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You are here: Home - - - > Interviews - - - > A Conversation with Tony Simmons
Squawk for Me: A Conversation with Tony Simmons - Star of Scream for Me, My Skin, and Human No More
Conducted July/August, 2006
Interview Conducted By: Matthew Dean Hill

He's known to his friends simply as "The Tony" (because, as you'll find, there's nobody quite like him). Tony Simmons is a new face for me, and for many. To date, he's appeared in three horror films; Scream for Me, My Skin, and Human No More, all short films conceived, written, and directed by Christopher Alan Broadstone. Simmons' performances in those films run the gamut from an over the top psychosexual maniac, to a new vision of death incarnate, to a browbeaten cop faced with a very important decision. In each role, Simmons imbues his character with wit, style, and sheer originality. I think it's safe to say that Tony Simmons is an actor to watch; I predict that, given the right chances, he's going to make a big splash sooner or later. I recently had the chance to speak with Tony about his involvement with Chris Broadstone, his approach to his chosen craft, and his feelings on horror cinema in general. A word of warning: Tony Simmons is a madman. Not like his character in Scream for Me, mind you, but he's a madman in the way that, say, Rasputin was a madman...a mad genius, if you will. Tony's preference was to conduct this interview via email, I think so that he could carefully measure his responses according to his whim. That said, I've got to give him major kudos for making this one of the more interesting, disturbing, and ultimately fascinating interviews I've ever conducted. Read on, and enjoy!

Matthew Dean Hill: Thanks for joining us, Tony! I guess the first order of business would be to talk about your involvement with one Christopher Alan Broadstone. How did you two meet?

Tony Simmons: Christopher Adam Broadstone had been making kiddie porn and I was selling crystal meth to children outside an elementary school and we happened to run into each other doing the old "Want some candy, little girl/boy?" routine. It was a fast friendship that grew into a working relationship in no time.

No, wait a minute. That wasn't Chris, that was another friendship. Honest!

I actually met Chris by answering an audition notice for Scream For Me. I thought the writing on that was fucking great. Not necessarily the work of a lucid person, but certainly creative. It's been downhill ever since, having developed a friendship and working relationship from that movie on. Just between you and me, he's not a well person. I don't know exactly what the proper psychological term is for it, but he's fuckin' strange.

I had assumed that his parents were Mortia and Gomez Addams or something, but they seem like nice,normal, friendly people. Maybe he was dropped on his head or throw against the wall or something when he was a baby. His sister, Wendy, is a sweetheart. I just don't get it. But the bottom line is that he can't help it and we shouldn't stare or make fun of him or anything like that. If for no other reason than you can't really be sure how dangerous he truly may be. I tell you, he's fuckin' strange.

MDH: You know, during my conversations with him, I couldn’t help but feel that, well, that something just wasn’t right with the guy. I couldn’t put my finger on it until now. (laughs)

So, what was that audition process like? I mean, did you walk in knowing what to expect? Did you have the character pretty well nailed right away?

TS: It was pretty basic. He asked me to take off all my clothes and then told me to bend over and then he took this crow bar and...

Whoa, wait a minute. That was a different audition. I don't know where my mind went, just then.

In all honesty I don't remember the audition. You'd have to ask him about it. I know he videotaped them all. I do remember that when I read the monologue that it was quite well written and I could really feel where this guy was coming from. We did quite a bit of rehearsal in advance to get the tying up stuff nailed down.

I have a terrible memory. I think it's from all the drugs I did in my youth (as best as I can remember, that is). So my long-term memory seems a bit affected. Now, I'm just waiting for the short-term to go. Eventually, I guess I'll just disappear someplace in the middle, I guess. Doncha hate that?

But, now that I recall that you actually asked me a question, I can only say that Christopher Alex Broadstone is the one who would best remember the audition. He seems to remember everything. Like if you borrow money from him or promise him something or say you were supposed to be somewhere at some specific time. He's a real pain in the ass that way.

MDH: I know. I hate it when people get all hung up on details like timing, or "you’re my baby's daddy", and stuff like that. What a royal pain. Still, the experience couldn’t have been /all/ painful, and it can’t be totally obscured by a drug-induced fog, right? What are some of your fondest memories of the shoot? Not just Scream for Me, of course, but all three of your collaborations with Chris.

