Thomas Jane on Slayers and remembering Burt Reynolds

Thomas Jane’s resume speaks for itself. Jane’s ability to perform in multiple genres without being pigeonholed is a rarity in Hollywood. The 53-year-old’s impressive filmography includes roles in boogie nights, The deep blue sea, The Red line, 61*, The Punisherand Mist. In addition, Jane is the head of a production company specializing in films and comics. It’s quite a career. Now Jane is on the hunt for unconventional and entertaining genre stories. He found one in Killersa comedy horror movie with vampires, influencers and lots of violence.

In Killers, Jones, plays Elliot Jones, a vampire hunter and conspiracy theorist who is determined to avenge the death of his daughter. After years of searching, Jones finally discovers the location of the vampires who killed her. To infiltrate the layer, he enlists “The Stream Team”, a group of social media influencers who care more about tastes than their well-being. Written and directed by K. Asher Levin, Killers is a witty, adrenaline-filled ride with a lot to say about influencer culture and media.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Jane talks about her role in Killersexplains his collaboration with Levin and shares memorable stories from the sets of boogie nights and 61*.

Thomas Jane covers Kara Heyward's mouth in Slayers.
(L – R) Kara Hayward as Flynn Chambers and Thomas Jane as Elliot Jones in the comedy/action/horror, SLAYERS , The Avenue relea se. Photo courtesy of L’Avenue.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: You’ve had a pretty busy year. You were in four movies and one TV show, with two of those movies in the last four weeks. What motivates you to work at this fast pace?

Thomas Jeanne: Find good material. Sometimes there’s a dry spell where the material just doesn’t arrive, and then sometimes it comes fast and furiously. Since I started Renegade, my production company, it’s been a beacon for people who have a script that’s a bit left of center, that’s smart, it’s a genre film, and it’s well written. I was lucky enough to have a few on my desk. When all is well, the good ones leave. Usually it comes in waves like this [Motions hand up and down] so it’s just another one of those waves.

Killers is a vampire movie at heart, but it involves a lot of comedy, horror, and a camp style. What stood out to you when you read the script the first time?

Well, just that. We had the chance to make a midnight film. A midnight cult movie that was a little self-aware, but not too much because it gets clunky. It’s a fine line that you tread. It’s like riding a wave, and there’s a good way through. This script caught that.

Asher is a smart guy. I like his production. I like the way he put the film together with all the editing. We added the voiceover later. It wasn’t part of the original script, but Asher thought it would make a great setting for Elliott Jones to tell it all. We had a blast. We got in there, and we’re getting better and throwing shit at the wall. Asher took whatever stuck and threw it up there, and I’m pretty proud of the results.

A nurse mocks a patient in a wheelchair in a scene from Slayers.
(L – R) Ashley Reyes as Natalie, Malin Akerman as Beverly Rektor and Jack Donnelly as Jack in the comedy/action/horror, SLAYERS, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of L’Avenue.

Did you model Elliot after anyone in particular?

It’s a good question. I’m sure there are influences. I would say Kurt Russell is definitely an influence. Maybe Escape from New York, but also other things. It is a kind of fusion of what has been abandoned. I started with the beard. I was like, “This guy must have a big beard, and there must be a bit of curl in it.” He hasn’t combed it in years because that’s not who he was.

He started out as a clean guy, a reporter, and an investigative reporter. After his daughter gets caught by the vampires, he goes on a crime show, and the crime show leads him down this path where he discovers this secret conspiratorial world of vampires who run the scenes, which is kind of true. [Laughs] So he connected a lot of the dots on that.

Are you as tough on influencer culture, media and capitalism as your character?

I should say yes. Influencers don’t have your interests at heart. They have their best interests at heart. The guys who know how to hide it well are the ones who succeed. But you have to understand that you are being played. It’s sexy, and it looks cool, and you want to be like that, but you’re being played. This is your wallet.

I’m not a fan of social media and that kind of culture. The disease potential is really strong. [Laughs] I guess you have to balance that stuff with reading a good book, [and] have a good conversation at dinner. That sort of thing. This is where life happens. The rest is that we enter this strange world of glass. Everyone is behind a glass wall.

Simple things are taken for granted.

Well, I think so. They are also turned into goods so you can’t turn back. Someone will advertise what you just said, simple things. It’s weird, and it changes us in a way that I’m not too comfortable with.

This is your second consecutive collaboration with Asher. What does Asher bring as a collaborator that makes you want to work with him?

