A Chat with Tony Todd (“Hatchet II”)

Tony Todd is often unjustly considered to be just a horror actor, but one only needs to take a look at his filmography to see that he’s working in countless genres. Indeed, his television work alone has found him bouncing from sci-fi (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) to comedy (“Chuck”) to action (“24”). Mind you, we’re probably not doing a whole lot to change that whole he-only-does-horror-movies perception by talking to him about his work as Reverend Zombie in the “Hatchet” franchise – “Hatchet 2,” by the way, is now available on DVD – but we did at least make a point of trying to ask him about as many different roles as possible. We did not, however, say the name of his most famous film five times in front of a mirror. (We’re not crazy).

Bullz-Eye: How are you?

Tony Todd: Good, good. Just going through the day.

BE: I can imagine. I’m sure they keep you busy. A tight schedule.

TT: It’s really weird when they give you someone for 15 minutes, then the next person, “You’ve got 15 minutes…” It’s like speed interviewing. (Laughs) But I guess it’s a necessary part of it. Where are you calling from?

BE: Norfolk, Virginia.

TT: Norfolk, okay. I just did a movie down in Petersburg, Virginia.

BE: Not too far away from here.

TT: It was great. Some of my best work I think I’ve done in a horror film.

BE: Which movie was that?

TT: It was called “Unbroken.” There’s a company down there called Stormcatcher Films.

BE: Right, exactly. Very cool! So…”Hatchet II.” You got to play Reverend Zombie again.

TT: Yeah, and doing the first one, I knew going in that this was going to happen. So I’m glad that Adam Green is not only a man of his word but has a vision that keeps me employed. (Laughs)

BE: Plus, we got to see a little bit more of him this go around.

TT: Yeah. Well, he had told me the back story when we did the first one, so I was able to play that scene in the first one knowing the full knowledge. And then we got to go down to New Orleans, which is one of my favorite cities.

BE: Even better. So what was it like to get the chance to step back into the Reverend’s shoes? I mean, he’s certainly an interesting character.

TT: Yeah, I tried to find his reality, which is that he’s a small time con man from New Jersey. His real name is Clive Washington. And just like when we go from high school to college, you get the opportunity to reinvent yourself, and he’s a reinvented person that, unfortunately, is believing his own hype. He can’t shed it.

BE: How did you and Adam first meet up?

TT: I met Adam on a convention circuit, actually. He comes from the fan world. He’s very enthusiastic; loves film, particularly horror. I think we chatted a few times, and then he made me an offer to play Reverend Zombie. I turned it down. And then he and (John Carl) Buechler kind of lobbied and convinced me that it was a project worth taking.

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Musical movie moments with Clint and Alfred

With the media and political world reeling from the news of Keith Olbermann’s sudden departure from MSNBC and its possible relation to the Comcast-NBC/Universal merger, the Sundance Film Festival starting up, and even the start of Roger Ebert’s new movie reviewing series featuring a veteran critic and a 24 year old blogger who writes for the terrific MUBI site, there’s simply an overwhelming number of things I could be writing about tonight.

However, two movie news items in particular have caught my eye and the link is music and film, though that may not be immediately obvious. First is word that Sacha Gervasi, director of the highly acclaimed comic documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” may be directing a new film about the making of “Psycho” and that Anthony Hopkins may play director Alfred Hitchcock. (The actual terminology at THR is that they are “in talks” to join the film, which I take it is closer to actually working on something that either “eying” or “circling” a project.)

The second is that Clint Eastwood’s next project will be, fascinatingly, the latest version of “A Star is Born,” which will feature Beyoncé Knowles in the lead role. The musical-drama classic might seem like an odd choice, but Eastwood is a serious music fan and he’s even made a rather good musical biopic, “Bird.”

In fact, his debut as a director owed a little something to Alfred Hitchcock and a lot to jazz. I don’t know who edited this video — or why they included subtitles, but this is worth a moment of your time and definitely emphasizes Eastwood’s musical choices. Also, if you thought Jessica Walter was formidable as Lucille Bluth in “Arrested Development” wait until you see her a few decades prior as the spurned antagonist of a swingin’ jazz DJ in Eastwood 1971 directorial debut, “Play Misty for Me.”

Music, of course, played a huge role in “Psycho” and in all of Hitchcock’s films, at least in terms of the way he thought about them. Take a look at this.

  

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A cinematic wish for a shana tova from Premium Hollywood

I’m a very secular and nonobservant Jew, so there’ll be a news laden post up a bit later. However, I’m not so devoutly unobservant and secular that I completely ignore the day — even if I only figured out a couple of hours ago that Jewish New Year, aka Rosh Hashanah, began tonight.

Anyhow, I was moved to post my favorite scene from, of all films, Clint Eastwood’s “Bird,” written by Joel Oliansky. In this scene, Jewish trumpeter Red Rodney (Michael Zelniker), after traveling with the band through segregated Jim Crow states as “Albino Red,” arranges a much needed paying New York area gig for jazz innovator Charlie Parker (Forest Whitaker) and crew.

If I remember the rest of the scene correctly, afterwards,  the rabbi says something like, “Most of you boys aren’t Jewish, but you’re good.” I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve always found this scene both a little bit funny and extremely moving. (I briefly reviewed “Bird” as part of a series of “The Eastwood Jazz Collection” a couple of years back.)

By the way, the real Red Rodney, born Robert Roland Chudnick, like his friend, Bird, and so many other jazz musicians of his era, struggled with hard drugs for most of his life before reviving his career in the late seventies and eighties. He died in 1994 at age 66.

  

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