Dylan Baker is a consummate professional. With over 100 credits on his theatrical resume, it’s no surprise that the versatile actor is consistently in demand. When the situation arises, Baker can also be consummately creepy, as in Michael Dougherty’s 2007 horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat. As Steven Wilkins, the unsettling town principal with a penchant for unconventional jack-o-lantern carving and a unique approach to bonding with students, he thrilled and chilled audiences. Now, with Monday night’s Trick ‘r Treat screening and livestream (which you can watch at 7:30 pm PT on Legendary Pictures’ Facebook page), I caught up with Baker to talk about the film’s second life, why it endures, and even what we can expect from Anchorman 2.
Nerdist: Let’s talk Trick ‘r Treat! I actually just saw it last night for the first time. It’s interesting, because it’s become this huge cult classic over the years. What’s the experience been for you seeing it get a new life after the fact?
Dylan Baker: I guess I’m kind of like you. Once you see it, you kind of get it. We had a clue – I remember early on after we filmed it, Michael Dougherty had us down to Comic-Con in New York one year. The crowd was going crazy about it and we were like, “Michael, how have they seen it? Nobody’s seen it!” So, we asked the crowd and about two-thirds of them had seen the film. The other third was so jealous! They were asking, “Well, how can we see it? How did you see it?” They were going crazy. You could just tell it had that appeal that somebody missed at the beginning, and now, thank goodness, someone’s realizing that people are going to have a lot of fun with this as a yearly Halloween treat.
N: Yeah, I always see it popping up on people’s best horror films lists, so I felt like I had to check it out. And I’m not much of a horror guy to begin with; I’m what’s referred to as a “massive coward”…
N:…but it had this great mixture of comedy and horror, which I feel is necessary to making a really successful horror experience.
DB: I agree, I agree.
N: So, this was shot in 2006 and it still looks amazing. So many older films, even ones from the middle ’00s, look visually dated, but this feels fresh and looks like it could have come out this year. Why does a film like this endure?
DB: Right from the beginning, it was Michael Dougherty’s vision. He had these drawings of what he wanted things to look like. There was a certain timeless element to it that didn’t look old or old-fashioned, but it carries it into the mdoern day very well. It’s exactly what you’re saying. You don’t see some sort of 2006 trick of the day going on. It’s just – I’ve already said it – timeless.
N: Your character is particularly sinister. He’s a real father of the year candidate.
N: What’s it like to be able to sink your teeth into one of these meatier, more menacing villain roles?
DB: It’s just so much fun. It was really fun. The neat thing is my daughter, when she was in high school, and she had some friends over to watch scary movies around Halloween. I said to her, “Do you want to watch [Trick R Treat]?” and they were like, “What’s that?” So, they all watched it, and about two-thirds of the way through it, I came out of the kitchen with a huge butcher knife…
DB: I said, “Can I get anyone anything? Candy?”, and they were like, “Get out of here! Nooooo!”. Every now and then, I’ve had a couple kids come to our door and they have white shirts covered in blood and ties and glasses, and they’re like, “I’m the principal! I’m you!”
N: That’s great. I have to imagine part of the fun of being in a movie like this is being able to scare the crap out of your kids and seeing other people dress up as you.
DB: Pretty much top of the list, I’d have to say.
N: Do you have a favorite memory or moment from the filming?
DB: You know, I really enjoyed working with Anna Paquin. She really enjoyed the whole thing of leading people down one lane and coming out a different lane altogether. She loved that as much as I did. Because of my history of roles, I really had to work at it, because the second I try to appear normal, the audience is like, “What’s he up to now? What’s he hiding now?” I really liked how Michael hid a couple gems in there and then it circles back to a weary resignation of, “Oh, Halloween’s not like it was.” I loved that. I loved working with his sense of how to tell a story and hold back on what’s really happening, because that’s fun. I loved the little boy down in the basement, because he was really the type to always be asking questions. It was a good shoot. It was a good shoot all around.
N: Is horror a genre that you’d like to do more of in the future? Is it something you feel drawn to?
DB: I did one other film – do you know the film Fido?
N: I do not know it.
DB: That’s another one that is badly lacking in your horror genre watching, so write that down. It’s another one that strayed too much into comedy along with the horror, so it had a tough time making its way, but it also has a cult following. Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian, is the lead of the film, and it follows the Lassie theme – a boy and his zombie, and Billy is his zombie. It’s great fun. I love doing these films, because it’s great fun in terms of setting people up and waiting for the bang. Michael had such a good sense of that, and also that tiny little Sam running around. Quinn [Lord] was the sweetest little boy, but once he put that costume on… even his mother was a little worried about it. He was scary!
N: Shifting gears slightly, I am honorbound to ask you if you can tell me anything about your upcoming role in Anchorman 2.
DB: I am sworn to secrecy, so of course I’ll tell you everything. First off, I can say that Adam McKay came to me and said, “Dylan, I’ve got Will Ferrell, I’ve got Steve Carell, I’ve got Paul Rudd, I’ve got Dave Koechner…I need someone funny.” And he hired me. I tried to deliver a laugh or two because, those guys, let me tell you, they’re past it. They’re past it. The comedy thing just passed them by. It was such a wild ride. I had to be ready every day. Adam McKay, by the way, is funnier than anybody. He would just throw these lines out and we’d all be like, “Is that for me? Is that my line?” The improv sections would go on for many many minutes, and we’d try not to ruin the takes by laughing our heads off.
N: Those improv takes sound like a pretty rigorous exercise in self-control.
DB: It’s so true.
N: One last question: what are you being for Halloween?
DB: It’s a good question. I’m actually going to be playing the part of a director directing his first film. That’s taking up all my time. I finished a film; we just debuted it at the Heartland Film Festival. It’s called 23 Blast, and it’s taking up all my time, so I’m not sure I’ll be devoting much time to a costume. It’s sold possibly, we’re talking to some people, and it’s taking up all of my time.
N: Well, that’s certainly a good reason. What can you tell us about the film?
DB: It’s a true story about this boy, Travis, who grew up in Corbin, Kentucky, and played football, then contracted this disease and went blind, then went on to play football again. We built the story around that, and the city of Corbin itself became a character. We filmed it in 23 days and had all my friends come down – Steve Lang, Alexa Vega, Timothy Busfield, Max Adler, Senator Fred Thompson, my wife Becky Ann Baker. We all got together to film it, then went back to thank the people of Corbin with a special showing and they just went nuts.
N: Sounds great. I can’t wait to see it. Thank you so much for your time!
DB: You too! Thanks so much!
Be sure to tune in to the Trick ‘r Treat livestream tonight at 7:30 pm PT on Legendary Pictures’ Facebook page!