HMS Interviews Ryan Wise director of the documentary:

Interview by Kenneth Gallant

This is going to be a celebratory week for HMS, given how the I Am Thor documentary is getting a release on VOD (including iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo) on the 20th of November. We thought it would be a good idea to sit down and have a chat with director Ryan Wise to get the full scoop on the film.

As you all know, Thor is a legendary performer. He's born Canadian and has made some memorable cult classic horror films right here on Canadian Soil with my good friend John Fasano. Obviously Thor's legacy will forever be cemented in the minds of horror and metal fans and we are incredibly excited to have the chance to speak to key people involved in the production and of course review the film.

Even better though, Thor has just released a brand new studio album – entitled Metal Avenger and we will also have a review of the album too! I am so excited to officially dub this week Thor Week at HMS and without further fanfare, let's get down to the interview I conducted with director Ryan Wise.

HMS: So let's start out with a simple question – how did you get to be involved in this film?

Ryan: My producing partner, Alan Higbee, and I grew up together (we're also step brothers) making tons of short films – we were always into filmmaking. In 2000, a friend of ours, Carl, told us we should talk to this guy that he works with us at a pizza restaurant in Seattle. Carl said that everyone just calls him Thor and that he made movies with Adam West back in the day and is still working on films. We met with Thor and talked movies and he casually told us he was also in a band called THOR, and he was just starting his comeback and had a show in a couple days. We thought that was kind of weird because he had short hair now and was very nice and quiet. He didn't seem like he could be a front man for a band especially a band called THOR. I had never heard of the band, THOR, before. We went to the show, which was in a dive bar with twenty people in the audience. THOR blew us away. It was just amazing. He blew up a hot water bottle, had bricks smashed on his chest, bent a steel bar in his teeth, and fought his evil step brother Loki on stage and ended the fight by bending the microphone stand around his neck. It was crazy. He's one of the best front men of all time. He is so good at making sure everyone in the audience is having a good time. After the final song I turned to Al and said, 'we have to film this.'

HMS: Are you a fan of Jon Mikl Thor?

Ryan: I'm definitely a fan. He's a great entertainer, works really hard, and never gives up. He's an inspiration. He's accomplished so much in his life and he continues to work hard and continues to follow his dreams. How can you not be a fan of a guy like that?

HMS: What was it like working with Jon for the film? Was he difficult at all? Did he have any notions of his own in terms of the way he wanted to be presented in the film?

Ryan: At first Jon was kind of tough to work with. He's always been in control of his music and movies and I think it was hard for him to let go of control for this documentary. He wanted to produce the movie with us but I always told him that he can't do that because it won't be a true representation of him and the movie won't be as good. He wanted us to just show all the good times – the highlights. I wanted to show everything, the good and the bad, the real Jon Mikl Thor that no one really knows. It took a while for him to truly let his guard down and let us film pretty much whatever we wanted. We never let him see any of the film for all those years. The first time he saw anything was when we had the world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in January.

HMS: What are your thoughts about his film work? Both Zombie Nightmare and Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare are genre classics for all of us horror and metal fans – have you seen these films?

Ryan: Yeah, I've definitely seen those films. I think they're great. It is fun to watch them with Jon because he has a lot of stories about them.

HMS: Thor had a falling out with the director John Fasano after the two films were made in Canada, but did he ever talk further about John to you? John also passed away last summer, so I was curious to know if Thor had any further thoughts about the director upon his passing.

Ryan: I've hung out with John Fasano and Thor together many times. They made up and have worked together quite a bit over the last fifteen years. It's really sad that John has passed away. They were close friends in the end and whenever I saw them together they were always laughing and having a good time. Thor has a lot of respect and love for John.

"This documentary has basically spanned my entire career."

HMS: After working on Prom Queen (in 2007) and Control TV (in 2010), how did you approach filming a documentary?

Ryan: I actually started the I Am Thor documentary in 2001, before Prom Queen or Control TV. I lived in Bremerton, Washington in 2000 and was just about to move to Los Angeles to start my film career when I ran into Thor. We filmed Thor's west coast tour and then I moved to Los Angeles and started working in television and movies. I started out as an editor and then got into directing and producing. In between all those other projects, I was always working on I Am Thor whenever I could. This documentary has basically spanned my entire career.

HMS: After watching the film, in what light do you expect fans to see Jon Mikl Thor – perhaps maybe sympathetic, sadness or outrage?

Ryan: My goal from the beginning was to show a real and honest portrayal of this man. He's such an interesting and complex person who has experienced so much in his lifetime that I think many people may have different opinions about him after watching this documentary. Thor always wanted to be a superhero when he was a kid – he loved Superman. He used to wear a Superman outfit underneath his clothes at school and then change into Superman at recess. He loves the Clark Kent and Superman thing where he's Thor on stage wearing a costume but when he's off stage he's 'Clark Kent' in street clothes and people don't recognize him. I met 'Clark Kent' before I met Thor and exploring both sides of Jon Mikl Thor in this documentary really fascinated me.

HMS: How important do you feel Jon is to the worlds of heavy metal and horror? Certainly, I feel my website draws some inspiration from Thor's incredible career.

Ryan: I think Jon has influenced more bands and horror movies than we know. He was ahead of his time and maybe that's why he didn't make it as big as he should have; but he still loves creating, loves playing, loves his fans, and is still inspiring people today.

HMS: I know Thor is going on tour with the movie, but I am a bit disappointed there are no Canadian dates. The film did play at Fantasia this year in Montreal and was shown at the CMW Film Festival in Toronto, but quite frankly I expected him to return to his roots. Do you know why he decided against coming here?

Ryan: The film also played at the Calgary Underground Film Festival where Thor also played a show afterwards (that was the Canadian premiere). This US tour was set up through our distributor to promote the film. There still may be a Canadian tour. We'll just have to check and see if Thor's chariot has enough tread left on the tires.

HMS: Do you plan on making another documentary in the near future?

Ryan: I would love to get going on another documentary soon. I just don't want it to take fifteen years this time.

HMS: What do you think this documentary will help Thor achieve in his future endeavors?

Ryan: Hopefully the documentary will help Thor get more attention and gain more fans that may have never even heard of this rock legend before. He has a new album out right now called, Metal Avenger that kicks ass. Go check it out but also don't forget to check out, I Am Thor, on VOD (iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, VUDU, etc.) November 20th.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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About the artist(s):

Ryan Wise is known for I Am Thor (2015), Sam Has 7 Friends (2006) and Sorority Forever (2008). He was a stand-up comedian and ran an underground comedy club out of his garage called the Comedy Car Hole. – IMDB

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Read our review:

Thor poster

About the author:

Kenneth Gallant is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of horrormetalsounds.com. Ken originated the webzine as a column (on another Heavy Metal webzine) that paid homage to horror films incorporating the theme, or a soundtrack, of heavy metal music. Horrormetalsounds.com embodies his passion for horror films, comics and heavy metal music.