Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Thing about Warriors is... Retro LadyLand meets Thomas G Waites

It was cold, bloody cold, I looked at the barometer, -60°F... Well that did it, there was no way I was going outside now, no matter how weird it was in here... 

We'd been here for the past 3 months, researching something, I didn't know what... Something to do with oil? It didn't really matter, it wasn't my business anyway, I was just the cook.

But for the past couple of days strange things had been happening, the dogs had started acting weirdly and as for our captain... He had, quite literally lost his head... literally! It came right off his shoulders! And then it grew legs and ran off!

It all started when they found that... that 'thing' in the ice...  Why the hell did they have to bring it back here?

So, here I find myself, alone, locked in the kitchen, with plenty of warmth, food and water to keep me safe until help came... And I wasn't going to let anyone in...ANYONE!  I didn't know who to trust!

Suddenly a loud 'BAM! BAM! BAM!' came from the door and a muffled cry for help. Taking a deep breath I made my way over and, arming myself with the largest knife I could, tentatively wiped away the condensation from the small, frosted up window and shouted back through... "Hello?"

The person on the other side smiled, relieved to hear another voice and asked to be let in, explaining that he'd run to the Snowcat hut when everything had started happening, but it had got too cold and he needed to come back in.

I told him I felt sorry for him, but how could I trust that he was... well... human?

I asked him to remove his goggles and show me his face, I know it was impossible to tell who was and who wasn't 'infected'... But maybe the eyes might give me a clue... 

And when he did, I was shocked, not just because they were very human, but because they obviously belonged to the actor Thomas G Waites!

Thomas G Waites, born on January 8th in Phildephia in 1955 is a film and stage actor. He is known for The Thing (1982), ... Justice for all (1979) and The Warriors, although famously got his credit removed after getting sacked from the production... Bad Boy!

"How do I know it's really you?" I shouted

"As me some questions! But be quick, it's freezing out here!!!" he replied urgently... 

Great idea...
So, how did it all start for you?

"I think it was sixteen or fifteen, I was laid up in a hospital bed from a car accident.  Playing professional football was now out of the question, so I started reading books and watching films, picturing myself in them.  That was when I said, I want to be an actor.  I went back after the accident to High School and did a few plays.  The first speaking role I walked out onstage and spoke and couldn't believe it.  I was actually being listened to, maybe for what felt like the first my then young life.

I graduated with plans to join the Navy to learn a trade, perhaps carpentry, it worked for Jesus, so... but no, I was halted by, my then, brother-in-law who assessed me from an objective point of view and said, 'Thomas, try community college', So I did and there I was interested in meeting hot girls, so I auditioned for plays, and started getting roles.  I found a lot out about who I was then.  I was a  terrible actor with a lot of drive and determination.  At that school a teacher recommended I audition for Juilliard.  I got in to my amazement and got a full scholarship.

There I studied with the best in the world.  The best teachers of Acting, Voice, Speech, Movement and all the creative aspects of Acting under the auspices of John Houseman.  The late great John Houseman.

I got kicked out if Juilliard or quit, depending on which memory serves me best, but needless to say I had to leave after three years.  Broke, destitute, dying to act I started my journey. I called everyone I knew, I begged, I pleaded, I finally got a few auditions and surprisingly got a positive response.  By 21 I had been offered two films and one Broadway play, the play, Dracula with Frank Langela, I quit as I was a bit of a problem child and then that same day got the lead in a film called, 'On The Yard', with the great actor, John Heard.  

It was while waiting for that film to be released that I got cast in the Warriors, after four auditions they finally looked at un-cut film of On The Yard and went with me.  Yes I got fired from that film also after disagreements with the director, Walter Hill.  It was way more violent than what we had discussed but instead of calling my agent to discuss it professionally,  I took matters into my own hands and the ending was unhappy."

Ahh... The Warriors... and absolute masterpiece... What was that like to film?
"It was hot as hell that summer and we had no air conditioning and we ran and ran and ran all night long, take after take in the sweltering summer night but I was and am in good physical condition which is  partly why I got the role."  

