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INT: David Naughton

Aug. 14, 2001by: The Arrow

The Arrow interviews David Naughton

There I was walking the 2001 San Diego Comic Con, kind of feeling a tad bored with all of the Klingons and The Wolverine poseurs walking around. Suddenly, at a far table, I spotted actor David Naughton, probably best known for his portrayal of werewolf boy in "American Werewolf in London", which happens to be my fav wolfman flick. I didn't know the dude was going to be there! Of course, I decided to head over and nab an interview with the guy. This is how it went down:

ARROW: I want to flashback here. You started acting in theatre, didnt you?

DN: Yes, as a matter of fact I did in New York. I went to the London Academy Of Music and Dramatic Art and returned to New York where I started my career. The first job I got was with the Joseph Bapps New York Shakespeare festival, I did some off Broadway and thats really where I started.

ARROW: So theatre was your first love?

DN: Yes. As a student in London, I had seen so many shows, so many plays and had seen so many greats of the day. And having performed in high school productions and college productions I was primarily familiar with live performances on stage.

ARROW: So how hard was it to make the transition from stage performance, which is fairly big, to on-screen, which is more subtle?

DN: Having gone to drama school where I was really trained for classical theatre or for modern theatreit was different, certainly different. It's trial by error and hopefully you work with directors who can modulate your performance and thats really the key. You need help when youre starting out. On the other hand, some people are very naturalistic to begin with.

ARROW: "American Werewolf In London" is the movie that youre most famous for...

DN: Yes, I would say so.

ARROW: Do you ever get sick of it?

DN: Well, it depends, when you come to a convention like this, Im primarily here for that. Generally the feedbacks been good. If it wasnt so good and I was known for something bad, it would be harder to live down. It dependsI generally hear about the same kinds of things; where people were when they saw it, or how they got really scared. Its kind of amusing.

ARROW: How did you feel when you first saw the transformation sequence on the big screen?

DN: Well, I realized finally that all of the hard work paid off. I was not prepared for the actual process itself; having to go to the shop and having some molds done. People were not doing that at the time. In 1981, nobody had experienced this kind of a makeup before so I was one of the pioneers and there was nothing to prepare me for it. So I had to have faith that the makeup people, in this case Rick Baker and his crew, knew what they were doing and of course they did. And it was quite a payoff to see it all cut together in about a two-minute transformation. Sitting in a theatre with an audience, it proved that it really paid off.

ARROW: Were there ever talks of having you in the sequel?

DN: I dont know. There was lots of talk, lots of different sequences, I dont know if youre alluding to

ARROW: "American Werewolf in Paris". Im sure it went through so many stage over the years

DN: Yes, different stages, different re-writes, different people involved and I dont know really know if my name was ever mentioned. My contention really was that if there was going to be a sequel, I would have had the same people involved. The creative people. John Landis who wrote and directed the first one. The fact that it wasnt John, that none of the makeup people came back and none of the actors either, I always felt that it wasnt necessarily a sequel so much as a tribute to the original.

ARROW: Did you like it?

DN: We had set a pretty high standard is my feelingthey tried

ARROW: They tried, they failedIm going to name one of your other movies and tell me the first thing that comes to mind: "Hot Dog".

DN: Skiing, lots of fun, amazing stunts. I was always grateful to the stuntmen. These people that doubled us werent even stuntmen, they were hot skiers, daredevils who said yeah sure! They never had any experience in film and fortunately nobody got hurt on that movie.

ARROW: Youve played in more horror movies than I thought. "Amityville New Generation", "Mirror Mirror 3", "Body Bags", "Sleeping Car" is one I remember seeing a while back. Actually, I was curious, is "Separate Ways" a film you did before or after AMWIL?

DN: Before, really early before.

ARROW: And what was it about?

DN: It was about an hour and a half (we laugh).

ARROW: Would you say that the horror genre is one of your favorite genres?

