Last year I watched the 1988 Lance Henriksen film Pumpkinhead for the first time, and like many before me, I thought, “That little Billy is stinkin’ adorable.” I pondered what-ever-happened-to Matthew Hurley, the young actor who played him, but a quick check of IMDb left me with more questions than answers. So an IMDb glance led to several days of googling, led to several weeks of social network surfing, and finally after several marginally obsessive months of putting together a string of clues, I found him! Put the Pumpkinhead back! Billy’s just fine!
Matthew Hurley, now 32, didn’t seem to blink an eye when a total stranger messaged him out of the blue, asking if he was the Pumpkinhead kid. In fact, he quite graciously agreed to be interviewed and even dug up some pictures to share with you, dear readers. So without further ado, here’s that Pumpkinhead kid!
Terri: How did you get started as an actor? You were pretty young, yes?
Matthew: A family friend thought I was an outspoken, silly kid with a flair for the dramatic tones in life. They suggested it to my parents and knew some places to check out for child actors, so we did.
As best I can remember, I was 5-6 when we found an agent, and started taking pictures and doing interviews. So yes, I was a pretty young little guy.
Terri: I’ve read your comments on the IMDb message board, so I know that your listing has been fused with another actor. Not an unusual occurrence for IMDb. Just to set the record straight, what roles did you have in your career?
Matthew: IMDb. Yes. Great resource for movie fans like myself, but being a victim of misinformation myself, I have commented, emailed and attempted contact to have this old issue squared away. Nothing happened. lol
Pumpkinhead, Checking Out, Bride of Boogedy and pretty much all things pre-1990 are mine. I haven’t checked it out in a while, but I did some TV roles and lots of commercials in the 80’s.
After having said that just now, I feel alot older! 🙂
Terri: I don’t think you were active in films for very long, were you? Did you lose interest in acting or did life just lead you in a different direction?
Matthew: Not too long, no. I didn’t really choose to leave the field. We moved to Northern California for family reasons, and I guess it just kinda got left behind. I do remember my last interview process. I was to be the voice of Charlie Brown. We did a lot of phone interviews, but ultimately the long distance kinda poured water on that fire. My dream to this day is to be a voice actor! I love performing voice impersonations and making up stuff. I’ve been told I have a great Michael Jackson impression. 😉
So this is kind of a mixed bag for me. As a child I didn’t care too much for the acting gig, but now I kinda wonder “what if?” sometimes. I think as an adult I would love it now.
Terri: I understand that you are married with a family and that you are a youth minister. Tell us a little about what you’re up to nowadays.
Matthew: I am happily married to my beautiful wife, Jolene, for almost 13 years now! We have 2 amazing, full of life, very handsome boys. Jacob Alexander (11) and Parker Elliott (7). I couldn’t have designed a more wonderful wife and kids than what I have been blessed with!
I am the Youth and Worship Ministries director at a small church with a big name lol (Pelican Bay Evangelical Free Church) tucked away in the beautiful redwood trees of Crescent City, California. I serve there as a Youth Pastor to some awesome teenagers and young adults and serve as a Worship Leader for our church. Our music team (band) has some amazingly talented people from all kinds of backgrounds and we try to make great music for our Lord each week as a “Thank you” for all He has done for us! I love life and both of my beautiful families! I feel so very blessed 😉
Terri: Besides work and family, what activities/hobbies keep you busy?
Matthew: How much time do you have? lol
Well, I play music for a living, but it’s also my biggest hobby, I’d have to say. I’m a songwriter and I record stuff when I can, so that’s kinda all day, everyday for me. Inspiration strikes anywhere!
I’m a huge fan of fancy metal items with triggers that expel fast moving pieces of hot spinning lead at a target downrange and make a very large “bang” sound. Target shooting and firearms training is probably my “most favorite-est” thing to do aside from music.
When time allows, I’ll play lots of video games. Pretty much online Xbox360 shooter games. Gears of War, Call of Duty, Borderlands, those types. I am a big time movie lover/collector. I surf longboards in the chilly pacific ocean of the “real” nor-cal.
I played paintball for 17 years until recently (chronic foot pain slowed me down too much to keep at it). I was one of the founding members and Captain of Edge Zero Paintball, a small scenario team that traveled to some great events in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon area). Ever heard of SuperGame? lol
I repair computers for people when I’m not doing the rest of these things 🙂 I am also a giant nerd/geek about computers and various kinds of technology. If it needs batteries or has a screen, I’m probably gonna be interested in looking at it lol.
