October 25, 2019 Interview – Tom Atkins
In most cases, nothing in life is predictable. You can be on one path and then find a detour which leads you in an entirely different direction, changing the game forever. This is exactly what happened to Tom Atkins, just out of the Navy and attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Heading toward a career in journalism, he soon uncovered a love for acting, and has not looked back fifty years later.
A fascinating story full of adventure and fun, Atkins’ unpredictable journey would lead him to become a Horror cinema icon thanks to his stand-out roles in classic flicks such as 1980’s The Fog, 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch and 1986’s Night of the Creeps. In fact, anyone who fancies themselves a Horror fan recognize that Atkins’ presence on screen is undeniably, more often than not, the character that no one wants to mess with. Continuing to celebrate his career with plenty of roles in films, Atkins recently sat down to chat about his experiences, his latest part in Trick, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting for quite a long time now. Starring in a list of films, you have gone on to become a Horror film icon with memorable rolls in Night of the Creeps, The Fog, Halloween III: Season of The Witch, among others. First tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Tom Atkins – Going to Duquesne University after I got out of the Navy, I had no interest in theater, but I was dating a girl who was part of an extracurricular theater group called the Red Masquers; a group that still exist today. I kept telling her I’m not getting the fair share of her time, because she was always over at the theater doing rehearsing or performing. She said, “Come over and do something; we will have more time to be together.” I did, fell in love with acting, so I saw less and less of her and more of the theater.
At the end of my time at Duquesne, I got to do A Streetcar Named Desire and some wonderful Chekhov stuff. I thought, well, I majored in journalism and knew I could work at the paper, but I wanted to go to New York and give acting a try. So I did, it worked out, and it was great!
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it’s very interesting how it all came together and where it has led. You have done a lot of different things, but would go onto become a star in many Horror films. Was that something you foresaw, or did it just happen?
Tom Atkins – It just happened. I recently listened to Terry Gross interviewing Elton John and he kept using the world serendipitous; most of his life things happened kind of serendipitously. I think my life is very similar: being as an actor in the first place was just because of dating a girl. I didn’t plan on it; I had never done any acting as a little kid – I never played a tree in a grade school play or anything. I didn’t intend to be a Horror genre icon, but it just kind of turned out that way.
My first job was in New York as a rookie cop in The Detective (1968) with Frank Sinatra. Being in New York, I was a friend with Adrienne Barbeau. She was dating this guy John Carpenter and she invited me to the screening of Halloween (1978) at the director’s guild. I went, got to know John, and I loved the movie. John just invited me to play Nick Castle in The Fog. I didn’t have to audition or read; we just talked about it. He said, “How about doing it?” I said, “Yeah, that would be great!” It just went from there with one Horror movie after another. It was serendipitous from the start.
Cryptic Rock – And here we are all these years later. You were most recently in the new Horror film Trick which hit select theaters, On Demand, and Digital on Friday, October 18th. How did this project come about for you?
Tom Atkins – I met Patrick (Lussier), who I love dearly; I would go anywhere to work with him in anything. I met him here in Pittsburgh, where I live, in a coffee shop downtown when he came into town to do My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009). I felt like I knew him forever from just sitting down talking with him for a cup of coffee. He said, “I want you to play the sheriff in this movie, but when I tell you how you die you might not want to do it.” He told me about my lower face being ripped off and flying out over the audiences’ right shoulders in 3D. I said, “That sounds great! Let’s have a whack at it and let’s do it.”
So we did My Bloody Valentine, Drive Angry (2011) with Nick Cage, and now Trick. I love Trick! I think Patrick is a genius for his ability to shoot a movie as he wants to see it. It makes it easier for his editor who is able to then put it all together, and I think this one turned out wonderfully. Patrick told me he would write a part for me in everything he does. They have and I’m really enjoying it!
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Trick has a kind of old-school Horror film vibe with practical effects. Was that also something that attracted you to it?
Tom Atkins – Yes, that and Patrick. Also the role of Talbott, I just love him. He is the old town curmudgeon – he runs a diner and scary corn maze. I love the old guy and I was born to play him. I did Scrooge here in Pittsburgh in the musical A Christmas Carol for 8 years. Everyone asked, “Tom, how could you do that? He is such a nasty old guy, and you are such a nice guy.” I tell them, “Ask my son, he will tell you I was born to play Scrooge.” (Laughs)
I love Trick though, it turned out to be a fantastic movie. You can root for people in it – you get to know them, like them, and hope they come out at the end. Patrick assured me the next film they write I will live through the entire movie. (Laughs)