Christian Thomas | Campus Photojournalist
This past Wednesday, actor Tony Todd, star of the 1992 film Candyman, visited Hampton University for a film screening and discussion with students centered around the newest installment of the Candyman franchise and Todd’s various projects.
Invited by Rel Dowdell, a film studies professor in the English and Foreign Languages department, the screening was held in the Student Center’s theater with a packed student audience.
Dowdell said he wanted students to meet a “real actor” who had paid a lot of dues.
“What I wanted was someone who had over 40 years in the industry, who has done everything, not just theatre acting, but film acting, voiceover, commercials, so they can understand all the different facets of someone who’s done everything,” he said.
Todd, who has acted in more than 230 projects throughout his 40-year career, shared his unique experiences while in the film industry. From turning down Quentin Tarantino four times for a role in Pulp Fiction, traveling to Africa with James Earl Jones, to working on the set of The Crow, before the film’s star, Brandon Lee, tragically died.
During the event, Todd went into detail behind the scenes of his iconic roles in films such as Candyman, Final Destination and the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.
Taking questions from the audience, Todd shared his experience being covered in bees while filming Candyman.
“When I read that script and I saw the bees coming up, I knew that was a scene that had never been done before,” Todd said. “We had an official beekeeper on set. Two days before we started shooting, he took me into his trailer and he said, ‘Tony, it’s time for you to meet the bees.’ I only got stung about 26, 27 times, but the adrenaline was gone.”
He mentioned that he had previously negotiated to receive $1,000 as compensation per bee sting.
Todd also talked about Cabrini Green, the apartment complex Candyman took place in.
“We spent a month in Cabrini Green, which is one of the most hostile housing projects ever created,” he said. “We got to talk to the community, which is mostly single Black women. We were told that they had to get their shopping done by 10 a.m., otherwise it was no-man’s land. If you look closely at the opening scene, a lot of these guys are actual gang members.”
Todd shared that he had initial concerns over the release of Candyman.
“So many people saw that movie when they were little. It freaked me out,” he said. “I went to the director and said, ‘Man, did we make a movie for kids? Are we babysitting for them? He said, ‘Tony, relax. Anybody who saw this movie when they were little either loved it, or was affected by it, or will remember it forever.’”
Todd also spoke on the lack of diversity not just in front of the camera but behind it.
“I would be on a set of 100 people, and I wouldn’t see anybody of color,” Todd said. “They used to not let more than one of us [people of color] on the set.”
Speaking to the future actors and actresses in the audience, Todd advised students to be fearless.
“You have to be fearless, you have to own this role,” he said. “Every role you go for, write down 10 reasons why you don’t want the job.”
Todd worked as a producer in the 2021 reimagining of Candyman. Before the event’s conclusion, the actor hinted at his role as Venom in Spider-Man 2 that is slated to release on Sony’s Playstation 5 in 2023.
Dowdell says he plans to offer events similar to these regularly.