Tom Holland [Interview]
January 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Who doesn’t love a great horror film, am I right? There is something deeply enthralling about watching some of your deepest fears played out on screen. Everything you fear most is on display, but safely nestled in a fantasy world you are nowhere near physically. And thankfully, we have some twisted masterminds out there who have made it their life’s work to scare the shit out you. Even more so, there is an elite group of folks who have time and time again proven that they indeed on top of the game. One of these cats specifically, Tom Holland, is a legend with a catalog of films that stand firm next to the likes of Craven and Romero alike. His extremely impressive list of credits include Fright Night (original 1985 version, as well as the 2011 remake), Child’s Play, Psycho II, adaptation of Stephen King’s Thinner, the forthcoming King adaptation The Ten O’Clock People, and many more. Hell, he’s even moved into the comedy world to direct Whoopi Goldberg in her 80’s classic Fatal Beauty. He is the man who arguably brought vampires to the mainstream youth, created the legendary Chucky, and brought the master of horror novels dreams to the silver screen. His career spans longer than most of fine TWS followers have even been living. We were fortunate enough to be able to steal some of Tom’s time between frightening moviegoers everywhere to talk with us. Enjoy.
Horror seems to be your genre of choice. I’ve always wanted to ask, what draws a person into the world of horror? What is the genre’s greatest appeal to you personally?
Horror presents opportunity. They were the entry level jobs when I started out. I would argue that what I do also combines suspense, science fictions, and humor. But then that’s me. The appeal of the genre is that people still want me to do it, for which I am grateful. Horror is metaphor. It can carry the weight of almost any story you want to tell.
So, I’m just going to throw it out there….You are a freaking lawyer??!! How does one shift from law school into acting, and what made you continue pursuing acting and filmmaking after you passed the bar?
I was an actor first, and in a moment of madness went to law school. I was trying to go straight, join the bourgeois, and have some financial security in life. Well, that didn’t work out very well, did it? I got my first screenplay optioned while I was waiting for word from the Calif. State Bar on the exam. I passed, which was great, but not as great as making $ from writing. I decided to go for it, off that encouragement. I’d been poor so long as a student at UCLA, I figured I was used to it, and could take the shot. I remember my first 5 year law school reunion. Everybody was buying their first house and I was having trouble keeping my car in repair. I don’t know why, but somehow I knew that I had to keep writing. I also knew I had a choice, which was comforting.
It helps when I read my contracts. I can actually make notes. I may have been less screwed over time than other “creative,” but I wouldn’t count on it. When you get to legal papers, it’s all in the “definitions,” how things are define. Not in the artist’s favor. (cough-cough)
In your work as a screenwriter, what is your process? Do such original ideas just pop into your head?
It’s a mystery to me. Right now I am compelled to write. I have too many ideas. However, I have spent years where everything I wrote seemed like shit. The terrible/wonderful thing about writing is the more you learn, the harder it gets, because you want to be better.
Your 1988 film Child’s Play is hands down one of the finest horror films ever made, and has stood the test of time, holding onto its popularity as an original, as well as spawning several subsequent films that continue to make it one of the most popular franchises. What do you think it is about the world of Chucky that is so fascinating to viewers?
One’s playthings coming alive and trying to kill you. That thought has occurred to every kid growing up. It’s universal. You understand the terror in your gut.
How do you develop an idea as bizarre as a mass murdering doll made for children?
I was working off an original screenplay by another writer. The story didn’t have a killer inhabiting the doll. It was an episode of Twilight Zone. When I created Charles Lee Ray, I had a serial killer to possess the doll and was off and running.
Another way of saying it is that it’s “character,” even when you’re dealing with a killer doll. So I combined a creepy icon from childhood’s passes with the modern serial killer, and inadvertently created a marketing icon.
You are the legend, and arguable the creator, of the now vastly popular vampire sub genre, with a film like Fright Night….In your obvious expert opinion, what do you think it is that attracts people to the vampire world? And what is your opinion of the new revamping (all pun intended!) of the vampire world (i.e. Twilight, True Blood)?
Vampires are living metaphor and infinitely malleable to whatever the current sensibilities are. When I did Fright Night, the sub-genre was exhausted. Love at first Bite was the last vampire film before FN, and it was a farce. Farce is the sign of exhaustion in a genre. Culture changes every two to three years, so it constantly reinvents itself. It’s what makes horror fiction/movies, etc. so interesting. they are constantly evolving and changing. Killer Dolls and Chucky are tired right now. Wait a year or two. Someone will come along with another vision, and reinvigorate it. It’s what makes it so much fun.
Was it intimidating to be put in charge of the re-creating, or creating the continuation of, the works of people like Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock?
Yes, esp. Hitchcock. Psycho changed how I looked at film. Hitchcock was also older. Stephen King is a contemporary. He’s the Charles Dickens of my generation. It was intimidating writing Psycho 2, because the original was so transforming, and had grown to legendary status when I tackled. Hitch had been deified. Stephen less so, although I am learning if you stick around a while and have done some good work, your reputation grows.
How about the other side? You’re truly original classics like Fright Night, Child’s Play, & more have had sequels and remakes done….Have been happy with the extensions or remaking of the cult classic films you originally created?
As to the question, I am ambivalent about the remakes and sequels. Appreciate the nod, but not the results so much.
And we always have to ask….where do you keep your Saturn Award? Any significance?
In the family room on shelves next to the fireplace. No significance, but it looks nice there.
Rumor has it you are actually adapting another Stephen King novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?
I’m gearing up to do “Ten O’clock People,” from a short story by Stephen. I adapted and directed his miniseries, The Langoliers, which I like a lot. Like everything about Thinner, but the last two minutes. But that’s another story. Every director seems to have them.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Your questions. Thank you.