LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with David Howard Thornton, star of Terrifier
By James Whittington, Monday 26th March 2018
If you're a fan of slasher movies then you'll have to check out the bood-splattered shocker Terrifier. The movie is a full-blown, hair-raising homage to grindhouse slashers that introduces a new murderous icon in the form of Art the Clown. Art id surely destined to become a true horror anti-hero and here David Howard Thornton, the guy who plays art, chats about this brilliantly brutal movie and what he's up to at the moment.
HC: What movie or person inspired you to want to work in the film industry?
DT: I would say that would be the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit film wise. I was obsessed with that film when it first came out, and still watch it at least once a year when I need some inspiration. It meshes everything I love into one film, basically. When it came out, I wanted to learn everything I could about how they made it, which got me into learning about how films were actually made in the first place. I even made my own "set" in my backyard to recreate the opening cartoon. I loved the slapstick, especially! A passion was born in the summer of '88. That is where I also first learned about the amazing talented Mel Blanc. A year prior, I had started learning how to mimic cartoon characters. My first was Goofy during story time in the 1st grade when a girl I liked passed me a note asking me to be her boyfriend. I let out a "Gawrsh! A-hyuck!" and suddenly things clicked in my head. It wasn't until "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" that I learned that Mel did almost all of the Looney Tunes characters and that that was his job! It inspired me to learn how to do more character voices. Now I do over 200+ and 25 different accents and do work in animation and video games, which is ironic for someone that plays a silent killer clown!
HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies?
DT: Very much so! Though I was not one until my senior year of high school. Prior to that, I had let my mother's fear of horror films affect how I felt about them without ever watching them. It was not until some of my friends literally dragged me to a screening of Scream 2 that I found how much I enjoyed them. After that, I binged the crap out of them, especially during my college years, to catch up! I love all of the classics, especially The Omen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the Nightmare on Elm Street and Child's Play films. The latter two are especially favorites of mine because they found that wonderful balance of horror and humour, which I think is needed in these types of films. It takes the audience on a bigger roller coaster ride when you are laughing one second and screaming the next, then questioning why you were actually laughing at something so messed up. So much fun!
HC: How did you become attached to Terrifier?
DT: I was already familiar with All Hallow's Eve and the character of Art that Mike Giannelli played so well, originally. I saw a posting on a casting website seeking a tall, lanky, actor with clowning and/or physical comedy experience to play Art. I contacted my reps immediately about auditioning and luckily got an audition. It was a fun audition too since I had to improvise the whole things since I was not given a script due to Art not speaking. Improv is my thing! I love to play around and experiment with scenes. Damien asked me to improvise a scene where Art cuts off a victim's head. I snuck up on my victim, knocked him out, sawed off his head, picked it up and tasted it, found that I did not like the taste and took out a salt shaker to season it, tasted it again, approved, threw it into my bag for a snack for later, and skipped off. I must have done something right since they asked me right there to come in for a makeup test. The rest is history!
HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it?
DT: I loved it! It took a lot of risks, especially on the gore and violence factor and I realized that it was taking the slasher flick genre back to its basic roots. Sure, there is not a deep and complex plot, but if you go back and watch the original slashers of the 70's and 80's you would realize the same was true with them. It literally cut to the chase, and what a great cat and mouse chase it is!
HC: Art is mute all the way through, how do you approach playing such a character?
DT: I grew up on the old silent films and have always idolized Chaplin, Keaton, etc. that were expert physical comedians. Plus, I am a big fan modern physical actors/comedians such as Doug Jones, Jim Carrey, and Rowan Atkinson. Growing up doing theater, I had always been that physical comedian type of actor, though I never had anyone that could personally help me perfect my skills. That changed back in 2010 when I was cast as Stefan Karl's understudy (he's most well known for playing Robbie Rotten on Lazy Town) in the tour of How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical as the Grinch. For 5 years, I had the honour and privilege of being able to work and learn from a true master of the craft. Stefan is truly one of a kind in this field. You all should watch this man work. He is a master class in physical comedy. There were several moments on set when I was perplexed about how to tackle a scene when I would think to myself "What would Stefan do?" and I would do what first came to my mind and just play around with the scene. I'm sure Damien has hours of footage of me just playing around with different possibilities etc. I consider Stefan to be the Socrates to my Aristotle. I am truly blessed to know such an amazingly kind and talented man. Love ya, Big Guy!
