Fear File #4: The Real Tony Todd

I can’t begin to tell you how obsessed my mother was with Candyman. Aside from my early exposure to The Exorcist and Halloween, these were some of my first horror flicks. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been watching them THAT early in my lifespan, but I fell in love. The imagery, the urban legend, the way it was delivered to the audience- Candyman was a rush, an exquisite example of how horror should be. After all, there isn’t much that Clive Barker touches that doesn’t fall into the ‘awesome’ category. But it was Candyman himself that drew me to the series- the mystery of a man who had been murdered for his love of a woman and has since come back to take his revenge; gory revenge, sure, but revenge just the same. In short, it was an urban legend, and one that has stuck with me since.

Actor Tony Todd is Candyman. But he was also a villain on “24.” A CIA Director on “Chuck.” The voice of Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And, as horror fans, he entertained as Reverend Zombie in both Hatchet flicks, and as Mr. Bludworth in Final Destination. His IMDB page reads like a journey- the path of a talented actor who has done every role imaginable and nailed each one with such grace that he’s always coming back for more. When I sat down for this interview, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. By the time I hung up the phone, I was awe struck. I walked into this assuming that I would be interviewing a horror icon; instead, I walked away knowing a skilled craftsman who has an undeniable love for Shakespeare and cats.

Yes, cats.

Candyman Tony Todd

Uncoordinated Yet Distinguished

Tony Todd doesn’t have a Twitter. He doesn’t have a Facebook page, either (except for the one the system miraculously bestowed upon him). But people know him- they know who he is. Whether it’s for a character he played on television, or a role in a familiar movie, Tony Todd is everywhere- and that’s not something that’s going to change. Even if it were, why would we want it to?

Todd was hit by the acting bug early on in life. A sports fan who wanted to fall into varsity greatness, a growth spurt of nearly six inches between his sophomore and junior year forced him to reevaluate his direction due to a lack of coordination. That was when his English teacher handed him a copy of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and the theater bug hit hard. “You know those moments where you go, ‘wow, I want to be as close to this as possible’? That was it.” He spent high school immersed in one play after the next, but eventually went on to study the craft at not only the University of Connecticut, but also in several well-known conservatories. “I take it very seriously, but at the same time it gives me such joy to not only create but just to know that, occasionally, people are moved by what I do.” Todd completed seven years of in-depth studies, but would still love to go back and do even more. Being able to study in Moscow is a thought that crosses his mind often; being able to go into a controlled environment knowing what he knows now. “I love education. I love learning.” Those who act know that there is a distinct difference between film/television and theater. Hell, even those who aren’t actors know that the disciplines are unique. It’s like night and day- some may succeed in one area, yet struggle in another. Todd, who tries to do a play every few years or so, is fortunate enough to be able to do both. “Not everybody can do both. It’s two different disciplines, two different focuses. I’m very fortunate that A) I make a living doing film and television and B) theater is still deep in my blood.

Todd’s nickname should be ‘reality check’. He’s a realist; a breath of fresh air- after spending nearly an hour talking about life and business, I’ve learned a few things; even more so, I’ve learned that Todd is grateful for everything that he has done and will do in the future. “There is no guarantee of success. The sad reality is that maybe one out of ten are even going to get one job. When you’re young you think you’ll live forever and you’re gonna do what you say you’re going to do.” He’ll be the first person to tell you that Hollywood isn’t kind, either. “You better have a thick skin like a reptile without becoming a snake.

What can I say? The man has a good head on his shoulders. “You gotta keep your ego in check. You gotta keep it real, man. That’s why I was raised by the right woman and I have the right friends in my life and I have two beautiful children and I love life- and that comes first.

Tony the Gangster

I love good movies,” said Todd. “Anything that has a good beginning, middle and end is great.” He doesn’t just like horror movies, but he has his favorites. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The great Universal horror films “have always resonated with me.” Rosemary’s Baby. The original Hitchhiker. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead made Todd think “Wow, not only is that so creepy it could happen, but I saw Dwayne Jones and said ‘I can do this and not be Sydney Poitier.’

