Tom McLoughlin [Interview]
Hello Everyone, and welcome to Day 4 of Trainwreck’d Society’s 1st Annual Week of Horror! We are on the eve of Halloween night, and continuing our 5 day celebration of all things horror with another absolutely wonderful interview. Today we are honored to have legendary filmmaker and musician Tom McLoughlin share a few words with us. Fans of the Friday the 13th series will should especially go apeshit over this one, because you guys all more than likely already know Tom has the writer and director of Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI. Yes, Mr McLoughlin is the man who was put in charge of pulling the beloved slasher Jason Voorhies out from the grave and back on to our screens. “Zombie Jason” might be a term thrown around from time to time, but no on can deny the elequance and pure awesomeness that Tom brought to the second coming of Jason. He is the man who brought us Jason right back, before we could actually miss the devilish son of a gun too long. And Tom has so many other fine film credits to his name as well, including his 1982 cult classic One Dark Night, the less frightening 1987 romantic comedy Date With An Angel (featuring the lovely Pheobe Cates!), 2010’s television movie The Wronged Man, and so damn many more. Yes, for fans of great cinema, horror in general, and especially the Friday the 13th series, this should truly be a treat. We are greatly honored to have Tom join the TWS family and extremely grateful for taking time of his busy life to chat with us about Jason, his recently reunited after 45 years band The Sloths, and so much more! Enjoy!
So, I understand you used to be a mime? How did you get in to that line of work, and what sort of work did you do as a mime?
The study of mime came when I was 19 years old and my rock & roll years were coming to a sad end. The music scene had changed for the worse. Many of our legendary rock heroes had died of drugs. During this time I felt if I wanted to continue to be a front man of a band I needed to bring something unique to my performing style. Having had a few people ask me over the years IF I had studied mime after seeing my stage act, I decided to look into the art form. I studied under a local Hollywood teacher Richmond Sheppard. When Marcel Marceau come to L.A. to perform I sought him out. He invited me to come to Paris in 6 months cause he was opening a school. I suddenly just clicked into this new direction. I got the one and ONLY normal job in my life and worked my ass off to make as much money as I could..which wasn’t much. I left my girlfriend, family, and friends to go to France where I didn’t speak a word of French and knew no one. Of course I freaked out at first when I realized what I had done but then…I just changed. I guess the art, the culture, the devotion to the study of mime, dance, acrobatics, improv-comedy, and acting just totally took me over. I learned I had a gift for comedy. Writing skits and performing. I was truly the ‘starving artist in Paris’ living on almost no money, stealing food, and smoking cigarettes while drinking cafe and talking about changing the world through the arts. I returned to the U.S. a year later penniless. My girlfriend had left me, most of my friends didn’t know what to make of me, and I felt directionless. I took to the streets to perform with a hat down. Whatever I made that day was how I ate that night. I began teaching mime classes to earn extra money. I wrote more comedy material and began touring with stage shows. Woody Allen hired me as a robot on Sleeper. I did a lot of movie roles that required special physical movement in films and TV. Was featured in over 50 commercials. I created The L.A. Mime Company and we were regulars on the Dick Van Dyke series on NBC in the mid-70s, then Don Krishner’s Rock Concert. It was an wild and unexpected ride for many years. Then I earned an Emmy nomination for my writing on the Van Dyke & Company series. Around then I was making my transistion from performer to writer/director with the plan to make movies. My first film One Dark Night happened in 1981.
Your debut film One Dark Night has been deemed a cult classic since it’s release over 30 years. What did making that film teach you most about the world of filmmaking?
Well, the thing you learn from making your first film is…’you got a lot to learn about making movies’. But honestly I can say that after after I finished my 40-something last film. You always have more to learn cause there are SO many factors to making a film. So many people involved. Opinions. Egos. Huge aspirations with very little time and money. That’s another reason I want to remake One Dark Night. I’d love to have another shot now that I know so much more to improve on it. And to bring in things that I had no knowledge of at the time. Most people say you can never go back again. I say “I’d like to find that out on my own by trying.”
In your professional opinion, what place do you believe the Friday the 13th franchise has in the history of horror franchises? What makes it special and different?
