Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
The blast from our past network. Welcome to our Patreon exclusive interview series, We're Podcasting After Doc with your hosts, Corey Stephenson and Zach Shafer. Tonight's interview with the man behind Psycho to Cloak-and-dagger. The writer and director of Fright Night and Child's Play. The legendary Tom Holland. Mr. Tom Holland, thank you for being on podcasting after dark. Well, I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks. Thank you. I knew you guys were going to interview me before covid-19 hit, right?
Yeah. So a little backstory and took everything off. Yeah. A little backstory on this.
Yeah. We were going to see each other face to face and have you down at our studios here in L.A. and then obviously everything changed in a matter of weeks. And your your manager, Jack, I was speaking with I said, well, let's reschedule.
And when when this thing all lifts up. And then he said, that sounds like a great idea, not knowing that we're kind of spinning in circles at the moment.
Well, I mean, about a week ago, I saw four or five days ago I started to feel better about. Yeah, me too.
And the whole thing. And now then everything spiked everywhere. And now I'm totally paranoid again.
Yeah. Yeah. I don't I mean, I don't know what the hell to do or I don't think they know what to do. Yeah.
I concur. I think you are. I cannot imagine how people are dealing with this besides me outside of my bubble. You know what I'm saying?
And well I mean I mean, everybody has to have has to work and has to make a living. Yeah. And I mean, you know, it's just killing people. I understand why people are going nuts. Yeah. But at the same time, until they come up with something that says, I mean, they can't even agree on what to do with you if you're sick with it and they put you in the hospital, right? Yeah. I mean, so, you know, so so that's even that makes it even scarier.
You know, it sounds like something out of one of mine. One of my stories of my novel, the new novel I wrote is called The Not NATCA, Tom Holland. It's on Amazon. But I one of the things I used and it was a pandemic really was before the pandemic, and it was totally accidental.
When did you write that book? When did you write that book? I wrote it. About a year and a half ago, it took that it took the cemetery Dance's publishing it in a collector's edition hardcover. Oh, autographed, but. You know, I mean, you know, I mean, it's just happenstance that it happens to have a pandemic in it and it isn't really it is in the heart of the story, but it's a way of measuring what's going on in the story.
What's the story? We don't have any anything like the magical boy that's in the book. We don't have that. We don't have him here in real life.
And we need him. We need him. Oh, boy. We do all the stories about the stories about an 11 or 12 year old who doesn't talk and everybody thinks he's autistic, but he has one gift whenever he touches you, whatever your ailment is, whether it's a hangnail or cancer, is cured. Wow. You know, and so it's the story of that. And, of course, is the pandemic comes and goes. People are, let's say, interested in the boy's healing, healing power.
And the boy never talks. Wow. So, you know, and as people as people do the right thing, the pandemic backs off and as they do the wrong thing, the pandemic, you know, accelerates. So some way in some way that we never quite understand. The boy is almost a test of of humanity anyway.
That's the notch all we need that humanity right now.
Oh, boy. We need something. Yeah, absolutely.
You know, I was going to I was going to say first and foremost, besides, I get before we get to the the gushing over how awesome it is to have you on our show.
How are you doing in the past three or four months? How are you doing? How are you handling all this?
Well, it was self isolating. The this this this was a little personal for a podcast that probably will go on and on and on.
But, you know, the I have family members who have some health complications, so I'm terribly concerned with making sure that nobody walks in with with the virus.
So we're self isolating and staying very private. And I'm trying not to go out. I was started I was just about ready to start seeing people again. Yeah. And bang, you know, all of it, you know, and I don't know whether it's the protesters or the people and the beaches in Miami. I don't know who the hell's passing it around. Right. But, you know, it seems to be going down and hitting people more your age now.
Yeah, that's scary. Scary stuff.
It's like you said, it's like something out of one of your movies or novels.
And I'm, you know, somebody called Stephen King quick and have him rewrite the ending of this year, please.
