Horror Facts had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Art the Clown himself, David Howard Thornton, to discuss Terrifier 2 and his role as the infamous, serial killing clown.
Horror Facts: I’m very curious, how do you prepare for the role of Art?
David: I basically don’t have to prepare for him now because I know where he lives in my head, but for part one, I went back and watched All Hallows’ Eve so I could get the essence of what Mike Giannelli, the original Art the Clown, brought to him in that film. That’s the foundation I needed to go off of, but then I also kind of looked at him as being the ultimate horror fanboy, so there’s bits and pieces of every horror villain inside of him. I also wanted to bring more of the clowning aspect to him, especially since he doesn’t talk. For that, I looked into my rich love and history of silent film actors and great physical comedians, and I pulled a lot from all those guys and put them into Art, as well.
Horror Facts: So, you’re saying that you don’t really need to prepare? You’re able to just jump right into the character?
David: Yeah, pretty much, now. And I can do it at the drop of a hat, too, I’ll be joking around, doing silly voices and everything right before they say, “Rolling,” but then, as soon as they say, “Rolling,” I just go into Art.
Horror Facts: That’s interesting. I would think it would take a psychological mind toll.
David: No, not at all. I don’t know what that says about me.
Horror Facts: Terrifier 2 introduced a lot of new lore into the character of Art the Clown and has left audiences with so many questions about exactly who or what Art is. There are many fan theories online but no one has a clear-cut answer.
Horror Facts: The most common theory is that he’s a demon and I have even heard one theory that he’s a dream demon.
David: Oh, that’s an interesting one.
Horror Facts: In that instance, they’re trying to compare Art to Freddy Krueger.
David: Yeah, he’s definitely not Freddy Krueger, and I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s a dream demon either, but he definitely has some kind of supernatural powers. I can’t even go into that yet; that’s all Damien’s plan. I can say that I don’t even know where he’s going on some things, so I’m very excited to see where things go moving forward. He likes to surprise me at times. He’s given me enough to know who Art is, but he’s not telling me where he’s exactly going with some things. I’m very excited to see where this journey keeps going.
Horror Facts: Do you think Art is even human?
David: I would say he might have been human for awhile but there’s definitely been some kind of transition with him where he’s become something other than human. Especially when he came back from the dead, but that’s to be explored in future films. I will say there’s definitely a supernatural aspect to him now, especially with this ability to not be killed so easily.
Horror Facts: I wanted to ask about that. In the first film, Art shoots himself in the head, which made it seem he assumed that would be the end of him. But now, in this new film, it’s almost like he staves off death way more frequently.
David: Oh, yeah. He’s quite resilient.
Horror Facts: Speaking of cheating death: in the film, Art gets a rod through the brain and a bat with knives sticking out of it into the back of his skull. Instead of killing him, he playfully swats at it in shock and disbelief.
David: I love that moment. It’s almost like a Warner Bros. type of moment where he’s able to take so much punishment and bounce back from things. I kind of like it.
Horror Facts: Going back to what you were saying about Art never speaking. I feel like that’s one of the more menacing things about the character – the fact that he doesn’t talk. Because of this, you never really know what Art’s motives are.
David: There’s not even sounds that come out. You don’t even hear him breathe; you don’t hear him grunt or anything when he gets hit. I mean, you hear those sounds at least from Michael Myers and Jason but you don’t hear them from Art.
Horror Facts: Now that you point that out, yeah, you don’t hear him breathing.
David: No. The closest sound you ever heard from him was the spit coming out and the only reason we did that was because it would have been hard to tell that there was spit coming out of his mouth unless you heard the sound effect.
Horror Facts: That is another thing about the character that makes him interesting – the fact that Art has this retribution aspect to him, where if you wrong him, he has to get back at you. For example, that scene in the film where the Sienna character spits in Art’s face and his last effort is to spit on her.
David: Oh, exactly. He’s such a bastard when it comes to that kind of stuff. He’s vindictive as anything. I kind of look at the whole reason he goes to Allie’s house in the new film as being because she bumped into him in the store and she just makes it worse when she refuses to give him candy and also calls him a mime. It’s just like, “OK, you’re gone now.” So petty.
