Exclusive: Actor Thomas Tulak
Exclusive interview with "HOOK" Actor Thomas Tulak. Then, now and everything in between. An in depth discussion with the actor who stole the hearts of many in the classic film HOOK.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of HOOK.
Joseph Bruen: Tell us what it was like growing up as a kid. You started acting at the age of 6 as one of the Lost Boys in the classic movie HOOK (1991).
Thomas Tulak: That's correct, I started acting at 6, I turned 7 while on the set of Hook. After Hook I did a few other things, then at 8 I stopped acting. I wanted to try to finish growing up away from the spot light. Try to go to school like a normal kid, and have a normal upbringing. Thing is, when you're in a film like Hook, it follows you. Every where I went, people recognized me. There was a period in time where I denied it, and pretended it was some other kid that looked like me. I even started wearing glasses, thinking it would help me get recognized less. When your a kid, all you want to do is fit in, ya know? Eventually I came to appreciate it though, it even got me a couple girl friends back in high school, but thats another story...
Joseph Bruen: Being so young when you started acting, do you remember much from that era? What are your memories of that time period?
Thomas Tulak: I do remember a lot from the production, though I'm sure not as much as some of my older cast mates. I am the youngest one, after all. I do remember, since I lived about an hour outside of LA, my mother and I used to have to commute to the set every morning. I don't if you know this, but Southern California has some pretty bad traffic! After being late to the set more than a few times, the production company began putting my mom and me up in a near by hotel every week. We would check into the hotel super early Monday morning, and stay there for the week, then check out Friday evening, and spend the weekends at home. While that initially sounds pretty daunting for a 6 year old, I didn't at all because the hotel would rent out to me a super nintendo and a bunch of games every week! So, for the short amount of time I actually spent in the hotel room, I was a happy kid!
Joseph Bruen: What age were you when you realized how big HOOK had really become?
Thomas Tulak: Immediately after the release of the film, there was that sort of, initial burst where it was every where. But that eventually died down. I went through my teenage years not even really thinking about it. Occasionally someone would bring it up, and I'd laugh it off like it wasn't that big a deal. It really wasn't until the dawning of the social media age that it really started to pick up. I was, i want to say, 19ish when I made my first Myspace page, and even then not so much. I was 20 or 21 when I made the switch from Myspace to Facebook (I think thats right), and it was around then when people started looking me up. They tell me how much the movie meant to them, and got to wondering what the lost boys are up to now. Eventually I got so many of those types of messages, It sort of sank in... I have some movies that I watched as a kid, that were a big part of my childhood, like "The Princess Bride" and "Space Balls," But to me "Hook" was never really like a movie, it was more like old home videos of Christmas morning from when you were 6. It wasn't really until I had gotten so many comments and messages from people online that I realized that "Hook" is to many people what those other movies are to me.
Joseph Bruen: What was it like being in school and being apart of that movie at the same time?
Thomas Tulak: Oh, kids at school where merciless! I couldn't even walk from one class to another with out having some random kid shout "Goodnight, Neverland!" at me. or, "You're doing it, Peter," or other silly things like that; and it only gets worse from there. I had things thrown at me, dumb practical jokes played on me, my personal property destroyed. It felt like I was always singled out because of it. One time, in high school gym class, I was pantsed in front of the girl I liked. I was mortified, and skipped school for like three days after. Man, even my friends would tease me. Usually in a jokey way, but still it felt like I could never get out of from under the shadow of this film.
Joseph Bruen: Did you have any off screen interactions with the late great Robin Williams?
Thomas Tulak: Yes, in fact I'd say most of my interactions with him were off screen. He would often come to my trailer during off hours, knock on the door and ask my mom, "Can Tommy come out to play?" I went to his birthday party, he served Gummy Bears and Cool Aid. He and I actually became really good friends during production, and I've looked up to him more than anyone else ever since. He had this way of reaching you on your level. There was never any sense of "celebrity" with him. He always did everything and anything he could to make those around him smile and laugh, and be happy. Constantly giving of himself for every one else. He was like my best friend, my big brother, my hero. I only wish I had taken the time to tell him that before he passed.
Joseph Bruen: Dustin Hoffman played such a believable character in that HOOK. What was it like working with him?
