During Wizard World Philadelphia, Scoop spent some time talking with actor Thomas Ian Nicholas. He discussed his work in movies like Rookie of the Year, American Pie, and Walt Before Mickey, plus upcoming projects like Handbook for Mortals. Nicholas shared anecdotes about filming, his process as an actor, and plans for launching new work.
Scoop: How much fun did you have filming the American Pie series?
Thomas Ian Nicholas (TIN): It was amazing. My favorite film is, of course, the first film. But, as far as making them, they became more fun to make with each one that we did, because, as we got to know each other more, we hung out more, we had more fun. With each one, we started doing more location shoots, so by the time we did Reunion, we were in, like, another state for the whole shoot. And, when you’re a fish out of water you have the weekends, you’re not around normal friends and family and everyday life. So, we just hung out with each other and tried not to get into trouble. [laughs]
Scoop: Tried, but I’m sure you failed. [laughs]
TIN: Miserably. There’s the TMZ article that is from 2011 to prove it.
Scoop: Oh no! Any chance there will be another American Pie movie in the future?
TIN: American Pie 5 – whatever the name might be called – is written. It’s sitting on a shelf at Universal. So, if you want to start a petition, I’m sure you could get some signatures and convince Universal that it’s time to make the movie. It’s up to them really. Hopefully they don’t wait too long to call us, because then they’d have to call it American Pie Geriatrics.
Scoop: The 20th anniversary is coming up.
TIN: Yeah. It’s going to take more than 20 years to put me in my geriatrics, c’mon! I know I’m an old man, but…
Scoop: No, I meant the next one should be for the 20th anniversary.
TIN: Yeah, for geriatrics, it’d need to be another 40 or 50 years.
Scoop: That would be the next, next one.
TIN: Yeah, the golden anniversary.
Scoop: American Golden Pie.
TIN: American Golden Shower. [laughs]
Scoop: In Rookie of the Year you played a kid who got to become a pro baseball player, which would be a dream come true for many little leaguers. What was the experience like filming that movie?
TIN: It was amazing; especially being on Wrigley Field for an entire month. I go out once a year, since 2008, and I throw out the first pitch, sing the seventh inning stretch, and they print me a jersey, which you see here. Which you can’t see because I’m just talking, but there is a jersey here that has “Rowengartner” on the back. It’s an official Cubs MLB jersey. So every year that I do that, I auction it off and raise money for a different charity. When I’m on the field I have so many flashback memories and good vibes when I touch down on that turf.
Scoop: What surprises did you learn about Walt Disney for Walt Before Mickey?
TIN: I had no idea that Walt had failed. I guess I never really imagined that the only thing that is greater than one’s success is their failures. Because when we think of famous people or a household name like Walt Disney, you don’t think of failure or bankruptcy. So, I was completely shocked to learn of his humble beginnings and all of his trials and tribulations and his drive. I grew up, obviously, like all of us loving Walt Disney and his films, but I grew to have such a great respect for him, just as a person and what he strove to do and what he accomplished.
Scoop: Were you nervous about playing one of the most famous, noteworthy people in American history?
TIN: Yeah, I wanted to make sure I had lots of time to prepare. So, when I got the phone call to play the role and I said, “Of course, it would be an honor.” They said, “Great, you start next week.” So, I had a whole week.
Scoop: Oh no. So, you did a lot of reading?
TIN: It’s based upon a book called Walt Before Mickey, written by Timothy Susanin. He’s not really an author, he’s an attorney, he was friends with Diane Disney Miller. The book read more like a bibliography than a fictionalized story. So it was all true and it was the first book that the Disney family signed off on as being the truth. And Diane Disney Miller wrote the foreword.
All the answers were in there to the story, but there was nothing, really, to indicate how to portray Walt. I watched Saving Mr. Banks and I was like, well, that doesn’t do me any good. I thought Tom Hanks was fine and he was good at portraying the Walt that I grew up knowing, which is the Walt who introduced Disney Afternoons wearing his blue cardigan. I thought to myself, okay, I’m portraying Walt from 17 to 27 and at the time – this was, like, three years ago, I’m 33. I’m thinking 23 to 33, I remember how different I was and how much more energy and drive I had, and just how different I was. I decided to throw out anything I knew about Walt Disney because you don’t see any video of him or hear anything of him until he was, like, 30. So, to portray him at 17, 18, 19, early 20s, I had to just throw it all out the window and just went straight for the drive. Like, what would drive a man to go through all that and not give up. So that’s what I focused on.
