Through the Black Hole » TOMMY McLOUGHLIN – Interview


Written by Tony Northrup

It’s been debated many times,” which era is considered the best in the horror film genre?” The trend in the 1970′s seemed to focus on films that portrayed demonic possession, people were mesmerized by this. The current focus seems to be the paranormal activity type films that began to surface in the early 2000′s. However for the majority of die-hard horror film fans, it’s still the “Slasher” films of the 1980′s that seem to compel us again and again.

With iconic characters such as “Freddy Kruger” from NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST., to “Michael Myers” from HALLOWEEN, and of course the hockey masked, “Jason” from FRIDAY THE 13th, fans of horror are always drawn back to the thrill of the chase when a slasher’s running amok. They have literraly slashed their way through sequel after sequel, with the audience always coming back for more. One of the filmmakers that helped to keep our healthy obsession for these type of films alive is, Tom (Tommy) McLoughlin, screenwriter, film/television director. Although FRIDAY THE 13th Part 6: JASON LIVES, has contributed to that phenomenon, and was a major highlight, Tommy has had an extremely interesting and lucrative career. both in and out of the film industry.

Tommy McLoughlin was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 7th, 1950. His love for filmmaking began at the age of 7yrs old. Like many directors, Tommy McLoughlin started out with an 8mm camera, soon his hobby became a passion. Working in and around film studios most of his young life, studying mime in Paris, joining the rock n’ roll scene in the late 60′s, were all precursors. It was in the 1970′s that Tommy really put his passion to work in television and film.

It was the television series, Van Dyke & Company, that won Tommy his first Emmy nomination in 1977. From there, he began acting as well, with parts in the Disney film, THE BLACK HOLE, and in the film PROPHECY, in 1979. ONE DARK NIGHT, his film directorial debut, was considered an Independent/Cult film classic, which won him a Best Low Budget Film nomination in 1983. It was on the set of that film he met actress, and future wife, Nancy (who was also cast in his film FRIDAY THE 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES) .

He continued filming television shows such as 1986′s, Amazing Stories. However, the year 1986 would also be the year that shot Tommy into superstardomm, directing cult classic horror film, FRIDAY THE 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES! This long-running horror franchise which began in 1980 and spanned three decades, has hosted 12 different diredtors, each bringing their own unique twist to the continuing story. This includes a remake, and a new chapter in the franchise with yet another film coming to theaters in 2015.

Tommy is responsible for resurrecting the hockey-masked killer Jason, after 1984′s part 4 of the franchise, “Final Chapter”, sees him killed off. Even with the absence of Jason in 1985′s FRIDAY THE 13th 5: A NEW BEGINNING, the franchise continued to thrive. Considered one of the Top Fan Favorites of the franchise, Tommy’s success with this sixth installment of the FRIDAY films would now open up new avenues for him. He contined to work witin the horror genre with such 1980′s television programs as, FRIDAY THE 13th:THE SERIES in 1987, and FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES in 1988. Taking a break from television and the horror genre, Tommy directed a light comedy in 1987 called, DATE WITH AN ANGEL, a romantic-comedy that did well at the box office. However, Tommy would return to his horror roots in 1991 with his adaptation of a Stephen King short story, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, from King’s short story collection, SKELETON CREW. This made for television film centered around a school teacher haunted by ghosts of student bullies from the 1950′s, who are out for revenge. This too was a successful endevor for Tommy!

The filmmaker decided to turn his talents towards the small screen once again with his biggest television hit series, SHE-WOLF OF LONDON in 1997, working along side director, Mick Garris. He continued making several made-for-television films such as 2002′s, MURDER IN GREENWICH, 2003′s, THE DC SNIPER: 23 DAYS OF FEAR, 2008′s, FAB 5: THE TEXAS CHEERLEADER SCANDAL, and Lifetime Channel’s 2009′s, THE WRONGED MAN.

Not only is Tommy McLoughlin a talented screenwriter and director, he has many other interesting facets to his personality. He enjoys collecting props from some of the projects he has done, which include Jason’s casket from the PART 6 installment of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise he directed, and the headstone is noted as being a part of his backyard decor….good conversation piece no doubt. He also likes to make “cameos” as well (The hands for instance in FRIDAY Part 6 opening Jason’s casket are his). One of Tommys passions is music. He has recently began performing in his rock band, The Sloths, coined a garage band dating back to the 60s. So you see this is a man of many talents! Tommy currently lives in California with his wife, Nancy, and has two children.

Now, here is my Exclusive Interview with filmmaker/artiste extroidnaire, TOMMY McLOUGHLIN!

Q. – Your father was a magician and former mime, you also studied mime in Paris with the very famous, Marcel Marceau. At what age were you during that time, and how did you transition from the arts to filmmaking?

