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Archive for April, 1996

The X-Files Magazine: Stretching as an actor

The X-Files Magazine [Manga, UK]
Stretching as an actor
Paula Vitaris

Panic struck America’s Fox Network when heavy-weight boxing champion Mike Tyson broke his thumb and cancelled a match scheduled for last November 4th. What should be substituted for the highly publicized fight? EUGENE VICTOR TOOMS to the rescue! A liver-gobbling genetic mutant even Tyson would be loathe to race, he remains, two years after his appearance in The X’-Files episodes, “Squeeze” and “Tooms”, one of the show’s most popular monsters. With a two hour hole in the schedule, the network reached into its storage cabinet and offered up a ‘Tooms Night’ to the surprise and delight of the audience – including Tooms himself, actor Doug Hutchison.

“It’s a trip!” exclaims the vegetarian Hutchison, still amazed that an acting job has linked him forever with raw human livers. Tooms was spawned in Baltimore, but Hutchison’s own breeding ground is Detroit, where he grew up intending to become a rock musician. When a teacher convinced him to try acting, he moved to New York to study at the Julliard school. But the free-spirited actor soon realized he wasn’t cut out for formal study, and dropped out of school, becoming active in New York and regional theatre. A disastrous musical, “Shout and Twist”, brought him back to L.A., and he decided to remain there after that “nightmarish” experience to pursue film work. He soon landed roles in episodic television and in the feature films Fresh Horses and The Chocolate War.

Hutchison became Tooms when his agent sent him to read for the role in “Squeeze”. “I went into the room, and Harry Longstreet, the director, and the producers were there,” he recalls. “We started to plunge into this interrogation scene, and Harry said, ‘I’d like you to do this without any emotion.’ So I’m thinking, ‘Oh great, I’m just. going to sit here and say yes, no, and be emotionless.’ So I did it. And afterwards he said, ‘Okay that’s very good, and now I’d like you to show me that you can be this serial killer. Pretend that you’re stalking your victims. I just want to see your potential for evil.’ And I’m thinking, ‘What is this? This is ridiculous! What does he want me to do? Make a face, or what?’ So I sat and pondered his direction and as I was thinking about it, he [must have] thought that I misunderstood and he said, ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’ And it just jumped out of me before I knew it came out, but I said, ‘Yeah, I got it – you want me to stalk you, you motherfucker???'” ‘The director may have been taken aback, but producer/writers Glen Morgan and James Wong loved Hutchison’s repressed intensity.

Hutchison came to fall in love with the character. “It was a very sweet challenge for me,” he says. “I’m a very animated person, and I tend to bring a lot of animation to my roles. This was a particularly good challenge because I felt there was a stillness to this character. I had been intrigued by stillness for quite a while since seeing Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.” – another fan of raw human livers – “in The Silence of the Lambs. He captured the art of stillness so well, and I was inspired by his performance.”

In fact, Hutchison so enjoyed playing Tooms that he was determined to reprise the role. A writer and filmmaker as well as an actor (a documentary Hutchison and his brother Eric made about their grandfather won second prize at a Seattle film festival), he wrote a sequel script entitled, “Dark He Was and Golden-Eyed” and sent it to executive producer, Chris Carter. “I was adamant about coming back on the show,” Hutchison declares. In return, he received a phone call from one of the network lawyers informing him that legal ramifications prevented his script from even being read. By then it was moot anyway, shortly after he sent his script to Carter, his agent called with the news that The X-Files wanted him back for “Tooms”, an eponymous sequel written by Morgan and Wong.

Hutchison’s ideals differed quite a bit from Morgan and Wong’s script. “The fly in the ointment for me was how Tooms hibernates for 30 years if he gets 5 livers,” he says. “I wanted to figure out a way to have him around forever. So, in my script, Tooms was in an experiment to find out how I could remain so young and immortal; he was infused with a drug that backfired and ended up escaping the asylum. So now he’s eating livers like M&Ms – he’s on a rampage! I also dealt with where Tooms might have come from” – Hutchison’s script suggests he is an incarnation of a ravenous, liver-eating Central American Indian God – “So it had a lot of flashbacks. And Tooms talked a lot at the end, because Scully and I had a confrontation.”

Hutchison has kept busy since his time on The X-Files. He has appeared in guest spots on several television shows and made a pilot for Fox, though sadly not one that was picked up for a full series. He also has two feature film roles in the can: he plays a child rapist in Warner Brothers’ upcoming A Time To Kill, based on the popular novel by John Grisham, and a drugged up robber in the independent film All Points Between. More importantly for X-Files fans, he also has a recurring role in Morgan and Wong’s new science fiction war series on Sky, Space: Above and Beyond.

A third episode featuring Eugene Victor Tooms has been suggested, but Hutchison feels that, no matter what, the character will always be a part of him. The fan mail keeps flowing in, and Hutchison has been a guest at X-Files conventions across the USA. “I was aware of the Star Trek conventions,” he notes, “but I had no concept of what they were really about and how many people actually show up. My first X-Files convention was in San Diego. There were over 2,000 people – I signed autographs for five and a half hours!” His insistence on greeting each autograph seeker personally resulted in the convention personnel finally giving up and leaving him to find his own way home.

Hutchison says he loves mingling with the crowd; his current “long-haired and scruffy” appearance is a disguise that permits him to talk to fans without their knowing who he is. “I’m having a riot being this anonymous dude,” he laughs. “I’ll talk with people and jam with them, and then go up on stage, and they’ll come up to me afterwards and go, ‘I didn’t know you were Tooms, man! I talked to you for twenty minutes!’ That’s been a real thrill.”