[Interview] David Howard Thornton Talks Playing Art the Clown in ‘Terrifier 2’

Art the Clown is back in the highly anticipated, ultra blood soaked sequel Terrifier 2 (read our review here), and the man behind the makeup is once again David Howard Thornton, reprising the now iconic role that he took over in 2018’s Terrifier, and to celebrate the film’s release today in over 850 theaters nationwide, we recently had an amazing conversation with Thornton on the creation of Art, the unexpected fan response to the first film, and an in depth, spoiler-heavy dissection of the most unforgettable scenes from the new film that will definitely have everyone talking about them for years to come.

David also recalled when Art the Clown first entered his life, the first time he saw the character in writer/director Damien Leone‘s 2013 anthology All Hallows’ Eve, portrayed by Mike Giannelli in that film. “It was around 2014 or 2015, before I had auditioned for Terrifier, I saw All Hallows’ Eve,” he said. “I had seen the pictures of Art the Clown, and I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I always loved scary clowns, and I would see him on like scary clown lists even then. So I was like, okay I want to see this movie now, because this character looks interesting. So I went and watched All Hallows’ Eve, and it was like, oh my God, this is a cool character. He’s like an evil Mr. Bean, and I always wanted a chance to play a character like Mr. Bean. 

“I love what Mike Giannelli, who was the original Art the Clown, did with the character, but I was just like, God, there’s so much potential. There’s some places this character could go, and if I could only sink my teeth into it, I feel like I could do something cool with it. But I never imagined I would get the chance. I was like, I’d love to play a character like that. And it was like a year later, back in 2015, I came across the audition notice for Terrifier, and I was like, oh this is it, I have to do this. I contacted my reps and said you guys have to send me in for this, I am perfect for this, please, please, please. And the rest is history.” 

Within a year of its initial release in 2018, Terrifier was picked up by Netflix and rapidly earned massive popularity among genre fans, becoming the new movie to see and quickly ascending Art to the highest realms of slasher favorites.

On the first film’s unexpected and yet unstoppable popularity and early fan reactions, Thornton tells HDN, “I had hoped, because I thought what we had done was pretty dang cool. I felt like we were breaking new ground in the genre with our kill scenes. I was like, oh my God, this could be something, but I was being realistic at the same time. We made that film for $35,000, We’re a low, low budget independent film that didn’t really have any real backing by main stream media when we came out. It was like you guys (Halloween Daily News), and Bloody Disgusting and a few other horror sites that talked about us, and that was it. 

“But it was because of that, the horror sites, like you guys, that got the world out about the film, and other people started latching onto it. That’s when Netflix was like, okay we want to see what this is. And Netflix put it on and then boom, it exploded. But it’s because of the fans. That’s what made this movie as big as it is. It wasn’t the Hollywood engine that makes all these other movies big by all the publicity, they just keep forcing that stuff down your throat, like oh you have to like this. 

“It was truly organic through the fan community, which was a really cool thing to see happen. You usually don’t see this kind of stuff happen in this day and age. This is the stuff that would happen back in the ’80s, in the ’70s or before, because you didn’t have internet back then, so you would hear about those movies that could rent at the video store that you didn’t see in the main stream theaters, and you were like, oh I’ve got to check this out. That’s kind of how Terrifier was, almost like this forbidden film in some ways.”

If the first Terrifier is considered shocking, Terrifier 2 amps everything up in every way, and just reading the script for the sequel surprised Thornton, though not always for the reasons you may expect. “Reading that script for the fist time was the most fun thing for me,” he said, “because I’m sitting there in Damien’s apartment, and I’m just chuckling, and he’d know exactly where I was just based on my reaction. I’m like, ‘Wow, you know me too well, man. You know my reactions way too well to know where I am in the script.’ 

“There are just so many fun things. I mean, just the laundry mat scene in itself, I just loved. I love that he wrote a lot more of these scenes where Art is just doing everyday things that you don’t typically see a villain doing, like just washing his clothes. That just came about, the whole idea is he’s bloody and everything, but we want him to be clean, because there’s that great image of him just getting progressively bloodier and bloodier as the movie goes on, so it’s like, ‘How do we get him clean?’ We were like, ‘Well why doesn’t he just wash his clothes at the laundry mat?’ It turned out to be one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It’s just so weird and funny.”

There is also a pivotal new character introduced very early in the film, and it is amazing that this character was effectively kept a secret from fans until now. Of this new character, David tells us, “I’m amazed we were able to keep (spoiler) secret. Nobody knew about (spoiler) until we did the first screening. We wanted that reveal in the movie to be such a WTF moment… I love that character so much.” 

We discuss much more about the introduction of this mysterious new character, as well as that of horror’s newest hero and Art’s ultimate nemesis Sienna, played by Lauren LaVera, and enter into full spoiler territory regarding all the most eye-popping moments of Terrifier 2 in our extensive and candid one-on-one conversation.

We also of course talked a bit about celebrating Halloween itself, and learned Thornton’s own origin story, which begins with the man who would become the most terrifying killer clown of all time acting in church plays.

You can watch our full exclusive video interview with David Howard Thornton below. (SPOILER WARNING)

Terrifier 2 is now playing in theaters and will stream on Screambox later this month.

Watch our exclusive new interview with David’s costar, Lauren LaVera, here.

[See all of our Terrifier 2 coverage here.]

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Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.