Horror Facts: On that note, let’s dive into Terrifier 2. How do you feel about the reception the film is receiving? How people are reportedly fainting and vomiting in the theatres?
David: That’s been insane! I can understand why, because the kills are pretty grotesque and pretty violent. It’s not what people are used to seeing in this day and age. You saw more of those types of kills back in the 70s and 80s, but we’ve become so much more PC and afraid of offending people these days, and so I don’t think a lot of younger audiences are especially accustomed to those types of kills.
Horror Facts: And you definitely up the kills, because Terrifier really set this bar and then Terrifier 2 just blew that bar out of the water.
David: Yeah, that was purely intentional because we were like, “Oh, we’ve got to exceed what we did in part 1, so let’s just bat for the fences with this because we were like, you know, we’re doing part 2 and didn’t know if we were ever going to be doing a part 3 at that point, so we were like, let’s just throw everything we have into this and see what we can do.”
Horror Facts: And exceed it you did. The one kill I really want to talk about is when Art visits Allie’s house. Let’s starts with the beginning of that scene, when he goes to her house and asks for candy.
David: That was a lot of fun. I actually had different ideas that I originally wanted to do for that scene. I had one where I wanted to put on a different mask over my Art mask and look like a kid so I would put my knees in my shoes and be like “Hey” (reaching arms up). That kind of stuff. But there was no way we could fit all that stuff in.
Horror Facts: Then, when we get to Art attacking her, that kill was particularly graphic, especially when he goes to get the bleach and salt and starts rubbing it in her wounds. During that scene, I remember saying, “Just please stop already.”
David: Oh yeah, and she’s still alive during all that, that’s the thing. Even at the very end of it, she’s still alive. It’s like, my god, how has she at least not passed out already from all that pain and shock?
Horror Facts: Then, at the end, when her mom comes in and she’s still able to go, “Mommy,” I was like, there’s no way.
David: Yeah, it’s horrible. It’s horrible. It wasn’t even originally written like that. It was a little tamer but COVID changed that because we had extra time so Damien was like, “Well, I got all this extra time on my hands to build prosthetics so I might as well just go back to the drawing board and really do this kill big.” He did the same thing with the coroner’s kill at the very beginning of the film, too.
Horror Facts: You’re referring to when Art pulls out the coroner’s eye. I think that’s another great aspect you bring to the character – how you incorporate physical comedy into the role. Because after Art pulls out his eye, he then uses it like a prop, putting it into his own socket, and proudly turning to the coroner to show it off. It’s the little things like that that bring such an odd presence to this character.
David: He likes to play with his food is what I like to say.
Horror Facts: How are you reacting to people’s reaction to Art? I’ve seen Art the Clown tattoos. I’ve seen stuff everywhere. How are you reacting to that?
David: I’m still trying to process it all because so much of this has happened so quickly for us over the past few weeks since it got released. I mean, almost every day there’s something new in the news or something big that’s happened with it. From being mentioned on The Talk, to Howard Stern, to Stephen King tweeting about us, it’s like, holy crap! This is amazing! Especially considering we’ve been able to hold our own in the box office this entire time versus the rest of Hollywood. It’s mind blowing. So, I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and really process this at all yet.
Horror Facts: The film was originally released in select theatres and was then brought back to theatres following its initial limited run and has since been brought back multiple times now.
David: Yeah, he just keeps coming back, doesn’t he?
Horror Facts: That seems to be the theme of Art.
David: It’s very appropriate.
Horror Facts: I feel like Art’s new ability to continually come back is all thanks to that little girl introduced in this new film, but we still don’t really know anything about this character yet.
David: No, we don’t. I know we’re going to explore that character a lot more in the next films.
Horror Facts: To me, I think that’s where Art gets his supernatural abilities.
David: That’s a very good assumption. I look at that as being basically his boss in some ways. But who knows where Damien is going to go with it?
Horror Facts: This thing has the ability to keep Art alive no matter how much damage he sustains. A perfect example of this is the end of the movie when he gets his head cut off and then the Victoria character gives birth to his head in the asylum. That was a crazy scene.
