Interviews · Movies

Tom Arnold Wants You To Buy Into The Absurdity of ‘Dead Ant’

There is no room for cynicism with Tom Arnold’s new creature feature filled with wannabe rockers and giant, finger-lickin’ mutant ants.
By  · Published on October 18th, 2017

There is no room for cynicism with Tom Arnold’s new creature feature filled with wannabe rockers and giant, finger-lickin’ mutant ants.

A convoy packed with wannabe rockers drives into the desert desperate to reclaim their one-time relevance only to lose their minds on a gnarly peyote-trip, and possibly an assault from a giant, killer ant. A single watch of the Dead Ant trailer will separate the lovers from the haters. This is either your thing or it is not. Dead Ant plays to your memories of A-Bomb sci-fi horror classics like Them and Panic in Year Zero and reaches for extra levels of silliness by supplying fodder in the forms of Jake Busey, Sean Astin, Rhys Coiro, Leisha Hailey, and Tom Arnold. Here is a celebration of the cheesiest of B-Movies. Dead Ant is an excuse to revel in the baser levels of your bottom-feeder pubescent brain, laughing at the grotesque devouring of rock n roll dolts. Speaking over the phone with Tom Arnold, it is apparent that the long-time character actor knows exactly what kind of movie they’re applauding with Dead Ant. Life is too short to wallow in snootiness, and sometimes all you need to turn your day around is a good laugh at the severing of limbs.

So, the whole time I’m watching the movie, I was waiting for your character to get killed off.

Yeah, I was hoping so too, so I could go home. No, but I think the great thing about my character, and I based him a little bit on my friend Shep Gordon who’s a long time music manager, and we had just done a documentary called Supermensch – the Legend of Shep Gordon that Mike Myers directed, a mutual friend. If you look at Shep’s early years with people like Alice Cooper and people like this, a lot of things go wrong.

Whether somebody puts the chicken on the stage and it gets destroyed by the audience, it looks like things are going wrong but they kinda have to keep rolling with it. That’s the thing about Rock and Roll, whatever happens, you just keep rolling with it. He’s a guy that rolls with it, if an ant bites his hand off he just rolls with it, he’s going to get them to the gig. No matter what happens, it’s all about getting to the gig and Rock and Roll.

That made it kind of funny. A normal person would be like, holy shit there’s a giant fucking ant on me and looking at me like freaked out, and he’s not even on peyote. So what the fuck? And so, you know, it’s fun because it places a regular comedy movie about this band and then also there’s this giant ant which could represent the music business and how shitty it is and how shitty it is to people, or it could be just giants ants, which it is.

You know, it’s all about getting to the gig, and so it just seems so funny to me and I am surprised. Sean Astin not so lucky. He must have only had a few days to work, so he had to go first.

Well, I thought you had some of the best lines in the movie. You had that bit about how you’re not creepy, it’s been proven in court.

Yes, I ad-libbed a lot in the movie. I will say that the director let me ad lib a lot.

There was a lot of improv going on.

Yes, by me. Because my character, you know. There’s a thing I ad-libbed about our fan base, basically saying our fan base was white supremacists. With what’s going on with America, I thought, “Well this will be…” because you know I was listening to some of the music they listen to and I was like, “Oh, Okay, this might be, you know,” and how you would handle that if you realized your fan base was white supremacist, it’s like Trump.

Oh okay, let’s go for it. Well, they’re my fans, so I don’t want to let down my fans. I can’t diss about them, they’re my fans. They like me, so I can’t insult them. That insane thingy. So I can’t lose fans. Also, it was fun to play that when the girls are getting killed, he’s not too upset. It’s a weird like in a real world you’d be like, “Oh my god, horrible things are happening!” He just wants to get to the show.

Well, he’s been on the road a long time, too.

He’s been on the road way too long. So, it’s about… You know, when you do a movie like this you take a chance that the guy, the director, and the special effects because you don’t see the ants. You see a green screen or a green glove on your hand and you’re like, “Oh.” And they’re like, “Act like an ant bit your hand off.” And I’m like, “Okay.” But you know, you just gotta go for it. And that’s the thing about these movies.

