Interview: Tony Todd Sets the Record Straight on Unmade CANDYMAN VS LEPRECHAUN Crossover

When it comes to horror icon Tony Todd, all conversations start and end with Candyman—and for good reason. Candyman was and is important, both cinematically and culturally (as we’ll discuss later in this article); also, we recently received a new, definitive re-release of 1992’s Candyman via Arrow Video. Then there’s the fact that Oscar winner Jordan Peele is rebooting Candyman with a set release date in June of 2020.

But Todd was in another excellent film recently; Hell Fest was a surprise horror hit in 2018 and the movie is now available to own on Digital HD and Blu-ray/DVD. Though the actor’s role was small, he made an incredible impression. Hell Fest represents the actor’s most impressive work since the Hatchet and Final Destination franchises.

Dread Central had the honor of sitting down with Todd recently. Of course, we spent considerable time talking about the enduring legacy of Candyman (even addressing those Candyman vs Leprechaun crossover rumors), but we also discussed representations of minorities in media and ended our conversation with Hell Fest.

And just before our meeting ended, we even got an update on the Nazi zombie/flying sharks movie Sky Shark, which was scheduled for a 2017 release before pretty much dropping off the face of the Earth. Will we ever get to see the irreverent mayhem? Read on to find out!

Hell Fest Synopsis:
On Halloween night, three young women and their respective boyfriends head to Hell Fest — a ghoulish traveling carnival that features a labyrinth of rides, games, and mazes. They soon face a bloody night of terror when a masked serial killer turns the horror theme park into his own personal playground.

Dread Central: Candyman is enjoying a return to the limelight following a new, definitive release from Arrow video plus news that Jordan Peele is producing a remake slated for 2020. How do you feel about the fact that the character you made iconic has endured for over tw and a half decades and is still relevant and scary in the 21st century?

Tony Todd: It’s a fantastic occurrence for me that I never could have imagined. Most films have a shelf life of maybe one or two years. But I think that with horror films in particular, once they click with fans, they never let them go. So, I’m honored that, A: Someone would want to bring Candyman back and, B: That someone of Jordan Peele’s caliber wants to produce it. That’s extraordinary and I think it’s going to be a great boon for horror fans and for Candyman fans worldwide.

DC: Fantastic! Will you be involved in the reboot?

TT: No one has reached out to us yet, but I can’t imagine that I won’t be a part of it.

DC: I don’t think fans can imagine it without you participating in some capacity as well. You really deserve to be a part of this.

TT: What will be will be. Even if I’m not involved in it (God forbid), it will draw attention back to the original Candyman so it’s really a win-win situation no matter what happens. I love the character and I know it’s in good hands and I just want it to continue the legacy of the original.

DC: Back in 2016, Bernard Rose was on an episode of The Movie Crypt podcast where he claimed that, following the success of Freddy vs Jason, someone pitched a Candyman vs Leprechaun movie since the same studios owned the rights to both franchises. Rose claims they were seriously considering it until you personally shot the deal down. The story has become something of an urban legend, which is ironic since Candyman is about urban legends. Can you tell us what you recall about the situation?

TT: Absolutely! This was right around the time of Freddy vs Jason and [Candyman vs Leprechaun] did come across my desk. I saw it and I said, “I will never be involved in something like that.” I respect the character. Once a horror character becomes something of an icon [like Candyman], reluctantly or not, you have to treat that with respect that. I remember watching Abbott and Costello vs Frankenstein continuously as a kid and being amazed that my horror legends were making a comedy. So, I guess there are some ways to make something like that work, but I wasn’t interested in doing that with Candyman.

DC: We also heard there was going to be a Candyman 4 at one point with a plot that centered on an all-girls school in New England and a professor who doesn’t know she’s related to Daniel Robatille [aka Candyman]. What happened there?

TT: That was actually an idea I had pitched. One reason it never came together is because there were three owners of the Candyman franchise at that time, and for some reason, they couldn’t all get on the same page. So now, I guess the smoke has cleared and people see a way to make money so people are signing off on it. Plus, I think Jordan Peele’s track record also helps. But I’m glad that they’ve announced a specific release date (June 21st, 2020), which happens to be the birthday of my aunt who raised me, so it all feel really good.