David: Oh, yeah, and it wasn’t originally written that way. We had a totally different ending that we filmed with; it was very much like another film that came out. We did where his head was supposed to appear on the back of Victoria’s head in the asylum. We filmed all that.
Horror Facts: Like Malignant?
David: Yeah, exactly. After Malignant came out, we were like, “Ahh god, no! What are we going to do?” Because, you know, everybody is now going to be comparing us to Malignant, thinking that we stole that from them. It’s incredible to think that two different films thought of the same idea, and it’s a very abstract idea, too. I was like, “This is insane,” so we were like, “OK, what are we going to do?” Because we couldn’t keep the same ending, and that’s when Damien came up with the whole birth idea and I think it’s a better idea going forward, especially with Victoria’s character because, in the original ending, we probably would have had to kill off Victoria, but now we can utilize her more in the next film, which is more exciting.
Horror Facts: Well, in that scene, Victoria has the glowing, yellow eye, so you get the vibe that whatever was in the little girl has now passed on to her.
David: Yeah, that could be. (laughs)
Horror Facts: Obviously, you can’t reveal spoilers. We’ll have to wait for Terrifier 3 to come out. It sounds like you already have that in the works?
David: Oh, yeah, that’s definitely going to happen now. There’s no doubt in my mind. I know Damien is concocting ideas and is probably going to start writing a script soon. I know he’s had ideas for part 3 since we were doing part 2, as well, so I can only imagine where he’s going to go with me. I think he’s even said part 3 might be so big, he might have to split it into two movies.
Horror Facts: Oh, wow! So we could potentially be getting a Terrifier 3 and 4?
David: Yeah, he’s got some crazy ideas so I’m excited. I’m very excited. He just likes to keep things from me because he likes to surprise me, so I’m like, “OK, what are you doing, man?”
Horror Facts: He just kind of throws you into the mix and has you figure it out as you’re going?
David: Oh, yeah. I love it. I know enough about the character myself to know where to take him with things, but I’m still in the dark about a lot of things myself with the story lines and stuff like that. I’m excited as much as the audience is to find out where we’re going.
Horror Facts: Well, Terrifer 2 definitely ended on a cliff-hanger. Art has shown he has regenerative abilities because he was able to repair his eye. But what about the ability to grow back a body?
David: We have a fun idea for that. I already know that idea. I know how we’re going to address that and it’s fun. We’ve got a lot of possibilities with that and I’m going to have a lot of fun doing that.
Horror Facts: Can you drop any hints? Are we going to see any more of the Sienna character or is she going to be written out?
David: Oh, definitely. This is a character that Damien has had in his head before he had Art in his head. This is a character he’s wanted to bring to life for so long and, yeah, there’s definitely going to be more Sienna. Especially now that we know the audience loves her so much because you have to have that balance between the two characters, and she brings that balance to Art. I kind of look at it like part 1 was Art’s introduction to everybody and part 2 was now Sienna’s introduction to everybody, with both serving as origin stories in some ways. Part 3 is going to be where I think things are going to start taking off for both characters.
Horror Facts: She’s kind of like the Batman to your Joker.
David: Exactly. Which is so needed, because you need someone just as crazy and gung-ho as Art to be able to stand up against him.
Horror Facts: I look forward to the next film. Terrifier really set this bar and Terrifier 2 blew it out of the water, so I imagine Terrifier 3 is just going to be the most insane thing we have ever seen!
David: Knowing Damien, it probably will be because he likes to challenge himself; he doesn’t like to just rest on his laurels. He’s like, there is always room to improve, and I know he looks at every single review that comes out, the good ones and especially the negative ones, because he wants to know what he can improve on. He did that with part 2 and I know he’s going to do that with part 3, so I’m very excited to see where he takes things.
Horror Facts: I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. We look forward to seeing you in Terrifier 3, but in the meantime, can we expect to see you in anything else?
David: Thank you. Yes, The Mean One comes out in December. I hope you enjoy that one, as well.
You can watch David Howard Thornton in Terrifier 2 on Screambox, available on iOS, Android, Prime Video, YouTube TV, Comcast, and Screambox.com.
I have come here to chew bubblegum and write horror, and I’m all out of bubblegum.
Senior Editor at Horror Facts