Thomas Wictor

One of the greatest actors alive

One of the greatest actors alive

Courtney Stodden has left Doug Hutchison.

I don’t know much at all about either person. When they got married, I heard excerpts on the radio of a TV interview they gave. Just for fun I Googled her and saw what she looked like before she acquired her present appearance. It’s odd that he’s aged two years since that interview and she’s aged three. Maybe that explains why she looks so much older than nineteen. Each Courtney Stodden year could be 1.5 human years. In ten years she’ll be thirty-four instead of twenty-nine.

The May-December nature of their relationship didn’t interest me. At thirty-six I fell in love with an eighteen-year-old. It was a catastrophe. She became a ghost and then the inspiration for my one and only suicide attempt. I didn’t try to kill myself over her; I tried to kill myself over what had been done to her. Deducing her bane sent me into a state of post-traumatic psychosis. It’s called PTSD-SP and feels like this. That was the inside of my head for almost a year.

When I met “Abby,” I thought she was close to thirty. On being informed that she was eighteen, I backed off, but because the person I’d gone to San Francisco to see was not available, Abby and I ended up spending several days and nights together—talking, painting, watching videos, and going on picnics. By the end of my visit, I’d completely fallen for her.

So I can see how an older man could genuinely love a much younger woman, depending on the woman. I could see how an older woman could genuinely love a much younger man, depending on the man.

Still, I don’t care about Doug and Courtney’s marriage. What’s important to me is that Doug Hutchison is one of the greatest actors alive. He played the most repulsive, horrifying, evil villain in cinematic history, Eugene Victor Tooms. When Tim and I saw the X-Files episode “Squeeze,” we cringed, yelled, and shivered at the expressions Hutchison was able to generate for the camera. It’s all about the mouth. He makes his lips protrude slightly, and he shifts the lower one just a bit off center.

Someone—Stephen King, I think—said that one definition of horror is the slight distortion of normality. The time Tim and I drove to Canada to interview the military artist Ron Volstad, we nearly went crazy. Everything was familiar but just slightly off. I smoked in those days, so I went into a gas station and asked the guy, “Don’t you sell cigarettes?”

He looked at me in total confusion and gestured to what looked like stacks of CD cases behind him. “Whattaya think these are, eh?” he asked.

See, in Canada, the cigarettes were sold in flat boxes that had two compartments of ten, instead of the crude American approach of stuffing all twenty cigarettes into one compartment. Why would the Canadians do that? My theory is that everything Canada does is based on its obsession with differentiating itself from the US. It’s the most reactionary culture I’ve experienced.

Everywhere we went we saw signs advertising “donair.” Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. At one stop I went into the store, found a cooler case, pulled out a donair sandwich, and turned it over to read the ingredients: bread, lettuce, mayonnaise, cheese and…donair meat.

I gave up. A donair was obviously a Canadian beast that would remain forever hidden from me. I pictured it thusly:


When we asked for ATMs, they had no idea what we meant.

“Machines that dispense money from bank accounts!” we almost screamed.

“Oh, you mean cash points.

There were highway signs that showed cartoon drawings of bellhops, there were no exits to get off at Calgary, freeway lanes came to a point and then disappeared, and each turnoff was at almost a ninety-degree angle to the road, so you had to jam on the brakes and panic-stop down to five miles an hour before you could exit, all while eighteen wheelers bore down on you, the drivers eating donair sandwiches, smoking cigarettes from packs that didn’t fit into any pocket, and counting their withdrawals from the cash point.

We couldn’t escape Canada fast enough. It was like being in hell, because everything was just slightly off kilter. The collective impact of these tiny differences made us hysterical.

And that’s why Doug Hutchison is one of the greatest actors alive. He figured out that all he had to do to make himself an indelible screen presence was change the set of his lips, move just a little too slowly and gracefully, and not blink. His Eugene Victor Tooms is atavistically frightening. If demons exist, they’re Eugene Victor Tooms.

Once in Tokyo, as I stood on a train platform talking with my friend Steiv Dixon, I suddenly felt a blast of terror. The fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. I frantically looked in every direction and realized that the young Japanese man standing in front of me was the cause of my turmoil.

As I stared at him, he stiffened and slowly turned around. He had a normal profile, but when he completed his pivot, his face looked concave. It was like this optical illusion. His expression was blank; he gave off no sense of threat. But being so close to him made me want to blubber like a child. There was also something monumentally sad about him. He was lost forever, cut off from all of humanity.

The way he studied me—not blinking and the set of his mouth just slightly distorted—was identical to the way Hutchison played Eugene Victor Tooms. After a timeless period, the young Japanese man looked away and then slowly walked off. My fear receded. Later I asked Steiv if he’d sensed anything odd on the platform, and he said he said something had made him deeply uneasy.

I have no idea what that young man was. But somehow Hutchison was able to create a character that gave me the heebie-jeebies just as much as a real person with what appeared to be a hollow face.

It’s a relief to know that Hutchison is a hugely gifted actor, not a monster. Eugene Victor Tooms has been lodged in my mind for almost two decades.

Incredible acting job, Doug. Bravo. You’re an artist up there with Laughton, Welles, and March, three of my favorites. But damn you for scaring me so much!