A. – My father was a magician, a fire-eater, and a USC film student. He also loved Charlie Chaplin and ran his short films on Sunday nights. Chaplin influenced my love of silent comedy. But I started making my own 8mm films on the week-ends in the old backlots of MGM Studios at the age of 7 years. So all those combined interests set my course in life until I was 12yrs old. Then the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the British Rock Invasion happened and I dropped everything to be a rock singer until 1969 when I met Marceau, and do to my physical performing he invited me to Paris to study at his school. I was nineteen. I fell in love with all the arts there in Europe including Cinema, and I returned to the U.S. with a desire to make movies again.

Q. – In 1977 you were nominated for an Emmy for Van Dyke & Company, and years later you worked on many television shows such as Amazing Stories, Friday the 13th: the Series, and Freddy’s Nightmares just to name a few. Is it more of a challenge working on television shows than films or vice versa?

A. – Making movies or TV isn’t a challenge if you have a love and passion for it. Getting hired and paid to do it is the challenge. Patience and persistent is the answer to that challenge.

Q.- Even tho you have done a variety of work, it seems the majority of it is the horror genre. What is it about this particular genre that attracts you to it so?

A. – I escaped into the world of Edgar Allan Poe as a pre-teen. My loving mother had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for many months. I was the oldest of 4 and had to take charge and help my dad. My childhood was put on hold. The Universal monsters became my heroes. Misunderstood and alone, I indemnified with their ugliness and the power they had being feared. Then it just became cool to be an expert in that area, and I loved finding others who had that same affinity for the dark side.

Q.- In 1983, you were nominated for Best Low Budget Film for ONE DARK NIGHT, do you feel Independent films are more challenging to make than big budget films, or does having the bigger budget take some of the pressure off?

A. – Usually it’s just the opposite. The bigger the budget, the more of someone’s money you are spending. That also means more ‘interference’ from the studio, producers, etc. The lower budget the better you have to be left alone to create your vision. Usually..but not always.

Q. – In the film, ONE DARK NIGHT, you had the opportunity to work with the legendary actor and original “Batman”, Adam West. What are some of your memories you can share of that?

A. – I always loved Adam, having grown up with him as Batman. When he came into read for the part the casting director said he usually doesn’t get cast in many things cause everyone recognizes him as Batman. I said, “Well, I’m not gonna be another ‘everybody’ I’ll hire him!” Then came the surprise….every time Adam did a line he made his voice go up and down in the same style as he did as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I was a first feature film director and didn’t know what to do cause I didn’t want to be insulting. So I kept doing more takes to get him to have a more normal speech pattern. But months later the producer who took over our film brought him in to add additional lines, and he went back into his Batman style. I think Adam just loved how that speech pattern sounded.

Q.- Your biggest film success came in 1986 with FRIDAY the 13th PART 6: JASON LIVES Ssince there were so many sequels to this franchise, how did you want to approach this famous franchise, and bring something to the table fans hadn’t seen before?

A. – COMEDY. That was the main thing I wanted to add. Also a Gothic Horror look. More of a story than just a series of kills. Characters that hopefully you liked and didn’t want to see die. And of course ‘Frankensteining’ Jason’s corpse with a bolt of lightning making him death-proof.

Q. – Actor C J Graham played “Jason” in the film. What attracted you to him for the role, and how does he differ from other actors who played “Jason”, like Richard Brooker, Ted White, & Kane Hodder, just to name a few?

A. – We didn’t start the film with C.J.. It was our stunt coordinator Dan Bradley. All the daytime scenes in the film were Dan. Paramount didn’t like the way Dan played him and they sent me C.J. ,who wasn’t even an actor or a stuntman, to replace Dan. I was terrified. Who is this guy I never even met! Turns out C.J. was an ex-Marine and could move like an unstoppable killing machine. Plus he is the sweetest and warm-hearted guy in the world. He followed my direction to the letter. I loved working with him. I felt horrible for Dan because I had no say so in losing him. BUT he has gone on to be THE biggest 2nd unit director in the movie world. All those jaw-dropping fight and stunt sequences in The Bourne Identity films, and the new James Bond films, is the brilliant Dan Bradley.

Q. – You used your parents swimming pool for part of the final battle at the end of Part 6, how did that come about, and will they let you film there again? (*laugh)

A. – My dad was the happiest guy on earth that night we shot in his pool. Having his son, and a Hollywood film crew in his own backyard was getting a piece of his movie-making dream fulfilled. Even my mother was happy for him and proud of me. But I felt horrible as we were grinding up the side of Jason’s head that was clogging up their pool filter. Production did replace the burned out filter motor. Here’s something I’ve always forgot to share that hasn’t been in any of my Friday 13th commentary or any interview. We could only shoot in the deep end of my dad’s tiny swimming pool. Why? Cause my special make-up artist brother Jim McLoughlin had painted ONE DARK NIGHT across the entire bottom of the shallow end. It was the exact lettering as the movies one sheet. I was very honored. Jim also helped create Hawes’ punched out heart and other effects. I was thrilled to have him on my set, and also on Stephen King’s ‘Sometimes They Come Back’.

