John Carty aka The Terror played the character Danny in Mike Carty's master piece, Beautiful Kid. It was a pleasure to talk with him and discuss his bad boy days, his best actor award and how things have changed...
Hey John, thanks for letting me ask you questions about Beautiful Kid.
So you’re writing a book? You should have Frank McCourt look at it.
You gotta ask him for me John.
I don’t,,,I haven’t seen him in over five years…
He’d still remember you John, you’re not easily forgotten. Alright, let’s talk about the movie. Okay, this movie was loosely based on growing up Irish in Woodlawn back-in-the-day. What was it really like growing up in Woodlawn…back then?
Growing up in Woodlawn…I was thinking about this the other day actually…if I could design the perfect place to grow up, it would be Woodlawn…do you like it, is that okay?
Umm…yeah, you can say anything. What about now, what are your feelings about it now?
I still like it, it has changed though, it’s more diverse now.
What did you like most about it?
There was always fun things to do. I guess the drinking. You know like the keg party in the movie? That’s what we used to do. There was all different crowds but everyone usually got along. There were some fights but no serious black eyes or nothing…well not all the time anyway (laughing).
Sounds like you got a dog, I can hear a dog.
Yeah, her name is Cupcake, she’s a short-legged pit bull, same head as a pit bull, really smart dog.
Ahhh, how cute. How long was a typical day for you (in filming Beautiful Kid)?
Well, the days were really, really long. Do you know James O-?
Well, once we were driving the car…that we were using in the movie and I crashed the car!
No, it was an accident. It was crazy and I still had the blood on my shirt from the movie. (fight scene)
Oh my god..
I was working at Ground Zero at the time and doing the movie at night and that night I was so exhausted I crashed the car and they had to film the movie from the passenger’s side (laughing). I smacked my head on the roof! I had to change the two front tires, it was a nightmare. Are you gonna ask me why I think the movie wasn’t bigger than it was?
Okay, why wasn’t it bigger than it was?
Because we're not Jews...we are not JEWISH!
Are you resentful about being Irish?
No! Irish is the best nationality that there is…and something that really pisses me off is people think it’s (the Irish flag) green, white and orange…it’s gold, but they changed it!
What was it like dismantling the car with a bat in one take?
Oh that was so much fun, you were there for that one, right?
Yeah, I was an extra and we were cheering you on…and I remember Mike saying that they had to do it in one take only cuz they only had the one car to bash and he bought it at a junk yard for $50!
Oh, it was so much fun...I did that for real once but this time it was for fun. I think everyone should try this,,,just go to a junk yard…
Wait…did you say you’ve done that for real?
Yes, a guy was messing with my girlfriend once. And once when a guy messed with my brother Cliff. Actually the guy lived in the apartment you live in now!
Yep, it happened right there at that building…the Hagens. I was outside the building crushing his car.
With a bat?
It was like a bat and I saw him in Rory Dolan’s recently and I apologized. He’s a cop now in York Town Heights. I wouldn’t want to piss him off now. It was New Years Eve. And some boys came down to my house and said, ‘Cliff just got beat up by the Hagens' and I started chasing them with the bar. Later, the cops came down and I said I wasn’t going out there and Cliff went down and had to get locked up for the night…Cliff was a dummy, he turned himself right in,,,I make them cops earn it, they’re gonna have to look for me.
What was the outcome?
Oh, I had a friend who had a friend…and the whole thing got squashed.
Thank god! Cliff’s a cop now?
No, he’s a fireman but he was a cop first. But this happened when we were kids. He was a cop for ten years.
Why did he retire? When you’re a cop or fireman the time carries over, he’ll be able to retire soon.
Wow. In the movie credits…they write your name, John “The Terror” Carty, that’s also been your nickname for a long time, how did you get it?
I was 16 years old and I got a motorcycle jacket and back then everyone had shaved heads and I went into a store and someone said, “Hey, that’s Terror from the Wonderers" and when I saw the movie I was like, ‘I don’t look like that’ and I wanted to change it back! But now, I do actually look like him and it’s crazy…and the stunt guy we had in Beautiful Kid was also in that movie!
That’s such a coincidence.
Yeah, the movie (Wonderers) was about gangs that hung out and fought…and we used to fight like that…it was really great growing up…it was really fun fighting.
Ever go to jail for fighting?
Well, for beating people up, not really for fighting.
What was your longest stint?
Umm…I think six months,,,the most I ever did was two years.
What was that for?
A stolen car…going into that I had a lot of fights and that judge was mad. That was in 1992…in Valhalla I did six months a few times.