TS: There are no fond memories of working with Christopher Arnold Broadstone. He is a merciless taskmaster. Chris is very meticulous about technical stuff. He also seems to think that the words he's written came down from Mount Olympus or something. In the three movies we've done together, only in one did I accidentally utter the words "oh, no" and he didn't edit it out or scream about the sanctity of his verbage. So don't blame me for any word uttered in one of his films. I think, as evidenced by the tenor of this interview, I try to keep things on a much higher plane than does Mr. Broadstone.

That said...

He is quite specific in what he wants, though I also know that he's open to suggestion. Well, sorta. And because they're low-budget movies, there are no workers' rights at all. They are long hours of hard work. But, in all honesty, I love it.

Chris does have a sense of humor (I didn't say a good sense of humor). When we were working on Human No More, all of our rehearsal had to do with synchronizing the camera movement with the actor's movements. Therefore, we never got around to rehearsing the monologue part of the movie. I know we both kept avoiding it, each for our own reasons. So, there we were shooting the movie and came to the monologue portion and neither of us knew what to expect. We started it first in the afternoon, but I guess there was a lot of street noise that interrupted it. Plus, there was the fact that I really sucked in what I was doing. We ended up aborting that attempt and worked on something else till later in the day when it was quieter and I think I better knew what Chris wanted from me. Once we got to that point, Schwarz (the Director of Photography) simply turned on the camera and Broadstone would say action in some cartoon voice. And then, he'd make faces at me and fuck with my head, while I'm trying to 'act'. Were I to be doing that when he was focusing on his fancy-assed camera stuff, he would have not found it nearly so funny! I'll have to wait till the next movie to really fuck him back. If I don't forget, of course.

When we were doing Scream For Me and shooting the nudity stuff, my mammoth man-member was so large it was dangling down between my legs and I had to duct tape it to my belly, since my randy rod was supposed to be a turgid tool at that point. Sadly, when we had some re-shooting to do the following week, it was much cooler in the room and my teeny weenie then didn't need any duct tape. Doncha hate that?

Probably, the fondest memories I have are of Christopher Elmer Broadstone saying "that's a wrap", at which point I usually tell myself, something like "I'll never work with that asshole, again". Sadly, since it seems that no one else wants to hire me, I end up grovelling at his door for some work. Doncha hate that?

MDH: I’ve got to say, it seems like…mentally and emotionally…you went to a pretty weird place during Scream for Me, especially during the last few minutes of the film. Clearly you’re an intelligent and thoughtful guy, so how much "thinking" did you do…or need to do…in preparation for some of those scenes? Likewise, in Human No More, it’s evident that you were channeling some really awful vibes. These are two disparate roles, in very disparate movies, but there's a common thread, isn't there? In my conversations with Chris, I presented him with my interpretation of your characters in Human No More and My Skin. The way I saw it, at least superficially, was that your character in Human No More goes through this very specific psychological and metaphysical change, brought on by (I think) intense grief and mental anguish; in effect, he makes a conscious decision to become the "death" character of My Skin. Thoughts? Am I overanalyzing things (as I am wont to do)?

Tony Simmons Promotional Shot TS: Being an emotionally unstable individual, it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to reach the infantile fury of Madman. He's kinda like a two year old whose bottle has been taken away. He isn't a terribly cerebral person. That, combined with some confusing events experienced during those early "wonder years" of development, left him just a little *special*. All I had to do was imagine someone trying to take away my first cup of coffee in the morning. Not a big stretch at all, really.

Detective Nemo in Human No More was a more thoughtful and softer person. That role was really the most realistic and intimate portrayal, I think. Of course, the whole removal of pain element was perhaps a little supernatural. His anger or dissappointment was experieinced in a more spiritual context. While he had felt very deeply, he also questioned "why?". And that led him to the good/evil debate. The god/devil question. While I personally am not a religious man, not even particularly spiritual, actually, I saw his quest as a far as the story goes in the film, as one of alleviation of his pain and then the process of moving on. And he certainly takes a pretty direct route in that matter.