He has a good sense of humor. He is not afraid to think outside the box. We’re both interested in how we bend this so it’s not so straight. I love finding the curves in something, so we have that in common. He has a pretty good sense of the genre. The first movie we made was called To dig. In fact, we shot Killers first. That’s where we met. But the first to come out was To dig, which I did with my daughter, Harlow. It was a really special experience. How often do you work with your child? We have it like a little time capsule for the two of us. We had fun.

While speaking with Asher for the film, he mentioned that you were working with his brother-in-law on a comic book.

Yes, it’s true. I have a cartoon company called RAW Studios, which is now integrated into my production company, Renegade. For a long time it was called RAW Studios and we were doing comics. I liked it. I was able to work with some of my heroes and release science fiction books. I think the art is fantastic in the books we’ve done. I wrote bad planet, but I’m not too proud of it. It’s a learning curve, of course. But the art is great. It’s definitely worth checking out the graphic novel just for the art. We made a 3D section, and it comes with glasses on the back. I was able to exorcise some of those childhood fantasies and also learned a lot about storytelling. We have to do comics.

What comics did you grow up with and who shaped your love for them?

Everything that wasn’t a superhero book. I loved detective comics. I love horror comics. I like westerns a bit, but mostly crime, horror and science fiction. I swallowed that so much. Everything I could get my hands on. Let’s go back to EC Comics reprints, the watermark of horror and science fiction in the 50s. In fact, EC Comics is the reason they banned horror comics in New State. York. As of now, you can’t create a horror comic in New York State because of EC comics.

Thomas Jane and Kara Hayward point crossbows in a scene from Slayers.
Kara Hayward as Flynn Chambers and Thomas Jane as Elliot Jones in the comedy/action/horror, SLAYERS, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of L’Avenue.

I had no idea.

It was the social commentary they brought to the books. I mean these books are for children. They really aren’t. You read them today and you’re like, “That’s fancy stuff.” With social commentary, they railed against communism, racism, sexism and all sorts of things were baked into their sci-fi and horror. They caught the attention of the government. [Laughs]

Your career spans decades and you’ve worked with so many different authors. I saw boogie nights celebrated its 25th birthday on October 10. What do you remember from this experience? What was your biggest takeaway?

We were young. It was a lot of our first jobs. It was at the beginning of our careers. My takeout was hanging out with Burt Reynolds. We were all in this house doing this really long Steadicam shot through the house where William H. Macy gets his brains blown out at the end. Between these setups, which were really long and complicated, Burt Reynolds sat in a big chair. I just remember all the young actors literally sitting on the floor and telling him stories about what it was like to be an actor in the 50s, running around New York, auditioning, [and] get confused with Marlon Brando.

They really looked alike back then. You look at a picture of a young Burt Reynolds and you can say, “Yeah, I could see that.” Acting is an oral tradition. It is transmitted from ear to mouth, from word to mouth. It is transmitted from one actor to another. It’s really the only way to really learn what you’re doing. These experiences were really meaningful to me. They were cool.

Another movie that took on a whole new meaning is 61* because of Aaron Judge breaking Maris’ record.

Isn’t that nice?

Thomas Jane belittles a group of young influencers in a scene from Slayers.
Thomas Jane as Elliot Jones, Kara Hayward as Flynn Chambers, Ash T as David Dean and Jack Donnelly as Jack Chambers in the comedy/action/horror, SLAYERS, The Avenue release. Photo courtesy of L’Avenue.

Yeah. I read that it was one of your favorite experiences of making a film. Why was this movie so special to you?

I asked Reggie Smith to teach me everything I needed to know about baseball and how to play Mickey Mantle – his swing, his way of running, his way of playing, his way of pitching. It wasn’t just about learning baseball. It was learning “Mantle baseball”. This experience for me was a bit like a father and a son. Reggie said to me at one point, “You know, if your dad had started playing baseball with you when you were four or five, you might have been a player. You have this trick that I can’t teach you. It really meant a lot to me.

It’s way bigger than baseball. There is a folded universe in this diamond and everything that happens around it. It’s a very special game, and I understand why people love it so much. It was just a great experience, playing baseball and shooting a movie. I love making movies and I always have. I like movies. I wanted to be part of it since I was eight, and my dad took me to see Extraterrestrial. I’ve wanted to do this all my life. For me, every time I’m on set, it’s pretty special. Playing baseball and making a movie was a unique experience. I don’t think I will ever have something like this.

Killers is now in theaters, on digital and on demand.

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