Once my mom had a fortune teller at her house and the cops knocked the door down!
No way…I’m sorry I’m laughing, it’s not funny. But your poor mom. I don’t know why I’m laughing right now, I’m sorry.
She (fortune teller) did my cards and she said, “there’s blood all over you and you’re gonna see people you know and people you don’t know” and while this is going on my brother Kevin calls and says, ‘the cops are looking for you‘ and I said I better call a cop (John Barnett) to take me in there and he told them where I was.
What a jerk for ratting you out!
I know. So now this fortune teller is screaming, ‘don‘t come in, you’ll let the spirits out’ and I‘m trying to escape down the fire escape and I see this cop and they‘re saying ‘we‘re gonna break the door down!”…and she’s saying, ‘don‘t let the sprits out‘
I had just done my time in a jail. Once I went to jail for popping a guy’s eye out. And I went to jail for 6 months and I got out and had to go back for not paying a fine!
What did your father say?
When I got out that time I wanted to beat up the guy who got with my girlfriend when I was away but my dad was with me…Rest in peace…and was saying “no more fighting John, no more.” This car drove up next to us with a bumper sticker that said, ‘let go, let god’ and I just took it as a sign.
What was jail like?
It was horrible, it was nothing like Woodlawn (laughing), actually Valhalla… it was like a little vacation. No one really messed with me though, at Rikers. I was 290 pounds and had a bald head. I’d see people carrying stuff over their heads and I’d just carry it under my arm. There was this guy, Poft and he always asked people to get him stuff (food) and no one ever refused but I did…
Yeah, I screamed at him, ‘I don’t get anything for anyone!‘ I’m really lucky he got out the next day. I wouldn’t be alive today. Once I was in a rec room and these guys were wrecking the pexi-glass and then they saw me and thought I’d say something cuz I was white. After that, I was fine.
Is it scary?
I was always aware. Once I was running…and I was praying and I heard this noise and I thought I was crazy because I heard someone running up behind and no one was there.
Hope it doesn’t make you blue…to talk about those days…
All this reminiscing…once I was gone and I had just missed Chinese food and one guy said, don’t worry, “We’re gonna have filet migon and he took out these two bologna sandwiches…it wasn’t funny at the time but you look back at it...you can laugh at it…you ever think about getting a tape recorder?
Yes, all the time.
And when I got out of jail that time when I met my future wife and she was in Ireland for a month and that fortune teller lady’s words came true and I got stabbed in the back with a knife...and I couldn’t go to the hospital because I was on parole and I woke up and my back was stuck to the bed…from all the blood.
What was your childhood like?
I had a crush on your mother (laughing)and I was mad when your dad married her…
I never heard that one.
Yeah back then your uncle and my dad used to come home with black eyes and no one really got locked up,,,fighting and drinking and all that...and no one got locked up and I remember Joe once said to me, “You gotta make a name for yourself….” And I seen him recently and I said, “I know you didn’t mean that kind of name"…and he was just laughing.
When you got the best actor award…
Oh, I wasn’t there but Mike (Carty) called me and said, ‘you got nominated but you’re not gonna win cuz you’re up against Eric Roberts…’
Julia Roberts brother?
Yeah. So I said, ‘did I get money or anything?' And then later he called me back and he was almost crying and he said, ‘Holy s###! You won the best actor award!' And that Method Fest award is a big deal, it’s what Robert Dinero won before he shot to stardom. And you wannna hear something f##### up?
Someone from my union stole it cuz I brought it to work to show it to the guys at work.
Oh man, I would have been pissed!
I went to another film festival and this black lady came over to me and said, ‘You got some balls!” And I thought she meant she really saw them (in the naked scene).
Was Frank (McCourt) there?
No but I went to another one at Lake Placed and I saw Frank across the street and he yelled over, “that’s my son.“ He was a really nice guy,,,I like his brother too.
What was the greatest memory of the movie?
There was the movie premiere night, remember that when we all went from Woodlawn?
Yeah, that was a lot of fun!
That was like…honestly… I don’t think of myself as an actor and so many people were like, ‘you were awesome’ but I don’t feel like it actually happened. I really like that girl,,,,Bridget, she was the nicest of all the actors.
Who were you closest to growing up?
My brother Cliff, we were Irish twins, 16 months apart.
And he never went to jail?
No, never got in trouble,,,,except for that time he turned himself in. Since 1993, I haven’t been locked up.
Got any other crazy stories?
