Exclusive Interview: Tommy Chong Talks COLOR OUT OF SPACE & Cannabis, Man
I was lucky enough to catch Color Out of Space when it premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX last September. I was also lucky enough to score (pun intended) a sit-down with one of the film’s stand-outs, the irrepressible Tommy Chong! For a guy who has his own talk show about horror movies and cannabis, it should come as no surprise that it was a bucket-list interview for me!
In Color Out of Space, Chong plays Ezra: A sage (and stoned) hermit living in the woods. The film is now playing in theaters nationwide. Give the trailer a spin at the top of the article and read the synopsis below. My exclusive conversation with Chong follows.
Highlights of our conversation include: The evolving “stoner” archetype, the (literal) trials and tribulations of being one of the world’s most famous cannabis users, that rumor John Carpenter wanted to cast him as the sheriff in Halloween (1978), and “hidden messages” in Color Out of Space.
After a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farm, Nathan Gardner and his family find themselves battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism that infects their minds and bodies, transforming their quiet rural life into a technicolor nightmare.
Color out of Space is directed by Richard Stanley and based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft; in addition to Chong, the film stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, and Madeleine Arthur.
Dread Central: I was born in the 1970’s so I’ve been watching you my whole life, and it’s amazing, in retrospect, how the stoner archetype really evolved. In Up in Smoke you were so high you were basically impaired but now, in Color Out of Space your character is sage and wise. Can you talk a bit about how the archetypical stoner has evolved over the decades?
Tommy Chong: You know, marijuana has always been a religious sacrament, since the beginning, since the burning bush in the Bible. So the weed thing had come around in a big, big circle. It has been an illegal substance, used by law enforcement as a racist tool to keep the Mexicans in line. Over the years the hippies got involved; that was all the white people with long hair, and it was still illegal. Now it’s 2020 and it’s legal and old ladies are smoking it and hippies are barely existing anymore. It’s just a new world. It’s lost its notoriety, it’s racist ‘law’, and now it’s accepted as what it was many thousands of years ago: A medicine and religious sacrament.
DC: Right on, I totally agree. I don’t think kids today realize how risky it was for you in the 70’s and 80’s to basically come out as a famous pot smoker. It really put a target on your back, didn’t it?
TC: Yeah, in the 1990s, [then President George] Bush wanted some kind of excuse to go after the hippies because of his Iraq war. It spawned Operation Pipedream, [a federal sting operation] that took me down. I was in jail for nine months, but it was all ordained; it was all meant to be, and it changed my life. Look at us now: The biggest problem is what to do with all the money, that’s a good problem.
DC: Yeah, now that cannabis is being legalized and decriminalized across the country, have you seen artistic representations of the herb and cannabis smokers changing?
TC: Oh yeah, totally. As far as the criminality thing, now you’ve got old ladies talking about what strain they’d like. One would like to sleep, another one wants to create; they like the sativa, so it’s really fun to hear. I go to parties, a lot of billionaire parties, and I bring chocolate and I’m like the candy man. As soon as I walk in the door, they are all over me for my marijuana infused chocolate!
DC: Do you act in films while imbibed?
TC: It depends; it depends on the bit, you know? In Up in Smoke, we weren’t always stoned. Sometimes it’s relaxing if you know what you were doing, but if you don’t it probably isn’t the best idea to get too blazed. I have little breath mints that I sell and they are infused with about 20 mg of some really good THC and that’s all I’ve been doing lately. Just these breath mint strips.
DC: In your opinion does being stoned enhance the experience of watching a horror movie?
TC: Absolutely. I would not watch any movie without being stoned—especially horror. It’s too scary. When you’re stoned you see the humor beyond the horror.
DC: What’s a horror movie you like to watch stoned?
TC: Well, Christine; you know the car.
Related Article: TOMMY CHONG WRITING CHEECH & CHONG HORROR MOVIE
DC: That reminds me of something I read on IMDB. John Carpenter directed Christine but he’s most famous for Halloween. I heard you were actually considered for the role of the sheriff in that flick. Is that true?
TC: Possibly, possibly.
DC: Hey, have you heard of this new talk show called Chronic Horror?
TC: Yes, I have.
DC: I’m actually the host and creator of that show.
TC: You are?
DC: Yeah, that’s me with the dreadlocks. I have guests come on and we get stoned and have some gourmet munchies and watch movies. I’d love to get you on the show or come out and check out your company Pipe Dreams on a field trip or something.
TC: Anytime, anytime man. You know how to get a hold of me.
Related Article: TRAILER: HIT SHOW CHRONIC HORROR RETURNING FOR MORE “HITS”
DC: Fantastic, Let’s do it! Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about Color Out of Space before I let you go, anything about the film that no one’s asked you yet that you’d really like to discuss?
TC: There’s a hidden message, especially in my performance, and if you see the movie it will affect your life to a point where ‘things’ will happen to you for no reason. It has that effect. There’s a little mantra I did in the movie and if you see it enough times it will make sense.
Are you excited to check out Color Out of Space? What do you think of our exclusive interview with Tommy Chong? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.