Q. – When fans watch any of the Nightmare on Elm St.’s, Halloween, or Friday the 13th films, they always think something “scary” happens on-set. Did this happen with you on FRIDAY the 13th Part 6?

A. – The ONLY scary thing for me was our line producer/production manager cutting cranes or other costly items without telling me until I arrived on set. He was hell-bent to bring the film under budget…and he did, and he got a bonus for doing that. Oh, the other scary thing was the very last sequence we shot. The ‘flying-crashing’ motorhome. I was terrified the stunt driver that was hired would hurt or kill himself in doing the stunt. I was on my knees praying when that RV hit the ramp and flew. BUT thank god, he did it.

Q. – FRIDAY the 13th Part 6 was the first of the franchise to have an actual soundtrack and music video played on MTV by Alice Cooper at the time, tell us how that came about working with Alice, and were there any other bands you had in mind?

A. – Well, of course we had the legendary horror composer Harry Manferdini doing the score. And I asked if he could create a gothic theme for the resurrected Jason along with his other infamous Friday music. It’s a great score. Being an old rock & roller I wanted to put in as many cool songs as I could that fit the feeling of the scenes. Alice Cooper was suggested and I thought that was a brilliant idea (I think that was Frank Mancuso’s idea), we started adding Alice songs to scenes, then found out Alice wanted to write an original song THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK, specifically for the films end credits. That was a great thrill. The truly odd thing is I was around Alice in the 1960s in Hollywood. In fact, we played on the same bill at The Cheetah. But in those days he was Vincent the lead singer of The Nazz, and I was lead singer of TNT. We were both teenagers.

Q.- The 1980′s was considered one of the highpoints in horror films with the ‘Elm St.’, ‘Halloween’, & ‘Friday’ franchises. Do you feel it was as well, and how has the horror genre evolved since then?

A. – We all never thought we were creating anything that would be later considered ‘classic horror’. Classic horror was in the 30s with the Universal monster movies. Or some of the cool 1950s Sci-Fi/ horror films, The Haunting and The Innocents in the 60s, or the 70s classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Carrie, The Changeling, and of course, The Exorcist. But the 1980s, the Stephen King movies continued from the 70s, and then comes the monsters…The Shape/Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Pinhead, Chucky, etc. Now 30 years later these films are beloved because they were the ‘forbidden films’ your parents didn’t want you to see, but because there was videos that you could get they became super cool to see secretly whenever you could. I’m floored how many times fans tell me they’ve watched mine or other 80s horror movies. Like 50 to 100 times. They know more about them than I do!!

Q. – You’ve done a lot of horror films and television shows. What is your main goal you set out to accomplish for your audience?

A. – Simply to get emotional responses… laughter, fear, anxiety, heartbreak, warmth, tears, tension..whatever. If you can feel and identify with the characters, situation or story, it stays with you. It attaches to your sub-conscience. It becomes a unique ‘experience’ and a life long memory. Yet it was only a movie. A show. An illusion. It didn’t really happen to you but it did on another level. Those are the films, television, plays, and live performances that I want to create and leave behind after I’m gone.

Q. – You make small cameos in your films and “nods” to famous films and filmmakers as well, is this just an inside joke between you and the audience, or would you consider these your trademarks? And any favorites in particular?

A. – Most ‘cameos’ are a function of I didn’t have anyone else around to do it. I was Tommy Jarvis’ hands opening Jason’s coffin cause I didn’t have Thom Matthews that day. I was the ‘Owlish Man’ in the church in Date with an Angel because I was the only idiot that was willing to set himself on fire for the sake of comedy. I never wanted people to know it was me. Never did the ‘Hitchcock Find The Film Maker’ touch.

Q. – In 1991, you adapted the story, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK which is based on a Stephen King short story. Out of the large amount of Stephen King’s work, what attracted you to this one the most? Is there any other King story you’d like to adapt in the future?

A. – Well, that story found me. Dino DeLauretiis who I had just made Date with an Angel with offered it to me. It was a Cinemascope feature in Europe and a CBS TV movie here in the U.S.A. It’s very hard doing good adaptations of King’s work. There have been very few that really worked as well as the books. You sometimes have to go another way with them like Kubrick did with The Shining and make it your own. My long time pal Mick Garris is the go-to Stephen King director. He has done more than anyone. You should ask him. He’s the expert! (I have in previous interviews. *laugh).

Q. – You’ve adapted a Stephen King story, but you are known as a big Edgar Allan Poe fan, do you think King is the modern day Poe?

A. – No, I think Poe was Poe: a dark, tortured, romantic surrealist. He wrote from pain, loss, insecurity, and a broken heart. He made horrific thoughts poetic and hauntingly beautiful. He welcomed the peace of death to quiet his demons. King to me is a big kid who loves horror and loves to entertain. He can get into a normal person’s head and have us think his or her thoughts. We go on the scary adventure with them. He shares all the influences we all had from Twilight Zones, horror films, and the fears of daily lives magnified. H e’s Stephen King. Brilliant and an original.

Q.- FRIDAY the 13th PART 4 was the “Final Chapter”. When you were approached to do Part 6, were you nervous on how exactly you were to bring “Jason” back from the grave, considering the fan base, and do you think “Jason” is more zombie at this point than the “human” killer he was in Part 2-4?

A. – Yes, I was nervous of pissing off the core base of fans. Some really loved part 5. I didn’t. Not cause it was a bad slasher film, because it wasn’t. It was probably THE most exploitive Friday the 13th for all the reasons many fans love the series. But Paramount wanted JASON back. Not a pretend Jason. So that was my job to come up with a way to do that and re-envision the franchise. I wrote a treatment telling the story I wanted to do (if you buy my biography A STRANGE IDEA OF ENTERTAINMENT, the author Joe Maddrey include that exact treatment in the back of the book for fans to read. It’s literally what got me the job). And yes, he is NOT the same dude in the lake avenging his mom’s death. He is a walking dead that feels one basic instinct…to kill that which annoys him. And it doesn’t take much to annoy him. In my story he had a main objective: find Tommy and kill him for bringing him back from the grave. I always felt bad for the monsters’ that hated being alive and doing what they did. Frankenstein in the Bride of Frankenstein said, “Love dead, Hate living.” Dracula said, “To be really dead must be glorious.” And certainly Larry Talbot never wanted to be a Wolf Man.

Q. – Your television series, She-Wolf of London, was a huge hit. Is there any chance of “rebooting” that series?

A. – I think that would be great! Mick Garris and I should discuss that. (*nod of agreement).

Q.-What has been your greatest successful moment?

A. – Finally answering all these questions. Seriously, that’s an impossible question for me to answer. It’s like what is your favorite, or the film you are most proud of? I haven’t made it yet. Every day there is a level of success getting things accomplished that you don’t know what those acts will eventually result in. Just surviving the day itself is a great success. The birth of my children. A long time marriage. Having been blessed to have made so many movies (40 and counting), and getting to currently full fill a 45 year old dream…being a rock singer in a cool band.

Q.- You have recently turned your talents Share with us how forming your band and touring came about?

A. – The band was the result of a record THE SLOTHS made back in 1965 that went nowhere, was put on a 1980s compilation of forgotten garage band songs called, Back From the Grave (ironic title, eh) ,and then the original .45 single was selling on eBay for $6550.00 3 years ago. They looked for the surviving members of the band, we did some interviews, and started playing in a garage again like when we were 15yrs old. Next thing we know we get booked in a club, then another, then festivals, then to Spain, recored two new songs on iTunes, played over 70 gigs now, and are about to record an album. Does it make sense? Nope. Is it a dream come true 45 years after you first wanted it. Yes. The moral…NEVER give up your dreams.

Final Question – What’s next for Tommy McLoughlin?
Re-making, or should I saw doing a re-imaging of my first horror movie ONE DARK NIGHT. There are things I couldn’t do back then cost-wise and I know more as a storyteller now. I have a few other scripts both in the horror genre and comedy that I’m working towards. I’m teaching a directing course at Chapman University/Dodge College which is wonderful getting to work and share ideas for the next generation of movie makers. The Sloths keep on rocking. And if you read the final chapter in my biography, or watch on YouTube the 5 minute black and white documentary entitled LEGENDS NEVER DIE: HOLLYWOOD FOREVER, you’ll know what I’m planning after I’m gone. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to. But I’m not in a hurry to accomplish any of them. It’s always about the journey and not always about the destination.

Even though Tommy is known for his amazing filmmaking talents, humor, being part of one of the biggest horror franchises in history, and a rock n’ roller – he still has plenty more to show the world and isn’t about to slow down now. I would like to Thank Tommy McLoughlin for taking the time to do this interview, and wish him lots of success with his future projects. If you would like to see any of Tommy’s films or television work, you can find them at Netflix or most social media outlets. And for all you rockers…check out…The Sloths… One final word…This has truly been an honor for me to interview Mr. Tommy McLoughlin, and he is right. “It’s always about the journey and not always about the destination”. However this writer journeyed long and hard to arrive at this destination to interview Mr. Tommy McLoughlin. Thank you so much Tommy, hope to visit you again

Posted in Interviews by Tony Northrup on October 16th, 2014 at %I:%M %p.

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