Thomas Lennon has had himself quite the varied career. Dating back to his MTV sketch comedy series The State, to his days as officer Jim Dangle on Reno 911! and his many various movie roles over the years, he’s kept very busy for the last two and half decades. Sometimes his movie roles are small, but in massive projects, such as his brief turn in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Other times, he gets to be the star of the show in a smaller but compelling movie. Such is the case with his latest work, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
Puppet Master is an enduring franchise that got its start back in 1989 and, eleven sequels later, the thing was still going as of 2017 with Puppet Master: Axis Termination. Up to that point, the franchise had never been rebooted, which is pretty amazing for a horror franchise that had been running that long. But that time came when Cinestate, with the help of the newly relaunched Fangoria, struck a deal with franchise producer Charles Band to make a reboot.
The result is Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich which is two things: quite easily the most politically incorrect movie of the year so far and also one of the more well-received horror reboots in recent memory. Despite the absolutely crazy killer Nazi puppet premise and unreal amounts of over-the-top gore, everyone involved takes this movie very seriously. Directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund hitched their wagon to Thomas Lennon, who leads the cast as Edgar. An unconventional choice for a serious lead in a horror movie. But Lennon is a guy who likes to mix it up and, by the majority of accounts so far, that proved to be a good decision.
This is just the kind of thing that it seems Thomas Lennon does and does well. He is a man who clearly has a great business sense when it comes to Hollywood, having had a successful screenwriting career with his fellow Reno 911! star Ben Garant, working on everything from the success Night at the Museum franchise to the upcoming Cannonball Run remake, as well as some ultimately not-so-great flicks like Herbie Fully Loaded and Taxi. But when it comes to his on-screen career, he’ll turn up in just about anything, or so it would seem. But from time to time, it’s clear that he’s doing something because he feels passionate about it. Such is the case with the new Puppet Master.
We recently had the chance to speak with the writer and actor in honor of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. He discussed everything from how he got involved with the movie, the possible sequel and a new Reno 911! movie they have in the works. Without further adieu, here’s our chat with Thomas Lennon.
I grew up watching schlocky horror flicks with my uncle and I’ve gotta say, I loved the movie.
Thomas Lennon: Even I, sometimes, am surprised with Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
Especially given the climate right now, it’s not exactly the most politically correct movie in a lot of ways, but it seems that it’s being received the way that I assume you guys kind of intended.
Thomas Lennon: Here’s what’s weird; I’ve been in a couple of Merchant Ivory movies, Heights and The Divorce, a couple of Christopher Nolan movies, but currently my highest Tomatometer movie, a live-action movie, is Puppet Master. It’s a weird thing to think about. There’s no accounting for taste.
This is probably the perfect example of that. I mean, it was a small part, but you were in The Dark Knight Rises
Thomas Lennon: That has to be my top Tomatometer movie, right? Nope.
At what point did you come on board?
Thomas Lennon: I got the script from the producers, Dallas and Amanda at Cinestate, and I was like “This is insane.” And then I was like, “Are they really going to make this?” If there is one thing you probably notice, if you were to look at my IMDB, is I definitely like to mix things up as much as possible. Ben and I, my writing partner Ben Garant and I, have always tried to not get into any ruts with what we’re doing. I think it’s because so many aspects of the movie studio system can break your heart so badly. So, you know, sometimes we’re making little indies. Sometimes we’re making horror. Other times we’re making straight-up studio, family comedies. And yeah, I just felt like it’s fun to be unpredictable and do something interesting. My first thought was, no matter what happens with Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, it’s never going to be boring. A lot could happen, but it’s not going to be a boring month in Dallas, Texas. And it certainly was not.
I imagine that would be a consideration. A low-budget movie isn’t going to come along with all of the luxury of a big production.
Thomas Lennon: It was enormously fun. We were in an absolutely disgusting old hotel in Dallas called The Ambassador. There was a giant creature effects shop on the second floor of the hotel. As you can tell, we’re taking it really seriously. It’s probably my most dramatic acting to date.
I absolutely noticed that. As much as you might not expect it, everyone is taking this thing dead seriously. That’s what helps it the most, I think.
Thomas Lennon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You can’t goof around in a movie like this or otherwise it becomes in comedy what’s known as a hat on a hat. You can’t be being murdered by puppets and ever look at the camera and go like, “Eeeee! Zoinks!”
The ending clearly sets up a sequel. I’m assuming you’re going to be in the sequel. Is there anything you can talk about with that? I understand it’s probably a little secretive at this point.
Thomas Lennon: You know as much about it as me. From the on-screen where it says, “to be continued.” I can’t imagine they wouldn’t do another one. I know it’s gotten head-spinningly good reviews for a Puppet Master movie. Somebody ranked all of the Puppet Masters and we came in as a solid number two. If anything about this process made me laugh it was coming in as the second best Puppet Master film of all time.
For a franchise that’s been going this long and, for what, 13 movies? That’s pretty good. Silver medal is pretty good.
Thomas Lennon: Yeah! That’s a pretty solid spot.
Have you and Ben looked at any horror franchises that you two might like to tackle specifically?
Thomas Lennon: After Hell Baby, I think that was our last horror comedy for a while, just because it was one of our favorite things we’ve ever done. We basically, by the time we took the cast out to dinner every night for a month in New Orleans, I think we each lost about $20 to $25 thousand on Hell Baby, just in like, nice dinners out. Ben has some projects with Jason Blum and he is doing some serious horror work. He’s also doing some animated spooky stuff at DreamWorks I think, too. We’re still writing the big studio movies as they happen. We just wrote the Cannonball Run reboot. But I don’t think we’re looking into any horror reboots as a team right now.
Last year a couple of your former Reno 911! castmates talked about a possible reunion on that front. Have you gotten any further on a revival or a movie?
Thomas Lennon: It’s an absolute eventuality. I know it’s going to happen. Ben and I have an idea that we really, really love and it’s literally just now scheduling and timing. But everybody has said they would do it.
Is it going to be a movie or a revival? Do you know which one it would take the form of?
Thomas Lennon: I strongly suspect it would be a movie, even if it was for a streaming service type movie thing.
Hopefully, they won’t make us wait long for official word on a sequel. For now, you can check Cinestate‘s Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich on VOD and digital platforms. The movie will hit Blu-ray and DVD next month, for those of you holding out for a physical copy.