Growing up in Kansas City, Scrimm confesses to never imagining a career as the star of a series of horror movies. Moving to California as a teenager, he studied drama at USC, leading to a steady career in theatre, televisionand some film work. Without the opportunity to work on Phantasm, Scrimm is convinced he would still be playing comedy roles.
His 1979 appearance in Phantasm produced an unforgettable character, aided by Scrimm's ability to look almost effortlessly sinister. A screwed up right eye and bizarre crop of greying hair combine with a perfectly straightforward suit and tie to produce the enduring image of the Tall Man. And from this basis Scrimm went on to star in numerous other such roles: Dr. Lyme in Deadfall (working alongside Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen) or the unpleasant Seer from Mindwarp, in which he starred with Bruce Campbell.
Added to Fangoria Magazine's Horror Hall Of Fame in 1994, Scrimm stands alongside Stephen King, Anthony Hopkins and Vincent Price. With regard to the Tall Man, Scrimm admits to being amazed at the affection with which he is held, though a little reflection on the matter will show that such affection on the part of fans is nothing new; Pinhead, from Clive Barker's Hellraiser is afforded the same admiration, and Robert Englund's Freddy Kruegeris of a similar ilk. "I am continually amazed that the fans have so much affection for such a dark character whose trade is essentially death. Audiences enjoy laughing with the Tall Man as he does his appalling deeds.'
It would be a mistake to assume that Scrimm's entire career is based around the Tall Man, however. As a journalist he has written for TV Guide, Cinema Magazine and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, as well as maintaining an intriguing career producing liner notes for a huge range of albums. There is no doubt, however, that Phantasm is his enduring legacy: 'Tell them I haven't hung up the old balls yet!'