Tom Arnold has officially left The Stupids behind him.
The actor put his comedic past on hold in a big way to tackle a dark and disturbing character for writer/director Damian Harris in Gardens of the Night.
Arnold takes on the chilling role of Alex, a mentally disturbed pedophile and the abductor of a child named Leslie (Ryan Simpkins). Obviously, Arnold's name is not the one that first comes to mind for such a role, and to mentally prepare for this performance he had to dig deep into his past heartaches.
“It really helps if you go through a divorce, you need to get yourself depressed and feel bad about yourself to get in the right mindset,” said Arnold.
Not only did Arnold dig deep into his own psyche, he also drew examples from a man just like Alex that he had encountered before coming to Hollywood.
“I based the character off of a man from my home town of Iowa. The guys that do this sort of thing are very manipulative, they act very childlike, and they become one of the kids. It becomes them and the child versus the evil parents that ‘abandoned’ them.”
Arnold has nailed the depraved and manipulative manner of his character. There is no trace of the wise-cracking sidekick audiences loved in True Lies. This time around, they'll hate him.
For Arnold, the most difficult problem with this movie was trying to make sure that the young children on the set did not know about what was actually going on with their characters.
“I remember one scene where after my character exploits the Ryan Simpkins character I go on to tell her how what just occurred was a beautiful thing and she is transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I had to make sure to do it in such a way where she didn’t understand fully what was going on, her mother was on the set and was very thankful. The way I played it, the kid doesn’t know what’s happening in the film. There is no reason to give any of the children post traumatic stress.”
From the biggest names in Hollywood to independent filmmakers on their way up, Arnold has worked with them all. Although he doesn't take for granted the amenities of the big budget films, he also truly enjoys the process of working on an independent film.
“If you do the right independent films you get to work with brilliant actors such as John Malkovich and work on characters you don’t normally do. Then hopefully that will show you can do that in a bigger budget feature film.”
While many may remember him only as the man who was once married to Rosanne, Arnold has overcome many personal problems, including three divorces and a very public struggle with substance abuse. Still, he's been able to enjoy something of a comeback in the world of independent film and his days of doing work as the voice of the Arby's oven mitt or turning in supporting performances for straight-to-video flicks may be over.
Gardens of the Night
opens in select locations tomorrow.