Oh, gosh. It can do it in an hour from now. Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. And I definitely want to get back to the notch as well. But I just have to say it's a real honor to have you on our show.
It's you are your films have I feel like Charlie Brewster when he's talking to me.
I'm a huge fan. And you you your your films, your work have shaped my life.
Cory's life. Fright Night is is is one of my all time favorite films. You know, I want to cloak and dagger is my all time favorite kid's movie. Bless you.
Bless you. Bless you. And I love the cloak and dagger.
Tom, I can attest to the fact that Zack lives and breathes cloak and dagger and fright night.
Oh boy. What about child's play is forgotten. Oh, no, no, no, no. We have we kind of have a laundry list. But I will tell you, just on the cloak and dagger note really quick, I come from a divorced family and I moved from Michigan out to California when I was a really little kid. So I didn't see my dad all that much. Cloak and dagger comes out and there's this relationship between the father and son.
My dad has a very odd, strange resemblance to Dabney Coleman.
So I could show you the side by side in court can attest to this. It's uncanny. And so I didn't piece it together as a kid.
Why I love this movie so much. And then I watched it again fairly recently and I got emotional because I said, holy crap, that's that's my dad and that's me. I'm Davey and and Jack Black. My dad was a former Navy SEAL.
Oh, wow. Yeah. Wow. So here I am having this moment of, like, you know what I want you want to call it.
But it just I was freaking out because I thought, well, this is why this movie resonates with me.
You crafted you created with your script this this story that I think is timeless personally. So thank you. Well, thank you, because the if we're going to get I mean, I should just keep my mouth shut at this point because that that was so lovely what you said. But when I wrote that script, I was weeping at the end, really, you know, and, you know, and I never was quite sure whether whether or not it affected people in the audience like that.
Some people. Yes, some people know. I don't know. But, boy, when I read that script and he finally accepts his father's real father and he gives up Jack flac. Yep. I was crying. It's intense, there's that line that Dave has or no sorry, Jack Flack has at the end when when he gets shot. And when, you know, when kids stop believing and and it's so hard hitting because it's the reality of I have a six year old son who's.
Very much into role playing and characters and becoming, you know, thinking he's somebody else and and that innocence that's lost and you capture that innocence so well and that and that longing just to be loved. I mean, it's I think there's so many underlying themes in this film that that people just maybe.
Might understand more now than they did back in the day. Well, I'm waiting for somebody to remake a universal LANSAT. They knocked on my door about 10 years ago and I said I thought it was a wonderful idea to remake it because it would give boys, you know, totally know a story of a father figure. They would understand it. And all the buyers, which was universal, all they wanted to do was make Mahdavi into a girl.
I don't I don't know. I can't see that either. Neither could I.
Well, I think that is something that that we sort of lack nowadays that we had back then, which was these kid adventure movies like The Goonies and like cloak and Dagger, where, you know, kids were actually felt like they were in real peril. But, you know, it was still a little bit lighthearted and jovial, but there was a sense of real peril to it. I feel like we're missing that these days. Do you see that ever coming back or is that just a product of the 80s and early 90s?
You're asking a probing question. It's probably gone right now. Yeah, you know, the the you know, the God. I don't dare say anything, you know, for saying the wrong thing. Yeah, the.
But yes, the the the the. For 20 years has been going over to girl power. Yeah, you know, and. But everything gets boring and it's time, you know, and somebody somebody will do a boy or in it a movie and we'll make a fortune and maybe it'll turn on the other hand, you know, I mean, we're sitting here and I'm not too sure movies as I grew up with them are going to survive. Yes.
Means going to the movie theater, you know, I mean, streaming seems to be eating everything.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, and I think that why not make Remak cloak and dagger if if the universe hears this right now, please make it happen.
And so, you know. Right. Right. Universal and tell them.
Well, I'll I will do my damnedest, that's for sure. But I will tell you that. So Corey and I started this podcast way back when about almost about a year ago. And and because of our love of horror, sci fi cult classic films, one of the films that we did early on was a movie called Class of 1984.