Thomas Tulak: Dustin was a very kind man, very friendly. Exactly the kind of friendly that you'd hope he is. While I didn't as close to him as I did with Robin, he was still a joy to be around. I remember he also celebrated his birthday on set, (I was on set for seven months, so there were a lot of birthdays), and he gifted to each of the kids an audio book on tape, of him reading "Horton Hears A Who," which was kinda neat. Between him and Robin, and the giant tree house sets, the shoot was always very fun.
Joseph Bruen: What is it like now to look back at your involvement in that film?
Thomas Tulak: I have all these treasured memories of my time on the set. Everyone tells me how nostalgic the film is for them, but for me its a different kind of nostalgia. I remember the smell of the set. Most of the set was built out cedar wood, which has a very distinctly rich smell. Now whenever I smell it I'm immediately transported back to the set. Back to my childhood. I think there is a certain part of me, my inner child, that never left. Now I'm an adult and I have all these adult responsibilities, I keep saying I should never have left Neverland... But it is very inspiring to know that I was a part of something that meant so much to so many people. I'm constantly having people poor their heart out to me, telling me how much the movie meant to them, how special it is for them, and how they are now passing it on to their kids. That warms my heart. Even though I've heard stories like that so many times, each time is unique, and special. To know that not only was I a part of that, but my part specifically had such an effect on people. I have no words to describe how that makes me feel. In the film I deliver the line, "Good night, Neverland." I constantly hear from people how they still say that every night before bed, or to their kids, or when out with friends. There is even a rock band called "Good Night Neverland." I've listened to them, they are pretty good. It's so very touching to know that my part, my line, meant so much to so many people.
Joseph Bruen: 25th anniversary of HOOK! Can you believe it`s already here? What was it like reuniting with your fellow "Lost Boys" for that photo shoot recently?
Thomas Tulak: 25 years years... good grief, has it really been that long? You know, I turn 32 this year. I really don't feel that old. Everyone keeps saying how the lost boys haven't aged much. Perhaps some of that Neverland magic stayed with us. I don't think I look like I'm 32! ... Many of the Lost Boys had fallen out of touch. I had spoken to one or two of them over the years, usually over Facebook or something, but for the most part there was no contact. When we all got in the same room together, it was like no time had passed at all. It was very easy to fall right back into being like a family. Everyone was catching up with each other, asking about each other's parents. This is an experience that we all share. A perspective we all had growing up. It was like we were all part of the same club, the Lost Boy club. When I found out one of my fellow Lost boys had shunned the film, and spent a long time denying his involvement, I could totally relate. I realized I was not so completely alone as I had felt when I was younger. I came to own it sooner than he did, but we still had that same experience. To me that was very special, and is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Joseph Bruen: Who did you get along with the most from that cast? Did one stand out more than the others?
Thomas Tulak: There was quite the age gap among the Lost Boys. I was the youngest, at 6 years old. I believe Dante was the oldest at 17. So There was a bit of separation there. I mean, the older kids would spend time with the older kids, and the younger kids would spend time with the younger kids. Isaiah Robinson and Alex Zuckerman were close to my age, so I spent most of my time with them. Regretfully, Alex was not a part of the reunion, but when I saw Isaiah there, he and I got on like we were besties. I hope 22 Vision releases some of the outtakes from the shoot that didn't make it into the final video. Theres this one clip I'd love to see. We were all standing in a group talking about stuff, and suddenly Isaiah stares right at me. Intense determined stare. I stare back at him the same way. He takes a step towards me, and leans in. I do the same back. He sticks out his hand as if he's reaching for a handshake. I grab his hand... then, in the most serious determined tone of voice says, "1, 2, 3, 4, I declare a thumb war!" Man, there was some epic thumb war going on there! easily lasted 5 minutes. Man, I'd love to see that scene!
Joseph Bruen: You also did some acting spots of the hugely popular tv series CHEERS. What are your memories from that show and how did that all come about?
