Henry Thomas on Adding Stephen King’s Pet Sematary to His Lengthy Horror Resume

Chủ nhật - 19/05/2024 22:12
E.T.'s Henry Thomas talks Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, his Mike Flanagan projects, and how funny it is to become a horror star who isn't into horror.
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Though Henry Thomas forever cemented his place in cinema history with his fantastic performance in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, when he was just 10 years old, he’s gone on to have a very busy career since. And notably, though he’s worked in plenty of other genres as well, he’s ended up in quite a few horror films and TV series, which has only increased in recent years thanks to his ongoing collaborations with Mike Flanagan.

But Flanagan is not the only one crafting spooky tales for Thomas to appear in. Recently, the actor had a role in the Paramount+ original movie Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, a prequel story about a younger version of the original Pet Sematary’s Jud Crandall (here played by Jackson White), exploring how he first discovered the dark secret of his home town, Ludlow, Maine. Thomas plays Jud’s father, Dan Crandall, who has attempted to shelter his son from the truth, only for things to go horribly awry.

With Pet Sematary: Bloodlines now arriving on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, following its recent Digital debut, I spoke to Thomas about working on the film, playing in Stephen King’s world several times in his career, his ongoing work with Mike Flanagan, and just how unlikely but amusing it is that an admitted non-fan of horror movies would end up in so many notable horror movies and series – including playing a couple of incredibly famous and iconic characters along the way.


Henry Thomas as Dan Crandall in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is set in 1969, meaning there is period piece costuming and props at work, including a rather distinct hat Thomas wears at points. Regarding the dress up side of acting, Thomas remarked, “I enjoy that aspect of it. I’m a history fan myself. I like to study history and read a lot about history and I know a lot about history of fashion through film work and so it’s fun for me.”

Of course, horror films often also result in scenes involving prosthetic makeup, which is the case in Bloodlines, which also means the long process of applying that makeup. Said Thomas, with a chuckle, “It’s definitely not an enviable thing most of the time. But at the same time, I’ve worked with some really great people who are amazing artists and having a chance to talk with them for a couple of hours while you’re in the chair is a great thing… usually!”

Bloodlines boasts an impressive cast, including Thomas, David Duchovny and Pam Grier as fellow Ludlow locals who have all been guarding secrets about what occurs in that old cemetery. Asked if having so many people with such rich careers around naturally leads to stories being shared about other projects they’ve worked on, Thomas replied, “A little bit, yeah. If enough time passes, if you’re waiting around long enough in a tent with another actor, you will get some stories, because actors love to talk about themselves. I’m guilty of it as well. I’ll start opening my mouth as soon as I’ve got 10 minutes of free time. ‘And we had great food on Gangs of New York!’


Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is actually the fifth project Henry Thomas has done based on the work of Stephen King, with the actor previously appearing in the 2006 television movie Desperation, the 2006 anthology series Nightmares & Dreamscapes (in an episode adapting King’s short story “The End of the Whole Mess”), the 2017 Netflix movie Gerald’s Game, and the 2019 feature film Doctor Sleep.

King is easily one of the most prolific and successful writers in history, with a massive amount of hit books that have in turn been adapted for the screen, many themselves becoming enormously popular. Asked what the secret to King’s success is, Thomas replied, “I think one thing he does that the horror genre doesn’t always really excel at very well is he has more nuanced characters than then you normally encounter. I think that resonates with people.”

Thomas added that King is now so seeped into pop culture that you have some familiarity with his work even if you don’t know it incredibly well, or even firsthand, remarking, “It’s just interesting, because there’s such a proliferation of material that maybe you haven’t read a Stephen King short story or book but you’ve seen a film adaptation, or one of your friends or colleagues have told you a story that’s based on a Stephen King story or whatever. Even if you’ve never seen anything Stephen King, you know it’s going to be scary, it’s going to be this, it’s going to be that. He’s created his own world and there are voracious fans.”


Pam Grier as Majorie Washburn and Henry Thomas as Dan Crandall in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Thomas had already appeared in several horror projects before he first collaborated with Mike Flanagan in 2016’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, but that began an ongoing partnership that has now rapidly put him in several more horror titles within the past decade. This list includes the acclaimed miniseries The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Bly Manor and Midnight Mass, plus King adaptations Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, with Flanagan an admitted King super fan.

Asked about the many horror projects he’s done and if it was something he expected or sought out, Thomas replied, “It’s kind of surprising! I feel a little guilty because horror fans are diehard fans, as you know. When people approach me and they’re diehard Stephen King fans, I’m not really knowledgeable about all of Stephen King’s various stories.”