Wow. And I because I personally love, again, going back to like childhood movies, adolescent movies, movies of exploitation. You had a pretty big hand in that, wouldn't you say, at least developing? Yeah, yeah, well, I did, but I mean, really, the the genius for that was Mark Lester, who's still with us, who was the producer director. Yeah. The mark had that idea in his head and he had what it was, was it was you're right.
It was exploitation. It was a it was trying to update concrete. Concrete jungle. Yeah. Yeah. Concrete jungle trying to help update that and. He'd had a terrific experience in going to high school, and we went out here in the valley to the school where he where Mark had gone and met with his teachers when we were researching it. But the what works about the film? It works emotionally, I think. You know, I mean, the people make sense and there's there's a there's a good sense of drama in the film and the actors are all very good.
Yeah, it was raw. Certainly that predisposed me towards Roddy McDowall for Fright Night. But all the all the kids were very good. Everything works about that movie. I thought, you know, was it was I mean, Mark was doing things like roller disco boogie, you know, so nobody nobody took took the mirror the movie seriously when it was released. But I think the reason that it's lived on is because it emotionally has an impact. You know, you really, really, really feel sorry for the for the teachers who are trying to.
To communicate with their kids in a school that's falling apart and we all thought we were.
You know, we were shocked and with metal detectors before you get in and police on the campus say that, yeah, and now it looks like we were we didn't go far enough.
Yeah, I'm sorry. They're pulling the police away from from schools now. They're taking the police out of high schools, I think.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I can attest works and, you know, on on the show the way the way our podcast works every other episode. So Zach will recommend a movie and then the next episode I'll recommend a movie. And a lot of times, you know, they have the it's all about the nostalgia that sort of attached to it. And for me, watching Class of 1984, I think I've seen pieces of it when I was a kid, but it was Zach's pick and then watching it in as my as an adult.
Now, you know, in 2000, in 1980, when we recorded it, I can tell you the movie holds up fantastically like I, you know, nostalgic, you know, value for me. But I'm watching it fresh and new in twenty nineteen, and I am surprised at how well it holds up. And I think you're like the the acting is absolutely amazing. The energy of that film is fantastic. And sadly, you know, and not in a good way.
It was pretty prophetic about where things were going, you know, so it felt almost contemporary in 2019.
You know, it had never. You never know, I mean, I I remember one of my mentors was was a man named Henry Farrell and Henry wrote a few a few books that turned into movies, one of which was all about, you know, God. I'll think of it in a minute, but anyway, Henry said, what happens is you just keep working and then about 10, 15 years later, somebody tapped on the shoulder and says, hey, that was really good, you know?
And you're like, huh? What what? You know? And it was, you know, I mean, I sort of I sort of feel like that still sitting there trying to remember the great movie that Henry wrote. Maybe Jane, whatever happened to Baby?
Yeah. Classic. There you go. Yeah. Yeah.
And so then he wrote. How awful about Alan and Alice and all the rest of them. Yeah. Yeah. The but he didn't have a clue that whatever happened to Baby Jane was going to be this huge breakout film so that you know. So I think that's pretty good advice. You don't know if you told me back in 1984. When I was shooting. Fright Night, that it was going to turn into a classic, I don't know if that overstates it or not, we could say cult classic, I suppose, but.
I don't think I would have I don't think I would have taken you seriously, I mean, when I was doing these films. You know, they were disposable, you know, they came out, people saw them, and that was it, and maybe they had a little life on TV, but that was it. It was all disposable. And it never occurred to me that that that 30, 40 years later I'd be having a conversation like this.
And thank you very, very much, fellas.
Yeah, I can tell you I can tell you that it is a classic and not a cult classic in my in my opinion, as a movie that I would watch nightly, a movie I would fall asleep to for whatever reason, you know, you hit all the bases.
Well, right now, it's really, really extraordinary in the sense that where it came from in me was was was was was like a different place.
