Originally published at popcultureaddict.com in 2009
For the last decade Tyler Mane has been playing some of the most ferocious and feared figures in modern film. Looming at a height of 6′ 9″, Mane has the ominous presence of a man you wouldn’t want to meet in your darkest nightmare. However, his looming presence has done him well, gaining him the roles in two of modern pop culture’s biggest franchises and creating him a strong foothold in the entertainment industry. Originally from small town Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Tyler Mane started his career as a wrestler; most memorably in the WCW as the wrestling heel Nitron, where he soon crossed over to acting. Soon after leaving his wrestling career behind in 1999, Tyler made his first major acting breakthrough when he gained the lucrative role as the ferocious mutant Sabretooth in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film. Putting him firmly on the map, Mane appeared in a number of other major studio releases including Joe Dirt, Troy and The Scorpion King. However, it was after meeting up with rock musician turned acclaimed horror director Rob Zombie that Mane earned his place in the hallowed horror hall of fame. Putting on a familiar mask, Tyler Mane brought a new dimension of pathos and fear to a classic horror icon – Halloween’s Michael Myers. Starring as the masked serial killer in both of Rob Zombie’s triumphant re-launches of the classic horror franchise, Tyler Mane did what others before him could not. He gave Michael Myers a soul.
Acquainted through mutual Los Angeles based friends, I had the opportunity to talk to Tyler in the fall of 2009. Just coming off of making an independent Canadian film titled Gunless, Tyler Mane was busy creating his own production company, Mane Entertainment. Although Tyler looked intimidating in his photos, I found him to be a very down to earth guy with a slight sense of humour. Yet, as it always seems to be, the people who often play villains are usually the nicest people of all. Tyler spoke to me about his extraordinary career from the lonely existence as a wrestler, to playing some of the most fearsome threats opposite Hollywood’s elite talents and took me beyond to Penance Lane.
Sam Tweedle: So you first got into show business in wrestling.
Tyler Mane: Yeah. I started in 1986. I did some training in Calgary beforehand and started my professional career in Oregon on Christmas Day, and that’s when I knew I was in a lonely assed business.
Sam: Why is that?
Tyler: Working Christmas Day away from home? Away from family as a nineteen-year-old kid? It’s kind of daunting. It was a wake-up call.
Sam: What makes a guy decide to go into wrestling in the first place?
Tyler: Well I was a tall skinny kid. I was picked on in school. I was slightly dyslexic. I decided I was going to do something and being the size that I am I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, so what else do you do? You go into pro-wrestling!
Sam: I guess so. I never thought of that…
Tyler: I’d been preparing for it since I was young. I’d watch wrestling and action movies as a kid and then I started into martial arts and transitioned into football and went from football into pro-wrestling.
Sam: When you were training in Calgary did you ever train with the Hart Family?
Tyler: That is who I started with. I started with Stu Hart training down in the dungeon, stretching me every which way. That’s right when Bruce Hart was going to start up his own school and there were conflicts on who was going to train me. The WWF, at the time, came into town and wanted me to go with them so I went out to California and started training under Red Bastian. From there I started my career in Oregon. I started with an independent NWA franchise, then went with the NWA and then transferred over to the WCW. I was there for a while, and then I went independently all over the world, but I never wrestled in Canada. I never had a professional match in Canada.
Sam: Why was that?
Tyler: I don’t know. I guess when I was young I wanted to get out to the sun and warmer weather and I just did.
Sam: Did you ever get to wrestle any of your heroes that you were watching as a kid?
Tyler: Yeah. I’ve wrestled with Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, “Doctor Death” Steve Williams, Sting, Lex Luger and the Bulldogs. It was pretty cool.
Sam: What year did you get out of wrestling?
Tyler: I hung up my boots for good in 1999 when I did X-Men.
Sam: How did you make the transition from wrestling to acting.
Tyler: I always wanted to do movies when I was a kid because I watched Arnold and Stallone and wanted to be like them. I was with the WCW and I was getting ready to leave in 1992 when the Universal action pack came along and they wanted a tall blonde wrestler for the Smokey and the Bandit sequels they were doing. I got that role and realized it was a lot better to get paid and fed well then getting dropped on your head.
Sam: I read that your tag team partner Kevin Nash was originally up for the part of Sabretooth.
Tyler: Yeah. I guess they were talking [to him] but luckily for me Kevin was a little overweight at the time.
Sam: Did you read comics as a kid? Did you know who Sabretooth was at the time that you got the part?
Tyler: I’d seen the X-Men on TV but I was never a big comic book person. Its funny when I was doing my research for the role in LA I walked into a comic bookstore and I said “Yeah, do you have any X-Men comic books?” The guy kind of looked at me as if I were new and said “Yeah. It’s these four rows here.” I tried to blow it off like I was looking for stuff for my nephew. Then I said, “Do you have anything with Sabretooth in it?” He says “Yeah, these two rows here.” I think right then I realized it was a pretty big thing.
Sam: What did you do to prepare for that part?
