Hatchet II Interview Week Entry 2: Tony Todd
Tony Todd is, to say the least, an imposing figure. At 6’5”, broad of frame, and with a deep, booming voice, he’s a guy who gets attention. The fact that he’s also a dependable and wholly competent actor makes him all the more impressive. Since the mid-Eighties (and his appearance in the Oliver Stone film Platoon), Todd has brought an earnestness to every role he’s done; and he’s done a lot with well over a hundred roles listed on his IMDB page.
Thrust onto the genre’s center stage in Tom Savini’s adaptation of Night of the Living Dead in 1990, Todd has worked solidly, appearing in genre and non-genre roles and in both big budget and low budget films ever since.
After a small cameo in the first Hatchet movie as Reverend Zombie, Todd returned when writer/director Adam Green revived the ominous Victor Crowley for Hatchet II. This time, Todd’s voodoo priest/swamp tour guide company owner has a meatier role and a lot more to do. On February 1st, 2011, Dark Sky Films releases Hatchet II onto DVD & Blu-ray. Now, the carnage is coming to your house…
Dread Central recently spoke with the gifted actor about the film and how he prepares for the roles he takes on. His answers just may surprise you.
Dread Central: Tell me about the casting process for Hatchet II. I know you were involved with the first film…
Tony Todd: Right… and that came about through John Buechler, who is a good friend of Adam’s and did the special FX on the first one. He lobbied for it, and I agreed to do the one day cameo with the expectation of the character being fleshed out in the second one.
DC: So, did Adam write the part with you in mind?
TT: I don’t know if he did or didn’t. I know he went hard to get me and Robert Englund involved in the film and his wishes came true. Adam is one of the most inspirational directors I’ve worked with. He’s really enthusiastic and that shows on the set in the way we were treated. It was really a labor of love in spite of the fact it was a throwback slasher film.
DC: He seems to have effortlessly caught the “slasher pictures of the ’80s” vibe that a lot of other people are trying to get these days.
TT: Other people are doing it for the bucks, but Adam is doing it for the love and I think that’s the difference.
DC: Give me a little character sketch of Reverend Zombie.
TT: He’s a guy who found himself down in New Orleans. Where he’s from is somewhere in the upper Northeast, possibly Jersey. His real name is Clive Washington and he discovered he could step into a façade down in New Orleans. He’s running a tour boat operation. But he’s the type of guy where, the further he goes, the more he believes his con. So you don’t know where it stops and where it finishes for him. That, to me, was the interesting hook and the angle. I was so glad in the opening of HATCHET II that we were allowed to strip off the makeup and become closer to who the real person is in spite of the fact that he uses larger than life attitudes and voice patterns.
DC: When you accept a role, how much research do you do for it? How much back story do you create?
TT: Oh… tons, because I come from the theater. The way I was taught was that you delve deep into the background. Personally, the way I do things is that I get a “color sketch”, and once I accept a role, I allow the universe to bring me different impressions. For Candyman I had two sketch pads, and I’d do different sketches as an artist and did a lot of research into the time period. That still holds true. I try not to accept a role unless I believe in the script and/or the people involved because, once you accept, you become family. So, at the end of the day, you want to work with people you care about or at least care as passionately as you do.
DC: Do you go as deep as to say, “This is his shirt. This is his jacket?” Do you get involved in costuming?
TT: Yeah, I do. I totally believe that each character is motivated by a certain color. It’s all about sensory explorations and all of that; at the end of the day or on the day cameras roll or the film plays in a theater or when the curtain opens, it all comes to fruition. I look at characters as putting on a cloak insofar as shielding the mannerisms that you don’t want in the character but enhancing the ones that are appropriate.
DC: Do you see yourself as being sort of along for the ride?
TT: I feel myself as tapping into whatever part of Tony’s personality is appropriate for that role. Though I’ve never personally killed anybody [laughs], but whenever I commit homicide in film, it’s justified from that character’s point of view.
DC: So, Hatchet II’s shoot… Was it long? Was it hard?
TT: We broke it up into two parts because we shot the last week specifically down in New Orleans, which was great, though I wish it had come first because we had to do the whole swamp tour at the end of the film and that would have infused a lot of stuff that went on in the stage work we did. Adam had some great crew people that were able to accurately create the swamp environment on the stage despite the fact that some people got sick because mold started creeping in. But we were only on stage for about three weeks or so… maybe eighteen shooting days. It was interesting for me because the studio we shot at was the old Mary Pickford Studio, which is where I originally shot Candyman, so that was a nice return.
DC: I recently spoke with Tom Holland, and he also mentioned how people had fallen ill during shooting.
TT: Tom was a great guy to meet and to work with. I was always a big fan of his directing work. I always make new friends and reinforce the ones you had, at least that’s what I try to do.
DC: I know with the cast, it’s such a genre who’s-who and I know a lot of these people you’ve either worked with in the past or see each other at conventions, so it must have been like “old home week.”
TT: With Kane Hodder, in particular. He and I have done like three films together and we’re getting ready to do another one at some point this year. I consider him a great friend. But I trust the director and it’s the director’s call who he brings into the mix. With Adam, he uses people he likes. It’s great when you can afford to do that.