I recently sat down for an interview with Aaron Wolf, actor-writer and director of the upcoming film Tar, a movie about a monster released during construction near the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. Wolf gave us a lot of insight into the film, photos from the set and more.
In the murky depths of Los Angeles’ world-famous La Brea Tar Pits there lies an ancient secret – a creature that, once awakened, emerges to wreak havoc on the modern metropolis.
For 40,000 years, a long forgotten wetland teemed with ancient creatures, but now all that’s left is a pit of hot, sticky tar surrounded by a vast urban landscape. For Barry Greenwood and his son Zach, there’s not much left of their family business either. With the city’s subway expanding under their feet and their office building slated for demolition, Barry, Zach and their employees are forced to shut down their shop and move out. Three family generations and three lifetimes of hard work to be turned into rubble. But when something primal is awoken by the underground construction, a night of somber packing becomes a desperate fight for survival.
Timothy Bottoms (Last Picture Show, The Paper Chase, Johnny Got His Gun),Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves, The Green Mile, Maverick), Aaron Wolf (The Walk), Max Perlich (Cliffhanger, Blow, Beautiful Girls), Emily Peachey (The Fault in Our Stars), Tiffany Shepis (Cyrus, Thirsty), and Nicole Shipley (Guardians of the Galaxy) co-star in Tar, directed and co-written by Wolf along with Timothy Nuttall.
Horror Fuel: “Have you always been a horror fan?”
Wolf: “I’ve always been a fan of good stories and good movies. And to me that can be any genre; it can be horror, it can be comedy, thrillers, anything that has a good story I love. With horror what is amazing is the suspense. Once you are hooked in with the characters and emotion getting scared is really fun. I love the different worlds that are created and I’ve always thought that I want to create a world like that, not just a scary movie but a scary movie that has a world to introduce viewers to something different.
The first horror-thriller I remember seeing was Jaws. I thought man this is so cool. Horror is all about isolating the protagonist. Whether it is in a cabin, or house, or in the ocean with Jaws.”
Horror Fuel: “Jaws is my favorite movie.”
Horror Fuel: “You act, write, and direct, which is your favorite to do?
Wolf: “I don’t have a favorite. It all comes back to the story. Writing, acting and directing are all ways to tell a story. I love doing all of it because it is all different ways to get that story across and get that story that I want to tell. I love directing because I am controlling what other people are doing and collaborating with other people. I like writing because I love being able to see something in my head, putting it down on paper, and when it comes to fruition it’s close to the most rewarding feeling in the world. I love acting because of the characters on the page. It’s fun to tell their stories and bring that to life. All three are fantastic. I look at life as one big story.”
Wolf and Emily Peachey on the set of Tar
Horror Fuel: “What came first, your desire to act, write, or direct?”
Wolf: “I probably acted first. I acted as a kid. I think when I was like one my parents submitted my picture to be like a Gerber baby. Acting was the first thing that I did. In Junior high I started picking up a camera and controlling it. I was always in the things that I shot. A lot of times, I would set up the camera, run around , be in the scene and run back to press stop. So, yeah, acting was first. I did a lot of community theater. I loved the adrenaline, the live audience, and the idea of being somewhere. If I’m showing a movie or speaking, I go around speaking a lot, I love that audience coming together for that one thing. It’s a rush.”
Horror Fuel: “Awww. The Gerber baby? That’s cute.”
Horror Fuel: “So, Tell us about Tar.”
Wolf: “I’m super psyched to be bringing this to everyone because in a world where everything feels like a remake or a sequel, as a fan I long for new content. I get bummed because like this weekend the two big movies are Baywatch which is a retread of a TV show and Pirates of the Caribbean 5, the fifth movie of the franchise based on a theme park ride. I always look for what is new content out there like Get Out, which was so cool and new. With Tar my goal was to create a new world, something new. It’s never been done before.
It’s about the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, which is a very famous thing. There is this murky tar in the middle of Los Angeles and right now the LA subway system is being built. So man is digging down. The La Brea Tar Pits is an archaeological site where things like fossils, Woolly Mammoths, and Saber Tooth Tigers roamed before it was L.A. many, many, many years ago. Man is digging down disrupting the world underneath the tar and it awakens a dormant creature from the tar who then comes up and attacks the city, a family who are spending their last night in L.A. because a man is making them move because he is building condos. It’s wild. Everything goes down right in the middle of L.A. You will learn about lore, the past, and we are having a comic book done with the backstory of the film with Action Lab comics. We are catching a glimpse into this world that we are going to learn a lot more about. It’s something I would want to see, if it came out in theater, as a fan. The fact that I can make it, I feel lucky and blessed.”
Horror Fuel: “It sounds great. I’ve always had a thing for dinosaurs and mammoths and things like that, so I can see the attraction.”
Wolf: “As a kid, around five, I wanted to be an archaeologist because of Indiana Jones.”
Horror Fuel: “Me too!”
Wolf: “Oh, cool. Where are you from?”
Horror Fuel: “I’m from Georgia.”
Wolf: “Oh, cool. We might film our next movie there. ”
Horror Fuel: “Awesome! We just took the number one spot to film in the US.”
Wolf: “What’s great about Georgia is that you can film all seasons and can be all things, city, country, everything which is very rare.”
Horror Fuel: “That, it is.”