The character of Death is the most theatrical presentation. It's very stagey and even kinda along the lines of old school horror movies, like Dracula or Frankenstein from the early thirties. It was campy and fun to do. I have to say right here and right now that despite Christopher Agnes Broadstone's comments to the contrary, I _*was*_ wearing makeup in that movie. He tells everyone that that's what I look like. Maybe that's why I can't get hired.

As far as tying the three films together, that's Chris's mania, not mine. For me they were three different movies in three different styles with three different characters to portray. That they may reflect common themes is a matter for Broadstone to fess up to. I'm just an innocent actor caught in the crossfire between Broadstone's psyche and the camera.

As far as concern about your possibly over-analyzing, I suspect its really just a matter of deeply held psychotic beliefs on your part that you are projecting onto the screen and that any attempt at psycho-therapy to deal with that will lead only to great sorrow and really no chance of cure. So don't waste your time with a shrink, you're crazy for life. Enjoy it! And if you have children, don't hesitate to take it out on them.

MDH: In my conversations with Chris, he’s informed me that you’re a fairly reserved, even shy, person…something that I imagine comes as a surprise to many folks. In your experiences promoting and discussing these films…particularly Scream for Me, have you found that some people almost expect you to be very much like your character in that film, as odd as that sounds?

TS: Often, when people meet me after having seen one of Christopher Alvin Broadstone's movies, they kinda get this disappointed look on their faces. It's a little frustrating, because I'm wanting some kind of ego stroke and instead they're sad that I'm there and not the character. Of course, after I fucked a couple of them with a butcher knife, I felt less disappointed in their responses! I personally, don't give a shit what's behind their screams. As an actor the scream at the moment of death really isn't something that's that interesting to me. Call me vanilla, but it's just the way I am.

If an actor is portraying a character quite different from who the actor is, the experience of meeting that actor may be disappointing. Because what you saw, is not necessarily what you get. Just try not to look too disappointed or the actor may over-react and kill you. Remember, actors can be insecure and testy.

MDH: Yeah, the "fucking a couple of them with a butcher knife" approach always leaves 'em with a smile on their faces, doesn't it? So, since you're so different from the characters you've portrayed, did you find it difficult to get into character? Do you consider yourself to be a "method" actor? Have your friends and family ever been creeped out by you while you were working on a film?

TS: I suppose, in general, I don't have a whole lot of difficulty getting into a character. Of course, each one is different and presents its own set of problems. "Madman" in Scream For Me kinda demanded keeping the energy level pretty high. If I've had some time to develop the character and/or work with the director to do so, I usually get to a place where he becomes sorta like a suit I slip on. But, it's really hard to say because I haven't that high a degree of self-awareness.

To me, "method" is sort of a grab bag of techniques. And there are other techniques that don't necessarily fall into the "method" camp. Frankly, being a whore, I will use anything from anywhere to get where I think I need to be in service of the character and script. If it means being wholly fake to achieve a certain goal of a camera angle, so be it, if it works to illuminate the character and move the story along. I think some people would disagree with my whore-like impurity, but I think there's room for different styles.

Most people who know me personally are simply creeped out by having to eat in public with me. There are so many real reasons to be creeped out by me rather than being so in relation to some acting project on which I'm working. I also like to practice or work on a role in private. Or with my acting coach or director in rehearsals. So, I don't walk around in public behaving like the character of "Death" from My Skin say.

As an aside, at this point in the interview, I would like to say that this is starting to feel a bit like a proctology exam. Sorta awkward and exciting and 'wrong' at first, then when the novelty begins to wear off a bit uncomfortable, and finally excruciatingly messy as the true nature of the experience starts to set in. Thank you, Doctor Matthew.

MDH: Well, I certainly don't want to make you uncomfortable, Tony. If you like, we can move on to other things. How about your childhood? Did you have any predilictions toward being an actor as a youth? Or, was it more something you kind of "fell into"?

As an aside...wow...I've never had an interviewee liken the interview process to a proctological exam. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or a bad thing...