HC: Did you stay in character at all to freak the other actors out?
DT: LOL! Actually not really unless they needed it from me. Most of the time, I would be joking around in between takes, especially if we were in the middle of a long night. I like to keep things light and positive. The funny thing though is that many of my fellow actors didn't know what I even looked like for a while since I always had to show up to set much earlier than they to get my makeup on since it was such a long process. They were more used to me as Art, than as David. It freaked them out more when it was my actual face! This is why I am still single. Ha!
HC: Was it a tough shoot as most of it seems to have been filmed at night?
DT: It definitely could be, especially since we always filmed at night, and mostly during the winter. I got so used to staying up late to film, that I am such a night owl now. I think the one that had the roughest was Catherine, who plays Dawn. The night we shot her infamous scene was especially brutal for her since she had to do all of that hanging upside down and naked covered in blood for several hours (we'd only let her actually hang upside down for 30 seconds) in 20 degree weather. She handled it like a true pro and never complained once. I have all the respect in the world for her after all of that, as well as for everyone else that I worked with. It sounds cliche, but everyone was awesome on this set. I adore them all!
HC: There's a lot of blood and gore, some of those sequences must have been bizarre to shoot. Do you have a favourite?
DT: I think mine was my "Buffalo Bill" scene mainly because it was such a shocking and disturbing scene, not only for the audience, but for my cast mates and crew. I've never done any nudity before, so this was new to me. Damien and I actually debated if Art would be nude or he would be wearing his clown suit. We figured the former would be creepier. I was hesitant about partial nudity, but I figured that if Catherine could expose herself the way she did, then I could too. The funniest part was that Damien asked me to bring a "c*ck sock" to set that day. Being my naive self, I asked him what that was, and he told me to bring a sock. Stupid me brought a bright white tube sock not thinking that it would probably show up on camera, instead of a black one. We managed to make it work. I felt so sorry for the crew having to see my skinny butt all night, and tried to make things as humorous as possible in between takes by singing different songs about butts etc. It was also Samantha's (Victoria) true first night of working with me on set, so that was an interesting way for her to get to know me. It was definitely a night when we all got to know each other REALLY well, to say the least.
HC: The make-up for him is subtle but very effective, did you have any say in what "he" looked like?
DT: Nope, that was all Damien's idea. As I told him, he's the artist, I am simply the canvas for him to paint his Art on. The man is extremely talented in the make up and practical effects department. He did all of that himself. He's got a true gift!
HC: I've a feeling Art is going to become a huge horror "star", would you like to play Art again?
DT: From your mouth to the Flying Spaghetti Monster's meatball ears! I truly hope so! I love the character and will absolutely return and plan on doing so! Damien and I are already spit-balling ideas for sequels. There is one kill scene that I have come up with that I especially want to do that is a very dark take on an infamous Marx Brothers' routine. We only introduced Art to the world in this film and have not even scratched the surface of who he is, and what he is truly about. We definitely have much more to tell about him and those that he impacts! I especially look forward to bringing in a truly formidable opponent for him to go up against in future films. After all, the Joker needs his Batman! I absolutely adore the character, especially since he blends two things that I love, physical comedy and horror. As long as the fans want more Art, we'll be there to make more films about him! Stay tuned!
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
DT: Right now, I am working on various voice over projects, and just got cast in an animated series that I still can't reveal yet. I'm also still filming episodes for the final season of the web series Nightwing: Escalation where I play another big inspiration for Art and my favorite villain and dream role... The Joker! I guess you could say, that I have a career in playing killer clowns! Now if only I could get cast as the adult version of Richie Tozier in the "It" sequel so I could go up against another infamous killer clown! How cool would that be to have me go up against Pennywise? If you are reading this, I am ready for my close up, Mr. Muschietti!
HC: David Howard Thornton, thank you very much.
DT: Thank you as well for taking the time in talking with me! Also, a big thank you to all of my fans that are reading this. This film truly would never have happened if it weren't for you all loving and supporting this character so much. This film is for you all. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I had making it! You all rock!
Terrifier will be released onto Digital on March 30th and DVD on April 9th.
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