Renegade Interview: Tony Todd

Tony Todd Interview
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This is the full transcript of the interview I conducted with Tony Todd (Candyman) at Comicpalooza 2011. A portion of the interview was also published on Associated Content by Yahoo!

Most people know Tony Todd from his role in the iconic horror film, “Candyman.” What many people don’t realize is he is a classically trained stage actor who has appeared in movies directed by men such as Oliver Stone and Clint Eastwood. While appearing at Comicpalooza 2011, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Tony Todd and he made it clear he was more interested in talking about the future instead of a history everyone already knows.

Shawn S. Lealos: Most people know you for your horror movies. Is it hard to find people willing to cast you in non horror movies or are most offers in the horror genre?

Tony Todd: I have to qualify. The reason people mostly know me from horror is because I played a couple of iconic films but technically, of the 100-plus films I have done, only 40-percent of them are horror. Actually, the naturalistic outweighs. The way I think is I never take no, I have always been a fighter. I’m an only child, so I’m spoiled. I was raised by a good woman, a single mom, and I have no fears about what I can do. When it comes to getting on stage or getting inside and role, or anything like that, I know what to do. This year, I have five films in the can, at least three of them are going theatrical and only two of them are horror. I’ve got “Sushi Girl,” which is my pet project that I am executive producer. It’s going to be very hot, it’s sizzling and has nothing horrific in it.

Shawn S. Lealos: I was going to talk about “Sushi Girl,” but first I want to talk about “Unbroken.” There is very little on the Internet about it and the “Unbroken” website only says coming soon. What can you tell me about “Unbroken?”

Tony Todd: When I first got that job, it was an unsolicited inquiry, and I read the script and loved it. Paul Moore is a friend of mine and he is the director. What I have done in the last year or so was become friends with the people I work with. We enjoy each other so that is the new thing in my life. Paul Moore is here, he is talking to investors about the next project and then at night, we have a drink and talk. It’s like the relationship John Huston and Humphrey Bogart had. I’ve got that with about five different directors now but it’s not a calculated thing. It’s more of natural friendships and it means we can help each other.

“Unbroken” was going to be shot in a small town in Virginia, they met our price – it was a fair price, it was not my normal price but it was fair for five days work. I knew it was going to be big because I had 60-percent of the dialogue but we shot it. It was shot in a dilapidated church. Basically, I am an exorcist, who travels from place to place, fixing up churches, introducing the new congregation and moving on. Even though I am a man of the cloth, I don’t have commitments. When I come to this Virginia church, I know and the church knows this is my final stop. “Unbroken” refers to a man’s last mettle, his test of faith.

And, it’s a ghost story. It’s not horror in the sense of someone being slashed and it’s not a thriller, it’s a ghost story. The main ghost is a little boy. There are a lot of scenes with me and this little boy. I’m this tall man and then there is this little calm boy. And this boy can’t be at peace without me.

Shawn S. Lealos: Let’s talk about “Sushi Girl.” Man gets out of prison and meets with his friends about the diamond robbery that sent him to prison. They have dinner on a Sushi Girl and try to figure out where the diamonds are and everything goes wrong. You have compared it to “Reservoir Dogs.”

Tony Todd: To make it easy, it is a Quentin Tarantino-esque movie. Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have supported us behind the scenes. It is the study of civility. When you look at the poster, it is a mock of the Last Supper. My character, and I really tried to dig deep for this, is I wanted to present a complete and utter sociopath. This man dresses in the finest suits, smokes Cuban cigars. I’ll like you one minute and as soon as you, it can be anything, it can be from blowing your brains out to taking a hammer and breaking your little finger.

The rest of my crew is a motley crew. We are all specialists in torture of various degrees. So, by the end of the movie only one person survives. Who do you think that will be? The movie is filled with things like ‘is mercy killing that happens a murder?’ When mercy killing is done, does the person who does it really believe they are doing a person a favor? They’re not.

Shawn S. Lealos: You mentioned the eclectic cast, from Mark Hammil, Sonny Chiba, Danny Trejo…

Tony Todd: Sonny Chiba!

Shawn S. Lealos: It seems like it is a mixture of genre favorites, like “The Expendables” was.

Tony Todd: Yeah, but we didn’t start it out that way. The story stands on its own and would do just as well with unknowns. It’s a hell of a story and I was the first one to fall into place. The director was there first, a newcomer named Kern Saxton. He has a June 8 deadline and we have an inside shot at the Venice Film Festival and we also have a shot at the Toronto Film Festival.

Shawn S. Lealos: You mentioned more than anything you want to be a director. Are you looking at directing your own scripts or are you looking for someone else’s script to catch your eye?

Tony Todd: Ideally, I would like to do something I wrote first but recently some things have happened where I may give up the project I had originally written for me to direct, turning it over to somebody else. I might turn that over to one of those directors I told you I have a relationship with. Instead I may end up directing something that is not a great project but is not a horrible project. It just needs some fixing and I’ll be more of a mechanic, working it out. It will give me that credit I need to get the next project.

Shawn S. Lealos: Are you hoping this will eventually lead you to your passion project about a musician…

Tony Todd: Sam Cooke.

Shawn S. Lealos: Are you hoping this will open the doors for you to direct that project?

Tony Todd: Well, sure, three or four films down the line when I prove I can make money for them. I’m a history buff and there are all kinds of forgotten and chapters of American history to be uncovered. I’m not interested in the commercial, I don’t want to make “Fast and Furious,” I want to tell the truth.

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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