Tyler: I read the comics. Looked at them and tried to figure out what I wanted to bring to the role. Then you go in there and they say “Well, we don’t want to follow the comics too much” and you just have to prepare whatever you can as an actor.
Sam: Did you get to spend much time with Hugh Jackman?
Tyler: Yeah. We got along great. Some Sunday mornings I’d go to his place and he and his wife would make me crepes in the morning. It was really cool.
Sam: Was X-Men your first movie?
Tyler: No. I had wrestled in Mexico for eighteen months and got to be a quite popular heal out there and I did my first film there. It was a Mexican wrestling film where I had three midget sidekicks that are aliens.
Sam: Please tell me this is on DVD.
Tyler: I’m not going to tell you the name of it. It is a pretty funny thing. I spoke very little Spanish so they said “Say whatever you want. We’re going to dub over it anyways.” But you know Misty Lee right? Misty’s seen it but if she tells you where it is I’m going to have to kill her.
Sam: Yeah. I’d like to keep her around so we’ll move on.
Tyler: There we go.
Sam: After X-Men were you in demand? How did your career take off from that point?
Tyler: It’s a slow steady process and you just move on to your next job and your next job and your next job and that’s what I did. As for changing my life completely I don’t know that that was the case. It helped open the doors. It was another stepping stone in the path that I needed to take.
Sam: I gotta tell you. I loved the Halloween films. The odd thing is that I hate remakes, and Rob Zombie’s first two movies disturbed the hell out of me and I was really not willing to sit through any more of his films. I was almost too intimidated to. But when I saw the remake of Halloween I thought it was unbelievable how much I loved that movie. It’s turned into one of my favourite modern horror films. How did you get involved with Rob Zombie?
Tyler: I played the role of Rufus in The Devils Rejects for him. I was only there for four days. I helped open up the film and I believe I’m the first one to die, besides a bunch of cops. I take one for the team and let them all escape. From that he liked what I had done and decided to write Halloween for me.
Sam: I know why I think it’s a stronger film then the original. Why do you think the film has become so popular and has reignited that franchise?
Tyler: The thing is that it tells the back story of Michael Myers and tells how he became who he was. He’s a product of his environment and how he evolved. It also shows the inner workings of Michael Myers a little bit and it shows him as more then just a one-dimensional character as he was in the past. It shows that he has emotions and that he had a complete thought process. That was something that was totally left out in the other films. In fact I just saw Halloween 4 and part of Halloween 5 last night and for me it’s more intimidating to realize that it’s possibly a real human being that could be doing this. It could be something that could happen in real life. You look at someone like Richard Kuklinski, the Ice Man. He had a lot of the same characteristics that Michael Myers had. He had a troubled childhood, a troubled family. His father would beat him. He went from there to torturing animals and he went from there to being a stone-cold killer who wouldn’t show emotion when he was killing. That’s basically what Michael Myers is.
Sam: In past films Michael Myers, and a lot of guys like Jason, seems to be nothing more then a machete welding juggernaut. How did you manage to bring a different sense of fear and emotion to the role?
Tyler: I wanted him to actually have feelings. Whenever he was doing a kill I went in with the understanding and the knowledge that I wanted to portray him as a real human being, so I had that whole thought process going through my head when I was doing it for my actions, and reactions, from the other actors which gives you reasoning for what you are doing instead of just being a one-dimensional character wielding a knife.
Sam: What was working with Malcolm McDowell like? I met him briefly once and he is an interesting gentleman.
Tyler: Malcolm is a piece of work, isn’t he? He’s a great guy to work with. I just loved working with Malcolm. Any scene I did with him he was just fantastic to work with and he gives you so much to work off of. He also understands the whole process of what’s going on. I remember the one scene where we are sitting in the asylum and I have the little mask on and my hands are handcuffed behind my back and before the scene he goes “I bet I could make you laugh.” I said, “Good luck.” He had me laughing within the first ten seconds. Of course it was an outtake, but that’s Malcolm.
Sam: Now Malcolm McDowell was the face of ultimate evil in A Clockwork Orange. Did that ever go through your mind when you were facing him?
and I just looked at Malcolm and said, “How did you do that scene with the eye drops.” “]Tyler: Actually, when we were making Halloween we had these trailers with DVD players and we watched A Clockwork Orange during filming. I went on set about a half hour after seeing it and I just looked at Malcolm and said, “How did you do that scene with the eye drops.” He said “Oh my God. I’ll tell you.” They had a real eye doctor doing that scene and he was supposed to be putting eye drops in his eyes but he’d forget to do it because he got caught up in the scene and Malcolm said it was the most excruciating thing he’d ever done. I said “Well, better you then me. Let’s get this scene done.”
Sam: I loved the ending to Halloween II. The ending made me want to see a third film and I’m usually a guy who doesn’t even see sequels. Are there any plans for a third Halloween film?
Tyler: Their talking about a third Halloween. I know that Rob Zombie isn’t going to be involved. They have spoken to me about doing it, possibly. We have to see but I think it’s put on hold for now.