I was I was riding cloak and dagger and I was writing it for Richard Franklin, who directed a who also directed Psycho to which, by the way, I think is a really terrific film. But anyway, it was a remake of Cornell, which is short story, the window, which is really the juvenile version of Rear Window, which cornhole, which also road and the window, the juvenile version is really a boy who cried wolf story. And it just wasn't enough story, you know, back even in 1985 or whatever it was to make a movie out of.
And I said to Richard and to Universal, if you really wanted to a story about a kid saying something going on in the house next door, the kid should be a gonzo horror fan. And if you become convinced the next door neighbor is a vampire and they threw me out of the office, what? Well, they thought was the silliest idea they'd ever heard. And Richard had written Richard Franklin's reaction was the same. So I wrote Cloak and Dagger and I created Jack Sledge, the imaginary friend.
You know, is this as a way to try to give it an emotional impact and make it more interesting than just the boy next door? Yeah, you know, and but the boy. But that idea of the Gonzo horror fan who is me, you know, back in the day becoming convinced that his next door neighbor was a vampire would not lead. I could not get it out of my head. Yeah. And so when I was through with all this cloak and dagger and I forget what else.
Oh, screaming, Help me for help. Yeah, I sat down and I suspect. Friday night and Friday night was written in my love letter to horror fans, it was my generation, I guess, specifically because that's why I thought of Peter Vincent, the Roddy McDowall character, because I grew up with was host on the Friday night fights. The only way the only place you could see a science fiction movie or horror movie back when I was a kid was on Friday nights on the independent, independent local TV channel.
And they always had hosts and the hosts were like staggeringly or Elvira or, you know, one was just worse than the other.
You know, there was you know, they'd come out of a coffin like I have that, you know, Peter Vincent doing. But the coffin would fall over.
You know, the ground fog was was was patchy and, you know, and and the the gate to the cemetery would would would would list badly anyway.
That and the minute I thought of Peter Vincent, I could not wait to get to the to the to the word processor to write Friday night. And it was I laughed and I chuckled and I felt great affection as I was writing it. And it came through because I think because I directed it. So that's for sure.
Came through in the movie and what's happened, I think that the reason is that it's gone on and become ever more popular is because it's been passed down from generation to generation. I think that was an R or a PG 13 when it was released R, but now it's relatively tame, certainly. But the visuals still work, the scarers still work and the people. But it's become it's become a movie that the grandparents watch with their grandchildren, you know, just terrific.
We actually it's a fun, very, very fun movie.
And I personally attest to the greatness of that film, to Billy the character Billy Cole, who I absolutely adore in that movie, and very stark.
Yeah. I think at one point, what did you say? You're like, what was the question? Well, so one of the things that that we talked about when we reviewed the movie Fright Night on our podcast and what we do is we break down the film like scene by scene, talk about it. So it's a pretty lengthy show per episode. But one of the things that that we just we couldn't stop talking about was just how much we love Billy Cole.
He's just he's such a fun character. And but the question kept coming up. And people kind of talk about online, too. What exactly? Like mythos wise. Like vampire mythos wise. What exactly was Billy Cole? As far as like a creature goes, well, he was he was the he was the Renfrew character. And then in Dracula, I was right. He's the one that's half made. Yeah, OK.
I don't know. So I don't know if you call him a halfling anymore, because I think that. That that they use that in Lord of the Rings, maybe, but the it's somebody who is it's a it's a guardian, the vampire, you know, you know, bite some changes, a little bit of a of blood, but not enough to bring him over, not enough to make him into a full fledged vampire so we can go out in the day.
And he is the he is the protector of the vampire.
I was created to protect the vampire who was asleep in the basement in the coffin.
My other question was, where can I get one for myself? Billy called Rock to show the other thread that Zach and I kind of dabbled with in Friday night.
In the story. A Friday night is the portrayal of Jerry Dandridge, as we kind of cute in on the fact that he's almost the protagonist of the film. A few scenes where, you know, he really asks Brewster basically to just leave him alone, you know, and we're cool. And then on the top of the fact that he seems to only be killing, I mean, we're not making an assumption of the good or bad of, you know, ladies of the night, but he's not killing.