Thomas Tulak: How it came about was just like any actor getting any part. I had an agent finding me auditions. My resume now featured, "Hook." So I was auditioning for anything I could. I auditioned for "Cheers," and landed the roll. I was one of the twins, Jessie and Elvis. I had auditioned for the character Elvis, cause I thought that would be a really cool character name, but I got Jessie instead. Which I was actually okay with because I was a huge fan of the show "Full House," (mad crush on Jodie Sweetin), so I told myself my character was named after Uncle Jessie! ... That was a pretty cool set, and I had a lot of fun. I felt very grown up on that set. Probably because it was a bar, and kids my age aren't supposed to be in bars. Also cause I got to swear in a scene. It got cut out of the episode, but I called one of the characters an "ass." so ya know, what 7 year old kid wouldn't love the chance to call someone an "ass" on TV?! ... Funny story: During a rehearsal one time, Ted Danson had forgotten a line. He was really struggling to remember this one line. I had a photographic memory, and I used to memorize the entire script. So I gave Ted the line he had forgotten... In front of the live studio audience... Thank goodness it was just a rehearsal and the camera's weren't rolling, because he was not at all happy that this little 7 year old kid had fed him his line. He got all kinds of pissed off and stormed off set!
Joseph Bruen: You also appeared on the popular tv show Mad about you. What are your memories from that appearance?
Thomas Tulak: Oh gosh, wow... No one really asks about that. In fact people are often surprised to hear I was in an episode of that show. You have clearly done your homework! My biggest memory was being in hair and mack up. I played 'Young Ira' in a flashback, in the episode where they go the natural history museum. I have to admit I never really watched the show, but there was a running joke about the character Ira being overly proud of his hair. They carried that joke over into the flashback, which meant I had to spend a whole lot of time in hair and makeup while they did up my hair. Then afterward my hair was very stiff, like a bicycle helmet! you could knock on it, like knocking on wood! I remember thinking, I dunno how the actor who had to have this hair style every day, all day, could do it!
Joseph Bruen: You went to school for digital film and video production. You have appeared in and directed some independent short films as well. How was it to transition to that role, being behind the scenes and which do you seem to like better?
Thomas Tulak: Okay, so... one day, while on the set of "Hook," I was standing off set waiting for my turn to shoot a scene. I was watching mr. Steven Spielberg as he worked. It felt like ages that I watched him, but was probably only a few minutes. He had what seemed like tons of people all wanting his attention. Every one had a question, everyone was waiting for his direction, or his opinion. He always knew exactly what he wanted, and exactly how to get it. He answered every question, gave every direction, without ever getting upset or stressed or losing his cool. I stood in awe as I watched him. Thats the moment I knew I wanted to be a director. I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be the one in charge, and tell my stories the way he is telling his. I said to my parents, while pointing at Steven, "that's what I want to be when I grow up." That moment will always stay with me... Throughout the rest of my childhood and teenage years, I sort of shied away from that. Giving in to my desire to fit in with my peers. I always wanted to pursue it, and jumped at any chance I could to run a camera, while trying not to seem too eager. I thought doing something like that would make me stand out, and that wouldn't be cool. Instead I got into music, began playing the drums, and spent my teenage years in and out of bands, learning about live sound, and what not. I did some professional live sound engineering in my early 20's. After a few years of doing that, I decided I wanted to actually go to college and learn audio engineering properly. So I initially began attending school studying audio engineering. I took a class called "video for audio students." In that class I directed my first real short film. I had so much more fun doing that, than I had in my following class about microphone polar patterns. That's when I finally decided to embrace what I had denied myself for so long, and become a filmmaker. I changed my major to video production, and never looked back. There's a certain satisfaction one gets when they finally embrace who they are, who they were meant to be. Then, once I embraced it, I found that both acting and directing came naturally to me.
Joseph Bruen: You hear so many sad stories when it comes to child actors. Do you think your break away from the spotlight really helped you in the long run?
Thomas Tulak: When I was 17 I contacted my old agent and tried to get back into acting. I was told that gap from when I stopped acting till then would actually work against me getting any rolls. That casting directors would question why I had been away for so long, and it would look bad. But now, looking back, I'm glad I left when I did, and grew up how I did. It's true you hear stories about child actors turning to drugs and ruining their lives. I've never done drugs, but I can see how easy it would be to fall into that. I can also see how easy it can be to let ego take over and become spoiled and arrogant. When you're being treated like a star at a young age, its very easy for it to go to your head. I do feel like I have grown into a better person than I might have become if I had stayed in the business. I am proud of who I am now. I am happy with me. Who's to say how different my life would have been over the past 25 years, or where I might be now, if I had stayed. But in the long run I am happy with myself, and I think that's what really matters.
