Horror buffs have always known that Tony Todd is an icon of the genre, but the New York City Horror Film Festival made it official this year. Since 2002, the film festival has showcased the newest, bloodiest, and most thrilling additions to the genre, cultivating the best of what's being made today while paying homage to classic gore and horror. In its 16th year, the festival honored the Todd with their coveted Lifetime Achievement Award.
As the first African-American recipient of the award, Todd joins the ranks of fan favorites and legends, such as George Romero, Tom Savini, Wes Craven, and Robert Englund. A devotee of theatre and the spirit of living art, Todd's versatile and multi-faceted work spans genres and platforms, boasting notable roles in television such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, 24, Star Trek, and The X-Files, to name a few. Theatrical pieces like August Wilson's King Hedley II also stand out, as well as his work in Athol Fugard's The Captain's Tiger, for which he received the Helen Hayes nomination. Ultimately, his contributions to sci-fi and horror signify the bulk of his work, including roles in The Crow, the Final Destination series, Sushi Girl, as well as his breakout portrayal of Ben in Night of the Living Dead (1990).
Todd is arguably best known for his performance in Clive Barker's Candyman. Portraying the ghost of an ex-slave who was hell-bent on reclaiming the lost love of his life, the ever-chilling titular character haunts — and to an extent, protects — the Cabrini-Green housing projects in the south side of Chicago.
To the delight of fans everywhere, Candyman has recently been slated for a reimagining, with a projected release in June 2020. Directed by rising filmmaker Nia DaCosta and produced and written by Win Rosenfeld and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Jordan Peele, it has already been deemed the "spiritual sequel" to the original. The highly-anticipated thriller will reportedly return to the neighborhood where the legend began: the now-gentrified section of Chicago where the Cabrini-Green projects once stood.
SYFY WIRE was able to snag the ever-charismatic actor and producer for a brief chat about his thoughts on a reboot, the importance of representation of marginalized peoples in media, and the type of film he's always wanted to make.
How does it feel knowing that Candyman, a role that you made famous in 1992, is now going to be remade in the near future?
I have mixed feelings because I thought they were gonna make this 15 years ago. If this had been 10 years ago when I had heard news, I would have been devastated. I would have fought for it. Now I'm in a different place. I've got so many other options that even if they make it without me, which I doubt, the attention the new movie will create will lead folks back to the original [film] because people like to see the source material.
How relevant is the Candyman story today?
Particularly today, now more than ever. In 2018, I think there are a few neighborhoods that could use some Candyman justice, you know what I'm saying? I'm just happy that as an African-American man, that Candyman has once again been given the nod to enter people's consciousness.
Was there anything that was left on the cutting room floor in the original film that you hope get to be explored it into the updated version?
I hope that they don't dance around the [interracial] relationship between Candyman and the love of his life, the reason for his death and that they are actually allowed to kiss. [Back then] it was rare that African-American male film stars got to kiss any of the white leading ladies they worked with. I'm just speaking my mind here.
When you were growing up what shows or movies influenced you?
When I was growing up — you know, this was before cable — they had the 8PM movie and they had the 11PM movie. Because there was less airtime, they only showed the good movies. They didn't show crap, okay? So I grew up watching film noir, you know the classic stuff. William Holden, Richard Widmark, Robert Mitchum, all those.
Do you have a favorite director or film from that genre?
I just watched The Killing again for the 20th time. Stanley Kubrick with Sterling Hayden. Every shot is one perfect shot, because the filmmakers had unlimited time to get the story together so there's no wasted ambiance or dancing around the subject matter. Every shot leads to the next shot, and that's the kind of films I want to make.
Is there a genre of film that you'd like to explore that you haven't had access to so far in your career?
I wish I could do a black and white film. [Black people] look good in black and white — our skin tone is perfect for it. Everything about it is wonderful. Especially now that there are new lenses and lighting techniques out there that have been developed for us. And there are finally a couple of makeup lines that finally are for us, so we don't look have to look like we have pancake on our face. We are naturally beautiful. People need to understand that.