It seems to be like innocent people. And so I kind of cut in on the fact that that Brewster might actually be the villain of the film. And Jerry Dandridge is, to me, the hero. And but that also could be just just his his amazing chemistry on screen, I'm not sure. But is there any is there anything behind that or am I just did we just kind of read really too deep into something? No, you're not.
If there is something behind it. Oh, OK. Well, the theory that the theory is the one of the things you can say about. Right. And you're trying to create characters. Villains are not nobody's black and white. Yeah, I agree. You know, everybody everybody shares a responsibility for the situation. And Jerry, I the tragedy clings to Jerry. The the painting, the idea what I was that he's that he sees it. He sees the painting and he says I think he says meina.
But I was thinking of Mina Harker, who's the daughter in that he falls in love with Dracula, falls in love with him in the original novel, which was the late eighteen hundreds. In other words, what Gerry's curse, Jerry? Jerry. The devil offered him immortality if he would agree to become a vampire, and Jerry did it because this is the back story I wrote in my head because Jerry was was fighting the was a Turk and he was fighting the I'm sorry.
He was a Vienna, Austria. Austria. Yeah. And and it was you know, they fought the Muslims to to a to a halt at the gates of Vienna. And I thought that that that Jerry was the leader and he made a deal so he could lead his troops and protect his country. But the deal was that he he had to give up his soul to be a mortal. And when he gave up his soul. His curse was that he was to meet the woman that he loved more than any other, only to lose her and then to find that she'd been reborn and to start all over again, only to lose her.
And that's who Amy is, Amy is the reincarnation of Mina Harker. Yeah, I didn't deal with it in the movie, but that was the back story in my head.
Well, I think that comes through because even when he's talking to Brewster, I love the line that he says, you know, I didn't have a choice. I'm giving you one. And you can see the sadness in his eyes. And we talk about like worldbuilding on our podcast. And I love it when the creator, like yourself, knows what the back story is. But we don't learn it, you know, word for word in the movie.
But we still see glimpses of what you know, to be the truth. And just seen Jerry Dandridge is sadness for a nanosecond in his eye saying, you know, I'm giving you a choice that I didn't have.
I fucking love that so much. Thank you, and that was it was it was all intentional, but I get a lot of things going on. Chris Sarandon, as a kid, as an Academy Award nominated actor, you know, I mean, he's a really fine actor. And if you if you're dealing with. People who can go deeper, actors can go deeper. It's not about the lines, it's about the emotional subtext under the lines. And that's what makes what that's what makes the character interesting.
It's not just what they're saying, but what they're not saying. And that was that was my attempt. And Chris's to to to to make Jerry Dandridge more fully formed.
So much to stop them from wanting to bite him and to have them to have her be his forever, you know, I mean, of course.
But he still had that moment with Amy where he didn't want to he wanted her to sort of want it. And again, like all these all these little moments where you could have, you know, you as as a Tom Holland, the director could have gone in and with Chris Sarandon in a different direction.
But I love all the choices that you made and unchristian and made in that movie. I think it just his character, Jerry Dandridge, really stands the test of time, even when we watch it now again, because we always watch these movies now and we sort of look at him through the lens of current day. And boy, oh, boy, does that movie just really, really hold up.
It keeps going. And there was no now I'm being bitchy. But if you looked at the remake, it's it's the vampire to 30 days of night.
It's just a killing machine. Yeah. Yeah. No humor.
There's no empathy, you know, so you can look at it too and you can see black and white there, you know, as opposed to supposed to fright night. Thank you. That's the intent. The everything you're saying is the intent of the of of me and Chris Sarandon.
Well, you know, we had we had Steven Jefferys on our show last year.