Had you asked me that question a few years back I would have had a totally different answer then today. As of the last couple years and THIS year in particular the passionate devotion to our 80’s monsters has increased ten fold. I can’t tell you why exactly. But I can now officially say it as the love and nostalgia that the Universal monsters of the 30s had on us kids of the 50s. We saw Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, The Mummy, and their sequels on TV. We read about them in Famous Monsters magazine. We loved them! In my case, the more my parents forbid me to watch those movies, read about them, draw them, and write stories about them the MORE we had to! Was it early rebellion against parental control or did we so indentify with the monster’s pain into vengeance that it made us feel more powerful. I don’t know. BUT now Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Leatherface, The Shape (Halloween) are as beloved to this generation. It’s amazing!! The merchandise, fan sites, retrospectives for Jason. I get more fan mail then ever before. Most everyone grew up watching all the sequels on VHS or DVD. And they watched them over and over when they were quite young. So what might have scared them initially was now really cool and you connect with them on some level. A incredibly well made documentary has just been released based on Peter Bracke’s extensive book on the Friday the 13th’s, Crystal Lake Memories
. This takes you 2 days to watch the entire DVD !!!! I mean other than the 007 franchise what other series of sequels could compare to to this?
So what makes it special or different? The documentary takes on that question and answers it in many ways. For me it’s partly the nostalgia of growing up with Jason, the story structure is simple and familiar, plus the identification with a wordless faceless monster that no one can stop…ever is very primal fear inducing.
What was it like joining the franchise to make Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI?
My first reaction to the offer of writing and directing the SIXTH Friday the 13th after he was killed in the Final Chapter then it wasn’t even Jason who was the killer in part five was…”hell no!”
That’s NOT the kind of horror movie I wanna make. My first film ONE DARK NIGHT wasn’t perfect (I am in the process of creating a remake, with a bit of prequel) but at least that is more in the Gothic horror vein I connect with. I was an Edgar Allen Poe fan from the age of ten. So when the producer Frank Mancuso Jr. said he’s fine with gothic style. I said “Can I add some humor to the proceedings? I can’t go in to this if it’s not a fun ride with scares.” He said “Fine. Just don’t make Jason funny. And figure out how to bring him back to life.” So off I went. Needless to say my childhood horror influences taught me the way to bring a dead body back to life ….a serious fuckin’ blast of lightning. And away I went with this challenge. As it turned out, the movie was one of the most fun adventures in my movie career to date.
Oh so many years later, what do you think about your addition to the franchise? If you could change anything about the final product, what would it be?
Now I’m labeled with starting the ‘Zombie Jason’ period of the series. Before mine he was a deformed child, then a vengeful killer hiding in the woods with his head covered by a potato sack. Part 3 in 3-D he found the hockey mask and he became more creative with his kills and more unstoppable of a killer. By The Final Chapter he was more violent, faster on his feet, and really aggressive to his teen victims especially if sex was involved. The boy Tommy who finally chops him to death and kills him is set up to be the next Jason. A New Beginning led us to believe that Tommy was possibly the new Jason but then it turns out to be a pissed off ambulance driver and then Tommy in his room in the last scene leads us back to Tommy as next our Jason.
I asked Frank if I could skip the connection and just pick up the story from Jason is dead and buried. People want to forget this tragedy ever occurred to their lovely Crystal Lake township. In fact they even change the name of the town to help forget. But apparently Jason never received that memo buried 6 feet under. When hotheaded Tommy breaks out of the psychiatric hospital he’s been imprisoned in for years, he wants confirmation that the maniac is truly dead. Of course he blows the deal by over-reacting and aids in Jason’s resurrection.
Would I change anything? No one’s ever asked me that I don’t think. FIRST..I’d want all the trims that were taken out of the kills by the MPAA put back! They were NOT gory but cool and very creatively exucuted by the special effects team. Second…More time and budget on the more unusual sequences (for a Friday the 13th film) like the underwater fight, the car chase, and add even more intensity to the scenes with Jason and the little kids (you’re very time restricted shooting young children at night), and probably some other things. Now that I think about it…I’d love to have done a more of a stripping while having sex in the scene with Nikki and Cort. What if just as the lovely Darcy DeMoss pulls off her sexy bra…BANG…Jason pulls the plug and the scene goes dark. Jason kills our anticipated peek of her naked. I love the idea of Jason screwing up our luring. To me that would be a funny twist on what we think we’re about see. I can hear the males in the audience groaning and the girls laughing.
Moving beyond the world of film….you are also quite the musician! Could you give us a little history and back story of your garage rock era band The Sloths? How did the group come into existence?
THAT’S a feckin’ looong story. Check out http://www.reverbnation/thesloths65 to get a better explanation and some clips and our upcoming shows. But in the simplest version…I was a rock singer from 1963 to 1969. As the original Sloths were disbanding they merged into a group The May Wines that I joined. Both bands did exactly the same songs on the Sunset Strip in the 60s opening for The Doors, Love, The Seeds, even The Animals and so many other great bands bands. We were all in our mid-teens then. Eventually by the time the bad days hit; The Stones Altamont concert, the Charles Manson murders, the deaths of Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, on & on…we all thought the dream was over went other directions.
