Ask David Tennant how he feels about
having a Wikipedia biographical entry that is several times longer
than say, Albert Einstein’s, and the former “Doctor Who” doesn’t miss a beat.
“I think that’s RIGHT and proper,” he chortles in that Scottish brogue. “It’s all relativity,
isn’t it? Albert would be smart enough to understand, too. Wouldn’t he?”
Tennant, 40, is the wildly popular former “Doctor Who” (2005-2010), acclaimed stage actor and star of many
a British TV movie and BBC Radio adaptation. He’s managed all this in the UK without having a go at Hollywood, or even
going to Hollywood.
But that changes with “Fright Night.” Tennant tackles “the Roddy McDowall role” in the remake of the mid-80s cult camp horror hit, that of Peter Vincent,
a stage magician who does a vampire act in Vegas, boasting of his “expertise” on the subject. Offstage, out of
his wig and leather pants, he’s no expert at all — a shrill, hilarious and drunken fraud who has his bluff called
when a kid (Anton Yelchin) shows up needing help with a REAL vampire (Colin Farrell).
I reached him just as he was heading out to the West End, where he is playing Benedick to Catherine Tates’s Beatrice
in a new staging of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
RM: You’re almost unrecognizable as Peter Vincent — long black wig, beard, leather pants,
no Scottish accent. Part of your design, totally invisible in the part?
Tennant: I LOVE the idea of the old school actor who transforms himself, with makeup and what not, with
every part. I am always keens to stick a wig on, try a new accent, whatever the part requires. But this Peter Vincent has
so many juicy elements to him that the look of him just sprang from that. A guy this big, all that makeup is just part of
RM: Where did Peter Vincent come from?
Tennant: Marti Noxon’s script gives us this fellow who is an illusionist on stage, disillusioned
offstage. Beyond that, you fill him out with a mixture of inspiration and desperation. There’s so much there to start
with that I just hit the ground running with this fellow and hopefully found something the audience would find funny about
RM: Were you familiar the original film, the way Roddy McDowall played the character?
Tennant: I wasn’t really, but I do remember it as this cult hit. And after I got the part, I did
watch it, mostly out of curiosity, to see the legacy of what I was getting into. The Peter Vincent that Marti wrote for me
to play was so different from the one Roddy, a true screen icon, played, that I never felt I had to compete with a legend
RM: Roddy never wore leather pants.
Tennant: Well, he may have been wearing some underneath his slacks.
RM: Much discussion on the Internet about you and your leather pants and your leather pants riff in the
movie (He does much complaining and scratching at his stage costume). The complaints seem to be coming from a deeper, darker
place. Ever owned a pair?
Tennant: I never have, and I always imagined them to be TERRIBLY uncomfortable. But the ones for the movie? Terribly
COMFORTABLE. They fit and had, if I may be so BOLD, Roger, a bit of GIVE in them, if you know what I mean. The fitting of
them, a lot of standing still while you are attacked by people with many, many needles, was eye-watering.
RM: You’d done a “Harry Potter,” and more than a few British films, but “Fright
Night” seems to serve as a Hollywood introduction for you. How comfortable are you with that?
Tennant: Yeah, no one in Hollywood watches BBC America, do they? But as for this part, you might as well
come in SHOUTING, eh? I never think that tactically about things, about what statements my career choices make. I just do
what seems like fun at the time. Clearly, I am THRILLED to be working on a big DreamWorks picture and to be in a film with
Anton, Colin and all of them. If this is my introduction to Hollywood, I quite LIKE Hollywood, thank you very much!
RM: You’re master of TV, the stage (his “Hamlet” was widely praised) and now the big
screen. The one place you HAVEN’T hit it big is Vegas, which is where your character does his “Fright Night”
show in the movie. Ever tempted? You have the leather pants now, after all.
Tennant : Ooooo, I thought you were going to suggest we take our “Much Ado About Nothing”
from London to Vegas after we’re done (the run ends Sept. 3). I don’t know if that’s ever been done. Shakespeare
RM: Maybe in pasties and g-strings.
Tennant: That’s not a bad idea, actually. I’ll speak to Catherine (Tate, his “Much Ado”
co-star) and see if she’ll go for it. I don’t know about the g-string, though. Couldn’t hurt to ask, though!