Film and TV

From Dusk Till Dawn Actor Fred Williamson on Quentin Tarantino, His FearCon Appearance This Weekend, and Why the NFL is "Boring"

Fred Williamson is more of a man than probably about 90 percent of the males in the world. During his seven-year stint in pro football with such teams as the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, he earned the nickname "The Hammer" for his aggressive, smashmouth style of play. Plus, he can also kick your ass in three different martial arts styles.

After invading the film world in 1970, Williamson also became a cinematic badass in such blaxploitation flicks as Mean Johnny Barrows, Black Caesar, and Hell Up in Harlem. He was just as much an ass-kicker in his best-known role as a vampire-killing Vietnam vet in Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn.

Williamson's memorable participation in the 1995 cult vampire movie is one of the reason's why he's a special guest at this weekend's Phoenix FearCon V on Saturday in Scottsdale. Jackalope Ranch spoke with the actor by phone earlier this week about what he'll be doing at the local horror film festival and mini-convention, as well as what it was like making the film, what his feelings are about the current state of the National Football League, and some of his favorite film roles.

So why are you called "The Hammer"? It described my particular way that I decided to tackle people back in the day without getting my uniform dirty. It was like running through somebody's backyard late at night and you run into the clothesline. Your head stops but your feet keep moving.

Are you still "The Hammer" to this day? I'm "The Hammer" until death do us part.

You have a huge body of work... That's better than having a huge body (laughs)

Right. Let me rephrase: You've starred in almost 50 films, but you're best known for your role in From Dusk till Dawn. Well, I think you have to categorize that from a standpoint of my new and latest white fans have seen me in and appreciate me in From Dusk Till Dawn. But, really, my fans is from my black public who remembers me and also me doing the same thing from the first time I got into the business until what I do now, which is kicked ass. So its my black public that has sustained my popularity and notoriety.

What's been favorite role thus far? Well, I have three rules in Hollywood. And if Hollywood obeys most of those rules, then everything that I've done, I've liked. One, you can't kill me in a movie. Two, I have to win all the fights. And three, I get the girl at the end of the movie if I want her. Two out of those three and I'm in your movie. You can't buy me. If I'm not getting those, your price doesn't matter.

Did you have an objection about dying or becoming a vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn? Not after I killed about 16 vampire and satisfied my fans. I got the chance to wipe out a whole bunch of 'em before I turned into this ugly thing and I went down as that ugly thing and not as "The Hammer."

What was it like working with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez? Oh, those cats were cool. It was surprising what great guys they are. How they respect your opinions and things you want to change and things you want to add based on what my fans wanted to me do, which was like doing a martial arts move to this ugly thing that was coming at me and [I] ripped his heart out and he kept coming. That was my idea that my idea that I took to Rodriguez and he said, "That's great, let's do it." Everyone was great. George Clooney? Great guy. Harvey Keitel? Super person. Juliette Lewis? Nice lady. Salma Hayek? Smells good. It was a good experience.

You've also done other films in the horror genre, like Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption in 2010. Do you enjoy doing horror more than other types of films? No, not at all. I'm not that into the horror genre. I did Zombie Apocalypse to help a young guy who I thought was a very innovative director. And that's kind of what I do. I don't mind lending myself to other guys who are trying to make it in the industry, as long as they understand who I am and that I'm not for sale, integrity-wise. My integrity will always be intact, so I'm not doing anything that's going to diminish my popularity or diminish what people like to see me do. My motto is, "I've been in a lot of bad movies, but I've never been bad in a bad movie."

Are you hoping to introduce people at FearCon to more of your non-horror films? Not really. My market in Europe is 10 times bigger than my audience in the USA, like in Spain, Germany, and Italy. Its only because over there, I'm an action star. In America, I'm a black action star. That's not going to change, no matter who comes to [FearCon]

So what do you hope to do at FearCon? I'll be slaying people with how good I look at the age that I am and that I look like I can still kick all the ass that I kicked back in the day.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.

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