Chris Hahn is a former professional wrestler who has successfully transitioned from the squared circle to a career as an actor and stuntman in films. He played the titular character in Axe Giant: The Legend of Paul Bunyan and now, his latest role sees him in the role of the “Machete Clown” in the upcoming film Clowntown, coming in theaters on September 30, followed by a DVD and VOD release on October 4.
Chris, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk about Clowntown.
Before we talk about the film, there are those who may not know about you being a professional wrestler back in the 90’s. How did you become a wrestler and were you able to use that knowledge to help kickstart your film career?
Well, I was always kind of a showoff and a loudmouth when I was played football and basketball in high school. But I was never at the level where I felt I can play professional sports, so I used the whole loudmouth, kind of showoffy thing and kind of searched around. I used to be a professional wrestling fan and I kind of put two and two together.
I thought you know what. I was a big kid where I could portray a professional wrestler stature wise and I just needed the training. I found a local facility called the Monster Factory in Columbus, Ohio. I trained with Charlie Fulton and it was owned by a man named Larry Sharpe. They came out with guys such as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Bam Bam Bigelow, some of those guys. So that’s how I got started in professional wrestling.
Your first horror film was Axe Giant: The Legend of Paul Bunyan, where you played the titular monster. Do you feel comfortable making horror films as it seems according to IMDb, you have worked primarily in horror films?
For some reason, the horror genre fits me well because I have become more of a method actor, which allows me to become that creature. When I was Johnny Paradise [Hahn’s alter ego during his days with the WWE], I had to become a character so I had to do some method acting.
Basically, I am a humble, down-to-earth kind of guy. But when I wrestled as Johnny Paradise, I was a cocky SOB. I was a loudmouth, arrogant, always about me. So the method acting fits in. When I play the killer, it has to be very methodical. You have to know how to get your mind set into being creepy, how to be methodical or mischievous. It comes pretty easy to me.
Let’s get into Clowntown. You make quite an impact in the film as the “Machete Clown”. I find it fascinating that the clowns are named for their choice of weapons and that they do not talk at all, but rather let their actions do the talking. How were you approached to get the role of Machete Clown and what was it like playing the role?
When they were looking for Machete Clown, they were looking for a big man, the “meat” of the clown group. I am 6’2″ and when I did the film, I was 270 pounds when I did the movie. Each clown had a role and how to play it. Baseball Bat Clown [played by David Greathouse] was like our leader in the sense of the clown group. Crowbar [played by Ryan Pilz] was the debonair, suave clown, where I was more of the monstrous, mischievous, methodical scary clown. Then we had Axe Clown, played by Alan Tuskes, who was the laid back, didn’t get involved as much but was just there to be there. Then we had Beki [Ingram] was our other leader, she was the one who really talked and was Girl Clown.
All in all, we really worked well together and all those guys, the clowns, live in the next town. So I’ve known them for about 15 years now. So we had a really good friendship and so we all really worked well together.
What was it like working with the cast and crew as from what it looks like a lot of cast doubled as crew as well?
I worked with Jeff Denton on a film called Inoperable, which was filmed by Chris Chapman, who also plays the sheriff in Clowntown. Jeff Miller was a producer on that. I didn’t really know Brian Nagel [who plays Brad] or Tom Nagel [the film’s director], but once we finished filming, we became good friends and I still keep in contact with them.
Lauren Elise or Lauren Compton [who plays Sarah], as she’s known, she was the clown of the film. She was always cutting up and stuff so she was cool to hang out with. And Katie Keene [who plays Jill], I’ve worked with her on various films and she’s such a sweetheart. So we all got along really well.
Most of our shoots were at night so everyone would be tired and irritable and so I thought if we didn’t get along as well as we did, then there would have been some problems because of the night shoots.
If you had to choose a favorite scene of the film, what would it be and why?
My favorite scene is where I am searching for the guys in the school bus and they are all hiding underneath the windows. I am outside looking through the windows, wiping the windows of the steam and fog while looking for them. I thought that was a great scene.
I also liked when Baseball Bat Clown is dragging his bat and the fire comes out and the first scene when they come across the clowns where I’m standing in the dark alley. Katie Keene, who plays Jill, sees me and I’m looking down and then looking up. It gave it a creepy effect so I thought that was a great scene as well.
Would you consider doing something other than horror films with your size and experience? I could potentially see you in an action film like other pro wrestlers who have transitioned to the big screen.
Definitely. As a matter of fact, I got to go on the set of MacGyver last week. I got booked to play a FBI agent. I’ve done a few movies where we hope financing will go through where I would play ex-military, an our of control Special Forces type. I’ve played cops, but the horror movies are my favorite, yet I like the action scenes as well.
The MacGyver experience was kind of cool because I’ve never worked on TV before. And there’s not much difference between film sets and television sets except for mainly different angle shots. Where in a movie it’s three takes then move on to the next shot. Where in TV, there’s only three of four different scenes on a TV so they do so many different angles.
I’m up for anything. I love to work. I love to act. I’m willing to take a chance on anything. Am I going to succeed? You will never know until you see me in front of the camera, but I am up for anything.
Do you have a message for the fans who want to check out Clowntown?
Enjoy it because hopefully there will be a sequel where it can be more gory and creepy. Clowntown is actually based on a true story, I think it was in California. You just sit there and wonder, what makes someone dress up like a clown and chase kids around in a junkyard. When I heard this was based on a true story, I was freaked out a little.
Take it for what it’s worth. It’s a good horror movie. There’s not a lot of gore but there is a lot of scariness and it surprises you because things pop up that you don’t expect.
Well, I did see the film and you’re right. It was part-slasher film but had more of a psychological edge to horror and that’s something I love to see.
Right. I’m a huge Rob Zombie fan and I love his films, but he’s all about the gore. There were people comparing it to the Rob Zombie film 31, but there’s no comparison. This is more suspenseful and Zombie has more gore. I think if you actually watch both of them, you’re not going to see a resemblance and any familiarity between the two movies.
I have to give credit to Robert Kurtzman and Creature Corps for doing the special effects on this film and Jeff Miller produced this and he’s cast me in a lot of his works and we work really together.
I definitely agree. They did an excellent job with the effects on this film. Once again Chris, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk about Clowntown.
Thank you so much. I appreciate your time and appreciate the exposure.
A special thanks goes out to Katrina Wan PR and Chris Hahn for making this interview possible. Check out Clowntown in theaters on September 30 and on DVD and VOD on October 4.