And it was was so great. Steven and I actually, you know, got to know each other a little bit and it's just such a good, good person. And, you know, obviously we talked quite a bit about Fright Night because I wanted to kind of profile his whole career on our show, you know, the movies he made in the 80s. And and, you know, he has such a fondness, obviously, for Fright Night and his performances as evil and just his brilliant, brilliant guy.
I don't you can swear, you know, but I mean, no, it's brilliant.
I mean, you know, but I mean, that's that's that's that's that's. I got lucky. I got lucky with that cast.
You really did. You really did.
So go ahead. You're saying that Roddy McDowall, you obviously, you know, worked with him in class in 1984.
Was that how you were able to bring him on or was that just by happenstance?
Well. I. Peter Venson is the Cowardly Lion. Yeah, you know, I mean, that was really the image that I talked about with Roddy and he's it's an odd script in the sense that. Charlie is the is the engine that keeps moving. Yep, because Charlie's determined to, you know, to to expose the vampire next door and also stop him from stealing his girl. Yeah. So you you have an older guy and a younger guy, you know, fighting over a woman.
And you know that the sophistication of the older guy, Charlie's Charlie's not in a good place, but.
But the one that the one that has to rise up from being a coward and and defeat his own fear and go face go face the vampire is Peter Vincent and. Roddy knew that it was that it offered. The chance for him to give a great performance, and so he was he was totally dedicated to it. And Peter, you know, Roddy almost brings you to tears. Roddy almost brings you to tears as the teacher in and class of 84 were the bad kids slaughter all of us, all of his pets and then in his classroom.
Yeah, you know, I mean, you know, and I I knew that he had that in him. I knew that he could I knew he could get the humor. But I also knew he could dig down and find the emotion to.
Yeah. When he's when you actually see his face like rising as the sun is rising behind Jerry Dandridge and you can see it on on Rodney's face like it's amazing. It's it all works and it gives you goosebumps because here here you see a man actually getting his faith and that's huge. That's pretty amazing.
Yeah, it was for me, too. We were very lucky. I mean, that was my first movie and I had the full support of Columbia and Columbia. The production there was a guy who's no longer with his ghoshal Schrager. He gave me the entire effects team from Ghostbusters. So at that moment in time, I had the best. People are doing practical in camera effects and also was Richard Adler and I had that, I had the best visual of able to do matte shots and moving matte shots, which is what it is when you see the when he lifts off the balcony, Jerry, and turns into a bat on the way down and you see the transformation in the shadow on the wall.
I wrote I didn't write that. I wrote. I wrote him diving off the balcony, but I didn't know how to do it. Wow. And Richard Edelman did know how to do it and make those things work. And then I had I had brilliant effects artists. I had Steve Johnson and I had Randy Cook. And, you know, both guys went on to huge careers, you know? So I mean, I, I just had my on my first movie, I got the best people in the trades working in Hollywood, and that includes Gene are behind with the cinematography.
I don't I don't know how that happens, fellows, because I've had I've done films too, where everything has gone wrong. And, you know, and no matter what I tried, I couldn't make them go right. So it's, I think having a good movie. It is like lightning in a bottle. You need the you need the Lord to look down on you at that moment, you know, and right now it is certainly all came together.
What would you do if you accidentally discovered the house next door was occupied by something not human or something horrifying? Something unspeakably evil. No one believes you. I didn't have a nightmare. Not your mom did kill a girl over there, not your girlfriend. Charlie, is this sort of a trick to get me back? Not even the police. Look, I know it's crazy. I know that. But it knows that, you know, you'll do anything to protect yourself, but it will do anything to protect its secret fright night if you love being scared.
This could be the night of your life. If you'd like to hear the full 60 minute interview with Tom Holland, please consider subscribing to our picture on Page, where you'll get Tom's interview along with Patrón. Exclusives like interviews with other genre favorites such as Tom Matthews, Diane Franklin and Stephen Jefferys.
You'll also get access to commercial free episodes and much more.
Go to Patreon Dotcom Slash Podcasting after dark for more information. And as always, thank you for your support.