We interview David Thornton, the man behind one of the most terrifying and memorable killer clowns in modern horror, Terrifier’s Art the Clown.
We first met the now iconic character Art the Clown in the movie All Hallows’ Eve. And while he was played by a different actor in that film, the director of the film, Damien Leone, went on to make a new movie called Terrifier that features Art the Clown terrorizing the streets on Halloween night, or specifically, Pizza Parlors.
This time actor David Thornton takes on the role of the crazed clown, and even though he had big shoes to fill, he somehow ended up giving us an even better performance then the original — leaving many to compare him to Pennywise from the remake of IT.
I had the immense pleasure of interviewing the man behind the terrifying clown make up, and I have to say it was so nice speaking with someone who appreciates The Joker as much as I do (who even voiced the character in “Nightwing: Escalation”). While Joker isn’t a character that appears in any horror movies, he is quite frightening in the DC Universe, and David explained to me how he uses a certain portrayal of the character as inspiration.
He is also probably the kindest person I’ve ever spoken with, which is surprising coming from the man who played such a violent psychopathic clown.
In this interview, I wanted to know what David did to prepare for such a sinister role and how he became so attracted to horror despite not being introduced to the genre until later in his life. So, sit back and relax, and get ready to enjoy this interview that is almost as good as, if not better, then pizza and horror itself.
1. My first question is the same for everyone I interview, what’s your favorite scary movie?
Showgirls. LOL! Just kidding. I don’t have an absolute favorite, but my top 5, after Terrifier, are: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Omen, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Exorcist, and Scream 2 since that was my gateway into the slasher genre.
2. I recently read an interview where you said that horror movies weren’t really allowed in your home due to your mother being so afraid of them. Why do you think you became so attracted to them after experiencing them at such a later age instead of being fearful of them like your mother? What do you think she would have thought of her son playing such a violent and gory character?
I think I latched on to them for two reasons. First, I love scaring people as a prank. And I also enjoy a good adrenaline rush, which these films provide. Sometimes I just like to turn off my brain and enjoy a simple cat and mouse game. As for my mom, sadly, she passed away 16 years ago from cancer. However, if she were still alive, she would have probably told me. “I love you and am proud of you, but I can’t watch this!” LOL!
3. Art has developed quite the cult following within the horror community, and some have even said that they much preferred watching you as Art the Clown then watching Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise in the 2017 IT remake. How does that make you feel hearing praises like that, and what were your thoughts on the remake?
I’m honored and humbled by that praise. I, personally, loved what Bill has done with the character, especially since he, like me, had big shoes to fill by having to play a character that someone else had played magnificently before. The two characters are polar-opposites though. But hey, I will take whatever praise I can get and appreciate it!
4. How did you mentally prepare yourself for such a dark role? Were there any Serial Killers or movie performances that helped you develop the character?
Oddly enough, I based Art more off of the mischievous silent clown type characters from classic films like Chaplin, Keaton, Marx, Atkinson, etc. I then added the savage maliciousness of characters like The Joker and Freddy Krueger — and a bit of Gein to him to round him out.
5. Was Art written with the intentions of coming off as humorous in some scenes, like the Pizza shop scene, or is that something you did naturally with the character?
Yes indeed! He is a clown after all. That bit of playfulness is his way of luring his victims in and getting them to drop their guard some. A lot of the humor that you see in the film was added while filming since Damien would allow me to play around a lot with the character. I think that bit of humor about him adds an extra layer to the character that makes him enjoyable to watch. Art truly enjoys what he does, so why shouldn’t the audience as well?
6. If you could play Art the Clown again, and have him go up against any other horror character, kind of like Freddy Vs Jason, who would you pick and why? Would Art win?
Hmmm… Well, Freddy and Pennywise are obvious choices for most, but I would love to see him go up against someone like Jigsaw. Since Art can be pretty crafty, I’d love to see him be a foil to Jigsaw and his traps. He’d definitely win too. Ash would be fun to go up against for him too. That would just be bat shit insane. I honestly don’t know who would win there.
7. I’m a huge fan of profiling, and I like to think I have this inner Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. But I would like to know what you think Art’s backstory is. Where did he come from, and what does the Clown suit and makeup mean to him?
Wouldn’t we all? All in good time. A bit of mystery makes the character more fun.
8. On your IMDB page you are credited for being an Orderly on Gotham and for being The Joker in Nightwing: Escalation. Are you a fan of Batman? Who is your all-time favorite portrayal of The Joker?
Oh very much so! VERY much so! Joker is my favorite villain of all time ever in the history of everything. My dream is to at least play him on a well written tv series, if not on the big screen! As for my all-time favorite portrayal… Mark Hamill, no contest. I’ve loved the other versions (besides Leto’s), but Mark’s has come the closest to how he actually is in the comics. He’s who I base my version off of the most.
9. What made you decide to pursue a career in horror? And, if they were going to remake a horror movie, what character would you most like to take on — and what horror movie do you think should never ever be touched and remade?
I kind of just fell into it. I’ve always done comedy and never imagined I would be a horror villain one day. Art is such a fun and challenging character to play, so I could not pass on playing him at all. Other than Joker, I’d love to take a crack at Freddy, though I also think that that is hallowed grounds, and don’t think anyone can outdo what Robert brought to the role. As for what shouldn’t be remade, I’d say most of them shouldn’t be. It’s a rare thing to surpass the original with a remake. Instead, I want to see others find inspiration from the classics and create new characters that are just as interesting.
10. For my last question, I always like to wrap up the interview with a Quote or Lyric that might mean something to you that you want to share with our readers.
It’s from the last conversation I had with my mom before she passed away. It was the best advice she ever gave me and set me on the path that I am on today. “Don’t do what you think you have to do with your life, do what you want to do with your life. Life is too short not to. Live the life you want and enjoy it!” Love you mom!
Thank you so much David for giving me the chance to interview you and for creeping us all out as Art the Clown. Thank you as well for sharing such a personal quote with us. I’m sure a lot of our readers can relate to losing a loved one, and I’m absolutely positive she would have been proud of you. But I don’t think there would have been any way we could have made her watch Terrifier, haha.
You can watch David as Art the Clown in the movie Terrifier now streaming on Netflix.