Tom Sullivan Interview

by Cliff Holverson

CLIFF: Hey Tom

TOM: Hi.

CLIFF: How about some information on yourself?

TOM: I am a tireless and hardworking professional, I have been a professional Illustrator since 1980. I’ve done lots of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired cover artwork for Chaosium Inc. in Oakland California. They produce role-playing games. I worked on the “Call of Cthulhu” and many other games until recently. My favorite book to illustrate was Petersen’s Field guide to Cthulhu Monsters. It presents Art and descriptions of Twenty-Six of the most commonly encountered entities of H. P. Lovecraft’s mythos. It has full-color oil paintings and pen and ink drawings by me. I also was a sculpturer, and mold maker on The Fly Part 2, the sequel to the Jeff Goldblum version. That was for Chris Walas productions in Marin County, Calif. I am now starting a company with my partner Pat Reese called Dark Age Productions. We are going to create and sell replicas of some film props I have created for films, Art prints of my artwork. As well as lots of other stuff. Check out our web site Dark Age Productions.

CLIFF: Do you know any personal information on the cast of the Evil Dead?

TOM: Bruce is the greatest physical comedian from America working in films and an incredible trooper. He is genuinely a good person and the real deal, multi-talented as well, and did I mention how funny he is? I have not talked to him in years though. Scotty, played by Hal Delrich, not his real name, was and still might be a Professional Diver. He travels around the world entertaining folks with his incredible high dive show. I have not seen him for too many years. I hope to see everybody at the twenty-year reunion if there is one. I am afraid I don’t know too much, as we have all gone our separate ways. The last I heard Sarah York (Theresa) who played Shelly was a very successful D.J. in L.A., and Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl) was married and a mom back east. I believe Betsy Baker (Linda) is happily married as well. She had performed in a T.V. movie called “Word of Honor.” This was out before Evil Dead was released and starred Karl Malden and I seem to recall a very young John Malkovitch. I’m sorry but this information is about 15 years old.

CLIFF: What was it like working with Sam and Bruce?

TOM: Both are tireless and hard-working professionals. They have wanted to do what they are doing since they were little guys. Sam is fine to work with. He’s very even-tempered and it’s a fun set despite the long hours and volume of work before us. Because of circumstances beyond any control, the exception would be the lack of preproduction on the Evil Dead. Three months would have been nice, but I recall Sam was very secretive about the script. I got the script about three weeks before the shooting began.

I had time to buy supplies and do some face casts that weren’t usable for what I needed them for. So the latex face castings I made from them went on the very first version of the Book of the Dead. It’s Ten Commandment size, which Sam told me later was too big for Ash to grab with that necklace. Ironically the Army of Darkness book is just a little smaller than the first one I did. And still have. Preproduction would have eliminated a lot of time wasted. Sam does preproduction now.

CLIFF: What was your favorite part of making the Evil Dead films?

TOM: The opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do. Fortunately, The films have turned out to be far more successful than any of us had expected. At the time of the “Book of the Dead” production, we thought we’d be lucky if it played in Southern drive-ins. It’s been kind of like winning the lottery without getting the money.

CLIFF: What is your personal favorite of the trilogy?

TOM: The first, not because I worked on it, it has an amazing intensity, I’ve never seen audiences react so expressively to a movie like it before or since. On a personal level it was the most satisfying as an artist. I had the chance to use every skill I had taught myself. I survived it and succeeded at it.

CLIFF: How did you shoot the blood geyser scene from ED 2?

TOM: That was accomplished by the practical special effects man Vern Hyde, a wise, fine man and one of the tops in his field. Sam’s worked with him since. As I recall, he had a local fire truck pump out colored water that had been mixed in makeshift swimming pools. After the flood had taken place, the entire crew was enlisted in mopping up the spill. Remember, in ED 2 the interior cabin was actually the second story of a set built inside the gymnasium of an unused school, and there are no drains in the gym. Humans don’t sweat that much.

CLIFF: Where did you get the idea of what the evil force should look like?

TOM: I think you are referring to “old rotten apple head,” the huge monster head that bursts through the door and tries to swallow Ash in ED 2. That was designed and built by a Los Angeles FX company. Sam had me draw a bunch of variations of themes for the project but they were not used. I still have my drawings though. Sam’s ideas were for some kind of personalized demon for Ash as it had the faces of his comrades absorbed into the beast. Sam had me do drawings of a giant Evil Ash head bursting through the cabin door as well.

CLIFF: How did you make the evil hand? (From possession to dismemberment)

TOM: In Evil Dead 2 Ash becomes possessed after Linda’s head bites him. I animated the infected hand shot in Detroit with Bruce. Sam had wanted some movement in Ash’s hand, as it becomes gross, so I built a stand that Bruce could set his hand on and the platform could rotate incrementally while I painted and animated the blackened veins. Bruce slightly moved his fingers giving them that supernatural energy. The makeup hand was done by Mark Shostrum’s crew using prosthetics. The severed hand had been a combination of Rick Catizone’s Stop Motion hand and a production assistant Named John Walter, a really decent and hard-working guy who was thrilled to be working on an Evil Dead movie. He is the guy who gives the finger wearing the prosthetic stump.