DN: It could be fun, it depends on whos involved. Im not a big slasher film fan. I always go with the story and character and if those are good and if the setting is something thats scary (horror films seem to always take place at night and the weathers always bad) then I might be interested. But I basically look at the characters and the story and if it happens to be in the genre, than thats fine.

ARROW: What about "Crack In The Floor". Thats one of the more recent ones you did with Gary Busey.

DN: I basically did sort of a cameo for a friend of mine who was involved with that project as co-producer and director. He asked me to be in it. Occasionally you do these kinds of things for friends but I havent seen it. I think it's been listed and that it has distribution.

ARROW: Yeah, it's out on tape

DN: Oh..

ARROW: I actually have a copy of it at home, but just havent gotten around to watching it yet. Im going to go back to one I have seen. Sleeping Car which was kind of an Elm Street-type flick. Did you play the villain in that one at the same time as the hero or am I confused?

DN: John Buechler played the villain and he did the makeup. He played a creatureI forgot what they called him

ARROW: Me toohad to do with a train

DN: the train man or something. But John Buechler was involved in creating that creature but no, Ive never played a real bad guy in a film.

ARROW: Well, you have this very kind aura about you. The average nice guy, good guy thing going onYou think youll ever play a psychopath?

DN: I dont know about a psychopath. They are too many around Hollywood for them to pick and choose from so I dont know if Id get a chance to. But the character that I play in this new film "Flying Virus" that we just shot in Brazil is not a particularly good guy. Hes a guy that makes the wrong decisions but hes kind of a creepy guy. That was fun to do.

ARROW: Who directed that?

DN: It was written and directed by a first time director named Jeff Hare, who I think has a bright future ahead of him.

ARROW: Is the distribution locked?

DN: I dont know much more than that we finished principal photography and that they still have some more things to do on it, some more post, some CGI which seems to have become a standard now.

ARROW: Whats your take on the whole CGI thang?

DN: It really depends. Talking to some CGI people, its a complicated process. You have to pay for it as opposed to having it done cheaply because it can really destroy a film if badly done.

ARROW: For example, the AWIP transformation sequences are nothing compared to the ones in AWIL.

DN: I agree.

ARROW: Sometimes I think filmmakers are becoming lazy with all that CGI.

DN: Well, its a way to save money. It can be effective but I think it should be used sparingly.

ARROW: Any other projects in the works?

DN: Theres always things in the works but nothing Ill discuss until I get the green light, I hate talking about things and then theyre put on the backburner. Then you get what happened to that project you were talking about?

ARROW: What about the stage? Have you been constant on the stage over the years?

DN: I have, I think to do a play a year is very good if you can afford the time and the energy because it's difficult to do, it's really the actors medium of course, because youre really out there and nobodys yelling cut so, yeah I have. Musical theatre is something Im familiar with, Ive been doing that. I did an original play last year and am looking again for another piece.

ARROW: Its more satisfying for an actor.

DN: Its also harder to do, you have to stay with it otherwise you never go back to the stage.

ARROW: My last question: Am I ever going to see a movie written by David Naughton or directed by David Naughton?

DN: Well you know, never say never. The writing aspect of it I kind of doubt; my hats off to all the screenwriters of the world. It's a slow process to have something written and made...it can take years to get something approved or even to get a treatment done. The directing aspectwho knows? Certainly Im interested in it. Im just looking for another opportunity to star in another film thats going to be a big success sort of like Werewolf.

ARROW: Would your first directing gig be a horror film?

DN: I dont know. Again characters are the key for me, character driven films. Comedies are something Id be very interesting in doing. I dont think I'd be directing a horror film.

I've met many "celebrities" through this site and I have to say that many of them act like pretentious jerks holding their heads high above mine, thinking they're so special because they've played in a film. David Naughton was not one of them. He came across as a giving, caring and just all-around sympathetic dude. I really enjoyed my sit-down with him. David thanks a bundle dude, you were actually the highlight of The Con for me.

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