If anyone knows a thing or two about spectacle, it’s Chris Jericho. Over the past 30 years, the legendary professional wrestler has made a name for himself with his braggadocious personality, extravagant attire, and sensational in-ring talent. Jericho is a rock star outside the ring as the lead vocalist for the metal band, Fozzy. Don’t forget to add podcast host, actor, and cruise developer to Jericho’s resume. Because of his flair for the dramatic, Jericho loves horror movies, and one of his favorite characters of the 21st century is Art the Clown from the Terrifier franchise.
Introduced in 2016’s Terrifier, Art the Clown is a vicious joker who murders countless victims in the most gruesome manner. Without ever saying a word, Art’s evil smirk and disturbing persona send chills down the audience’s spine. After Terrifier became a cult-like classic, Jericho immediately sought out Damien Leone, the film’s writer/director, to sing his praises and discuss working together down the road. That relationship materialized in Terrifier 2, the latest chapter in Art the Clown’s quest for blood and death.
In an interview with Digital Trends, Jericho explains his love for the Terrifier franchise and how he ended up with a role in the film’s sequel. We also discuss professional wrestling and how Jericho reignited his passion for the sport in AEW.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Terrifier 2 is out now. Pun intended: It’s terrifying, it’s insane, and let’s be honest, it’s flat-out crazy. How did you first discover Terrifier?
Chris Jericho: So we’re on the tour bus on a Fozzy tour, I don’t know, probably five years ago. My partner in Fozzy, Rich Ward, loves horror movies, too. He’s like, “You got to see this movie called Terrifier.” I was like, “Man, I don’t know. Whatever.” He goes, “You got to see it.” I’m like, “Maybe I’ll check it out,” and he goes, “Watch this one scene.” It was the famous scene, the hacksaw scene. I was like, “Oh my gosh. That’s like one of the most intense kills I’ve ever seen in any horror movie ever. And who is this clown?”
So that’s kind of what got me hooked on it. I was probably one of the first people to be talking about Terrifier, and that’s how I got really involved, not just as a fan, but almost as a promoter of this movie. I remember saying it on my podcast because I have a big horror movie fan base as well. This is the one. I was able to talk to David Howard Thornton for Talk is Jericho, and this is back in 2017/2018. I’ve always been a huge fan of this movie because it is very unique, and it is the best horror movie, and now the best horror franchise that we’ve seen probably in 20 years — 25 years, maybe.
Art the Clown is front and center in this movie. He’s a creepy, silent killer clown who murders people in the most gruesome ways. I’ve heard you call Art “one of the best horror villains of the last 20 years.” Why do you believe that?
First of all, the creepiness of Art, how David plays the character — never speaks, [and] never talks. Listen, Michael Myers and [Jason] Voorhees never spoke either, but this is different because he is a clown and not in name only. He’s got gags, he’s got horns, he’s got tricycles, and he does everything with such glee. That’s where the true horror comes in. When you mention his kills are very vicious, it’s not just a sword through the chest or whatever it may be, this is stab, stab, stab. [Makes stabbing motion]
It’s so violent, intense, and gruesome. You combine all of those elements and the way that David plays him, it’s very much like the Grinch who stole Christmas. It’s a lot of animation. It’s a dichotomy between this goofy, animated clown who is also one of those vicious, sadistic killers that we’ve seen. The last thing about it is that unlike Jason or Freddy [Krueger] or those types that hang out in the woods in the middle of the night, Art is in your city. He’s in the diner across from you. He’s taking selfies with people. He’s in a laundromat in part two. He’s in a costume store. He’s interacting with people who think he’s creepy just by watching him but have no idea just how evil this entity is.
How did you link up with Damien? It sounded like you almost begged him to do whatever you could for the movie, and you ended up having a part in Terrifier 2. How did that come about?