When I was a kid at the Ottumwa, Iowa drive-in, man. We would bale hay all day or whatever then we would go to this fucking drive-in, and I don’t care what kind of Sci-Fi scary creature movie, we bought it. We didn’t go there as skeptics to go, “Oh that doesn’t look right,” or, “That seems fake.” We went full-on, scary movie, whatever. We bought in 100%. We had so much fun.

We also love professional wrestling, by the way. When a professional wrestler dies these days, I have to take a moment. That is a fact. They had such an important part in our life. We had so much fun because we aren’t film critics, we aren’t film students. We just went for the fun of these kinds of movies, and they were fun and you’re at the drive-in, and they’re on the big screen. And these creatures and these monsters, and whatever. And sure, I suppose to the trained eye, they look weird. And the acting could be stilted. And even now when I watch these movies from back then, at least I laugh at the acting. “Oh that’s probably not a real general. Nuclear war is not … ”

It was such a thing growing up, I don’t ever want to take that away. So to be involved in a movie like this where it has some of those aspects, this genre is obviously poo-pood by the Oscars, perhaps. But it’s important, man. The people who love this kind of stuff, they buy in. And I think buying into stuff, you cannot give too much of buying in to stuff. Everybody can be a cynic. Every asshole can be a cynic about everything. As you can tell from the fucking Internet. Jesus Christ, like this week it’s like, “Why didn’t Hillary Clinton do that five days ago, why didn’t that woman do this three days ago?” Whatever. It’s bullshit. Nobody’s ever happy right now, oh it’s never good enough. Everybody’s passive aggressive. It’s just fun to go and have fun. Sometimes, just buy in.

We’ve had a long stretch of these nostalgic looks back to classic sci-fi horror films like Them, and the grindhouse era.  What’s the appeal there?

Yeah, Them man, oh fuck. That one! I think it is nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a really good thing. It saves you a lot of money on trauma therapy because you don’t have to get hypnotized. It just takes you back there and perhaps to the good memories, you don’t have to go back into that closet, if you know what I mean, well neither does trauma therapy apparently.

So saying things were simpler, they were simpler. There weren’t … I have 152,000 critics following me on my Twitter, so you don’t have that. As a kid, I just went to the movies that were at the theater. I never read you know. This is so offensive to what you do, I really respect what you do genuinely, I do, because I feel like you’re getting the word out that, “Hey this is good. Check this out.” A lot of people, the people who have to pick up a paper newspaper, you’re getting the word out and helping filmmakers. They could use the push, I think that’s really important.

But as a kid, we just went to the movies that were at the fucking drive-in, okay? And we liked it. It didn’t matter and we bought in, and we had fun, and they were almost all this kind of movie. Once in a while there was a great movie like Them and there was a great movie like way back, The Blob there was a great movie like, you know. It’s just fun to be there. It’s fun to watch other people be scared. It was fun to just be together with a bunch of like-minded crazy people.

That’s obviously your hope for a film like Dead Ant as well.

Right, and Dead Ant is also a comedy, so you know it’s genuinely a comedy also, so hopefully, it has a little bit of crossover appeal. It’s not an expensive movie, so it doesn’t have to do … What’s the Harrison Ford movie that just came out with Ryan Gosling?

Blade Runner 2049.

It doesn’t have to do Blade Runner numbers. I’d be thrilled to death with the worst numbers of Blade Runner, even the original one. Even a tenth of that, let’s be honest. It’d be nice if it does something. I think people would enjoy it, they did a good job with the special effects. It’s not Avatar. There’s no message there.

It’s obvious that you guys are all having fun.

Yes. Those guys bonded immediately. I really wanted Rhys to be his character. They were thinking about a couple people, and I insisted they have him. Because I really liked him on Entourage, and I really thought, “Well, he’s going to add. This guy will go for it.” And I really liked the other folks. I worked with a couple of them before. Those guys bonded, liked bonded up. Like a band. I’m the manager, so I didn’t have to bond with them. I could be sort of the adult, which works well for me because I’m not a bonding dude, and I’m older. Those guys really did a good job, and they had fun, fun, fun, and I think it shows.

Related Topics: , ,

Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)