You didn't think Halloween would come and go without a new project from horror legend Tony Todd, did you? The Candyman stars in Splatter, a web series that will debut on Netflix.com on October 29th. The series – which allows viewers to choose who lives and dies, and will stream for free, even if you're not a Netflix member – is produced by Roger Corman, written by Richard C. Matheson, and directed by Joe Dante.
We chatted exclusively with Tony about his role in Splatter, how he keeps his cool on an intense set, and if those Toolbox Murders and Hatchet 2 rumors are true.
How did you get involved with Splatter?
Splatter was brought to my manager's attention. We got the call one day from Julie Corman, checking my availability. I got the script and found out Joe Dante was attached to helm it. I had met Joe two years ago when we were both working on Masters of Horror, and I thought it would be a great opportunity.
Splatter is a unique concept. Netflix is offering it for free streaming online, and it's like an interactive Parker Brothers game. The characters are gathered together in a haunted mansion, and the viewer gets to select how and when they die, one by one. I thought that was an interesting aspect.
Did it make the role more difficult, having to film multiple versions and outcomes?
That was a challenge. We would get to a certain part of the shooting script [where] we would have to go back and shoot [a scene] multiple ways. That was the most taxing thing, but each one of the kills is very unique and specific to that character. They were not just random kills; they were very well thought out. Each one took over a day and a half to shoot.
Tell me a little bit about your role.
We all gather together because all the characters have something to do with this legendary goth musician, Johnny Splatter [played by Corey Feldman]. I play his manager. I'm not a goth person, I'm more of a business man. We all have a vested interest in how Johnny died, and what is the outcome of the will. It contributes to great conflict because we are all so different.
What is scarier to you: undead rock stars or managers?
Having dealt with what has felt like both in my life, I'd have to go with managers. They can be tricky.
Have you ever done a web series before?
I did one a while ago with Michael Madsen. It didn't do much. This was four or five years ago, when everyone thought that was the way to go. This is my first completed web series. It is produced by Roger Corman and distributed by a company known for delivering content. I hope it does well. We leave it up to the fans – they become like the fourth wall, but person, if you will. They didn't necessarily write the ending, but they have a say.
What are some of the best and "less best" parts about shooting for the internet?
Well, the money is not as great. We're all in this for money – this is a business after all. But hopefully you have done other projects that you have gotten paid for, so you can take a hit [to the paycheck]. Whenever you do a shoot below scale, you see it in the craft service table. How many old bagels can you eat in a week? [Laughs.] It becomes a test of your tenacity, because you are doing it for reasons other than the financial ones. This was a unique and special project. The opportunity to do something different. And sometimes if you don't have a lot of money to put into a project, it becomes grungier and rawer.
A good place for horror to be.
Exactly. I mean, look at the success of Paranormal Activity. Those actors got paid $500 for the whole shoot. Now they are on the verge of being household names. You never can tell.
People are starting to say that television is endangered as a medium because of the internet. Do you think that is true, and will the big names start to gravitate towards web series?
I think that the business is constantly in flux, and anyone who tries to hold on to old business models is going to be sorely disappointed. I remember when I was a kid, a new dance step would come out virtually every week. If you wanted to be popular, you had to be proficient in those new steps. It's kind of like that. Truly great, creative people do that instinctively. But to me, it just makes it all exciting. At the end of the day, I still have my paintbrush and my easel, and the ability to travel. A hamburger is still a hamburger!
You are known primarily for horror roles. Are you a genre fan?
People always ask me that. Like I would do it but didn't like it. Does that make any sense? I love what I do. I went to school for it, I got my master's, I put in my time. It was literally five years after graduation and leaving home that I finally got a job that mattered. But in that five-year period, I lived in New York, which is an entertainment mecca, but I knew one day it would happen. And the first thing I did was Platoon. I haven't done anything but act since then.
I don't think I wake up thinking, "I have to do a horror script," or any particular genre. Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw. Regardless of genre, it always begins with story for me. Everyone makes some bad choices in their career, but for the most part, I am content with my body of work. Everything from X-Files to Star Trek, it has just been a great, iconic journey. I'm proud of it.
Right. That is the important thing at the end of the day. Sometimes, a story looks better on paper than it does on the screen, and vice-versa.
Absolutely. I remember one of the best times I ever had was on a western about twelve years ago, with Christopher Reeve. We shot for seven months, up in Calgary. Every day I would show up to set, put on my cowboy garb, grab a six-shooter, and jump on a horse. How cool is that? As a kid, I grew up in the inner city playing cowboys and indians. When the day comes that I no longer pinch myself and say, "You are part of an exciting industry," one of the last industries that is vital in America, then I will walk away.
What is your dream role?
I haven't met her yet. But when I do, I will get married to her immediately! Ultimately, I want to write and produce and direct. I have written a few scripts. One is ready to go, entitled Eerie, PA. I hope to do that next year. I have worked with a lot of great directors over the past twenty years. I always keep my eyes and ears open around them. I love film, and I love acting. I love theatre, too – that is my first love. I try to do a play a year when I can. Film buys a house, but theatre feeds the soul. Television puts the kids through college.
Splatter has an amazing cast, amazing producer, writer, director…
Richard C. Matheson wrote it – look at the bloodlines there! How do you say no?
With all of these big names, were there big egos to contend with? Did it ever get crazy on set?
It wasn't chill. We had nine days to get this thing done, so everyone was working at an incredible pace. There was this hyperactivity going on. We were shooting at this incredible mansion in Hollywood that overlooks the famous Bronson Caves, where they shot the opening for the Batman TV show. The way I avoid stress is I find my own space. I love birds, and there was this one little spot outside where hummingbirds would gather. I saw nine hummingbirds at once – that to me was a sign. So I would go to that spot and watch them and find my inner chill and prepare for the work.
It was craziness. Everyone worked for below scale. We had people from Benjamin Button and Pirates of the Caribbean, from Michael Bay's projects… all to do this small piece that is going to make waves.
With all that talent, was there ever a thought of, "Damn, let's just make this into a feature"?
Contacts were made on set. In three days I am starting a project called Dreaming in America that I got the wardrobe people involved in, and the FX guy got me involved in a project called Haunted. I think the good thing about working in the film business is that once you become open and receptive, one job always leads to another job. People who walk into a gig with an ego and shit won't work in that circle again.
What else is coming up?
Dreaming in America is a really good piece from a first-time director, about immigrants coming to America, and one by one, our lives intersect. I have a big project coming up in January called The Prodigy – it is a cop procedural, and I play a crooked cop.
You are rumored to be doing The Toolbox Murders. True or false?
True, but I haven't seen the contract yet! But I know Dean [Jones, the writer/director] from Star Trek, so we have discussed it.
I can tell you another project that is absolutely true. Hatchet 2 is going into production sometime in January. Oh, and I am doing some VO stuff for Cartoon Network tomorrow. We all watched cartoons at one point, right?
Are you kidding? I still watch cartoons. Is it a weird disconnect to go from hardcore slasher flicks to cartoons?
Nah. You'd be surprised at how many children watch horror films!