David H. Thornton aka Art the Clown talks ‘Terrifier’


One of the most memorable new horror villains of recent times was the twisted Art the Clown from the film All Hallows Eve.

The character didn’t return for its sequel, but has now spawned his own film ‘Terrifier’, with original Director Damien Leone bringing the hideous clown back to life.

This time under the clown make up is actor David H. Thornton, and we got an exclusive chance to chat to him about taking on the killer clown.

 Tell us about your audition for Terrifier?

The audition was probably one of the most interesting and fun ones I have ever been to. I had seen a notice for the part on an audition site calling for skinny men with clowning/physical comedy experience to audition for the role of Art since the original Art, Mike Giannelli, was not returning to the role. I had never done horror before, but was familiar with the character and contacted my reps to submit me for the part since I thought it was perfect for me.

Since Art never makes a sound, there were no sides given to me for the audition, and I was just told to show up. I auditioned for the producers as well as the director, Damien Leone in late April of 2015. They asked me to improvise a scene as Art on the spot. This was when I was glad that I had a lot of training in improv since I was put on the spot like that. If I remember correctly, I made up a scene where I walked in and snuck up behind his victim stabbing her in the head and ended up sawing off her head.

I then picked up the head, pretended to have a conversation with it, and ended up tasting the blood leaking out of it. This was not to my liking, so I whipped out a salt shaker and seasoned the head to my liking. I then threw the head in my bag of tricks, tossed the bag over my shoulder, and skipped out of the room. They yelled “Cut!”, and I noticed Damien had his head on the table in a fit of giggles, and Phil Falcone (one of the producers) said something to the line “Holy shit! That’s Art!”.

They asked me if I was comfortable with enduring hours of makeup applications and if I was up for coming in for a make up test, and told me that they would be in touch. A few months later, they called me in for the tests and told me that I had the part. We then started filming October of 2015. That was one of those auditions where I walked out knowing I had the part deep down, because everything just felt right. I’m glad my gut was right, because I have loved playing the character!

 What attracted you to the role?

First off, I love playing villains. I find it easy to play something I am not in real life, for some reason. Villains are just much more interesting characters with a lot of depth to them. Something has had to happen in their lives to make them the way that they are, and that is partly what draws me to wanting to play them. Art is definitely a character that has had something very dark happen in his past that has made him turn into the murderous clown he is today. We don’t really go into that much in this film (though there are some hints if you know where to look), though we are looking to explore more of who he is in the inevitable sequels. Damien and I have talked much about who he is though and what makes him tick, and I look forward to exploring that more in the future.

Secondly, I have always enjoyed villains that have a sense of humor about them.   My favorite villain of all time is The Joker, who I also have the fortune to play on a web series called Nightwing: Escalation. Freddy Krueger is another favorite of mine. I based a lot of Art off of these two. I just love someone that can be funny but also scary as Hell! There is just something compelling about the villain that you know you should despise but deep down you find endearingly fascinating enough that you sort of cheer for them as well.

Lastly, what drew me to the character was the challenge it offered being a silent, but expressive character. I have always loved physical comedy and grew up watching the greats like Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy,  Buster Keaton, etc. They could convey so much physically sometimes without saying a word. There was an art to what they did that you don’t see very often any more. The closest that I have seen has been from the talented actor Stefan Karl, who is best known as Robbie Rotten from the popular children’s show “Lazy Town”.

However, I know him as the Grinch, since I had the honor of being his understudy for 5 years touring with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical”. Stefan is an absolutely amazingly talented man that is a master in clowning and physical comedy. I learned much from him during those years and found much inspiration from him on how to approach my performance of Art.

It is a challenge not being able to utter a single sound and have to convey various emotions and attitudes to the audience. He is a silent clown, so he has to have personality as well as a sense of humor, as sadistic as it is. I enjoyed the challenge of taking what I learned from the greats that preceded me and adapting it all into something of my own. It was a lot of fun, and I hope the audience enjoys the interpretation as well!

What can you tell us about the film?

I can’t reveal a lot of the plot since I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say that we approached it as a nice homage to the classic slasher flicks of the past, especially from the late 70’s and 80’s.

Current horror films seem to rely too heavily on trying to set up some great big plot twist, but seem to skimp out on what made the classics more fun, memorable characters (especially the villain) and the thrill of the chase and creative kills. The earlier films were not so bogged down in complex plot lines that they forgot to have fun.

Terrifier harkens back to those earlier films in that way. Just like films such as “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, it has a pretty basic plot that instead relies on the thrill of the chase. The premise revolves around 2 young ladies encountering Art on the road on Halloween night following a night of partying.

They end up poking fun at him, so he sets his sights on them with sadistic glee and ends up hunting them down, and anyone else who gets in his way, for the remainder of the film. It is one long bloody cat and mouse game that features many truly horrendous creative kills (one of which is extremely over the top and will surely be remembered for years to come). It is definitely a terrifying but fun roller coaster ride for the audience, and a nice introduction to the character. 

Terrifier recently had its premiere, was has the reaction been like so far?

Oh man, it has been great! We debuted as the headlining film for the Scary Movie X horror festival at Lincoln Center here in NYC to a sold out crowd! It was my first time seeing the film in its entirety.

Besides my friends sitting next to me, and my costar Samantha Scaffidi sitting behind me, no one else knew who I was around me, so I got to witness their genuine reactions to what was happening on screen. It was so much fun hearing them all scream and laugh at all the right parts, and even at some parts I was not expecting.

Plus, I noticed a few left because they got a little too freaked out at on particular kill, which I found a bit of joy in seeing happen, honestly. It just meant that the film affected them on a deep level. So far, the reactions have been great! I’ve been hearing nothing but love from the fans that saw it. Our first review from a legit site gave us a nice 8/10 compared to the 2/10 that they gave to a horror film that debuted in theaters nation wide that same weekend, so I take that as a great sign that others will love what we have done when we finally release this film to the public!

How does this story differ from the All Hallows Eve series?

They echo each other in some ways, especially with the whole “cat and mouse” concept. AHE was a nice warm up for this film. Though, AHE was a bunch of smaller films made into a longer film, where Art made appearances.

Damien took elements from that film and streamlined them into a longer cohesive story solely centered around Art. This film is all about Art. There are some nice throwbacks to AHE if you know where to look.

Does Art the Clown have potential to be the next horror icon?

Boy I hope so for my sake! Ha ha! But in all honesty, yes. Yes, I think he does. We haven’t had an iconic horror villain in a while. The closest as maybe been Jigsaw from the Saw films, but even he hasn’t come close to Freddy, Michael Myers, Jason, Chucky, or Leatherface.

There is something truly unique about each of those characters that audiences loved that recent horror films have failed to touch. I like to think that Art is a nice amalgamation of those characters, but also his own thing. I love the character because there is a sick sense of humor and malicious joy behind him. He enjoys what he does and relishes in the destruction that he leaves in his wake.

He has fun, and that is what I think will draw audiences too him. I haven’t seen a good horror villain in a while that has fun with what they do. Damien and I hope to change that and have much in mind on where to take the character next. So yes, I think Art has the potential to become the next horror icon.

However, that is not up to me to decide, but for the fans. I hope that they all thoroughly enjoy what we have created because we sure as heck enjoyed bringing Art into your lives! Remember “Earth” without “Art” is just “Eh.”  Thank you all for your support. We could not have done this without you.

Check out an exclusive message from Art the Clown below –

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