Terri: I don’t know how aware you are of the massive fan-following that Pumpkinhead has. And I attribute a lot of that to the father-son relationship that grounds that movie in reality. If not for the emotional attachment the audience has for you and the grief felt for Lance’s character, the movie could easily have become just another monster flick. What do you remember about filming it?
Matthew: I was actually totally unaware of it until now! (Terri: I might have found a new skill in regressive therapy! :D) It was so long ago, and my life now is so different, I kinda forget about it until someone brings it up.
Wow, here goes…
I’ll start with Lance.
First of all, he may be the nicest guy around! I remember meeting him pre-production as a small kid, and how gentle and genuinely caring he seemed to be towards me. Pumpkinhead was my first film, so naturally, I was a little nervous. At some point before filming he must have spoken with my mom and dad about things that would help me on the set to have to calm me or keep me comforted. My first day of filming, I recall it being like 106-107 degrees out in the mountains for the store scenes. I was already gonna have a bad day. I was taken to my trailer and inside was a cage with 2 bunnies in it. They were from Lance. I instantly felt a bond to him off-screen. I was so grateful to him for thinking of me in such a kind way. He was like that each day of filming, my friend off camera. Perhaps on-screen, that could be where it came from.
The Director was wonderful! Stan Winston, his fx crew, and I had spent a bunch of time together pre-production for all the makeup/plaster/dummy making stuff, so we had a good setup to work together. I think they actually let me make the necklace in the movie! Stan and my parents went to great lengths to try and keep as much of the “bad stuff” (monster costume) from my eyes during filming. I don’t think I even knew much about the film until I saw the premiere lol. Stan and I kept in touch every few years until he sadly, as you know, passed away. What a kind man. I will never forget his kindness to me, as best I can tell, he was a good role model to me at a young age.
The cast was so kind to me! All of them were such nice people and it was a great place to be to make a scary movie lol. It’s kinda funny how much effort goes into acting if you have to be a bad guy! John D’Aquino was a really great person to work with. When I saw the film and he was kinda the bad guy, I couldn’t believe it!
I specifically remember Cynthia Bain. I think I had a crush on her! lol She was another wonderful and helpful person on the set and off. After filming, she contacted my parents, and asked to spend the day with me. We went to the mall together, had lunch, and just had fun talking about monsters and movies and our experience making the film.
Some very fond memories. I’d have to ask like I did for John, this cast was in a horror movie? 🙂
Terri: How old were you? You looked to be about 5.
Matthew: I think I was 7 during filming. Other than my goatee, a few pounds and real glasses, not coke bottles, I don’t think I have changed much 🙂
Terri: You really haven’t! The picture at the top of this page is absolutely how I knew I’d found the right Matthew Hurley! 😀 In the last couple of years, I have been introduced to the phenomenon of horror conventions. Think Star Trek convention, but with lots more fake blood. (At least, I hope it was fake.) I have seen several former child actors make appearances at these conventions. Some of them are still actors and some have different careers altogether. Would you ever have any interest in meeting the fans in that type of environment?
Matthew: I don’t know. I have never been asked! I suppose. As a Star Wars fan (original trilogy, I stress), I would enjoy going to something like a Star Wars convention. I guess if it would make Pumpkinhead fans happy, I’d consider it, if I ever had an invite.
Terri: You mentioned music before. Are you involved in any other performing arts?
Matthew: I did some theater in high school and have penned a few small skit type things for events, performed in a few over the years. I have some friends in the local theater group trying to get me to reprise my role as Orin Scrivello, DDS from Little Shop of Horrors coming up lol.
Voice acting, like I mentioned, I do as a hobby. I sing and play guitar and sometimes a few other instruments. I have done lots of songwriting and have been blessed to have recorded 3 albums over the years. Good times…good times.
Terri: And last but not least, what’s up with the “Matches” thing? 😀
Matthew: The matches thing? hahaha. Everyone named Matthew gets called Matt or something simple. A little old German lady I knew growing up used to call me her “little matches,” accent and all. It kinda stuck where I was working. And I played alot of video games; I didn’t want to have Matt or something like that as a profile name or email address so I used that. It just stuck with me. lol Most of my friends, and certainly my wifeypoo call me that. The only time Jolene uses my full name? That means I’m in trouble! 🙂
Many thanks to Matthew Hurley for accepting my invitation to stroll down memory lane. And hey, all you horror con organizers out there! Isn’t 2013 the 25th anniversary of Pumpkinhead? Give this guy a call! Surely the Mayans wouldn’t be against a little ’80s horror film reunion. 😉