From writer/director Jon Watts, the horror flick Clown shows what happens after a dad (Andy Powers) puts on a clown suit to save his son’s 10th birthday party, but quickly realizes that the suit won’t come back off. It’s bad enough when Kent has to go to work as a clown, but then he can feel himself changing, as an uncontrollable hunger overwhelms him and the suit becomes part of his skin.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Peter Stormare (who plays a character that is all too familiar with what happens when you put on the clown suit) talked about why the story of Clown appealed to him, what he appreciated about Jon Watt’s vision for the film, and how he feels about clowns. He also talked about playing Czernobog in the highly anticipated Starz series American Gods, inspired by the Neil Gaiman book, being in the John Wick sequel, and why he admires Keanu Reeves.
Collider: When you read this script, what was it about the story and the character that made you want to get involved with it?
PETER STORMARE: I liked it a lot because it has a simplicity to it. I was brought up telling stories, when I was a kid, in the tiny village where I grew up. Storytelling was a tradition. Nothing beats an older guy or woman telling a story in a dark room to a kid. This just reminds me of a simple story, like the Brothers Grimm could be, or something from folklore in the past that’s based on some truth of fragments of stories that I heard in Sweden. I’m from the north of Sweden, so it was pretty familiar for me. I thought it was put together in a way that the audience would be frightened. I don’t personally like slasher movies that make you scream in the movie theater. I like psychological horror movies where you’re invited to write part of the story, as a viewer. That’s what drew me to the script.
Did you also like the fact that this relies on a person in a clown suit, as opposed to CGI and special effects?
STORMARE: It wasn’t overloaded with CGI or special effects and things exploding or heads being cut off. It’s more inviting to the audience to be a part of the journey. It’s like opening the door to a magic realm, and then going on the journey and adding to it, as you go. I like movies. I rarely see them, nowadays, because I don’t have the time, but I’ve always liked movies where I’m invited in, as a viewer. Most cases today, especially in the big industry, we’re force fed a lot of special effects, and then I just want to get the hell out of there. It’s boring to do those movies against a green screen and have people telling you, “Look down the stairs. Now turn around. Here it comes.” I just thought this felt old-fashioned and scary. Really, that’s why television is taking over so much. The characters are driving the story. If you can work together with the characters, it moves the audience. With TV, audiences are walking the same path as the characters.
This is the type of movie that could have turned out very different, if in the wrong hands. What was it about Jon Watts’ vision that really sold you?
STORMARE: When Jon, the director, talked to me about the way he wanted to do this, it was very intriguing to me. He wanted to do something with no CGI and no giant special effects. He just wanted to tell a simple but scary story, in a very, very simple way.
The fear of clowns is something that’s very common for people. How do you feel about clowns?
STORMARE: I think I have a better acceptance of clowns than people just with a white mask, or the more French clown that’s just white. Those are the most scary. I like the clowns from the circus that have more paint on their face. They were all funny and made me laugh. As a kid, I remember the clowns that were all in white reminded me more of death than circus clowns. It can be a scary thing. Most people, if they’re sitting in the circus bleachers, it’s okay. But, being in a room alone with a clown is always scary. They’re kind of creepy.
You’re currently working on the highly anticipated TV series American Gods, as Czernobog, which is an exciting marriage of the work of Neil Gaiman mixed with the vision of Bryan Fuller. What was the appeal of that complicated, complex and very original story, for you?
STORMARE: My character, Czernobog is actually very simple. Well, he’s a complex character, but he’s in simple situations. All of my scenes are pretty much just walking the streets of Chicago. He’s following Mr. Wednesday on his journey and quest. The beautiful thing about American Gods is that it’s very simple, at its core. It will be interesting to see how it transcends into a television series because it was very much in the mind of the reader and sometimes the transitions are hard to figure out. You slowly transition back and forth, from one year to another century, and that’s challenging. We’re trying very hard. The more you take out the elements of the supernatural and see these gods walking the streets of America, the more you can relate to them. But, I’m not the director. People just want to be a part of the journey.
I think the same simplicity that you keep talking about is what made John Wick so popular, and you are in the sequel for that. What appealed to you about getting to work with Keanu Reeves again?
STORMARE: I’m not in it much. Me and Keanu have been friends for a long time. He flies under the radar, like me. He does a lot of odd projects and independent movies, and people never understand what the hell he’s doing and why he’s not doing Speed 9 or The Matrix 6. He said that, because people love making three movies, he wanted me to be the main character in the third movie and for people to meet me in the second. I really love his work ethic, and I like the way he portrays himself. He’s not a big media guy. He went to China and did a movie with a Chinese cast, and people here don’t even know about it. It’s a fantastic movie, called Man of Tai Chi. He’s one of the actors/directors that I really respect. He’s a guy full of ideas. He’s working independently, like myself, and if you walk your own path in this industry, you feel a lot better than if you’re just doing things for money.
I can’t talk for him, but I know that he’s been offered so much money to do Speed or The Matrix again. It takes some courage and some soul-searching to say, “No, I want to do my own stuff. Do I need a bigger house? Do I need another car?” For him, it’s, “Do I need another motorcycle?” And he says, “No, I don’t. I’m not in it for greed or money. I’m in it for longevity and to do the things I’m passionate about.” And the same goes for me. As an actor, you have to do things out of passion sometimes. I’m not in it for a lot of money. I could have done it for that, if I wanted to. But I only need one car, and I’d rather work with people I really do respect and admire. And if you walk that path, you don’t get written about too much in the tabloids, and I’m good with that.
Clown is now in theaters and on VOD.