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INT: David Naughton

08.14.2001by: 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, didn’t 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 Bapp’s New York Shakespeare festival, I did some off Broadway and that’s 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 theatre…it was different, certainly different. It's trial by error and hopefully you work with directors who can modulate your performance and that’s really the key. You need help when you’re starting out. On the other hand, some people are very naturalistic to begin with.

ARROW: "American Werewolf In London" is the movie that you’re 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, I’m primarily here for that. Generally the feedback’s been good. If it wasn’t so good and I was known for something bad, it would be harder to live down. It depends…I generally hear about the same kinds of things; where people were when they saw it, or how they got really scared. It’s 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 don’t know. There was lots of talk, lots of different sequences, I don’t know if you’re alluding to…

ARROW: "American Werewolf in Paris". I’m sure it went through so many stage over the years…

DN: Yes, different stages, different re-writes, different people involved and I don’t 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 wasn’t John, that none of the makeup people came back and none of the actors either, I always felt that it wasn’t 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 feeling…they tried…

ARROW: They tried, they failed…I’m 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 weren’t 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: You’ve 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 who’s involved. I’m 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 that’s scary (horror films seem to always take place at night and the weather’s 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 that’s fine.

ARROW: What about "Crack In The Floor". That’s 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 haven’t 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 haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. I’m 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 creature…I forgot what they called him…

ARROW: Me too…had to do with a train…

DN: …the train man or something. But John Buechler was involved in creating that creature but no, I’ve 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 on…You think you’ll ever play a psychopath?

DN: I don’t know about a psychopath. They are too many around Hollywood for them to pick and choose from so I don’t know if I’d 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. He’s a guy that makes the wrong decisions but he’s 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 don’t 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: What’s your take on the whole CGI thang?

DN: It really depends. Talking to some CGI people, it’s 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, it’s 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: There’s always things in the works but nothing I’ll discuss until I get the green light, I hate talking about things and then they’re 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 you’re really out there and nobody’s yelling cut so, yeah I have. Musical theatre is something I’m familiar with, I’ve been doing that. I did an original play last year and am looking again for another piece.

ARROW: It’s more satisfying for an actor.

DN: It’s 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 aspect…who knows? Certainly I’m interested in it. I’m just looking for another opportunity to star in another film that’s going to be a big success sort of like Werewolf.

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

DN: I don’t know. Again characters are the key for me, character driven films. Comedies are something I’d be very interesting in doing. I don’t 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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