Joseph Bruen: You currently have a very popular youtube based video blog. Tell us about that and how it all got started. How can fans follow you on social media and tune into your video blog?
Thomas Tulak: I've been an active youtuber sense 2009. My girlfriend at the time showed me some videos she was watching, and introduced me to the whole Youtube scene. At the time most people saw the main stream of Youtube as cat videos and funny memes, but not many people knew there was an entire underground community. I quickly became fans of some of the more popular content creators, like Wheezy Waiter, the Vlog Brothers, Ze Frank, Jake Jarvi, Spricket24, and a couple others. I still had that inner voice inside me, that still wanted to be a filmmaker, even though I hadn't let myself explore it yet. So I started making videos on my own channel. I spent many years making comedy vlogs, and gained a bit of a following. But as my desire to actually be a filmmaker took over more and more, my youtube channel slowly shifted from comedy vlogs, too short films, and more filmmaker centric. My youtube channel can be found at youtube.com/thomastulak or you can follow my production team at facebook.com/easilyamusedgroup I'm also on instigram @tntulak.
Joseph Bruen: What are some of your hobbies outside of the world of television?
Thomas Tulak: Filmmaking is my main passion, so I spend most of my time working on that. However I am also a musician and songwriter. I play drums in a band. I also play guitar and write originals and parodies. The music is write tends to be silly, and nerdy. I have several songs about my favorite show, Doctor Who. Although I did do a serious toned song and music video as a tribute to Robin. I posted it to my youtube channel on the one year anniversary of his passing. I also posted a link to a free download of the song. I felt it was important that any one who felt the same way I felt, and wanted to share in that with me, was able to get a free copy of the song if they wanted. the video for that can be seen on the main page of my youtube channel, but the free download can be found here: https://www.reverbnation.com/thomastulak
Joseph Bruen: What would you say your top 5 movies of all time are?
Thomas Tulak: Oh man... okay... I love movies. I have a rather large collection of DVDs. theres no way I could pick 5 favorites of all time... The first ones to come to my mind, in no particular order, would be: "Empire Strikes Back," "Serenity," "The Social Network," "Hot Fuzz," & "Tenacious D : the Pick Of Destiny." ... It took far longer to comprise that list that I care to mention!
Joseph Bruen: Any upcoming projects that you have coming up and would like to plug?
Thomas Tulak: Yes, actually. at the end of August I am going into production on a proof of concept short film called, "Who Dunt Dunt Dunnit?" its a modern day take on the classic dinner party murder mystery. It's a comedy in the vein of Mel Brooks and Monty Python, both of whom I watched a ton as a kid, and heavily inspire my comedic style. Once this short is finished we'll be submitting to various film festivals, in the hopes of being able to make it into a movie. You can find out more, watch some promos, and follow it on Facebook at: facebook.com/whoduntduntdunnit in fact here is a direct link to the promo spots on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue99ABeVG8Q also, another short film I directed last year called, "Time," which is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Robin Williams, will be screening at San Francisco Comic Con film festival next month.
Joseph Bruen: What advice can you give to someone just getting into acting or thinking of doing so?
Thomas Tulak: The best advice I can give for anyone trying to get into the industry, in front of or behind the camera, is to never give up. The only true failure is when you quit. There might be times where you want to quit, or where individual projects fail. Thats when you dust yourself off and just keep trying. Move on to the next project, go on the next audition. Go after the next thing. Keep going till you make it... Once you decide what you want to do with your life, every decision you make after that should be in support of that... also, do a little research and find out how other people, who are where you want to be, got where they are. Find the road they took, and take i yourself, even if you go alone, and in spite of opposition. Every one's path is different, and yours will be unique, but knowing the road other have taken is a good place to start.
Joseph Bruen: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview and I look forward to seeing what's next for you!
Thomas Tulak: Thank you for having me! I look forward to seeing whats next for me too!!