Writer/director Tom Holland is best known for his work on such genre staples as Fright Night (which he wrote), Child’s Play (which he wrote and directed), as well as his work on films like Thinner, the TV movie The Stranger Within, The Temp and the Masters of Horror episode “We All Scream for Ice Cream.” What many may not know is that before Holland became known for his work behind the camera, he spent a lot of time in front of the camera.
Working for years as an actor in such television series as “Combat!”, “The Young Lawyers”, “Medical Center”, and “The Incredible Hulk”, Holland was a journeyman actor before he created some of the most influential horror franchises in the Eighties.
Last year Holland returned to acting by appearing as “Uncle Bob” in Adam Green’s Hatchet II. A follow-up to Green’s 2006 swamp slasher pic of the same name, Hatchet II is a film that delivers on the promises made in its predecessor and then some. With Hatchet II hungry audiences get more blood, more gore, more creepiness than was in the original, and all of it is contained under an “Unrated” umbrella.
On February 1st, 2011, all of the splatter is being brought home when Dark Sky Films unleashes Hatchet II to DVD and Blu-ray. Dread Central spoke with writer/director/actor Tom Holland about the making of the film as well as his experiences stepping back into the limelight.
Dread Central: Let me ask you a little bit about how you got cast in Hatchet II. I mean, you’re primarily known as a writer and director even though you’ve also done a little bit of acting.
Tom Holland: I’ve acted a lot… a long time ago, but that didn’t have anything to do with it. Adam and I became friends through the “Masters of Horror” dinners, and one night he had me and my wife over for dinner and popped the question. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was thrilled, and it was the most fun I’ve had in years actually.
DC: So, Adam just knew you and said, “Here’s a guy I want to put in this film.” Did you have to do readings and stuff?
TH: You’d have to ask him, but I think he wrote the part for me and I didn’t know it until he sent the script over. I don’t even know if he knew that I’d been an actor.
DC: As someone who’s been an actor and has gone into writing and directing, do you think that being an actor helps in the other disciplines?
TH: Yes. If any of the work is performance-oriented, it really helps if you know how to block a scene and make it come alive and make it play. It’s a whole process. Off of that you can plan where your master is and where your camera angles are and your inserts. You’ve got to be able to put the scene on its feet. Now, that’s if you have something that’s a page and a half of dialogue or three quarters of a page. If you’re doing one-line action like a Schwarzenegger movie, I think it’s less problematic.
DC: Does it help in communicating with actors?
TH: Oh, god yes. All my life, directors have been sitting in on acting classes. I can’t name the number of directors over my lifetime that I’ve known that have done that. The DGA – the Director’s Guild – gives seminars where they get directors or aspiring directors and actors together.
DC: You always hear, “He’s an actor’s director.” Do you think that can go too far; I mean, a director who empathizes with his actors so much that it gets in the way?
TH: Of course it can. They can eat you alive, too. It’s true. You know you’re in trouble when somebody asks for more than three takes. These are pearls of wisdom. You want the great line about actors? “Never forget who shot Lincoln.” Then, you go to Hitchcock where “they’re all cattle.”
DC: But then you hear about someone like Kubrick who’s shooting seventy takes of a single reading, so…
TH: There’s a famous one from THE SHINING of them doing something like a hundred and twenty takes of something. That’s insane.
DC: I was just hearing about a director who pushed and pushed and the first twenty takes were just fodder to get the actor tired so that would come across in his performance. The actor just said, “Fuck, dude… I’m an actor. Just tell me to act tired.”
TH: This is a long discussion because you’re into styles of acting, theory of acting… You’re into Strasberg. You’re into Sandy Meisner. There’s a long tradition of this kind of discussion going back fifty or sixty years.
DC: Back to Hatchet II… Tell me a little about your character.
TH: Uncle Bob? I’m Danielle Harris’ uncle and I’m worried about her when she gets mixed up with this crazy cult-like character, Dr. Voodoo, who is played by Tony Todd. I end up going along on the journey into the swamp to protect her. Needless to say, it does not end well.
DC: Do you do a lot of back-story on your characters when you act?
TH: I didn’t for this, but there are actors who do. I didn’t HAVE to for this. This is not a criticism in any way, but a lot of the characters in Hatchet II are more archetypal. It was not a psychological story.
DC: As far as the rest of the film’s cast, it’s a virtual genre who’s-who. Was working with them an enjoyable experience.
TH: Yes, it was wonderful. That was where the sparks flew. I think Danielle’s work was terrific as was Tony’s. Of course, once I mention two of them, I have to mention everybody else, but it had one of the nicest feelings on a set I’ve ever been on and that was because of Adam. It was friends and support and it was a lot of fun. I mean, it was just a wonderful time.