Todd’s love of film started early. Raised by a single mother, his aunt, she introduced him to a different movie every night, using it to build character. “What she was also building was my deep and fascinating love of movies.” In fact, Todd repaid her the best way he knew how in 1994 while filming the western, Black Fox. He invited her to the set and she was treated like a queen as she got to watch what she had loved so much come to life before her eyes. “The beam on her face just sort of validated everything that I was doing.

Looking over Todd’s vast career, he really has done it all. Westerns. Horror. Action. Thriller; everything has come together to showcase how much he loves what he does. He’s not a one-genre kind guy, and that’s what makes him a treasure; the fact that he can take on such different roles and do it incredibly well. “It builds character. The beautiful thing is that whatever role is meant for you to do, you’re going to do it.” Todd even admits to hating his flops; something many actors would deny, even going so far as to cite wanting a do-over on his 2006 take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “You just don’t know at the time. You’re only as good as your weakest link in the cast.

Every actor, filmmaker, producer and even writer has their influences. I know for me, it’s Diablo Cody and the ever-changing writing style of Kevin Williamson. But Todd has several, including Robert Deniro and Martin Scorcese. Personally, I’d love to see Todd take on a gangster flick with the best of them. The biggest surprise to me was when Todd mentioned the likes of Humphrey Bogart, but cracked me up when he added “… he had a face only a mother could love.”

The Future

With Final Destination 5 in theaters, Todd is once again in the spotlight; but he’s constantly working. Video games, cartoons, whatever peaks his interest can easily find a place on his resume. Even the type of projects that churn out toys. “I counted one day when I was bored. I have 7 action figures. That’s pretty awesome.

Aside from FD5, Todd’s role in Jack the Reaper has been in headlines as well. The film recently earned top horror/sci-fi honors at the Cannes Film Festival. But it’s the upcoming film Sushi Girl that has Todd beaming with pride. “[It's] one of the best roles I’ve ever filmed.” The movie is about a group of robbers who throw a welcome home dinner party for the member of their gang that spent six years silently in prison for a crime they all committed. The dinner is an array of sushi lined up on the body of a ‘sushi girl,’ a beautiful, naked young woman who is trained to remain in a cationic state. But as the four former partners in crime open up old wounds, will the sushi girl be able to keep her cool? It’s a question that I’m willing to ask, and a film that I’m more than excited to see.

The group of filmmakers behind Sushi Girl ‘script stalked’ Todd for awhile before he finally committed to the role. Initially, they dropped a script in his shopping basket at a local supermarket. “I ignored it. I gave it to the cashier.” They pushed and pushed until Todd fell for the content and agreed to play the role. “I gotta give them points for tenacity.

Todd doesn’t want to stick to just acting, though. Eventually he’d love to take the reigns as director at the helm of his own original project. In fact, he said he’ll keep going “… until I’m done and then I’ll travel and probably end up somewhere in Tahiti. I’ll be there, laying on the beach, having a coconut, maybe with a little rum, a woman on a boat arriving with my weekly groceries… and there in my bag will be a script sticking out of the top. Then I’ll know it’s time to move.”

Todd is a gem. He’s a rare breed; an iconic figure who is actually down to Earth and hates leaving his three cats when he has work to do (they hate it too, I’m sure). He loves fishing, gardening, traveling; but most importantly, he loves what he does. He loves entertaining; frightening people, bringing them to tears, making them smile. He is a master and the fact that he’s good at what he does makes him all the more prestigious. I can’t say enough good things about this man. Actor Kane Hodder agrees: “Tony is a very talented actor… and he happens to be the only guy I met in my life that intimidates me.” I guess that whole ‘be my victim’ mess is the equivalent of ‘you had me at hello.’

For more from ANDREA ALBIN, visit her rad blog THE ALBIN WAY

For more on SUSHI GIRL, visit the film’s official website.

And don’t forget, Todd returns as Mr. Bludworth in Final Destination 5, currently in theaters.

Hatchet Tony Todd