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INT: Tom Atkins

01.20.2009by: JimmyO

I’ve interviewed a lot of people. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some really talented folks, from directors to actors to what have you. But I have to say, once in awhile the fan boy kicks in a bit. And while interviewing the incredibly friendly cast of MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D, I got the opportunity to speak to the amazingly talented Tom Atkins. Yep, the man who made THE FOG, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and so many more was going to be on the phone. Truthfully, even though I’d met him before, I had no idea that he’d be this cool.

I have to say how great he is in MBV 3D. It is such a welcome return, but what is even more exciting is just how nice he is. When he picked up the phone he was already willing to have fun. While saying hello, he spoke in a very serious tone, but it soon turned to good times. He is funny as hell and is still one of my favorite tough guys ever. I feel like I am doing another Time Out with Horror Legends because this guy truly belongs in that category, but luckily, you can see the man in action on Friday, January 16th when MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D slashes its way to a theatre near you.

Dude, I’ve been a fan of yours forever? Keep in mind I wasn’t seeing Disney, I was seeing HALLOWEEN, THE FOG and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK when I was a kid. And actually, one of my favorite T.V. movies was TARANTULA: THE DEADLY CARGO…

Oh my God! Oh my God! Howard Hesseman! That name jumped right out of my mouth, I can’t believe I remembered that.

I love that movie dude.

Yeah, I got bit. He didn’t.

He had a better agent at the time [Laughing]

That’s right [Laughing]! I didn’t last long in that movie.

So I recently met you sir, at the last Halloween convention.

Oh did you… the one in Pasadena?

Yep. I was actually moderating some of the panels.

Get out!

Yeah, although I wasn’t the one who did part 3, that was my friend Brian

Oh. It was a nice gathering wasn’t it?

It was a blast.

I thought it was terrific.

Obviously you’ve done a lot of genre films, but it seems over the years, HALLOWEEN 3 has become a bit of a cult classic. I remember the initial reaction wasn’t very positive at all, but now…

Yeah. That’s ‘cause I was in it.

Of course dude.

[Laughing]

You know what’s funny though? On IMDB, somebody started one of the topics basically saying that exact thing.

Really?

Yes. It’s this whole, ‘Tom Atkins made this movie great.’ type of thing. So yeah, apparently it is the reason [Laughing].

Well we had a good time. We had a good time making it, it was great seeing Tommy Lee Wallace again after all those years. I hadn’t seen him since we made it and I haven’t seen Stacey Nelkin since about a month after we finished the movie. It was over twenty years for both of them.

How do you feel about the current state of horror movies as opposed to the ones back when? What do you think is the biggest change in the genre from back in the Eighties up until now?

I think in the Eighties they were better… I don’t know, they were good stories with people you could root for… and care about. And I think, now, with things like SAW and movies like that, I don’t get ‘em. They scare the shit out of me and I don’t like them. I think because they’re… I don’t know… too claustrophobic or something… too detached from a good story with people you don’t know.

Well what is your take on remakes? Aside from MY BLOODY VALENTINE that is…

Oh, you mean remakes in general… I don’t know why exactly people do it. I don’t… especially since Sony just remade THE FOG. And I think, my God, we did a wonderful Fog so many years ago, why would anybody want to remake that? If you’re going to remake it, you sure as shit better make it better than ours. And that didn’t happen.

No. It didn’t. I could barely sit through THE FOG remake.

I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard nothing but pretty grim stuff about it. Now the thing with MY BLOODY VALENTINE, I never saw the original so I have no idea how this one compares to that one. I never saw it. I assume that the main bad guy was a coal miner but I don’t know.

Well you know what, I loved the original, and honestly, I loved the remake. I loved what you guys did.

Ah, I’m glad. I got to see it last week in L.A. at this screening in Hollywood at Mann’s Chinese and we… I had a wonderful time and it seemed like the audience did too. I’m not sure who all the audience was but…

I was there.

Were you there?

I was actually going to say hi…

Ah… you should have! You should’ve come up and hollered at me and grabbed me and said hey. ‘Cause it was only me and Fred Dekker and we spent most of the evening together. Did you go over to the gathering after?