He added, with a laugh, “Because I’m associated with it through film adaptations that they’ve seen, I feel beholden to them to kind of assume the role of some authority figure or something. But really, I’m not. I’m not that much of a horror fan, I don’t gravitate towards it. But my kids, they want to watch scary things. So, it’s really kind of funny and I have to laugh at myself a little bit for becoming a horror guy.”


Henry Thomas as Frederick Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher

October found Thomas with two different horror projects debuting less than a week apart, with Bloodlines on Paramount+ quickly followed by Netflix’s release of The Fall of the House of Usher, Thomas’s latest collaboration with Mike Flanagan.

In that miniseries, Thomas played Frederick Usher, one of the half dozen wealthy children of Bruce Greenwood’s Roderick Usher, all of whom meet grisly deaths, one by one. All these characters are corrupt in one way or the other, but Frederick is ultimately revealed to be arguably the most odious, as we discover the awful manner in which he is drugging his horribly burned wife, Morelle (Crystal Balint) – and removing her teeth! – over a perceived infidelity. Appropriately, he then gets a particularly protracted and nasty death thanks to Verna (Thomas’ frequent Flanagan project co-star, Carla Gugino).

Looking back on that character and the silliness he initially exudes, Thomas said, “He was just so ridiculous that it was a blast. It was so much fun to play. On the page, he wasn’t quite written like that. I mean, I didn’t change the lines, but the way I spoke, the sort of inept presence, this inept attitude… He’s just a dud, you know? Nothing could go right with this guy. But seemingly, he had led this charmed life where he’d gotten everything that he ever wanted. It’s just so ridiculous that you can’t help but lampoon it.”

Frederick is easy to laugh at until you then feel hate towards him when his treatment of Morelle is fully revealed and Thomas explained, “I really wanted him to kind of come out of nowhere, in terms of his turn. So that was a lot of fun to play.”


Henry Thomas as Norman Bates and Olivia Hussey as Norma Bates in 1990's Psycho IV: The Beginning

Amusingly, for a guy who didn’t grow up into horror, Thomas has not only been in a ton of horror projects, he’s actually played two hugely iconic horror characters – and not just brand new versions of them in a reboot, but continuations or extensions of versions that are themselves famous performances.

First, in 1990’s Psycho IV: The Beginning, Thomas played a young Norman Bates, in a film that saw him working alongside the legendary Anthony Perkins, who directed the film and reprised his role as the adult Norman. Decades later, in Doctor Sleep, Thomas took on the role of Jack Torrance, with the sequel to The Shining finding a now-adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) briefly encountering a ghostly version of his father at the Overlook Hotel, with Thomas in clothing and hair styled to mimic Jack Nicholson’s appearance in Stanley Kubrick’s classic Shining adaptation.

Henry Thomas as Jack Torrance in 2019's Doctor Sleep

Looking back on what it’s like to step into the shoes of these horror icons, Thomas explained, “You have to be respectful of the character, because the character has a lot of fans who are expecting [them] to be presented in a certain way. And it will be very easy for you to disappoint them, because you aren’t the originator of that character.”

In terms of the performances that came before him and honoring them without copying them, Thomas said, “You have to respect the [earlier] artist and not flagrantly rip them off and do an impression of them. Because that’s not a performance, that’s an impression, and we’re not impressionists. You have a responsibility to do something new with it but that is in the spirit of the original performance. You have to be respectful and not try to turn it on its head and make it about you. It has to be about the character. If you can do that, then people will respond to it.”


Violet McGraw as Nell Crain and Henry Thomas as Hugh Crain in 2018's The Haunting of Hill House

As mentioned above, Thomas has become one of the core members of the ever-expanding group of actors Mike Flanagan continually uses in his films and TV series, with Thomas having appeared in eight Flanagan projects so far.

Asked what it’s been like to have that continuing partnership, intermixed with witnessing first hand Flanagan’s rising success, Thomas sad, “It’s been great. It’s been wonderful to see Mike’s star rise. He’s gotten great deals and he’s able to get so many projects going and it’s amazing.”

Thomas admitted, “When I met Mike, I just thought he was kind of giving me some Hollywood lip service about ‘Yeah, I’m gonna cast you in everything.’ And then he turned around and did it! So, for me, it’s been a great opportunity to play some characters that most people wouldn’t think of me first in terms of casting for. I got to do an English accent in Bly [Manor]. I wouldn’t have gotten that part had someone else had a say in it. It’s been characters that have been very distinct and very different from each other that I’ve gotten to play. And it’s been a fun exercise and it’s been a fun collaboration.”

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is now on Digital and available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on December 19.

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