Sam: I really think that Scout Taylor-Compton is incredible in the film and I’d love to see her and Michael teaming up as a duo on a killing spree.
Tyler: Who knows what direction they’ll take it in?
Sam: But Rob’s off?
Tyler: Yeah, but he said that for the last one too. They had announced in the trades that they have a writer and director attached to it now.
Sam: You have/are starting your own production company.
Tyler: Yeah, Mane Entertainment.
Sam: How did that come about?
Tyler: Well, I decided that I wanted to make some films. Keep them indie films where you can keep the integrity of the film and I’ve just seen so many times when you get so many people’s opinions and a lot of times people who are making decisions don’t have a clue of the entire creative process. They’ll just throw out crazy shit that doesn’t even fit into the story. I wanted to have the ability to tell some stories and keep the integrity of the story and keep the budget down. I’ve been on some pretty big pictures and I’ve seen a lot of waste and I don’t think it’s necessary to make a good quality film.
Sam: Of course it’s not necessary. Some of my all-time favourite films were made on a total shoestring.
Tyler: Exactly. You look at the first Saw movie. It was made on a 1.2-million-dollar budget and it turned into a huge franchise. Then when you get a lot of people throwing in a lot of ideas into it, it gets a little lost.
Sam: You have a picture about to go into production now, don’t you?
Tyler: Yeah. Our first picture is called Penance Lane. We’re hoping to start filming in the beginning of January or February and hope to have it out by next fall.
Sam: I know you probably can’t tell us much about it now, but what can you tell us?
Tyler: Basically a convict is getting released from prison and he gets a second chance not to get back into the pen and he has got to go on this mission that takes him to this house on Penance Lane, and what he finds behind the walls is a little more then he bargained for. You can say that it’s a horror/thriller with a whole lot of action.
Sam: Do you have anybody connected to the picture that we’ve heard of?
Tyler: Yes, and I’m not releasing that at this point until the movie is finalized, but as soon as I do I will let you know. I’ve been lucky to be able to work with a lot of quality people in front of the camera and behind the camera and I’m calling in all these resources and the person we have attached as the director is going to impress everyone when they find out. It will be his directorial debut.
Sam: So it’s someone who hasn’t directed, but someone that we all know.
Tyler: Right. You will be very familiar with his work.
Sam: You have another film coming out next year, don’t you?
Tyler: I just did a comedy/western in Canada called Gunless with Paul Gross. It’s going to be released in Canada in April 2010. Paul plays a gunslinger that comes into a small Canadian town and his horse is lame. I’m the local blacksmith, so I take his horse and fix it and he thinks I’ve stolen his horse and done him wrong so he decides to call me out in a gunfight but the only problem is in this small Canadian town they don’t have any pistols to duel with. So that’s when everything gets carried away and the comedy factor comes in and we end up having some sort of a gun fight and I end up saving the day.
Sam: How did you end up getting involved in that project?
Tyler: I was in Georgia filming Halloween and I got a phone call and they wanted to ask me about this role and I ended up talking to them. As soon as I came back to LA I met with the director and we ended up doing up in Osoyoos BC, in wine country, which is a difficult place to shoot.
Tyler: Because there is wine everywhere. But that’s a good thing. It is a little hard finding cigars up there and if somebody started a cigar shop in Osoyoos, boy they’d be rich.
Sam: You’ve mentioned that you’ve worked with a lot of incredible people. Who have been your favourite people to work with?
Tyler: Every time I get to work with Rob Zombie and the crew it’s just fantastic. It’s like working with family and I’ve been very lucky to work with many top actors. I’ve worked with Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Brian Cox, Brad Pitt and Malcolm McDowell. The list just goes on and on. It’s just been a fantastic ride and getting better every day.
Sam: In this crazy business called Hollywood where do you see yourself in the future.
Tyler: Putting out top quality films that tell a good complete story.
Sam: And for us Canadian small-town kids back home, what can advice you give us?
Tyler: I’m a small time Canadian boy myself from Saskatoon and I just had a dream and I decided that I wanted to do something bigger then working at the golf course in the summer and driving a Zamboni in the winter. So I said I gotta get out of here and I did. I sold my guitar and sold my jeep and started in the wrestling and now I’m living in California and making movies and starting my own production company.
At first glance Tyler Mane and I probably don’t seem to be much alike, but I couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of kinship with him. As a guy who grew up in a small Canadian town myself, I can understand the ambition and perseverance that it takes to try to make the sort of life you dream about come true. Tyler Mane is living proof that ambition and drive can bring you anywhere. Tyler Mane has come a long way from the prairies of Saskatchewan, but that small town Canadian guy still exists. As he wrote to me in an introductory e-mail agreeing to do this interview “Us Canucks got to help each other out when we can man!” He may look ferocious, but in reality Tyler Mane is just a really decent guy.
POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE: A very special thanks goes to Misty Lee, one of my very favorite people in the world, for arranging this interview. Without Misty’s involvement and guidance this interview would not have been possible. Thank you for everything you do Misty!