Cut to: two and a half years ago I get a call from a lawyer, it’s one of my old band mates. Turns out the little 45 record The Sloths made in 1965 MAKIN LOVE just sold for $6650 on eBay. Some music magazines wanted to interview the surviving members on what happened to us over these last 45 years. After the interviews I said what if we get together in a garage like the old days and just jam. Some of us, including me, had been away from music playing, singing, and performing for decades. These jams lead to practices, that led to a show in San Diego, then suddenly it just took off on it’s own. So far we’ve done over 60 shows, have recorded two new songs the bass player Mike and I wrote (LUST and WANNA NEW LIFE on CD and iTunes), we are heading to the Ponderosa Stomp Music Festival next week Oct 5th in New Orleans, and the Purple Week-End Rock & Punk Festival in Leon, Spain in December. IT IS ABSOLUTELY SURREAL that a bunch of dudes in their 60s are playing GarageRock with more energy and passion then when we were teens. Some dreams don’t die. They just take longer then others to come true. The message here is ‘Never give up your dreams, kids’.
What else is in the future for The Sloths?
Who knows? We thought there was no future. Thought it would be ‘maybe’ our Wednesday Boys Night. Like poker night. Never thought we’d appeal to a younger music crowd. But they look our show band approach to the music. And I do some pretty wild antics on stage. Many nights I shock himself when I become this persona. But I LOVE every second of it. I think of this turn in my career is doing a ‘Rob Zombie in reverse’.
In your career spanning 5 decades, what would you say you are most proud about when it comes to your massive genre bending career?
Immediate answer to that…my son and daughter. Hannah is a lovely young woman currently working on the TV series GLEE. My son Shane graduated Chapman University/Dodge College of Film as a screenwriting major. He’s been working his way up the film production ladder taking every job he can land as he writes his screenplays. At this point he has far more credits then I’ll ever obtain and on some pretty cool projects like The Driver, The Dark Knight, and TV movies, series, cable shows, and Webisodes.
For me I’m focused on the future for my pride. I love the current films I’m writing and preparing. I love my new part time teaching film gig at Dodge College. I’m excited for the future of these gifted young filmmakers. And finally I have some..unique, plans for my post-life existence. Sound strange? There’s a five minute short documentary on the Bonus disc with the Crystal Like Memories DVD. It’s called ‘Legends Never Die: Hollywood Forever. And yes, I’m serious.
You recently returned from a workshop with Cirque du Soleil. What drove you to do such a thing? What exactly did it involve?
That’s (laughs) a very good question. It was a two day symposium and workshop given by the Cirque at Chapman University. The main reason I went was to check out the performing talent at the school for my film students. Film makers need talent to film and I thought it was a great way to see what these actors and dancers had to show. It was a sort of early audition process for the Cirque for them so they were at their best. I must say…there were some mind blowing performers there. Stunning. My head was filled with story and character ideas. The room was alive with creative energy! Plus sitting cross-legged on the floor with these dancers and actors brought me back to my days in Paris in the early 1970s. Back to when I was a performing arts student with mime legend Marcel Marceau. But that’s a story for another day.
What are you plans for Halloween?
Every year I do something of a horror nature. It’s a must! Nancy has already decorated up the house and I usually create some ‘look’ out front. Haven’t figured out what yet. Sometimes Jason’s coffin and tombstone from part 6 is dragged out on Halloween. Both are the real thing. And both are heavy as hell to drag out. My friends and I always go to as many ‘haunted walk through’ places during October. We have some epic ones here in L.A. as well as the old stand-bys Universal Horror Nights, Knotts Scary Farm, and the Haunted Ghost Ship of the Queen Mary. We used to create our own elaborate maze with a cast of frightening characters. It took weeks to construct and days to tear down. It was always the brainchild of Alan Banks who knows how to build a scary maze of thrills. Nothing is more fun then scaring willing victims in a live environment. Great adriniline rushes for all!
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Yesterday. Watching these young extremely talented dancers give their entire spirit and passion to the dance. To see all the months and years they have devoted to making their bodies defy gravity. To bend and contort into positions you’d think were impossible with the human body. And watching the intensity in their eyes as they willed themselves to achieve the unachievable. They have some much ahead of them and the possibility that some of them may actually full fill those dreams made me incredibly happy. My cheeks were sore at the end of the day from how much I smiled.