Horror Fuel: “What inspired Tar?”
Wolf: “The idea for Tar came from me and co-writer Timothy Nuttall. I had this idea for these characters and I wanted the movie to happen in the middle of the city. I’ve seen so many horror movies where everything is about going out in the woods, or under water, or going to some remote location. I’ve seen that before so many times. I wondered what it would be like to have it happen right in the middle of the city, to have people under attack in the middle of the city. Then we were like ‘What’s around here?’, the tar pit. We started to read about it. Tim thought it was perfect. Then the creative juices got flowing and everything started spiraling with excitement. The world comes alive and with the lore behind some of this, there are some really creepy things that have gone on down there.
It’s got some disgusting things and it’s got some gross out stuff and scares, but we’ve created a world that is unique and also fun. It’s not just go to a movie and get scared, it’s go to a movie and have a ride and enjoy this ride. That’s what we hope people are going to do, enjoy the adventure.
I believe characters are important. Once we care about someone, invested in what’s going to happen to them, then so much more is heightened. A lot of films now are all about the scare and all about the gross out, not about the actual people or characters in the movie. I really like that once you are invested in a character the movie becomes that much scarier and that much more crazy.”
Horror Fuel: “I agree with you. I can’t get into a movie if I don’t care about its characters, if I don’t care about their story.”
Wolf: “That’s why we have a graphic novel coming out, because it all adds to the experience.”
Horror Fuel: “What was the most difficult part of making the film?”
Wolf: “I think filmmaking should be renamed “problem solving”. It’s really a series of problems that you have to solve. The whole process is hard. It is also so rewarding. There were so many difficult things that in the end became a reward. Getting the cast together, that was very difficult because I wanted to find a cast of actors that I liked. I knew I was playing the son, Zach Greenwood. Who was going to play my dad? Who was going to play the archaeologist? There were all these characters that I wanted to make them not be who you would expect to see in a thriller/horror movie. I wanted to get some recognizable faces that I am a fan of. I’m fortunate to have gotten to work with some people who I’m actually a fan of. It was hard to figure out who was going to be in this movie and how can we get them to be in this movie, in a horror movie and make it so much more. It was worth the difficulty because the cast we got I’m just so thrilled with.
A little more about the cast, because I’m just so psyched about it. One of the actors, Timothy Bottoms, is someone I watched as a kid, the Last Picture Show such a classic. We were actually written up about a in Entertainment Weekly a few months ago. Tim talked about it and to get someone like that who’s the star of so many movies and to have him play a role that he’s never done before, that was really exciting. We had a couple of Oscar nominees. Graham Greene, another Oscar nominee, who also plays something we haven’t seen before as this homeless man who is more than meets the eye. We have so many cool young actors who are in it, an actress who was in The Fault in Our Stars, and another who was in Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m just really psyched. It’s all these different people and all of this stuff that is shaping this movie and I think people are going to really get scared and really have fun.”
Wolf And Graham Greene on the set of Tar
Horror Fuel: “That’s great. I actually recently interviewed one of the actress that co-stars in Tar, Tiffany Shepis. She’s fantastic.”
Wolf: “Oh, yeah? Tiffany, she’s great. I call her a Scream Queen with heart. She’s not just like a damsel in distress. She’s got quirkiness. She’s got spunk. It makes her performances so much more…there is so much more heart to them, more true. I love Tiffany. She’s fantastic in it. We had a blast. I’m not going to tell you what happens with her character. I will say that she is part of the ride.”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t wait.”
Horror Fuel: “When will the trailer be out?”
Wolf: “I don’t have the exact date, but we think in a month or two. In the meantime everyone should follow along on social media. We put out updates on stuff like that. We are going to be putting out teasers and the comic book stuff. People will be able to find out more there. I believe the release will be out this fall in theaters and all other platforms after that. In the meantime follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We will be able to update everyone as things launch, when things are going to be released.”
Horror Fuel: “When it comes to the creature, is it CGI or was it created by practical effects?”
Wolf: “We did just about everything practical. I didn’t want things to be digital. You have to do a little digital because it’s just part of what the industry is now. I wanted to do practical because that is what I grew up loving and that’s what I want to bring back. Everything is digital and it feels digital and I didn’t want that. The Thing is a good example, in the new The Thing the digital just ruined the charm of the original. I wanted to make sure that Tar feels as real as possible. I think practical makes it all the more real and creepy.”
Horror Fuel: “I’m a big fan of practical.”
There were a few things I discovered about Aaron Wolf during our interview. Not only is he a truly nice guy, he truly cares about the experience of his audience. He’s passionate about the films he makes and the stories he wants share with the world.
Tar has an original storyline, which is rare these days. The cast is fantastic and the director has heart. Wolf promises scares and something we haven’t seen before, what more could you want?
Wolf is also the co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions, “a full-service production company that tells stories. These stories take all forms, from award-winning films to inspirational documentaries to TV commercials to music videos. Recently, Wolf began touring around the country with his feature documentary, Restoring Tomorrow. The film has received extensive coverage in publications such as The Los Angeles Times, Tablet Magazine, Guideposts and The Times of Israel. Up next for Wolf are two feature films, one comedy and one documentary, that will use Wolf’s personal battles to challenge the stigmas associated with learning disabilities.”