Interview with Thom Mathews (Friday the 13th & Return of the Living Dead) – Dennis Villelmi

 Dennis Villelmi: Welcome to The Bees Are Dead, Thom!  I can’t begin to tell you how excited we are to talk with you this Friday the 13th.  In the spirit of the occasion, I’d like to first ask if there are any  interesting superstitions that you adhere to?

Thom Mathews: I’m not very superstitious, BUT I do find myself not placing my hat on the bed.

DV: You’ve been acting for roughly forty years now, and still keeping busy.  Currently, you’re again reprising the role of Tommy Jarvis in  “Never Hike in the Snow,” a sequel to the 2017 fan film “Never Hike Alone.”  Tell us how the films pay homage to the original Friday the 13th franchise and how their creator, Vincente DiSanti got you involved in these projects?

TM: Absolutely the Never Hike Alone films do pay homage to Friday the 13th VI Jason Lives. Only its 35 years later and we are bypassing all the other Fridays from 7 onward (nothing personal Kane!) I got involved by a weird coincidence. I have a writer friend of some 35 yrs who had a friend who’s business partner was a huge horror fan. When the business partner found out my writer friend knew me he was dyeing to meet me. So my writer friend pleaded with me to meet his friends business partner. Of course being close friends I agree to meet this guy. We set up a dinner. My wife Karla, My writer friend Michael, his friend Lisa and her business partner, none other than Barry Jay and his partner. Barry Jay was an executive producer on Never Hike Alone. During the course of our dinner Barry brought up NHA. He asked me if I would like to be a part of it and informed me half of it was in the can. Being polite I said I’d be willing to read the script and take a look at what they had already shot. I had no intention of being in a fan film! Really a fan film!!! Barry sent over the film clips. I read the script. What they shot was amazing! It looked like any feature film I’d ever been on. The quality, the direction, the cinematography – beautiful! The script was fantastic! I said I like to see what they had in mind. We set up a meeting with the writer director of Womp Stomp Films, Vincente DiSanti. He and I tossed around a couple of ideas and the rest is history.

Barry Jay went on to write, direct and cast me in his horror film, festival favorite “Killer Therapy”. Follow it on twitter for updates!

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DV: You also have a couple of Westerns in the works: “Warpath” and ” The Badge, the Gun and the Hangman ‘s Noose. ” Very fetching titles!  Are you a longtime fan of the Western genre?

TM: Oh sure! I’ve always watched Westerns. I loved John Wayne and Clint Eastwood’s westerns to name a few. We’ve completed “WARPATH” and are set to shoot “THE BADGE, THE GUN AND THE HANGMAN’S NOOSE” at the end of the year.

fullsizeoutput_20afDV:When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor?

TM: I realized I wanted to be an actor a few years after high school. I was floundering in life. Not really having a direction of what I wanted to do. I always did carpentry work because my grandfather work at the studios as a carpenter and my father was in construction. BUT when I was 19-20 years old my girlfriend at the time turned to me and said “why don’t you become and actor?” BAM that was it! It was the weirdest thing. She said it and that’s all it took. I started studying acting for 3 years, got a commercial agent then a theatrical agent.I didn’t call myself an actor until I was making some money doing it. I’ve always kept doing the carpentry in between acting jobs because we actor need to have a routine dong something or we’d go insane and that was mine.

DV: Whether it was “Return of the Living Dead,” or a rather poignant role, such as you had in “In the Living Years” ( 1994), has there been a certain method by which you handle a performance?

TM: I kinda always treat each role the same. I’m a slow study that’s why I’m terrible and loathe auditions. It’s a wonder I ever got an acting job. The auditions I thought I did great at I didn’t get and most of the ones I felt didn’t do well at I’d get! I couldn’t figure it out! I’ve always made every role personal in some way to hook me in.


DV: What’s the greatest satisfaction you get from acting?

