Hatchet II Interview Week Entry 1: Tom Holland
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.