The Hammer Hits Up FearCon
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:10
Fred Williamson doesn’t do fear.
When the actor known as The Hammer, who will be a guest at this year’s Phoenix FearCon, was asked whether he has ever had to be “afraid” in a movie he didn’t even take a nanosecond to think back over the dozens of films he’s been in before responding, “I wouldn’t know how.”
In fact, Williamson was pre-pubescent the last time he was afraid.
About 13 years before the Jackson 5 made Gary, Indiana, famous, a 13-year-old Williamson walked down the middle of a street in Gary, paralyzed with fear, on his way home from a screening of “The Thing.”
This was before he became proficient in martial arts, before his award-meriting stint in the NFL, before he was known as The Hammer — an ass-kicking moniker he still takes seriously over 50 years later, e.g. his answering machine invites callers to leave a message with the following delivered in a soft growl: “Yo, this is The Hammer. [Leave] your message and number now. You just may be interfering with my slumber, and I will get back at you somehow.”
The former NFL player who worked as an architect in the off season and ambitiously pursued a career in the film industry after his tenure with pro ball starred in films that range from blaxploitation to war movies (particularly his most recent “Last Ounce of Courage”) and the horror film “From Dusk Till Dawn.”
Though he’s taken on roles in the horror genre, Williamson doesn’t consider himself a “horror film icon” as much as a BAMF – a characteristic he worked diligently to brand.
“When I came into Hollywood, I had it in my mind to be a hero because I was already a hero coming from pro football — being The Hammer, I was the man who got the job done — so I was going to come into the arena of Hollywood on my terms,” he said. “My terms [were] to be the hero.”
To this day, casting The Hammer comes with the demand that two of the following three criteria will always be true: he doesn’t die, he wins all his fights and he gets the girl (“If I want her,” Williamson points out) at the end.
“You’ve got to satisfy two out of three of those or I’m not interested,” he said. “You can’t pay me or buy me for any amount of money to change those rules. […] What I sell is integrity. […] I don’t sell talent because what the hell is talent?”
Ironically, all of those are broken in one of Williamson’s only horror movie roles, “From Dusk Till Dawn” — the George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino led vampire flick from the mid ‘90s. According to Williamson, the rules were bendable because he wasn’t playing his vampire-slaying character, Frost, as The Hammer.
“I killed a whole bunch of vampires before I went down in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn,’ and I didn’t go down as The Hammer,” he said.
FearCon guests more familiar with Williamson’s role in “Dusk Till Dawn” can expect The Hammer to be the “one” to show. Though networking with fans is important, the 74-year-old’s attitude toward conventions is also about sustaining a literal image.
“It’s me letting people know how good I look at this age,” he said.
The secret to looking good at his age?
“Black jelly beans.”
Though it’s more likely to have something to do with the 12 to 15 hours a week he spends training in martial arts and maintaining flexibility, walking his Shih Tzus Buster and Champ, playing golf (at which he “hits everything that moves”) and avoiding modesty at the amazement of his active lifestyle.
“Well,” he said, pointedly. “I never said I wasn’t amazing.”
Also at Phoenix FearCon: Multiple film screenings, a zombie fashion show, a demo of special effects makeup, live fear factor, a costume and scream contest and other live entertainment.
Phoenix FearCon, UltraStar Cinemas, 9090 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale, phoenixfearcon.com, Saturday, October 13, noon to 1 a.m., $20