There are loads of great parodies of the film... Have you seen them? And I heard there was an appearance in the film... But that might just be a rumour...
"I haven't seen many parodies and I had no idea that Sam Jackson - who is one of my favourite actors - was in the film, I wished I had known what I know now...on many levels."

"The best gang costumes have to be The Furies." 

And what a classic movie... Actually you've been in lots of classics...
"We had no idea it would be a Cult classic, just as The Thing turned out to be as well.  I guess someone is up there looking out for me to be part of not one but two great Classic movies.

And ...Justice For All changed my life.  Totally. 

I couldn't believe after getting fired from The Warriors that I was lucky enough to get to act with Al. I have worked with him many times and we became quite close for a time. He is a great guy and what an actor!  A little scary if you don't know your stuff, he will blow you out of the water.  But I have held my own with him on many a matinee performance.  We also did American Buffalo together Off Broadway which was a huge hit and how I got the Thing as well."

John Carpenter came to see me in Buffalo and asked me to read for the role of the Radio Operator whom I subsequently named, "Windows".  John is a good director that listens to his actors.  When I came up with the idea of changing the name, he was like, " OK, let's do it"  I think it makes the whole movie different.  

There is a Windows and a Mac.  Hahaha."

He asked if that was enough and could he come in... but I had mixed emotions... On one hand I was still afraid that he might be infected, on the other I was just too afraid he might not tell me anymore if I did... So I carried on with my questions...

But back to Al...

"Al has a lot of peculiar mannerisms which are part of his inimitable charm, but one thing I really admire about him is that he is sober.  He has stated this publicly, so I am not telling tales out of school, but it helped me ultimately stop drinking and that has been a very significant part of my life..."

Have you heard about the Antarctic festival that shows 'The Thing' every year?
"Yes I know Outpost 31 and I am aware of the Festival but I have not been invited."


But what about the 'Thing' itself...?
"We didn't get to see the Creature that often. Once in a while but mostly it was done without the actors around. When we did it was mind blowing."

The filming was like every actors dream come true. Fun, lots of laughs, treated like Gold. Great stories. Bars. Jokes. Friendships and great fun. Even up in Hyder Alaska.

We had a ball mostly due to Kurt. He knew how to work hard and have fun too. John is also a trip. Such fun. That's the best way to describe it."

Now you obviously share your name with a music legend... 
"Yes I have had to deal with the TOM WAITS, TOM WAITES issue most of my adult life.  He is great, a genius in fact and I guess if you are going to have a name sake it may as well be someone as brilliantly talented as Tom.

He is also a very kind and loving person - at least he was to me.  He even played Bass Drum on one of my demo tapes, as I am a song writer also. (Go to Tune Corps)  I had a play published and the cheque and the play, were sent to Tom's wife... She read it and then sent the play, and my cheque with a note saying "I liked your play, Tom gets stopped in the Video store and people tell him how great he was in NYPD BLUE or LAW AND ORDER, rather than quibble, Tom just stands there and shakes his head"  Funny huh?  He never did either of those TV shows, that was me... And we look nothing alike."

The window was frosting up badly now and Tom was too... His coat was more ice than material and I could hardly understand him through the chattering of his teeth... He had proved himself and I had to let him in...

So, inhaling deeply I unlocked the door and pulling it open, I ushered for him in to get in quick. 

He looked frozen and a pang of guilt came over me... I apologised for my scepticism, but, fortunately he was very understanding and even agreed to answering a couple more questions... Once I put the kettle on that was!

You've also done a lot of stage work... But what do you prefer?
"I love film more than anything.  The stage is always home, but film is the area I wish to explore, now as a director.  I have directed one short film with Joe Mantengna and Frances Fisher, (Pandora's Box) it won Best Director at a Film Festival in Atlantic City several years back  and I am raising the money to do another one very soon."


I passed him a hot drink and knew what my last question had to be... So, I asked him... 

So, what do you think happened to the Thing?
"The Thing me...its waiting."

And the reason I knew it had to be my last? Well that was easy... It would be my last... and his too... 

And as my features started to contort and limbs elongate and bend in ways that no human beings could, I watched him scream with terror... He was right... The Thing does still live... and WAS waiting... But it was just waiting for him to come inside....

For more information on Thomas go to his IMDB page, his Wikipedia page and check out his acting studio.