David Hayter has over twenty years of experience in the industries of film, television, and videogame production. Cutting his teeth with smaller roles, Hayter became a writer when he became one of the co-writers of X-Men. He has since gone on to co-write The Scorpion King, X2: X-Men United, and Watchmen. In addition to movies, Hayter has been a voice actor on a wide variety of animated shows and features; he even voiced Captain America in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. His talent as a voice actor has even allowed him to build a career working on videogames like the Metal Gear franchise and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Hayter recently starred in a horror movie called Devil’s Mile. I was able to interview him to learn more about his career, his thoughts on the industry, and Devil’s Mile.
You can learn even more about Hayter by following his awesome tweets at @DavidBHayter and check out his homepage here. And remember to stay up to date on the latest Devil’s Mile news by following the film on twitter at @DevilsMileMovie.
Nicholas Yanes: Given your last name, how many bad “hater” puns do you have to deal with on a regular basis?
David Hayter: This is a constant battle. When I was growing up, the kids would say things like, “Do you? Do you really hate her?” Which, in addition to not being funny, made very little sense, as I barely knew her. Then, in the late nineties, some Rap idiot decided to coin the term “Hater” as “Someone who hates on everything”.
As this is very far from my personality, each reiteration of “Hayter’s gonna hayte” ignites in me a fierce desire to block that person from my Twitter. (This phrase, in addition to also not being funny, has the added negative of having been used seventeen thousand times before you even “thought it up”.)
On the other hand, it’s all in good fun.
Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to make a career in the entertainment industry?
Hayter: I think I decided to make a “career” out of it in the sixth grade, around eleven, when I produced and starred in a weird little sci-fi play for my middle school.
Yanes: Was there an exact moment in which you knew that this career was for you?
Hayter: The “exact moment” I knew I wanted to do it, was two years earlier. When I was nine years old, I auditioned for, and got a part in, a children’s production of “Pinocchio” at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse in Costa Mesa, California. After the opening night show, I was backstage celebrating with the cast, when a beautiful girl, probably two years older than me, nervously asked if she could have my autograph.
As I signed her playbill, I simultaneously signed my own fate away to the gods of entertainment.
Yanes: You left for Hollywood in the 1980s. Given that the Canadian film industry has grown so much since then, do you feel young Canadian talent still have to go to Hollywood if they want to have a successful career?
Hayter: Well, first off – I didn’t come to Hollywood in the 80’s (I’m not old enough for that.) That fact is, I came to Hollywood on January 6th, 1990. I’m glad we cleared that up.
And yes, the Canadian Industry has grown enormously since then, and there are certainly more opportunities to work, and build a career in Canada. But, and I say this to anyone, no matter where they are from – The advantage to living in Los Angeles is that nearly all of the work comes from here, gets cast here – particularly lead roles, the Canadians get stuck with the bit parts — and the entire city lives and breathes the Industry. So, I’d still say you’re in a better position to build a career down south.
Yanes: How did you earn your first acting opportunity? What steps did you take to expand upon this opportunity?
Hayter: All of my earliest work came from auditions. As far as building on those opportunities, I tried to work hard, get along with the cast and director, build relationships, and know my lines. It takes a while to build up a bankable resume. Prior to that, it’s all about having a good attitude.
Yanes: Your first professional writing credit is for Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Could you take a moment explain how you were able to land such a wanted position?
Hayter: That, is a long and complex story, which I’ve told many times. You could either Google it, or read it in a book called, “How I Broke Into Hollywood”, where I tell the whole, sordid tale.
Yanes: You have continued to write for movies. Some of these movies being X2, The Scorpion King, and Watchmen. How do you feel you have grown as a writer over the years?
Hayter: I’ve learned subtlety. Brevity. And I’ve learned that you don’t have to rush to answer all of the audience’s questions. You can let them hang for a bit, let them feel a little lost, until the story sweeps back in to re-orient them.
Yanes: Now on to Devil’s Mile. An aspect I like about this movie is that the notion of a haunted highway is simple, but there is a lot of nuance and character development in this film. What attracted you to this film?
Hayter: I was mostly attracted to the Producers and Director asking to hire me. That really spoke to me as an actor. Actually, those guys were all my friends from Toronto – I went to high school with Mark Opausky, the Producer — and they wanted me to play an intensely vicious Mafia psychopath – How could I refuse?
Yanes: When preparing for this film, how did you approach your character? Do you feel that you were able to add anything to the character?
Hayter: Initially Toby felt more like a thug to me, but I believe it said in the script that he wore a “suit”, which can be standard mafia wear. But I thought, given how violent this guy is, he was probably more of an “enforcer” in his regular day job. So, I thought it might be more interesting if this particular job was a big step up for him. That Toby felt that he might become some kind of “upper management” if he pulled this off. So the suit became his attempt at gaining respectability and status. Then, of course, as things go off the rails, the suit gets steadily more shredded as Toby’s true nature is revealed.
Plus, I’m intrinsically hilarious. So that helped some.
Yanes: You’ve worked on films with budgets of a $100 million and higher. What are some of the differences between working on a blockbuster and working on a smaller film like Devil’s Mile?
Hayter: The food on a film like Watchmen is much better.
Yanes: Many horror movies have stories of scary things happening on set during its production. Did any things unusual happen on set while making Devil’s Mile?
Hayter: One night I was talking on the phone to my agent in my hotel room, and then the police called and said “He’s in the hotel. Get out of the hotel!”
No wait, that never happened.
I don’t recall any creepiness on the set – except when the pot-dealing bikers came to watch us shoot for a few hours (now, that part is true.) But one night, I returned to my hotel at around four in the morning, and I had lost my key. So, I went up to the desk, forgetting that I was entirely covered in blood. Head to toe. The desk clerk looked up, and his eyes went very wide, and I had to tell him, “It’s okay, I’m in a movie!”
Yanes: What are you hoping that viewers take away from Devil’s Mile?
Hayter: I hope they enjoy this very dark ride, and appreciate the wonder of all my cast-mates. I hope it scares, amuses, and freaks them out.
Yanes: Finally, are there any other projects you are working on that fans can look out for?
Hayter: My directorial debut film, WOLVES, comes to theaters on November 14th, and I have the videogames Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and The Long Dark, coming soon.
Remember, you can learn even more about Hayter by following his awesome tweets at @DavidBHayter and check out his homepage here. And remember to stay up to date on the latest Devil’s Mile news by following the film on twitter at @DevilsMileMovie.