Interview with Tom Noonan

Tom Noonan is known for his role in “Manhunter” as The Tooth Fairy and Frankenstein in “The Monster Squad”. Besides acting Tom also is a writer, producer and director. He even does writes plays and owns a theatre in New York City. MovieMikes had the chance to talk to Tom to discuss his career.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you prepare for such an intense role of “The Tooth Fairy” in Manhunter?
Tom Noonan: I really do not prepare much when I act. I actually never read the book either. I knew very little about it besides the key elements. When I act, I just try to be present and I try and bring as much as I can to the table. Michael Mann did a lot to create a lot of tension on the set. He made it very easy for everyone on the set to be scared of me. Which was fun. He had me flying on different airlines. I never saw anyone else from the cast or crew. I only spoke to the makeup department and the assistant director. I never met any of the other actors prior to filming. I also did a lot of bodybuilding to get ready for the role. I really didn’t think what the story was about, I just tried to make sense of who I am and how I was feeling in each scene.

Mike Gencarelli: You play “Frankenstein” in “The Monster Squad, how do you feel about the popularity and how this film has latest over the years?
Tom Noonan: What happened with that movie was it was amiss of me doing a lot of work through a very intense period of my life. I had a great time doing it. When it came out I never saw it. About two years ago they released it on DVD and they invited me to some convention to watch it. I was asked there “When did I realize that this movie has a cult following?” and I said “about 15 minutes ago.” I still have only seen parts of it. I remember liking the part in the movie because they let me play it that way I wanted. The whole experience was rather pleasant and sweet. If you watch the interview on the DVD, it is one of my favorite things I have ever done. It depicted sort of who I am because I never get to talk much.

Mike Gencarelli: Besides playing the villain, you also write and direct, can you tell me about that?
Tom Noonan: Well, I started acting in 1978 or so. I’ve been a musician then for six or seven years. I used to practice a lot. With acting you sort of learn by doing it. When I am not acting, I wanted to figure out a way to understand the business better. So I started writing. I would look through the trades and find play auditions. One of the auditions, they asked you to bring 90 seconds from a play. So instead of reading a bunch of plays, I would instead just write a 90 second play. That is how I started writing. I love doing it. I wrote screenplays all through the 80’s. Toward the end of the 80’s I went into a new agency and gave them a script I was working on. They gave it to (Bernardo) Bertolucci and he wanted to make it into a movie. After that, I started writing a lot and I sold a bunch of scripts. In the early 90’s, I got sick of acting for hire and went back to plays. I have a theatre in New York that I founded in 1983 or 1984. I took time off and wrote this play called “What Happened Was”, which is a two character play. I sort of wrote in the style of a movie and it was directed in a very low-key and naturalistic way. We then went and shot it as a movie. I cut it together and it went to Sundance and won Best Movie and Best Screenplay. That started my official career as a director.

MG: You wrote, directed and acted in the TV show “Monsters”, most notably in the episode “The Moving Finger”, how was it working on that show?
TN: It started when I was cast in the third or fourth episode they ever did of “Tales from the Darkside”. I have also written some music for them. I ended up getting to known the guys at Laurel Entertainment. I started writing for them after that. Then a guy named Ken Fink called me up and said he got this script called “The Moving Finger”. It was based on a Stephen King story. I felt it was a little silly when we were filming it, but I had fun.

MG: Tell me about working on the the TV series “Damages”, how is it working with Glenn Close and the rest of the cast?
TN: The guys who write it, Glenn and Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman, they are really great people and wonderful writers. They only tend to work with people that they really dig. Everything in the show is geared toward what you bring to it. The sort of wrote the part for me. Beyond that they were excited to see what I would do with it, they didn’t have a big picture planned. That is way that I really like to work. I like discovering what the role is about as you do it. Even when I really only have a two line scene it really feels great. It is rare that a TV show is produced and written by the same group of people. “The X-Files” is also like that. It makes the show really great to do because there is not a lot of “Oh the studio said this” or “The network thinks this”. That show is great though and I am hoping I get to work with those guys more. I haven’t seen the show either though, only one episode I think [laughs].

MG: You’ve starred in “The Roost” and “The House of the Devil” both directed by Ti West, how did you get involved with those project?
TN: I met a friend of mine Larry Fessenden during Sundance when “What Happened Was” was there. He produced “The Roost”. They were trying to find out who was going to play the horror host. Larry called me up and said “Would you be interested in this, it is like two hours work?” So I went down to Jersey shore to an old amusement park and it was shot on high 8 film. I got to know Ti a little bit through that and then the movie sold. I got paid pretty well. When they did “The House of the Devil”, they made the role to fit me really well. They called and asked if I would want to do another movie with Ti and I said “Sure”. I like working with him. He really knows what he is doing and very simple and down to earth.

MG: “The House of the Devil” was critically acclaimed due to to gritty 80’s feel to it and is already a cult classic, how do you feel about that?
TN: I actually went to see that one and I was actually pretty scared. It is rare that you are in something when you say it was really good all the way through. There are so many movies that they are doing remakes or planning remakes and it doesn’t seem so great. They’ve done “Manhunter” over and they are talking about doing “The Monster Squad” over. It is nice that it is an original good movie and people seem to like it.

MG: What do you have planned for the future? Any exciting projects?
TN: I wrote a couple of scary things that Larry Fessenden is trying to get off the ground. The three or four movies I’ve done I have done, I have all paid for them myself and raised the money directly. I don’t have the experience of waiting for someone to agree to something. So I feel that it will probably not happen and if it does it is cool. I have my theatre which I still write for. It is located on East 4th street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, it called the Paradise Factory. I also hope that “Damages” gets pick up again.

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