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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Lessons learned with Dennis Hopper (updated)

Posting about something aside from the passing of Dennis Hopper doesn’t really seem right today. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Hopper’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” appearance in which he discusses learning from James Dean and Lee Strasberg. Hopper also discusses, humorously, a different kind of learning with the prolific director Henry Hathaway.

Re: James Lipton’s dad, who he claims “invented” Venice, California — actually an unincorporated section of Los Angeles. Lawrence Liption was an Interesting guy, but this Venice High alum thinks Abbott Kinney probably deserves more credit for the actual neighborhood. However, I guess the elder Lipton deserves some credit for transforming it, to some degree, from the “Coney Island of the West” to the Berkeley of Southern California, which it still kinda sorta is.

UPDATE: Getting back to Hopper, as usual, there’s tons — and I mean tons more — about the late actor and his directing career, which I fear I’ve given short shrift to, via David Hudson at MUBI.

  

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RIP Dennis Hopper

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Dennis Hopper died today at age 74 after a lengthy and public illness. He was an icon of mid-century rebellion and an always fresh and fascinating character actor throughout a career that spanned the classic era, the American  New Wave of the late sixties and early seventies, and his often astonishing later career work in numerous films and television shows after he was finally able to conquer his longstanding issues with substance abuse during the mid-eighties. He didn’t have a lot of starring roles, but that’s show business. (The still above is from one of the very few, Curtis Harrington’s 1961 “Night Tide.” He’s very good in it.)

He was also a photographer, the director of one of the most influential (i.e., copied and later spoofed) single films ever made, “Easy Rider,”  as well as a major figure on the Los Angeles art landscape. It’s not often mentioned, but he was also probably the most proudly counter-cultural celebrity to ever openly associate himself with the Republican party, though, as recounted by Edward Copeland in his extremely detailed look at Hopper’s career, he was a true maverick to the end and voted for Obama in 2008.

Mr. Hopper was most certainly the real deal and there’s no way one post can do justice to his legacy. For now, we’ll keep things simple and just offer a few of the most iconic moments from Dennis Hopper’s amazing care, after the flip.

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A tribute to Dennis Hopper

It’s good to celebrate people while they’re still here, and that certainly applies to Dennis Hopper, a man who has made his mark upon the movies like very few people in film history. From his start as a young ensemble player on innumerable television shows and some very fifties era big Hollywood productions like “Rebel without a Cause,” “Giant,” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (he’s at 199 credits on IMDb), to his emergence as a controversial counterculture star and filmmaker in the the late sixties, to becoming one of Hollywood’s best character actors with his beyond memorable roles in films like “Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet,” “Hoosiers,” “True Romance” and numerous other films, he’s without a doubt a man to whom attention must be paid. As the director of “Easy Rider,” and the troubled but legendary “The Last Movie,” his influence on the American films of the early seventies, for both better and worse, is probably impossible to measure.

In that spirit, cinephile superstar writer and blogger turned filmmaker Matt Zoeller Seitz, formerly of The New York Times and the great group blog he founded, The House Next Door (now Slant Magazine’s official blog), has crafted the un-narrated cinema essay below for his present gig with the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s fairly long as these things go, but it is definitely worth your time.

Oh, and one thing that has been, and always will be, true about Dennis Hopper — he is most definitely not safe for work, unless, of course, you work somewhere extremely cool or extremely dangerous.

  

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

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