TS: As I recall, ever since I was very young I've wanted to be an actor. It wasn't until I was around 30 years old that I actually did much in the way of pursuing it, however. I did do some small community theater stuff in my teens, but I was usually the stage manager, so it was more like I was partially involved as opposed to deeply immersed. That said, children by their very nature live greatly through their imaginations. And being an extremely immature person, I think that imaginative quality has stayed with me through adulthood. Whereas some drugs can be wonderful tools to 'get away' for a kind of vacation from reality, sometimes one can simply use one's imagination for a little day trip of sorts. It can be quite refreshing. It can keep folks from acting out on some of the less savory of their desires and impulses. I know from personal experience that several co-workers, bosses, neighbors, lovers and family members have benefited greatly from my taking a little day trip (or even full fledged 'around the world' vacations). Their very continued existence is testimony to this, as a matter of fact. The miserable cow who occupies the apartment above me is one very real example.

So to beat a dead horse and make a short story long, childhood being an existence filled with fantasy is something very much to be held on to as one ages and matures.

As far as your uncertainty about whether the proctological exam analogy is a good thing or bad, let me simply make mention that I've received no flowers, wine, candy or dinner from you and this whole thing is starting to make me feel quite cheap. And by cheap, I don't mean inexpensive, I mean tawdry. Even a little dirty.

Keep in mind that feeling cheap and tawdry is not necessarily an unpleasant experience for me! And dirty is pretty close to the top of my list of things to feel.

Also, Matt, please keep in mind that I reserve the right to deny anything and everything I've said in this interview. By reason of insanity, I do hereby deny all responsibility for my words, thoughts and actions.

MDH: Hey, cheap and tawdry is what I do best! I'm only too happy to fuck with you...erm...that is, comply with your wishes and preferences. Well, moving on, do you consider yourself to be a "horror fan"? Do you even like horror movies? If (shudder) you only did horror films for the rest of your career, would you be OK with that? What's on the horizon for you as an actor (and not just horror)?

TS: When I was a kid, I really dug Edgar Allan Poe. But since then I've not been that much into horror stuff. I have become exposed to more horror since I've been working with Black CAB Productions. But in general it's not the genre I'm naturally drawn to.

That said, I've met some really cool people who are involved in the world of horror. Christopher Alice Broadstone is not one of those cool people; I'd like to say on the record at this time.

If I were to only do horror films for the rest of my life, I'd probably go nuts. But that's only because I don't want to do any one thing forever. It's like eating pizza and ice cream every day for the rest of your life. I fucking love pizza (and consider ice cream a basic food group) but after seven or eight years of daily consumption it would probably get a little old. I can't even commit myself to watching a regular TV show without finding myself distracted over time. And don't get me started on the subject of monogamy! I said DON'T!

As far as the horizon of my exciting acting career goes, I suspect the world may well be flat and that empty horizon is in reality a frightening precipice. It's just my perspective, of course. But as my phone continues to loudly */not/* ring off the hook with offers of work, I fear the end is near. I did work on a movie a couple of months ago called CARNIES directed by Brian Corder of toxicshock.tv. In that movie, I am actually a victim (but still get the chance to ham it up). It was a fun part with a group of nice people.

Black CAB is also shopping around a few scripts that have parts that I would be good for. Otherwise, I simply sit home, alone, drinking rubbing alcohol in the dark with the curtains pulled and vermin scurrying about my feet.

MDH: Well, thanks for taking the time, Tony. I can only hope that you'll do lots more movies...horror and otherwise. You're definitely one of the most interesting actors working today, so I'm sure my readers are all with me when I say "Good Luck!" We'll be watching! Oh, and lay off the ether, dude...it doesn't agree with you.

TS: Thank you so very much for the opportunity to talk about ME. It's a subject that I (ME) never seem to tire of. There are so many things about ME that intrigue ME. My only hope is that the people who read this interview about ME, don't come away with the impression that I (ME) am some sort of self-absorbed, egotistical actor, whose every waking thought focuses on ME. Although, I have to admit that ME really is an extraordinarily fascinating subject. Don't you think?

I hope everyone, everywhere looks forward to seeing ME in another movie as much as I (ME) do.

By the way, can I borrow twenty bucks? (And no, I'm not going to waste it on alcohol or drugs or prostitutes! Okay, maybe I will, but who the fuck do you think you are to judge me, mister high and mighty interviewer?)

Relevant Links:

You can learn more about Tony's work in the films of Christopher Alan Broadstone by visiting Black Cab Productions, and check out his IMDB listing HERE!

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