One of my more memorable interview calls took place last week when I picked up the phone and heard "Thrill Me!" on the other side. Of course, Night of the Creeps fans will instantly remember Tom Atkins' famous line and I had a chance to talk with him about "Creeps" and a number of his 80's horror films.
Continue reading to learn about his experience on the set of Creepshow with Stephen King, find out what he thinks about Halloween III after all these years, and we have details on where you can meet him later this week:
When you starred in movies like the Fog or Halloween III, did you think that they would have such a strong following thirty years later?
Tom Atkins: No, I didn’t and the biggest surprise for me was Night of the Creeps. When that came out, no one saw it. It ran for a week in LA and New York, but it just kept hanging in there. People were buying bootleg copies and it got a big cult following. Sony decided they could start making money and released a Blu-ray and DVD 22 years after it first came out. We all went down to Austin: Freddy Decker, the kids, and me. We did the commentary there and they had a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was a wonderful weekend and it was so much fun.
Halloween III is another movie that just came out on Blu-ray recently and it has really picked up a following over the years. I’ve seen Silver Shamrock shirts and masks selling out.
Tom Atkins: [Laughs] That’s funny. I didn’t know that. There are still people that come up to me and say they hate Halloween III because it didn’t have Michael Myers in it. I tell them that was 25-30 years ago. Get over it.
We had a wonderful time making it and I think Its a good standalone movie. John [Carpenter] originally wanted to make a story every Halloween that would be different, but the producers said no because Michael Myers is making so much money. They told him that we could shoot Halloween III, but then they’re done with those different stories.
It should have just been called Season of the Witch and not put Halloween with it at all because it didn’t have Michael Myers and people thought: “What the hell is this?” Over time, it has become very popular on its own, as it has always intended to be.
You’ll be at Flashback Weekend in August and George Romero is another one of the special guests. When was the last time you met up with him?
Tom Atkins: I remember exactly when it was. It was a show in Louisville four years ago and that was the last time. We were there together and had a drink at the bar. We don’t have much time at the show to shoot the breeze because he’s really busy most of the time. I am looking forward to saying hi to him.
Creepshow happens to be one of my favorite horror films, so I definitely wanted to ask you about your part in it. I heard that you were originally interested in playing the role of Jordy…
Tom Atkins: Yeah, that was Stephen King’s role. George was in LA putting Creepshow together and I remember going into this building in Santa Monica and sitting down with him. He asked me if there was any role I liked a lot and I said I’d love to play Jordy, the guy that gets eaten by green swamp shit. He said that he couldn’t because Stephen King was doing that part, and it made sense because he helped him write it. He asked if I’d do him a big favor by playing the dad that ties the beginning and the end, and I said “Hell yeah!” We had a lot of fun.
Many people don’t realize that you shot those scenes with Stephen King’s son, Joe.
Tom Atkins: That’s right. His real son Joe was nine years old then. That was a long time ago and he was great. Stephen was very nervous because I had to slap Joe in the bedroom. Stephen was afraid and I said: “I’m a professional actor. I’ve done a lot of stage work, Stephen, and I know how to hit him and make it look good and not hurt him.” We did a couple of takes and it was just fine. They add sounds to make it seem horrific, but I barely touched him.
In Boston a number of years ago, I was at a table and Adrienne was next to me. All of the sudden, I’m aware of this tall person standing next to me. There’s this guy with long brown hair, glasses, a full brown beard and you could barely see any skin in there. He was just standing there watching me, and I asked: “Is there a Joe King in the middle of all that shit somewhere?” He said, “Yeah Tom, it’s me, but don’t say anything. I’m selling books as Joe Hill in the back.” I went back to his booth and we ended up talking for a little bit. He’s a terrific kid and his dad was fun.
I met his dad on the first night of filming on Creepshow. I think I only worked two days on it. Someone brought Stephen to the wagon and said: “Tom Atkins this is Stephen King. Stephen, Tom Atkins.”
Stephen’s first words were “What is Jamie Lee Curtis really like?” He thought she was just the bee’s knees [laughs].
For our readers that want to see you perform in person, I understand that you are involved in quite a few theater projects in Pittsburgh. What do you have coming up?
Tom Atkins: I do a lot of theater in Pittsburgh, so I’ve been working on the words for the stage manager role in Our Town. I’ve done Shakespeare and I’m not crazy about Shakespeare, but I’ve always wanted to do the stage manager in Our Town. Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, and Hal Holbrook did it. I think it’s the best American play ever written. It’s so simple, but very profound… it’s great. We start rehearsals in September and open in October in downtown Pittsburgh.
Then, I’ll be playing Scrooge for the sixth year in a row in December for the Pittsburgh CLO up until Christmas Eve. In January, I’ll do The Chief, a one-man show and this will be my eleventh year for that. It will be busy from the time I leave for Chicago until the middle of January. I’m really looking forward to it.
I'd like to thank our friends at Flashback Weekend for setting up this interview. Tom Atkins will be one of the many guests appearing at the horror event, along with George A. Romero, Danny Glover, Kane Hodder, the main cast of Dawn of the Dead, and many more. Flashback Weekend takes place from August 9-11 at the Crown Plaza Chiacago O'Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. For more details, visit: