Candyman's Tony Todd on Sushi Girl and Star Trek - SciFiNow

Candyman’s Tony Todd on Sushi Girl and Star Trek

Tony Todd on the possibility of Candyman 4, and being Worf’s brother in Star Trek

Tony Todd as Duke in Sushi Girl
Tony Todd as Duke in Sushi Girl

We caught up with Tony Todd, the genre titan behind Candyman‘s beeshirted maniac, at the Gold Coast Film Festival, to talk about his new grindhouse thriller Sushi Girl and ghostly horror Dead Of The Nite, voicing Transformers, his fan-favourite role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, andthe prospect of a Candyman 4

First tell me how Sushi Girl materialised, what attracted you to the lead part of the Duke and what Mark Hamill was like to work with?

A friend of mine used to send me a lot of unsolicited scripts to my doorstep…turns out it was destined and it started percolating three years ago but it fell away. I was also an executive producer, there was a fund raising campaign and we were able to persuade Mark Hamill to come on board and get it off the ground.

And so the Duke…it’s a weird position to go from executive producer to lead actor…and staying in character the whole time. It was a role that was theatrical to me and complex and I had to play a true sociopath but I didn’t want it to be [over the top] I wanted it to be basic…I based it on various sociopaths I’ve met in my life including some in my own family!

You’re such a triumphant presence in this movie and the Duke is menacing, articulate and immaculately dressed. What was it like to play him – did you enjoy capitalising on these characteristics and eccentricities?

Yeah it was a great role and my first scene is with Mark Hamill and so the fan boy in me came out. I realised I’d be having this conversation with Luke Skywalker and we’d be man to man and we both appreciated each other. I hadn’t met Noah [Hathaway who plays Fish] before but the fact that he was able to commit and come out of retirement from Amsterdam and to LA to shoot his first role in like 19 years was great. And it was just a force of nature.

It’s like playing poker, sometimes you have a great hand but unless someone else has a royal flush you should be good and you could walk away knowing you have a great hand and it’s that kind of combination of different things coming together.

Sushi Girl is available now  on Region 1 Blu-ray and DVD
Sushi Girl is available now on Region 1 Blu-ray and DVD

It’s very much a chamber piece in that it’s characters locked inside a room together…

It was mostly in one location but we struck gold and got the right location and the amount of money we saved [in being able to do that] but we did it. It was a lot of hard work and it wasn’t easy and everyone took a cut in their salary and was hoping it would pay off and we generally liked and respected each other. It’s not often you walk away from a project and say I really really respect that person. 

Your voice is obviously a hugely recognisable part of your screen persona. When did you realise you could use it to your career advantage? 

Well I can’t help my height either I’m 6”5. My voice changed when I was in high school. I had this squeaky little kid voice and the next thing I sounded like a frog and they used to call me frog face! So I was totally uncoordinated and I couldn’t walk down the hall without tripping, I was incredibly shy with girls and couldn’t speak to them at all but over time it was the help of a teacher who gave me the script to Shakespeare’s The Tempest and I couldn’t put it down – I was like Wow! And I memorised these pages and one thing led to another and I slowly built up my confidence and well, I’m still shy but I’m confident and I love what I do.

In your career you appear to favour the horror/sci-fi genre. What’s the attraction there?

That’s just luck of the draw. And to be honest it’s just 40 per cent of work and not much more.

But that’s what you’re recognised for – in that genre niche…

But that’s cool and I’d rather be recognised for something than not for anything.

Tony Todd in the original Candyman
Tony Todd in the original Candyman

Obviously Candyman had a big impact in your career. What were those films like doing and is there talk or an idea for a fourth film and if so would you be interested in reprising your iconic role?

Bernard Rose the director [of the original 1992 Candyman] sent me a script and I read it and I knew reading it that it was something that was gonna jump from the page! I said yeah and he was right and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t mention it and that’s cool by me cause the movie’s obviously 20 years old now so it must have made an impact but at the same time I don’t want to be known only for that and I keep trying to {challenge} myself and discover new situations.

But it was an enjoyable experience for you wasn’t it?

Yeah I loved Candyman! He’s great and obviously people liked him. Did I think when we did it that it would have this longevity and impact? Not necessarily but it’s like one of 140 films I’ve been lucky enough to do.

Would you ever me interested in reprising your role?

You know if the script is right and if the director is right…I’m not gonna do it just to do it. If the script is right and really respects the character then sure we’ll do another one and then let’s start another 20 years without me (laughs heavily) but there is some discussions that have started so we’ll see.

Star Trek fans would also know you for playing Worf’s brother in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. What were those experiences like?

Well I really actively wanted to be a part of Star Trek’s world and I had an audition for him several times and they really liked me and it was all a matter of timing which was meticulous. And I remember leaving that audition and I was on the Paramount lot and just as I’m walking out the gate I hear the director call my name and he said ‘Tony! Tony! Tony!’ and I said ‘Yes?’ and he said ‘go to wardrobe!’ and it was a magical moment because Klingons are very powerful expanding characters and my first scene was on the Enterprise so how cool was that!

Tony Todd as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation 'Sins Of The Father'
Tony Todd as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation ‘Sins Of The Father’

You’re also known for your voice-over work in the likes of the Transformers movie series for example. Is this something you equally enjoy doing?

 I love it. It’s another isolated part and experience and I had two kids who are now in their early twenties and when they were little I tried and tried and tried to get on a Disney film and it didn’t work. Then when Transformers came around my daughter was starting college and persuaded me to do it… And that’s my life in a nutshell: I haven’t grown up yet!

Good to hear it!

Yeah thank you! And a lot of people are grown up by the time they’re 27 and I love what I do man and may be it’s because I grew up fishing on a lake so I had no expectation of what I was gonna catch. I was just happy being on the boat and sitting back with the sunshine and in water and if I catch a fish then wonderful and if I didn’t catch anything then I still had a great day!

What can you tell us about your forthcoming genre projects Dead of the Nite and Monster School which you’re also an executive producer on?  

Well Dead of the Nite was a movie I shot in Wales and it’s about a fairly normal group of people who go into a castle that nobody would want to spend more than five minutes in. I play the caretaker {Ruber} and I got to shoot that in Wales which is a beautiful ancient country and the castle we shot in was something like 400 yrs old.

With Monster School we’re finishing with the financing right now and it’s gonna have extreme conflict of class memories and the deal is not really finalised so I can’t give you more than that but it’s gonna be shot at some point this year and there’s a whole set up of educational services to motivate kids to read as well as having the graphic novel and the film and possibly an animated TV series.

And like Sushi Girl you’re executive producer on that too. How’s that feel?

It just means more responsibility and I just love this process and the more I can know and deal with each part of it a better person I’ll be. It doesn’t mean anything other than the title.

And the role you’re most proud of?

Probably Black Fox which is a western I did with Superman actor Christopher Reeve. It’s probably my personal favourite because my aunt came to visit me on set and she loved westerns but hated planes but some how I convinced her to get on the plane. For her sitting there watching me act was enough to last a life time.

Sushi Girl is available now on Region 1 DVD for £15.27 and Region A/1 Blu-ray for £16.86 from Amazon.co.uk.