Busted: Anthony Michael Hall
A conversation on faith and his career -- from the Brat Pack movies to The Dead Zone
Busted Halo: I bumped into you on the streets of New York right near the church where I currently work and, as a matter of fact, where you used to attend when you were growing up.
Anthony Michael Hall: That’s right, St. Malachy’s. My mother actually took me to the church when I was a kid. My mother just reminded me before I came up here that it was when she was pregnant with my sister.
BH: Well they call it the Actor’s Chapel; it does service the entertainment community, mostly the Broadway folks.
AMH: And there’s a lot of actors in need of prayers. And I’m one of them.
BH: Has that been a significant part of your life and career?
AMH: Yeah it has, I come from an Italian-Irish Catholic family. My mother was from a big family and I was born in Boston and raised here in New York. And I was raised Catholic. There were actually priests and nuns in my family. A very staunch Catholic family which I’m very proud of, so I was very happy to be asked by you to talk today.
BH: People imagine that growing up, particularly as a “child star” — and you started pretty young — that usually they end up on reality shows, etc. But for you it seems like your career has continued to ascend. What has been the anchor? What has been the rock?
AMH: I think the rock has obviously been the faith and what was instilled in me as a kid, and having the foundation of a good family. My mother had a great deal to do with it — making sure my butt was in church every week. And I think that is the foundation. I also think the East coast upbringing had a lot to do with it.
BH: Of course. Many people that were in big movies as teenagers stop working soon after but you have not stopped. The Dark Knight, that movie made a couple of bucks…
AMH: Yeah, apparently it’s doing well. I think that and the internet are actually going to work — I think they might take off. Yeah. I was proud to be in that film. I had a small role in it and it was actually a very humbling experience to be on that set. I had never been in such a big film, you know; it had like a $200 million budget. But as a kid I loved the old Batman series. I wasn’t really into video games but Batman was something I was always really fond of so I was really proud to be involved, it was a great experience. As an actor you’re sort of a traveling salesman in a way. We were very fortunate on that project; we got to shoot in London and also Chicago, so it was like a free vacation.
BH: Chicago is kind of the Gotham City, isn’t it?
AMH: Correct. Apparently the director, who is British, a guy named Chris Nolan, as a child lived in Chicago. So it was part of his planning that he thought it would be a great match to make it Gotham. It’s a great city and I hadn’t been there since the 80s when I did those movies.
BH: Oh yes, because all of those John Hughes movies were set in Chicago. It was a Chicago high school that you were in for The Breakfast Club?
AMH: Yeah and I didn’t remember the city so it was a nice new experience to live in the city and shoot there.
BH: Now for The Dead Zone, you weren’t just in front of the camera, there was a little behind the camera. At some point in your career did you decide you wanted to have something of a stake in this, in what happened behind the camera?
AMH: Absolutely, and it was sort of an earned position because the show took off, and it was a real blessing to have it find an audience. Any artist can attest to that you want to sort of find the audience, and that’s where the value comes, knowing that you’re feeding people. My take on being an actor over the years is that you’re a storyteller in a way. I’ve always been less impressed with celebrities and all the mechanisms of Hollywood. I think it’s important to do your job and have fun with it. I look at it as a sports fan — like, season by season — and you take the lumps and keep moving. You don’t get too ahead of yourself. But yeah, it was a great experience.
BH: The Dead Zone movie starred Christopher Walken. What’s it like embodying a character like Christopher Walken? Who can do Christopher Walken?
AMH: Yeah, that’s the whole thing: nobody. He’s so iconic, as we all know. It’s like somebody doing a Nicholson impression. It’s always followed by a De Niro or a Walken. And that was never the intent. I was honored by the opportunity to do this, by this guy named Michael Piller, who is no longer with us. He’s upstairs; a great guy. He created some of the Star Trek series, and created the show. He had seen me play Gates in this film I did around ten years ago. That was one of the first things I didn’t want to do — was to not do Walken in any way. I just took the pea coat and the cane and then, three seasons later, I was trying to figure out how to get rid of the cane. I was trying to figure out new ways to hold the cane in every episode.
BH: I think Hugh Laurie on House is now thinking of that.
AMH: Yeah, he nicked that, and if I’m not mistaken there’s about seven psychic shows. I must have done something right. You tell me, Father.
BH: In your experience, growing up Catholic and yet growing up in the industry — a lot of people today will call into the show and say, “What if I can’t get to church every single Sunday?” You must have lived the life of a vagabond — you’re talking about being a traveling salesman, and they didn’t have the website back then that they have now, masstimes.org, where you can find a Catholic Mass wherever you go.
AMH: Good to know, my mother will be glad to know.
BH: Well I would imagine — you said she brought you to church every Sunday, wherever you were and said, “Let’s find the Church?”
AMH: Oh absolutely, and it’s also engrained. It becomes second nature — you want to just pursue that. One of my mother’s lines was, “God gave you everything. You can give him an hour a week.” Oh God, that’s enough guilt for me. I’ll find the church, thanks ma.
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