Yes, I was there.

Ah… you should’ve…

I know… I walked right by you and I thought I really should say something but I didn’t want to interrupt you…

Oh, you should have.

Now how did you get involved with MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D? How did they bring ya back to horror man?

I’ll tell you exactly how. Patrick Lussier was a big fan of mine from those old films. And when they knew they were going to come to the Pittsburg area to shoot the film, he heard that I lived in that area. And he said, I gotta get Tom to do this, so he called the woman who was casting it out of Pittsburg and she called me and I said, call Richard, my agent in New York and he called back… so Patrick and I ended up having a cup of coffee in a hotel in downtown Pittsburg. And I swear to God he was the most personable guy. He was the complete and total opposite of John Carpenter. As reclusive and ‘don’t get near me’ kind of guy that John is, Patrick is… I felt like I knew him all my life. We just sat down and talked for over an hour and it was so easy on both of our parts, you know. And I could tell that… and I said, hey that sounds fun to me, we’ll give it a try. So that was that.

Well one of the things that really worked for me was… I remember back in the day when there was PARASITE in 3D and of course FRIDAY THE 13th Part 3 in 3D, they did a lot of 3D tricks like sticking antenna’s at the screen. But I didn’t sense a lot of “tricks” here.

No, they didn’t. And I’ll tell ya’, Patrick had a constant battle with Lionsgate… not that… they were incredibly supportive and I thought they did a wonderful job of backing the movie and fighting for the movie in every sense. But there was a contingent of them who wanted more stuff in your face. Throw axes through the screen, throw peoples bodies through the screen and stuff. And he had to keep saying, ‘Trust me. It will only make it harder to watch the movie.’ If you have too many of those, it is not good. Less is better. And I think it worked.

Do you ever go back to any of your old films and think, ‘Man, if they remade that or did a sequel, I’d love to do it again.’?

Oh sure, I would love to do NIGHT OF THE CREEPS again.

I love that movie.

Me too. Did you see Fred Dekker? That‘s who I was with. I invited Fred to the screening in L.A. and we sat right next to each other and watched the movie. I was so tickled he could come. And he just e-mailed me today to say what a wonderful time he had.

It seems like you’ve come close in regards to sequels many times…

Well, like LETHAL WEAPON, I could never be in LETHAL WEAPON two, three, four, five, six…

You were in the best one anyway…

Yeah. Well, here’s a little tidbit, and this is true. Fred… when we were shooting NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, there was this guy hanging around the set all the time, always in black, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, looking depressed every day. And he had nothing to do with the movie. And Fred finally one day said, ‘Tom, come over and meet my friend will ya. He’d really love to met ya.’ So I went over to him and Fred said, ‘Shane Black, meet Tom Atkins.’

Nice.

He wrote LETHAL WEAPON…

Absolutely.

It was hysterical. You know, we started chatting and he said, ‘Well, you know, they got a movie of mine over at Warner Brothers. They say they’re gonna do it, but I don’t know if they’re gonna do it.’ But I thought that was hysterical.

Honestly man, going over your career, you’ve done several of my favorite movies.

Ah… that’s nice. But don’t you think that I’d be good as Det. Ray Cameron [from NIGHT OF THE CREEPS] back once again in some wonderful story.

I would love that. That was the strange thing back then, they really didn’t do sequels like they do today.

I know, you’re right.

I wonder if that is maybe part of the reason those films hold up so well.

Maybe. They were all kind of stand alone, terrific films.

What’s next for you after this… because seriously, if people don’t start making movies with you I’m going to be pissed.

Me too [Laughing]. So far, I’m not jumping into another movie. I am going to do another play in Pittsburg. At a theatre over there, it’s called “A Moon for the Misbegotten”, Eugene O’Neil’s old play.

You do a lot of theatre?

I do. I do at least one a year in Pittsburg, sometimes two. This year, it’ll be three. I do a one-man show there called “The Chief” about Art Rooney, the original owner/founder of the Pittsburg Steelers. It’s a wonderful piece. Only an hour and a half straight through. No intermission. It’s really great, and we did it this year for the sixth year and we’ll do it again next January I think.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com

 

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