Mystery Dental Theater 3000

How George Hardy became a cult-classic movie star
Story and photo by Tyler Greer • Video by Laura Thomas and Carson Young
Photo of George Hardy with movie poster in background; headline: Mystery Dental Theater 3000
How George Hardy became a cult-classic movie star
Story and photo by Tyler Greer • Video by Laura Thomas and Carson Young
What is the worst movie ever made? UAB School of Dentistry alumnus George Hardy, D.M.D., might have a suggestion. He starred in it 27 years ago.
“And it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” says Hardy, star of Troll 2, a 1990 B-horror comedy film about, well, insanity. The plot centers on a family vacationing in a small town inhabited by goblins who plan to eat them—by turning them into plants—because, of course, they are vegetarian goblins. There are no trolls. Or any connection to the 1986 fantasy film Troll.
That’s quite a leap from Alexander City, Alabama, where Hardy is more readily recognized as a community dentist. His dentistry career spans 35 years—25 of them in his Alabama hometown.
“I promise we were trying to make a really good movie,” says Hardy with a smile. In Troll 2, he plays Michael Waits, a father of two. Over the years, the film has made regular appearances on lists of all-time worst movies, but it also has gained a passionate cult following worldwide. Fans throw viewing parties, complete with homemade goblin masks and t-shirts. They recite lines and act out scenes from the movie. And its notoriety has led to new acting roles for Hardy.
Photo of George Hardy in front of Birmingham's Alabama TheatreGeorge Hardy screened his latest film, Texas Cotton, at the 2017 Sidewalk Film Festival.

Accidental Star

Hardy says he’s always been a ham, but it was dentistry that helped him realize his childhood dream of becoming an actor. Attending the UAB School of Dentistry was “an honor,” he says. “People want to look good and feel good, and I love helping people and changing lives.”
Following his 1981 graduation, Hardy moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to pursue a postdoctoral degree in pediatric dentistry. There, one of his patients told him about auditions for an untitled film and asked if he wanted to go. “I thought, ‘Well, what the heck?’” Hardy recalls.
Hardy wound up impressing Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso, and filming began in Utah in the summer of 1989. The shoot lasted just 13 days—which is remarkable considering that Fragasso, his scriptwriter wife, and nearly the entire production crew were Italian and not fluent in English, complicating any interactions with the actors. After five minutes of watching the finished movie on VHS, Hardy was horrified.
“When it first started showing on HBO, people called me from all over the place,” Hardy says. “I said, ‘Stop watching now. It gets worse!’” (See Hardy battle a goblin in the video clip below.)

“All In, 100 Percent”

Troll 2’s Internet-fueled infamy led to Best Worst Movie, a critically acclaimed documentary on the making of the film and its subsequent cult following. Michael Stephenson, who played Hardy’s son in Troll 2, directed the documentary that screened at film festivals worldwide and won a prize at Birmingham’s own Sidewalk Film Festival. Hardy appeared in the film and at festival reunions with his castmates.
Soon other directors came calling. Now with several credits on his page, Hardy is starring in Texas Cotton as a sheriff who discovers the secret behind his town’s biggest conspiracy. The 2017 short film serves as a “proof of concept” for a feature-length version that also will star Hardy, says director Tyler Russell.
The Texas-based filmmaker reached out to Hardy after watching both Troll 2 and Best Worst Movie. “This guy is really not a bad actor,” Russell says. “His lines were so bad that anyone would have a hard time saying them aloud. But you can tell he’s trying everything to make it seem real. He is all in, 100 percent, even when fighting little goblins.” Hardy also makes a cameo in another of Russell’s films, Here Comes Rusty, which, like Texas Cotton, has screened at Sidewalk. Russell lauds Hardy as a leader on the set whose “professionalism—never complaining, always smiling, and fully invested—lifted the cast and crew.”

The Adventure Continues

Hardy has other films—The Killer’s Requiem and Goblin 2 (in which he revisits his Troll 2 role)—in postproduction. But he doesn’t plan to quit dentistry. He says he finds joy and adventure in both his main job and side career.
“I go from the dental office in Alexander City to being in a barn in Texas until 11:00 at night shooting a movie—and then back at the office the next day, midday,” Hardy says. It’s surreal, but it’s an awful lot of fun.” Adding to the weirdness, some Troll 2 fans have become his patients.
“It boggles my mind that I’m able to do this,” Hardy says. “But you know what? Life’s too short. Why not live a little bit and have more fun?”

Watch George Hardy fight off a goblin and provide expert dental care in a visit with the Troll 2 star.

Published October 2017