Once we were going across the border to Canada and two guys couldn’t get over there because of what happened (their petty crimes) and we had to stay in Maine. We got into another bar fight. At that time I wasn’t drinking. I’m just standing there and next thing you know I look over and my friend Colum says, ‘that girl over there just stole my pack of smokes.' And I told him to forget about it and let it go. And next thing you know…he’s got one leg… and he’s got her in a head lock and everyone in the bar comes running over to us.
Luckily the owner liked us and was like, ‘that girl stole his cigs’ and we just got outta there…shortly after that he was outside the hotel room with his pants around his ankles and he’s playing the bag pipes…and later he bought crisps and beans and I had to open it with a knife and he poured the beans right over the chips and he’s eating them and there’s beans all over his face.
That’s disgusting. What was your last horah?
Two Wednesdays ago. ..I went to the Rambling House until 4 in the morning and I got in trouble for that…I don’t think that’s gonna be my last one.
Describe the fight scene in the movie?
It was kind of fake to me because in a real fight I’d be a lot faster even though I’m a fat bastard. In the movie we had to move slowly. When I was younger I never thought I could have killed someone and one time I got whacked with a bat and saw stars. I seen this girl and I asked her ‘how does it look?’ The blood was warm flowing down my face and she just looks at me and screams. Another time I got bashed with a hurling stick…another crazy night on Katona Ave!
Jesus! What’d you do?
I saw this lady with her kid and I said, “Is that your kid?“ And she just scowled at me and next thing you know her husband comes over and hits me. I went home and got my crow bar and knife and went back over to him. When the cops got there they asked who the knife belonged to and we both said, ‘We don’t know.' And then the cops asked me if he hit me and I said no…cuz I didn’t want to press charges and he turned himself in!
What? He admitted to it?
When the cops said, “Did you do this to his face?” He said, “I certainly did!" and they just took him away in hand cuffs, he was an idiot.
I loved Beautiful Kid,,,it was so well done.
I love the movie,,,and I still watch it and that movie was really true…those things really happened…
You know that scene where the guy goes to get drugs and gets killed? That really happened but not exactly, want me to tell you the real story?
Mike Murphy and Johnny Stack and I were doing this thing called the three-man-sling shot-and you shoot it out at people walking by and we hit some lady…we ran out of water balloons so we started shooting other things: apples, etc then the cops came and everyone scattered and I ripped my pants and I remember I was changing my pants and I was thinking I was just gonna stay home and decided to stay home. So, Johnny and Murph go and give the guy the money (to buy drugs) and wait and the two guys start fighting and they turn and grab a bat and start chasing this black guy and they get through three projects and the Dominicans turned their bullets lose. Johnny got shot three times and Murph 20 times…Johnny survived.
Is he still alive?
Yeah. He got stabbed on Katona Avenue after that and another time he got a knife stabbed right through him out the other side,,,,and another time he flipped a car in a black out and killed the other guy in the car. I swear to god he has nine lives…and he’s fine, he’s still crazy,,, he’d still fight and he wouldn’t even think twice about it.
You been to Ireland?
Yeah, four times, the last time I went like six years ago…the seats are not big enough for me. Last time I was there I was in a bar and I was buying beers and ice and this guy gave me a little baggy of ice. Another time we were getting a ham sandwich and we asked for it ‘thinly sliced’ and the guy gave us one slice and another time I thought this guy buying beer with change was a bum because he was buying beers with coins and I thought he was hurting but he was just a regular guy (the Euro is coins).
Would you want your kids to grow up in Woodlawn?
I don’t know,,,it’s not like it used to be…the schools have changed and I’d rather my kids go somewhere else. I was raised as a racist but I’m not a racist anymore,,,things were different back then.
Getting back to your friend who was shot 20 times, did that make big news?
Just a little newspaper article…and his brother was a cop.
At the time?
Yes and his other brother was a fireman and the other brother later became a cop.
What happened to the guy who pulled the trigger?
He got twenty years…and when he got out he got killed. And the guy who ran away from them,,,he got killed.
He got shoved in the back of the car and ran over.
That’s a tragic story, I‘m sorry you lost your friend…
In the movie, that part seemed so real. In reality, it was the hardest part,,, I was getting screamed at and it so crazy I couldn't even remember my lines.
You guys did such an amazing job when I watched that part when you and your friends’ lives were being threatened I got so scared, the acting was so good, I thought is was real for a second. John, you’re amazing. I want you guys to get together and do another movie like that.
Thanks, the movie was based on real life events but was really watered down…and some people complained it was too violent….but it’s real life, you know?
I do…I loved it, it was amazing.