To kick off the Halloween season, director Adam Green and horror stars Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) and Tony Todd (Candyman) are taking audiences on a throwback thrill ride with the new slasher film Hatchet II. The movie, which is a sequel to the 2006 film Hatchet, follows the murderous rampage of a berserk half-man, half-swamp creature from the Bayou named Victor Crowley.
Recently, Tony Todd, who plays the character Reverend Zombie in both Hatchet and Hatchet II, was in town for a press tour in support of the film. During his brief stay, I had the chance to sit down with Mr. Todd and talk about his character, his thoughts on the state of the horror movie genre, and why he thinks that watching Hatchet II could lead to a pretty great drinking game.
I’ve always been a big fan of Tony Todd, both in his horror roles and in his diverse TV career (which includes appearances on 24, Star Trek, and many other shows), so this interview was a lot of fun for me personally. Check out my transcription of our chat below.
Screen Rant: Is Hatchet II just as much fun as Hatchet was to film?
Tony Todd: Well, I think so. But Hatchet I only had one day on it. You know, one scene, which I had fun doing. I enjoyed watching it. In Hatchet II everything starts at the top. And Adam Green has such an infectious joy of what he’s doing that he can’t help but contagiously spread to everybody. I mean that’s what I really like about him, he’s not jaded.
I’ve worked with directors who have done it too much, particularly in television, you know, “okay we got it, let’s move on, next setup.” “Well what about, we could maybe investigate?” “Mmm…no, let’s go.” He’s not like that, and he truly loves his genre and I think that shows.
SR: Your character has expanded a lot more for Hatchet II, so tell me what is the Reverend up to in Hatchet II?
TT: When I accepted the role the first time, I accepted it on the condition that if, all things willing, the movie got made, the role was gonna be bigger in the second one — otherwise why do it? So he assured me of that. One thing I admire about him is that he’s a man of his word, you know? Which is a rarity unfortunately in Hollywood.
Reverend Zombie is a weird guy, because you know as you mentioned early on that that’s not even his real name. His name is Clive Washington. He’s a charlatan, he’s a salesman, he’s just one step from being a used car salesman. And he makes quite a living selling tourism, selling trinkets. But I think he’s done it so long that he actually believes his own hype. Which can be, kind of interestingly sardonically humorous, in spite of the grave things that are going on. And also he’s the storyteller. I’m the guy that has to tell the exposition, that hopefully I do in a way that’s not too boring.
SR: Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry about that.
TT: Well, I hope not, but that was my concern. The whole story about Victor Crowley [and his origins] was at the end of the day, and we were on the sound stage, and Adam turned down the lights and he says this is the story that he used to dream up when he was a little boy at camp. I don’t know if was Boy Scouts or whatever. He says let’s do it like that.
And what was weird is nobody left the stage. I had the DP there, I had the camera operator there. Danielle [Harris, who took over the role of Marybeth for the movie] was still there. The wardrobe person. They all stayed… And so, I think the quality of that came through, you know in the course of editing.
And Adam was just so thrilled. He was laying on his back like a little emasculated cockroach, you know? He’s going, ‘yes, that’s what I dreamed of’ since he was 8 years old, or 12 years old, you know. So, moments like that say, “Okay, this what you’re doing this for.”
SR: I think what I like about him [Adam Green] is that he chooses to use practical effects in this movie.
TT: Absolutely. That’s what makes this film work. And anybody that watches it that knows anything remotely about the filmmaking process knows this isn’t CGI…knows this is old school, set em up. And I think that’s why each kill successfully trumps the last, you know. And having seen it twice in a public setting, first time in London, with 1600 people just screaming like they were on a roller coaster – and it wasn’t a midnight screening it was a seven o’clock screening – that’s when I really got that “Wow, if nothing else, this will be a traditional beer bong movie for years to come.”
TT: And it could be how many times the hatchet hits, or how many stupid people do stupid things…
SR: We’re going to write down the rules to this game right now: “Tony Todd’s Rules to Hatchet II Drinking.”
TT: It’s gonna be synonymous man. I’m telling you, by the end of it, you’re gonna wish you hadn’t been drinking.
SR: I can imagine.
SR: So, being a fan of the genre yourself, what do you think of movies that aren’t sort of slasher driven, are just more focused on the violence itself – the so-called ‘Torture Porn” movies like Hostel?
TT: Yeah, I think those are more dangerous in a weird way. Because there’s no room for levity, in those. Those are all just straight up, you know, kind of kill thrills. You know what I mean. But, I think that’s also a reflection on society and not necessarily the filmmakers. I don’t think the filmmakers would make that if they didn’t think there was a market for it. I remember just recently, a couple years ago, I had a meeting with a company, I won’t mention who they are, but I had a great idea for something and they listened to me and at the end they said, “Tony what we’re interested in, what we want, are teenage thrill movies. That’s what we want.” I said, “I don’t know how to write that.” I really don’t. I could. I could dash it off. But I don’t know if I want to, you know what I mean? You need a kid.
You need a kid that knows and understands, you know, kids trapped in a funhouse being slaughtered. Though, I should bite my tongue, because I am getting ready to go do Final Destination 5.
SR: I was about to ask about Final Destination.
TT: I’m an actor for hire [laughter] and I have to take this job, trust me. Because it’s giving me way too much, for that, and I can live with it.
SR: Well, you know, I actually am happy to hear you’re coming back for Final Destination 5 –
TT: Yeah so am I. [laughter]
SR: – because I really liked Final Destination, the first movie. The very first movie was smart, had a great script, and you actually had your role which gave it a supernatural menacing element.
TT: But, I was also the exposition guy in that as well.
SR: Yeah, that’s true.
TT: But I had a scalpel and mortician tools in my hands, so it made him that way. Somebody, another company which shall remain nameless, I had a meeting with said that what that movie was, as well as a couple others, I can’t remember what he said, was a Tony Todd moment, whatever that is. You know, you see this guy and you know he’s going to do something that’s, you know, manically sinister or whatever.
SR: So is the character in Final Destination 5 the same character from Final Destination?
TT: Yeah, it’s Bludworth, only this time you see him three times. I know I can tell you the first one, there’s a gag order on what happens at the end, but the first 20 minutes is on a suspension bridge.
SR: Oh, okay.
TT: 20 minutes.
SR: Wow, I mean, the movie can’t be more than 90 minutes I assume. 20 minutes on the opening catastrophe?
TT: Because it’s quite a catastrophe.
SR: Well they keep getting more and more intense it seems. Right? You have to.
TT: I think people are getting more and more -unfortunately – inured to violence. People are like, less sensitive to things they should wake up about. The horror film that I will ultimately make will be closer to the Rosemary’s Baby vein. Not necessarily the same satanic thing, but something that gets under your skin, truly. I don’t want you leaving laughing, I want to leave you shaking. That to me is – like when you first saw Night of the Living Dead the original, and you didn’t know, there was a moment in there that, “this could be real.” That to me is true horror.
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.