DC: That definitely sounds cosmic—like an extremely good omen.

TT: I believe in that path. I’ve learned how to let things go. I’ve lost roles I really wanted; I’ve lost roles because I was involved in other projects, and I’m pretty loyal. You mentioned [before the interview] that you saw Candyman when you were back in college. I’ve been at this for almost three decades now. And it hasn’t dried up. Every year, things become more concrete. So, I’m in a good place. 2018 was a terrific year for horror. We had the Halloween remake which was a hit both creatively and critically, and that was good. Then there was A Quite Place and Hereditary—a lot of good work this year. And I think 2019 is going to be even better.

DC: And hopefully that trend will continue into 2020 with the Candyman reboot!

TT: Absolutely.

DC: I wanted to get kind of serious for a minute: Candyman is important for many reasons, but, at least as far as I can recall, the character was the first African American horror villain (who wasn’t a parody, like Blackula); not only that, he was scary but also seductive and sexy. While African Americans have often been cast as criminals and thugs, even today, Candyman remains the only truly iconic Black horror villain. Why is it so easy for Hollywood to cast African Americans as criminals but not slashers?

TT: I don’t know, maybe it’s part of a deep-rooted fear of seeing something that could really happen on a national level. But I think now is a good time to examine these issues. With all the things that are going on politically in our country, the division. If Candyman is a product of division, and a product of not being not being accepted by a specific group of people, the timing is better than ever.

When [Candyman director and screenwriter] Bernard Rose did his adaptation from Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden, he hit a stroke of genius by setting it in Chicago. It’s not only one of our most iconic American cities, but there’s a long history of criminality, from bootlegging to underground black markets. And it’s still going on: Chicago’s homicide rates are outrageous. And I think they’re going to keep the reboot in Chicago, so I think they might explore the whole gentrification anglebecause Cabrini–Green is no longer there; it only exists beneath the surface. So, that what I’m hoping for. I can’t wait to take a look at the script!

DC: As far as racial equality and accurate representations of African Americans in the media goes, do you see things improving?

TT: It’s certainly gotten better over time. My first film was Platoon, released in 1986, so I really hit the ground running. Everybody in that film was placed on a certain list. But I remember being the only African American, or even person of color, on set, and we’re talking over 100 people. The first decade for me acting, I would show up and it was like being alone; like I was working in a cultural echo chamber. But lately, in the last couple years, I’ve shot five projects in Atlanta, and the Atlanta workforce is a more accurate reflection of America’s cultural diversity. You’ve got people of all colors and nationalities on both sides of the camera, which is fantastic. This is a Dream Factory that we work in and everyone should be allowed to at least taste the dream.

DC: Hell Fest surprised a lot of folks in 2018, not just because it came out of nowhere, but because it was really damn good!

TT: I was great! I had a ball working on it. It had a great young cast who weren’t just cookie-cutter teenagers. We really get to know them and their unique, individual situations. And my character was kind of like a mash-up of iconic, rock and roll performers.

DC: Anything else you want to tell our readers before I let you go?

TT: I’m a big fam Dread Central; you guys have always been so good to me. We do have a new film coming out this year called The Final Wish and another one called Immortal which is one of those films that posits the question: What happens in a relationship if one person can never die? So, we’ve got those two films and a couple pilots I’ve signed on to. I’m really excited for this year.

DC: You just reminded me: What ever happened to Sky Shark? The trailers for that film are just nuts and we were looking forward to seeing you as Major General Frost. Will we ever see it?

TT: I got pulled into that at a German horror convention where they were just grabbing everyone who showed up and putting them in these scenes. This was during the Sharknado craze, so we’ll see what happens there.

DC: Well now, Overlord just made Nazi zombies cool, so mash them up into a Sharknado and I say, “Bring it on!”

TT: I get to say, “Let’s slay this motherfucking catfish!”



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter