Interview: Doug Lennox

Canadian actor and Toronto resident Doug Lennox requires no introduction - he and his character PT Boomer has been mentioned often throughout the Magic Railroad Fansite, with many of our contacts acclaiming his acting performance in the movie. SiF's Callum Walker compiled a list of questions for Doug, for which we are very grateful to have received answers for. It's only fitting that we are at last able to hear Doug's story, which he is happy to share with his Magic Railroad fans...

Reply to Callum Walker, 27 June, 2009

Doug, can you tell us how you first heard of and became interested in this movie?
I first heard of the project when Britt and the producers came to town (Toronto) and began scouting sites and setting up auditions.

What were your initial impressions of the PT Boomer character?
I’m used to playing strong characters but because it was a family movie I realized that Boomer would have to be a misunderstood bigger than life guy with an obvious comedic twist. He had to be scary but sympathetic … he knew all the principle characters from childhood … like most bullies, mostly bluster.

Do you recall if there was an audition for the part? If so, can you tell us about it and were there other contenders?
There were at least two auditions and yes, there were many others in the running for the part including actors from the U.S. and Britain but other than those locally I don’t know who they were. It was Britt who chose me.

Was working on Thomas and the Magic Railroad any different than anything you’ve experienced as an actor before or since?
Every movie is a unique experience because of the personalities involved but the routines are the same … The greatest difference of course was The Isle of Man. Some of the green screen work was new to me … you're performing in isolation.

Below: from deleted PT Boomer chase scene screener
PT Boomer (Doug Lennox) atop D-10
PT Boomer atop D-10 - Doug Lennox filmed the sequence in Green Screen

As an actor, did you have a lot of creative input and improvisation in your portrayal of PT Boomer? Did Britt Allcroft work with you in getting the character just right?
Britt was wonderful to work with and open to any ideas or interpretations I came up with … I believe it was her first directorial position so she was on a heavy learning curve herself … she’s a very strong woman.

In addition to sharing a few key scenes with Peter Fonda, you also had a few with actors Russell Means (Billy Twofeathers) and Cody McMains (young Patch).  Were Russell and Cody great to work with?
As you know, Russell is an icon within the aboriginal struggle in North America so it was great to meet him on that level … as a performer he was a pussycat … as a friend, very human …. Cody was a great kid and on the brink of a breakthrough … both were delightful not only to work with but also to hang out with. I had some good times with Cody’s dad.

The Isle of Man is said to be a beautiful place to experience. Did you enjoy your stay there during filming and able to meet the residents and explore the Island?  What part of the Island was your favorite – or were fans to visit, what area do you recommend?
The island is fascinating and incredibly beautiful with a remarkable history made unique by its Viking influence on its British heritage … The museums are elaborate and the castles, some dating to post-Roman times as well as the defenses built by Henry VIII and the withering mounds and ruins of Celtic churches are still alive … It’s a very compact place so it’s all one wonderful memory … the residents are amazingly hospitable and I met a gentleman named John (sorry, I can’t remember his last name) who was visiting his family estate while I was there .. we met in the hotel bar with his parents and he made it an issue to show me around the entire island during my time there … very classy guy!

Photo posted to SiF with permission of Doug Lennox
Doug Lennox, Peter Fonda on location IOM, Aug..'99
Doug Lennox & Peter Fonda at "Grandpa's Cottage", Port Cornaa, IOM - Aug. 1999

Did you travel down to Pennsylvania to film any of your scenes there?

Actors often have doubles perform risky scenes for them. Were any used for any of your scenes e.g. with the motorcycle?
I wrecked my left knee in a motorcycle accident while in the army so it couldn’t take the weight of the bike, so all moving motorcycle scenes were done by a stunt person (a woman)

Can you tell us about what it was like filming the green screen sequences in the Toronto studio?
My scenes on top of the train and falling off the bridge were all done against green screen … what can I say … I was in a body mold with a harness and … it was different.

Can you tell us about filming the barge scene? We’re told that the set dressers may have used an oatmeal mixture to make the ‘sludge’.
The barge scene was shot in the same location as the green screen in Toronto … The sludge was messy and wet and in a tank built for that purpose … it might have been oatmeal … it took about four takes …. I had to fully submerse myself for each take.

Below: from deleted PT Boomer chase scene screener
An unimpressed PT Boomer in the sludge barge

Do you have any special memories that you’d be able to share of working on the movie?
Just the joy of meeting and working with new people in a magnificent environment.

Can you tell us about what happened after you found out about your character being cut?
I received a phone call from a producer in California which struck me like a body blow but I appreciated his directness and honesty … he told me that Boomer was too powerful and scary for the child audience … This was after throughout the shoot the AD’s , the cinematographer and others on the crew would take me aside and tell me that I was the best thing in the film … a star vehicle .. so I simply had to accept the disappointment. I still wonder about the politics … but now it's ancient history …. And the movie flopped … I can’t help wondering if it would have been less of a failure with Boomer intact? I still had the real experience on location and was paid well!

Were you surprised at the sudden interest in your PT Boomer character back in 2007 after all of these years?
Surprised is an understatement …. Amazed at the depth of interest in all things Thomas … It’s not an unpleasant experience, just the opposite … I’ve had dozens of international emails curious about my role in the film, all from very understanding intelligent and kind people.

In closing, and this may seem odd, but given that it’ll be the 10th anniversary of the movie (2010), and what we have discovered of what could have been, is there any special message that you’d like to say to the fans?
I am moved by the very sincere curiosity of the movie's fans. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed …. Thank you for your interest both in Boomer and myself … Although I don’t dwell on what might have been … making a movie is a collaborative and creative process in the hands of those who conceive and control it … as an actor I am simply a foot soldier, but still proud of my contribution and warmed by the curiosity.

SiF wishes to thank Doug for sharing his insight about his contributions to the movie - albeit uncredited but in the end rediscovered! Doug, we wish you all the best in his endeavours as actor, author and radio host :)  Visitors are invited to check out Doug's Website to learn and see more of his other work and projects.

R.I.P. Doug Lennox - 1938-2015

Update: 2015-DEC-05

We were very saddened to learn that Doug Lennox passed away in his sleep at his Toronto home sometime during the evening of Saturday, November 28, 2015.

SiF staff and fans will remember Doug as a down-to-earth gentleman who was patient and happy to share his thoughts about his role in the making of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Doug sincerely supported the Restore the Magic Campaign for the release of the Director's cut of the movie. We certainly hope that fans will one day see his scenes from the movie restored as a testament to his talent as many cast and crew from the movie confirmed.