From the dentist’s office to the mud of Texas: Cult-classic movie star and UAB School of Dentistry graduate George Hardy preps for his third Sidewalk Film Festival experience

Hardy has become an icon among cult-movie enthusiasts for his turn in “Troll 2” and the subsequent documentary “Best Worst Movie.” While “Troll 2” has been universally panned, Hardy embraces the film as “one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
Video by: UAB Visual Content



What is the worst movie ever made? It’s a debate that can and very likely will go on as long as films are produced.

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry graduate George Hardy knows which movie is considered by many to be the worst. He starred in it 27 years ago.

“And it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me in my life,” said Hardy, star of “Troll 2,” a B-horror comedy film about, well … insanity. “It’s a film about a family vacationing in a small town, and the town is inhabited by goblins in disguise as humans who plan to eat them.

george hardyGeorge Hardy, a UAB School of Dentistry graduate, still has his dental practice in Alex City, Alabama, to go along with a successful and “really fun” acting career.“I promise we were trying to make a really good movie,” Hardy said.

Hardy’s star turn in “Troll 2” and the subsequent second life of the so-bad-it’s-good cult classic has led to more than 25 years of acting credits to go along with his 35-plus years as a dentist, first in Utah and now for the past 25 years in Alex City, Alabama. Hardy’s official film credits will grow by one more this week when his new short film, “Texas Cotton,” premieres at the Birmingham Sidewalk Film Festival presented by Regions at 10:15 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s such an honor to have an opportunity to be in Sidewalk, which is just a fantastic film festival and such a jewel for Birmingham and our state,” said Hardy, who will be making his third appearance in a film at Sidewalk after 2010’s “Troll 2” documentary “Best Worst Movie” and last year’s cameo in “Here Comes Rusty.”

“I’m just thrilled to have people see ‘Texas Cotton’ and get an idea of what that might look like as a full-length feature.”

“Texas Cotton” follows a Texas sheriff, played by Hardy, who discovers the secret behind his town’s biggest conspiracy. “Texas Cotton” director Tyler Russell says he hopes he can secure the funding needed to turn the 10-minute short into a full-fledged movie, and he definitely intends to have Hardy remain as the lead.

“‘Texas Cotton’ is a proof of concept — a theme from the full script that we turned into a short film,” Russell said. “We made the film to show this is what we’re doing and get people excited about it. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have this short film premiere at Sidewalk, which is just a real Southern-comfort type of festival and one of my absolute favorite film festivals. I think having someone like George in the lead role really makes it the kind of fun film that everybody can get behind.”

From dentist to actor

In his youth, Hardy was always comfortable as the center of attention, so much so that he always wanted to be an actor. But coming from a small Southern town, banking on a career as an actor didn’t make much sense to his family. Academics were the top priority.

His college career began at Auburn University, where he was a cheerleader, and eventually led him to UAB, where he earned his way into UAB’s School of Dentistry. He completed his degree and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to pursue a postdoctoral degree in pediatric dentistry.

Hardy’s decision to become a dentist has led to a 35-year career of helping men, women and children receive high-quality oral health care — another passion that has never wavered.

“I can’t say enough how honored I am to be a graduate of UAB and the School of Dentistry. It was just such an honor to be a student there and be part of that, just to be accepted, first of all, into a professional program in dentistry because it is so competitive now."

“People want to look good and feel good, and I really love helping people and changing lives,” he said. “I can’t say enough how honored I am to be a graduate of UAB and the School of Dentistry. It was just such an honor to be a student there and be part of that, just to be accepted, first of all, into a professional program in dentistry because it is so competitive now. I admire anybody going into medicine, whether it’s dentistry, medicine or physical therapy. Kudos to them and bravo to those who are continuing the profession. It keeps getting better and better out there.”

Ironically, it was Hardy’s decision to become a dentist that led to his chance to fulfill his dream of becoming an actor.

While practicing dentistry in Utah, one of Hardy’s patients mentioned to him that there were auditions taking place in Park City, Utah, for an untitled film. The patient asked him if he wanted to go audition. “I thought, ‘Well, what the heck? I will,’” Hardy said.

Hardy wound up impressing director Claudio Fragasso and was cast as the lead, as the father of a family of four, in the film that ultimately became “Troll 2.”

When Hardy learned that the movie was released — to VHS — he bought a copy and popped it in his VCR. After five minutes of watching it, he was horrified.

“I just went, ‘Oh, gosh. I can’t believe I’m watching this,’” he said. “When it first started showing up on HBO, people called me from all over the place. ‘George, you’re on TV.’ I said, ‘I know, I know. Stop watching it now. It gets worse!’”

Little did Hardy know that the film — which had no connection to the 1986 fantasy film “Troll,” nor did it have any actual trolls — would garner such a passionate audience. But in 2007, 17 years after the film wrapped, Hardy learned there were people across the country who had viewing parties for the film.

Fans would make goblin masks, print T-shirts, recite lines and act out scenes from the movie.

