When I asked Hollywood actor Tom Proctor what he loves about Utah, he simply said, “I can sum that up in one sentence: It’s home.”
Tom has a diverse acting resume including such films as Twelve Years a Slave, Django Unchained, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many more. He was born in Salt Lake City and raised in the Oquirrh Mountains.
Tom’s childhood laid the track for the Westerns he would eventually make. The Proctors were cattle people, and Tom gained experience in the brush searching alone on horseback for lost cattle. A smile crosses Tom’s face as he remembers himself at seven years old with his Catahoula leopard dog, doing the honest work of a cowboy.
His love of movies began when he saw the movie Billy Jack. As a child he had developed a love of martial arts and found that the film’s Tim Laughlin was trained in his same lineage and style. The seed was planted and Tom began to believe he, too, could fight in the movies.
Tom went on to earn five black belts in a variety of martial arts styles. His fighting however, wasn’t limited to the screen. Tom was a champion bare knuckle cage fighter and eventually started his own martial arts school, teaching Tao Chido, which is defined as the study of self. His martial arts studies took him around the world and he personally trained 17 world champions.
Tom’s martial arts expertise put him in a position to choreograph fights for movies and also do stunt work. Despite being a martial arts master, He jokes that due to his burly biker appearance, directors just make him throw haymaker knock-out punches that are a far cry from the precision fighting he’s so good at.
Instead of moving immediately to Hollywood, his first film work happened by accident here in Utah where a western was being filmed. Tom and some of his friends rode their horses onto the set while out cowboying. They were hired on as actors and stuntmen and his career was off and running. Tom would go on to have a career in California, but he knew he wanted to raise his kids in his home state of Utah. He wouldn’t relocate to California until after his kids were grown.
There is plenty of work here to keep an actor busy. Tom is currently working on Guilt is a psychological thriller about a musician. The entire film will be shot in Utah. It highlights the issues of alcoholism, mental health and suicide. “It’s a dark film,” Tom said.
Tom mentioned that Hollywood no longer looks for actors to play roles. Rather, they want people who truly embody whatever the role calls for. Being Utah-born and raised has been pivotal to Tom’s success. It provides him an authenticity that couldn’t come any other way.
Tom expressed that the way he rides a horse or draws a gun comes from having done it all his life. Utah and its natural beauty provides him with spirituality and solace, whether he’s riding his Harley, fishing, or just getting lost outdoors somewhere.
Music also plays a big role in Tom’s life, though it’s an element that came in much later. He won his first guitar in an impromptu arm wrestling match in a middle-of-nowhere Texas service station.
As he tells it, seven years ago he loaded everything he owned into his car and headed to Louisiana. Miles from nowhere, his gas light came on. Tom crossed his fingers and took a 17-mile detour in search of fuel. He found a little old single pump service station where he saw a group of men gathered around an arm wrestling table. One yelled out to him, inviting Tom to join the contest with a 20 dollar bet. With a quick calculation, Tom realized he needed about 80 dollars to cover the fuel for the rest of his trip, so he joined the men. After a few wins, and finding themselves low on cash, the men wagered an acoustic guitar, and Tom left Texas as a troubadour.
Tom Proctor has lived a wild life as a young Utah cowboy, martial artist, stuntman, actor and an outlaw country singer. It’s hard to say where the road will take a man like him, but you can bet it will often bring him back to Utah, the place he will always call home.