TM: Good question. Getting lost in the scene. When you’re totally committed to a well written scene. Literally nothing else exists. You get lost in the scene or the performance. As an actor I can look at a film and pick what scene was the audition scene of the movie. Film making can be very tedious most of the time. Moving the story forward by picking up keys or running down the street or a million other things that move the story along but when you get a scene with great dialogue and are able to only react to the other actor and nothing else exists that’s heaven for me.


DV: In your time in the industry you’ve worked for some prominent filmmakers; e.g., the late Dan O’Bannon, John Nicolella, and even Gene Wilder (“The Woman in Red” 1984).  Yet, the one name you’re repeatedly associated with is that of Albert Pyun, of “Cyborg” and The Sword and the Sorcerer ” fame; nearly a dozen titles.  Why so many, and what did you learn from him as a film creator?

TM: He kept hiring me! We had a great working relationship. It was very creative. He’d give me a role and I’d come up with a character. It was a lot of fun. I was just interviewed in a documentary they’re doing about his life. I learned a lot from Albert. He was always filming. We’d shoot a full length movie in three days! I was wild. He had his stable of actors he would rely on in most of his films. I would never leave the set and watch him film. I hardly sent anytime in my trailer when I work on his movies. I wish him the best.

DV: In 1986, you landed the role of the traumatized adult Tommy Jarvis after John Shepherd from “A New Beginning” backed out.  How did you get the part, and was there anyone else of note who read for it?

TM: I got the part by auditioning for the role. I always thought in the back of my mind if being in Return of the Living Dead the year before had anything to do with me landing the role as Tommy Jarvis. I recently asked the director of Friday 13th VI, Tom McLoughlin that question. He said it had nothing to do with it. I remember going to Paramount Pictures on Melrose Ave in Hollywood California for the final callback. I was up against 2 other actors. Actors I would see at other auditions around town. I got lucky and landed the role. Then we were off to Covington Georgia to film! 5178lwG6lvL._AC_

DV: It’s interesting that Tom McLoughlin hadn’t seen you in “Return of the Living Dead” beforehand.  Of the three endings he shot for “Jason Lives,” were you satisfied with the one chosen, or would you have preferred a different climax; perhaps an ending that would have taken the franchise down a whole different path afterwards?

TM: I liked the ending! I thought it was fitting for the movie. Don’t blame the path afterwards on the ending of Part VI. Nobody was steering the ship!


DV: Despite the many film and TV credits to your name, is there still that one role nearest to heart you have yet to play?

TM: I will say I was very disappointed not to have landed the role in Platoon. I meet Oliver Stone right after coming off of ROTLD. John Daly set up the interview so I met him at Lionsgate while he was editing “Salvador”.  We had a great meeting but he went a different way. There have be a few of those threw out my career.

DV: You’re still in the construction business, too, aren’t you?

TM: Yes I am. I’ve been very lucky on that as well. Most of my clients are in show biz in one way or another. Very creative projects one of a kind custom work.

DV: Alright now!  In keeping with the apocalyptic theme of B.A.D., I have to ask you this most important question. (laughs) The Doomsday Clock has finally struck midnight, and wouldn’t ya know it, the end bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain story-line straight outta Louisville.   Frankly, I have an image of you, your lovely wife Karla, a particular pal of yours from those fledgling days…Mr. George Clooney, and Amala putting an apocalyptic contingency plan into effect.  What would that be?  Incidentally, you two Dapper Dans remain in touch, as I understand.TM: Haha, yeah we’ve talked about it. Lake Como here we come! Yes we are still friends. We met in acting class a loooong time ago.


DV: Thom, it’s been a real pleasure chatting with you this Friday the 13th.  Thanks for stopping by the hive, and hopefully we can have you as a guest again.  We’re always in the mood for “Brains!”

TM: A big shout out to all the horror fans! Horror fans are the best fans in the world. I mean all over the world! The most dedicated, supportive fans out there. It’s uncanny!IMG_1863
See you all soon!
I can smell your BRAINS!!!

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