“I had no idea ‘Troll 2’ would become a cult favorite across the world,” Hardy said.

It eventually led to the critically acclaimed “Best Worst Movie” documentary, a fascinating look at the making of “Troll 2” and the subsequent cult-like following that had grown over the course of almost two decades.

george hardy dentist“I literally go from the dental office in Alex City to being in a barn until about 11 o’clock at night in Texas shooting a movie — and then being at the office the next day, midday. It’s pretty surreal. But it’s an awful lot of fun, too.”Impacting a young filmmaker

Russell is one of those people who loved “Troll 2.”

The “Texas Cotton” director enjoyed the campiness of the film and considers himself one of those cult followers.

He always was drawn to Hardy’s performance in the movie.

“When you watch ‘Troll 2,’ you’re like, ‘This guy is really not a bad actor,’” Russell said. “He was put in a place where his lines were so bad that anyone would have a hard time even saying them out loud. But you can tell this guy is trying everything he can to make it seem real. He is all in, 100 percent. He’s in it when he’s eating green food-colored cake. He’s in it when he’s fighting the little goblins in the film. He’s going for it.”

Russell says it was after he viewed “Best Worst Movie” that he really was drawn to Hardy as a person.

“You watch that documentary, and he’s just a guy who looks like he’s so much fun to work with,” Russell said. “For me, that’s the kind of person I want to work with. I want to work with people who are going to be fun on set, bring something to the table, be real and be people you believe in.”

Russell first worked with Hardy in last year’s Sidewalk film entry “Here Comes Rusty.” Russell remembers working with his team on the casting for the film, and they all joked with one another that they thought it would be great to have Hardy work with another cult-movie icon in actor Mark Borchardt. The two share a scene in the film and both are in “Texas Cotton.”

Russell reached out to Hardy by phone and email to talk about the prospects of appearing in “Here Comes Rusty,” not really sure if he would receive any correspondence back.

“And then I get a call from George, ‘What are you guys doin’?” Russell said, mimicking Hardy’s thick Southern drawl. “And he has a really cool cameo in ‘Here Comes Rusty.’ I was with him for just one day filming that, and that one day was enough for me to know that I wanted to work with George again.”

“Texas Cotton” and beyond

The seeds for “Texas Cotton” were actually planted this time last year, just prior to the Sidewalk Film Festival, when Russell visited Hardy in Alex City.

Russell wrote the script for the movie prior to his trip to Alabama last August.

“I remember that I threw the script down on his kitchen table, and it just went from there,” Russell said. “We finally found a good time earlier this year to do it. Because George is a full-time dentist, he has to be careful about the time he takes off work. We timed it out right, went out to Texas and shot it, and it was so much fun.”

Russell says the “Texas Cotton” shoot took place in the mud just about every day of filming and that having a cast leader on set like Hardy was critical, especially considering the outdoor elements and conditions. He says Hardy’s professionalism — never complaining, always smiling and fully invested — lifted the cast and crew, creating a strong working environment that he believes made the film better.

Hardy says he just loves the adventure.

“It’s pretty surreal; but, hey, you know what? Life’s too short. It boggles my mind that I’m still able to do this. So when I’m asked to do it … I’m 62 years old, and I’m thinking, ‘Why not? Why not live a little bit and have more fun doing this?’”

“It’s incredible to think, ‘Here I am going to work and drilling and filling, and then to the shock of doing something like that in Texas a day or two later,” Hardy said. “I literally go from the dental office in Alex City to being in a barn until about 11 o’clock at night in Texas shooting a movie — and then being at the office the next day, midday. It’s pretty surreal. But it’s an awful lot of fun, too.”

Russell plans to have Hardy in the lead role of the “Texas Cotton” full-length feature if he can secure the financing needed to make the film.

This type of independent, nitty-gritty filmmaking is what Russell says he enjoys. And a big reason, he says, is because of someone like Hardy.

“I don’t really have a desire to work with people who have big egos,” Russell said. “I want to work with real people who are going to be fun on set because you’re working over 12 hours a day. In my experience with George, he deserves all of the attention he’s getting from ‘Troll 2.’ He should be getting a lot more, too, and I hope from ‘Texas Cotton’ that happens. He’s just so positive and such a good person. And he helps everybody out. Having someone like George is incredibly rare. It’s something I hope I can continue to be around as I continue working in the film industry.”

Hardy, for one, doesn’t plan to quit his dentistry day job — or his acting job — anytime soon. He has two films, “The Killer’s Requiem” and … (wait for it) … “Goblin 2,” in postproduction. Hardy is, in many ways, living the life he has always dreamed. Why would he want to give that up now?

“It’s pretty surreal; but, hey, you know what? Life’s too short,” he said. “It boggles my mind that I’m still able to do this. So when I’m asked to do it … I’m 62 years old, and I’m thinking, ‘Why not? Why not live a little bit and have more fun doing this?’”

The Sidewalk Film Festival, presented by Regions, runs from Aug. 22-27. A complete lineup listing and ticket information are available online here.

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