Well, I wouldn’t say begged. I think it was mutual respect. I mean, when Chris Jericho starts talking about something, sooner or later, it’s going to get back to the source, because with 12 million social media followers, somebody’s going to tag Damien on something that I said. So that’s kind of where it came from, the mutual respect. I think he was blown away. Obviously, he’s from New York. He’s a fan of mine, and that’s kind of where it starts. I was like, “Dude, anything I can do?” and he’s like, “We should do something in part two.” I’m like, “Well, yes. We should do something in part two,” and we had been talking about it.
There were a couple of different ideas that we had. My thing is the end of the film, and in the three years it took to get the movie out, another movie had a similar ending so we had to kind of re-cut the scene, which cut my scene down. That’s fine. It’s Hollywood, but it leaves it open to maybe doing more in part three if that’s the case. Anyway, it was more of like, “What can we do to work together because we think it would be cool?” and that’s basically what happened.
Whatever it may be, every fan can trace back to a seminal moment in their life when they fell in love with one of their passions. What was that moment for you with horror?
Well, I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a little kid. I remember pre-VHS, probably ’79 or ’80, they had the midnight horror films in Winnipeg, where I grew up, on the TV. My mom would let me watch them, but I would have to go to bed first. I would have to go to bed at like 10:00 or 10:30 and get an hour, hour-and-a-half of sleep. I was nine years old. If I could get up at midnight, then I was allowed to go downstairs and watch, because there were always two. You’d start at midnight and then last until three or four in the morning. Nine times out of ten, I would [wake up]. The times I didn’t wake up, I would kick myself: “Oh no!”
It was all the old Hammer movies and Universal Pictures and those types of things. When the VCR was created, it was perfect for me. I remember the first video store, going and getting I Spit on Your Grave and Mother’s Day. I didn’t want to watch anything relevant. I wanted to watch all these crazy movies, because horror was kind of the first genre to really kind of put its foot in the water of videotapes. There were like 100 horror films and then 10 new movies. The horror ones were easier to get. I just grew up on that and weaned myself on that. It was right out of the gate, for as long as I can remember, being into horror movies and horror books and those types of things.
Well, now you can add acting to your resume. Between wrestling, Fozzy, movies, TV, podcasts, and a cruise, how do you stay so driven and motivated?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a wrestler, and I wanted to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band. Those are the two things that I wanted to do. When I started getting success in both of those, then suddenly you’re unstoppable, right? Like, you can try anything. All the projects that I have are things that I just thought like, “Oh, I can do that.” We played the Kiss cruise in 2015, and as soon as we were off the boat, I thought, “I can do my own cruise. A rock and wrestling cruise.” It took me three years to get it going.
All of these projects that you’re talking about are things that are very, very passionate to me. They’re the things that I want to do. When you want to do them, you find ways to make that work. I don’t do things that I’m not interested in doing.
You’ve had a big change in your wrestling career over the last five years ago. If you don’t go to New Japan and AEW, do you think you’d still be wrestling today? Did this change spark a new fire in your career?
It did spark a new fire in me. The last time I was in WWE, I just felt that I don’t really feel that spark anymore. It was mutual. I’m just not where I want to be, and that’s okay. Then, the New Japan opportunity came up, and it was just a whole new world for me, where suddenly I am, once again, a big-time money-making draw. That’s what led right to AEW. So if AEW did not start, I don’t know. I can’t answer because “what ifs” are always “what ifs.” I don’t think I would have gone back to WWE.
I remember thinking in 2019, right before AEW started, I was talking to WWE for a bit. I was like, “The last thing I want to do is go back and put somebody on the list.” That was so 2016, and it was such a great moment in time, and I didn’t want to be that guy — the nostalgia guy. They had a different mindset there, I think, for what they wanted me to do.
Here I am now, every week it’s something new. They can’t make T-shirts enough, and people bag ’em! They’re like, “You got too many catchphrases. You got too many nicknames.” Well, fuck! Why not? You follow the story, and you stay creative. There are a lot of ideas there, and I really like that about AEW. I said it last night after our third-anniversary show. If there was no AEW, I don’t think I would be wrestling, at least not as much as I am now.
Terrifier 2 is now in theaters.
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