involved with Transformers 3?
TT: No, not yet, no.
SR: Because there was some rumor that you would be playing a human character in Transformers 3 because you did the voice-over work in Transformers 2, but it was just speculating.
TT: It would have been nice, but no.
SR: You are also doing TV work, is that right?
TT: I mean, I did 24. I did do the pilot for The Event, but I’m no longer doing that.
SR: Can you tell us what The Event is?
TT: No I cannot. I don’t know what it is.
SR: They’re not gonna tell us what it is, you know?
TT: Well, that’s the whole point.
SR: It’s gonna be like Lost. They are going to string us along for six years and then they’re gonna be like “The Event was in your head.”
TT: If it lasts six years, because right now, in today’s reality, you gotta be a hit by the third episode. I wish them well, and there’s a lot of actors on that show, so I don’t want them to lose their job, but is the opportunity good right now? Because it’s NBC, and Comcast is getting ready to buy NBC, it’s going to be a complete shake-over in January. So unless something is really favored…you know? Which is unfortunate, because when we grew up shows were given a chance. Gilligan’s Island wasn’t a hit right out of the box, but what would the world be without Gilligan?
TT: The theme song alone.
SR: Right yeah, “My little buddy.” I mean, come on. It’s indelibly imprinted into our pop culture’s consciousness
TT: I think Rolling Stone said of The Event that it was “eventless,” but I don’t think they meant that in a mean way.
SR: It’s hard to say. I don’t know, I think people might be getting burned out of those kinds of shows.
TT: Timing is everything, and it’s too bad because production value wise – it’s good. It was one of the most expensive pilots ever made.
SR: They are investing a lot more money in general into TV production, big event type shows, ever since Lost hit so big.
[At this point in our interview, I got the wrap it up signal from the publicist, so I snuck in one last question about Tony Todd’s most famous role as the vindictive hook-handed murder in Candyman]
SR: Do you think there’s any chance, have you talked to anybody, about a remake of Candyman? I know they are remaking every other great horror movie.
TT: That rumor has been floating around for five years. One of the problems why it hasn’t happened yet is there are three different owners to the project. Clive [Barker] sold the rights and nobody wants to make a move that would help the other party. Because of that, the film-going audience gets denied.
SR: That’s too bad.
TT: It is too bad, because I would have loved to have done it.
SR: I love watching Candyman.
TT: It was a good role for me. It changed my life in ways that are sometimes wonderful and sometimes annoying.
SR: I can imagine.
TT: Annoying in a way that’s blessed.
SR: Right, like in an endearing annoying way.
TT: You’d be surprised. One day I’m gonna write a book, just some of the inane statements people make. “What’s it like to kill people, man?” Dude, memo. It’s a movie.
SR: What’s it like to kill people…?
TT: Yeah. “Did you swallow any bees?” Do you think I would put bees in my mouth and swallow them? Do you?
On that last joke, I was forced to end my interview with the wonderfully hospitable Tony Todd. It was a lot of fun talking to the actor, and I’m glad to have heard his interesting thoughts on the state of the film industry in general, and horror in particular.
If you are interested in seeing Tony Todd in the unrated Hatchet II, check the official website of the film to see if it is playing in your area.