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Exclusive: Creepy Scientist Fred Willard, Horror Maven

WillardHe’s an agile, affable actor, and that’s why he’s been around for so long. Not only can Fred Willard do perfect comedy as he did in “Best In Show,” he can play it straight and scary for a horror movie role in “Salem’s Lot.” Now, for the release of the Sony PSP video game “Hot Brain,” Willard plays a creepy but helpful mad scientist for a game that’s supposed to fine tune your brain. Monsterfest caught up with Willard last week in New York City for this exclusive interview to find out he’s a big fan of horror. Who knew?


HG: Tell me about the character you play in the game.


FW: He’s Dr. Warmer.  In the beginning, I play chess against a brain in formaldehyde. I like the idea that people will think I’m smarter than I am because I’m a scientist.


HG: Is this your first video game?


FW: Yes. But it’s kind of like doing sketch comedy. There are these small scenes that I’m in throughout the game. Dr. Warmer lives in a big castle and he’s not so scary.


HG: Why do people love the mad scientist character so much?


FW: As the mad scientist, you’re going against gods will and god’s nature. You’re bringing this monster to life. You like him because you wonder what drove him mad.


HG: If you could do any kind of horror or horror comedy film, what would it be like?

FW: I tried to write one once and came to a dead end. I’m a fan of the movie that shows people traveling somewhere on a rainy night and taking refuge at the castle. They’re in the castle and the bridge is washed out. I think for me to like one, it has to make sense and have a progression. Those with people who die and reappear don’t make sense to me.


HG: What are your favorite horror films?


FW: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was great. I love Tobe Hooper and worked with him in “Salem’s Lot.” I liked thes zombie movie – was it “Dawn of the Dead”? There was a scene in a morgue with a dead body. I actually knew the actor who played the mortician. The characters were exposed to toxic gas and they died without losing consciousness. It all made sense and I loved it.


HG: What was working on “Salem’s Lot” like?


FW: I loved working with Tobe Hooper. I didn’t do comedy and I was a real estate salesman who had an affair with someone’s wife. I couldn’t figure out why Tobe hired me. Then, on the first day, he said to me, ‘You leave your office and cross the street and do this kind of funny walk you create.’ So there was a give and take and it made sense. I worked with him, but I don’t even recall my work with James Mason. He’s an original, though. I loved his line in the film: ‘I’m expecting a delivery of a rather large package and must not be disturbed.’ But Tobe’s great. When my daughter was very young, he was at a party I had and she asked about some special effect. He didn’t say it’s all magic. He took time to explain the effect. It was so nice of him.


HG: If you did a horror game, what would you imagine it to be?


FW: There should be some torture if you don’t do well. You’ve seen “Hostel” where everyone’s all bound up, right? If you get things right enough, you could escape. It could take place in Las Vegas. If you fail, you have to sit through Wayne Newton’s entire show. I kid, of course. But I did sit through his stage show. It’s much too long.

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