Hatchet II – Blu-ray and DVD Trailer
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DC: That really comes across when you watch the film. You really get the sense that everybody was having fun.
TH: It gives spirit to the film.
DC: How was the shoot? Was it a long one?
TH: No, because you’re on a limited budget, but the shoot was great. The worst thing that happened was they had everything set up around that cabin on that soundstage and somebody got the flu and it spread like crazy. Because they had to keep everything moist, there was mold all over the place.
DC: Was most of the film shot on a soundstage?
TH: I don’t think so. You’d have to ask Adam. They did go outside, too, and did exteriors out at Disney or some place like that out in Simi and then we went down to New Orleans.
DC: Are you good as far as Special FX goes? I mean, you didn’t have a whole lot done on you, but those can be trying at best.
TH: Yes, they can be and I didn’t and I’m so thankful. Do you mean, did they have to make a dummy head for me? No, they didn’t… thank god. I was lucky that way.
DC: One thing that surprised me was… You kind of expect Kane to be physical and R.A. Mihailoff to be physical, but you were doing some bashing around there.
TH: Well… very gently. It wasn’t me but Kane was very gentle with me. Kane was lifting me up. Kane made it look like I was fighting with him, but what he was doing was he was dancing around holding me by the shoulders. [laughs] God, he’s strong. I just thought he did a helluva job, actually.
DC: He’s surprisingly good that way.
TH: He’s a stunt guy, but he’s got heart. Sentimental, you know what I mean?
DC: Have you seen the BTK thing he did?
TH: No… how is it?
DC: It’s good. He’s acting his ass off in it.
TH: He’s getting better, the more he works. He’s a stunt man. I think that’s why everybody is surprised.
DC: I see him at conventions across the country. Is that something you’re interested in at all?
TH: I think if I had something that I wanted to get the word out about. I did one in Franklin, Indiana a year or so ago. It was more of a festival, but that’s local. My father’s from there… from a small town very, very close, so I went to try to support the film industry in Indiana.
DC: Is that where you grew up?
TH: No, I actually grew up in mid-state New York, but we used to go back to Indiana because my grandparents were there. I spent my summers there.
DC: But Hatchet II…
TH: Everything was wonderful. It really was. The people were terrific. They were very, very professional. Adam knew what he was doing and what he wanted. There’s never enough money, of course. I think he got terribly screwed in the release and with the MPAA and all of that. And I hope to hell people see it on DVD and Blu-ray. I guess it’s been out there on Video On Demand. It needs marketing now. You know what I mean.
DC: We’ve sort of covered how competent Adam is as a director, but is it difficult for you as someone who’s been a director previously to step in as an actor and give up that control?
TH: No. I thought it was wonderful. I didn’t have to worry about everything. I could talk to the other actors. I could hang out. It was just a terrific experience. Listen, acting is the best job there is on the set. [laughs] I don’t care what they say. It really is because everybody else is working every fucking second and the actors really – and they’ll bitch about this, but – only work from “Action” to “Cut.” They can say they take half a day to prepare or whatever, but believe me… You have breaks with acting. You don’t with anything else on the set. Especially not directing.
DC: I’ve seen some directors work and it’s sometimes organized chaos.
TH: Well… [laughs] It wasn’t like that with Adam. The set really worked together. Everybody’d worked together for a long time. They had a very good Director of Photography on it, Will Barratt.
DC: I’ve not seen Adam work, but he’s pals with Joe Lynch and I saw him work on Wrong Turn 2. They really seem to be cut from the same cloth. What was great in that case was, since he is such a genre fan, his ability to use shorthand in trying to capture a mood or feeling in a performance by referencing some other moment in film.
TH: Well, also because you’re moving so fast.
DC: I’m interesting in hearing whether you have anything to do with the Fright Night reboot?
TH: No. I wish them the best. My heartfelt wishes go out to them, but… no. Well, I mean, it’s my story, my screenplay and all of that kind of stuff, but…
DC: What about the supposed Don Mancini Child’s Play remake?
TH: I know nothing about it.
DC: I saw it listed on the always reliable IMDB. It was on Brad Dourif’s page as well. How do you feel about that when people want to come back and remake something you had a hand in creating?
TH: I wish them the best. It makes me proud, naturally. They haven’t gotten to The Beast Within and Cloak and Dagger yet, but they will [laughs] if they it keep up like this.
DC: So, now that Hatchet II’s coming out on disc, what are you up to? I saw a lot of short films being attributed to you online.
TH: I’m still into that, and I hope to have something to announce soon but not right now. We’re in talks and all of that kind of stuff, but… Hatchet II was really a wonderful experience.
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