Scoop: What was it like facing off against Michael Myers in Halloween: Resurrection?
TIN: Well, I didn’t have much of a chance, he surprise attacked me through a mirror. In the original script Bill was actually supposed to be the one who dressed up like Michael, then when they hired Busta Rhymes they gave it to him. So, I was bummed out. It makes more sense knowing what a sycophant Bill, my character, was toward Michael Myers, why he said the line, “Michael Myers is more than just a man behind a mask, he’s a legend.” In the original script, I had brought a Michael Myers costume to scare everybody. In hearing that, if you’re really deep into Halloween, you’ll know that my character had a completely different motivation.
When I lost the ability to portray Michael Myers – which I still have the jumpsuit and the mask – I was like, “Fine, then I’m going to turn this on its head.” They were like, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, whenever you watch a Halloween movie or horror movie you know that if you recognize the person that they’re going to live longer or live.” We were already filming American Pie 2, American Pie 1 was already a success. So, I said, “Kill me first of the whole group.” And they were like, “What?” I said, “Yeah, we’re going to mess with people’s heads, because they’re going to watch the film and they’re going to be, like, ‘That’s the dude from American Pie. Oh he’s going to live – oh, there he goes!’”
Scoop: So, that was your idea?
TIN: Like I said, I was really looking forward to being Michael Myers for a moment. Maybe I was just too short.
Scoop: You’ve done plenty of movies in comedy and drama – do you have a preference for one genre or the other?
TIN: I really like all genres. Drama is, ironically, more my forte than comedy. Comedy was my weak point in acting class when I was growing up. I studied for about 10 years in a school that focused on Stanislavski and the original method of acting and training by technique. My acting coach and mentor said, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so we need to work on your comedy because it’s not strong.” So, I worked on my comedy and then got Rookie of the Year. [laughs] And there went a different career path for me.
Now, I’m getting back into my roots, which is drama and I’m producing a lot of genre films, like The Lost Tree, which is a drama-thriller, and starring in it with Michael Madsen and Lacey Chabert. Living Among Us – we just dropped a teaser trailer for that with William Sadler, John Heard, James Russo, Andrew Keegan, and myself – a found footage vampire movie. The teaser trailer has, like, half a million views. We just put it up two weeks ago, just to see what people would think about it. Just to, in fact, tease it. Now, I am gearing up to produce Handbook for Mortals, which is an urban fantasy or a paranormal romance.
Scoop: You mentioned that when we talked earlier. Now that we are doing the interview, let’s talk about that again. You’re going to have a line of movies and books and you’ll be working on promoting through Wizard World.
TIN: What we wanted to do is, like I told you before, I’m the type of person who wants to be the guy who discovered something first. I’m like that with bands and a lot of my friends are too. Someone tells you about that band and they’re like, “Oh, I heard that band on the radio.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I was fans of them when they were playing for five people.”
So, we wanted to create an opportunity for Wizard World fans to discover our movie in its beginning stages. It’s going to be a series of films, so we’re going to release it as a series of books as well. At Wizard World you can preorder the book and get a limited edition collectible concept Tarot card. I should tell you a little about the book, or the story, rather. The story centers on Zade a young girl who goes to Las Vegas to audition for a magic show on the Strip. She gets on the show and she’s doing illusions but you soon find out that she can actually do real magic. So, while she’s hanging out with the crew and kind of falling in love with one or two of them – there’s your romance aspect, you have to have a love triangle, who will she choose. I don’t want to give too much away. I mainly got interested in it myself because I was born in Las Vegas and my great-uncle was a famous close-up magician. Vegas and magic are…
Scoop: They’re in your roots.
TIN: Yeah, they’re in my roots. My friend Lani Sarem, who wrote the script and then wrote the book. The lead character is a young woman and we wanted it to be very female-based. My wife’s a DJ and I hear this all the time in her industry, they’ll advertise a night of DJs as “All Female Lineup” but they never advertise an “All Male Lineup.” So, I want to make it a woman-based film and have a female director. We’re not going to make it like, “Check out this all female film.” We want to empower the talented women that are in our industry. So, we’re definitely making an effort with this film to support that.
Scoop: Anything else you want to share about it?
TIN: The main thing is, that this book we are going to be preselling through Wizard World is a limited edition as well and it’s only through Wizard World. We’re launching it at Wizard World Chicago. So we’ll be touring with Wizard World. We’ll be in Sacramento, and Albuquerque, and Columbus promoting this film and giving people this exclusive opportunity.