Horror has been good to Keith David, and Keith David has been good to horror.
After beginning his career as a stage actor, the New York native and Juilliard graduate made his film debut in John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi/horror classic The Thing, playing Childs, the foul-mouthed mechanic whose team of researchers begins getting picked off by a parasitic E.T. in Antartica.
“I’m a speech teacher, and I had just come off my speech teacher training. In fact I had to leave my training just a couple of weeks early so that I could go to Los Angeles to start rehearsing The Thing,” David tells us in a new MVPs of Horror interview (watch above) and as his latest dip into the genre, Blumhouse’s vampire thriller Black as Night, premieres on Amazon Prime.
“I had lines like, ‘Hell no, do you believe this mother f***** anyway?’ And the name of the course I teach is called ‘Good American Speech for the Theatre.’ So I was afraid I was gonna go, [in his most proper delivery], ‘Do you believe this mother f*****?! Do you believe any of this voodoo bullsh**?!’”
Six years later David reunited with Carpenter for another horror favorite, They Live, in which he costarred with Roddy Piper as vagrant construction workers who discover the world is being overrun by alien puppet masters controlling the country’s ruling class.
They Live features some of the most famous fisticuffs in film history, as David and the late wrestler-turned-actor Piper duke it out for a rousing six minutes straight.
“We rehearsed for two weeks, it was very well choreographed and we had great fun, love Roddy Piper,” he says. “I’ve never come across anyone more professional than him. I hit him a couple times by accident, getting too close, but he never hurt me in any way, shape or form.”
While David’s other horror credits include 1994’s The Puppet Masters (continuing a theme in his filmography where mind-controlling aliens take over Earth) and the 2017 sequel Tales From the Hood 2, the most horrific scene he’s been involved in didn’t come in an actual horror movie, but the popular 1996 comedy raunch-fest There’s Something About Mary.
That would be the opening scene where teenage Ted (Ben Stiller) gets his “frank and beans” mangled in his zipper while in the bathroom of his prom date Mary (Cameron Diaz), much to the shock of her mother (Markie Post), stepdad (David) and brother Warren (W. Earl Brown).
“During There’s Something About Mary, the first time that we saw the zipper moment, it wasn’t actually him, it was mounted on a piece of wood,” David recalls. “But when you look at it, it was like, ‘Ohhhhh!' Any man over seven years old who has had that moment, the thought of it hurts. And I don’t know what hurts more, the actual catching, or trying to get out of it.”
David’s reaction to seeing the damage, then, required very little acting.
“That would make a grown man scream, holler, cry. That’s also how you knew it was a comedy. Because he wasn’t sitting there bawling like a baby.”
Black As Night is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Watch the trailer:
— Video produced by Stacy Jackman