[Interview] Daniel Roebuck Talks Monsters and Michael Myers

You have seen Daniel Roebuck embody an amazingly wide array of memorable, often doomed characters in some the most iconic movie and television projects of the last 30 years, but horror fans should know that he is absolutely one of us. A virtual walking library of cinematic genre history, he is clearly living out his wildest dreams, while humbly never taking any of it for granted, with a deep love of the classic makeup and masks our favorite nightmares are made of.
On the set of ‘Halloween II’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
From his recurring roles on long running hit shows like Matlock, Nash Bridges, and Lost, to high profile parts in HBO’s The Late Shift and blockbusters like Final Destination and the The Fugitive, Roebuck readily admits the complete fanboy-like excitement he had when finally coming to face to face with Michael Myers in director Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.
I talked to Daniel at length last summer about his lifelong love affair with horror, the honor of getting killed by Michael Myers, and much more. Read on for our full interview with Daniel Roebuck!

You’ve worked with Rob Zombie a number of times, on almost every one of his movies, I think.
 
“It’s every one but the first. We didn’t meet until after he had shot the first one. I believe that had I had the opportunity I would have snuck my way into the first one.”
 
When you met Rob was there an instant kind of kinship between you two? Obviously you guys get along.
 
“We met at a screening for an Elvira movie. I think it was Elvira’s Haunted Hills, if I remember correctly. My friend said, ‘Hello Mr. Zombie.’ And I was like, ‘What did you say to this man?’ He said, ‘This is the great Rob Zombie.’ That was the first time we really met.
 
“A few years later, I went up to him at this thing and I said, ‘Hey, I wanted to say hi. I think we have a lot in common.’ And he said, ‘My wife was just saying I should go and say hi to you.’ So we met and we did have so much in common.
 
“Listen – you’re a guy who likes Halloween and monsters – meeting other people who like what you like is a very good thing. When it’s also a person in your same business, it’s even better. I want to make sure I phrase that right. I have friends who are fans of this stuff from all levels – cops, lawyers, doctors, ditch diggers, rock and roll stars. It doesn’t really matter who you are. It’s the stuff that connects us that’s so great, this nostalgic quality. So it’s cool that Rob and I are in the same business and we can work together, but my friendship with him is no different than my buddy John, who’s a cop in Pennsylvania. He’s also a nerd too.”
 
So that kinship started, and then that led into your role in The Devil’s Rejects.
 
“Yeah that was the first thing I did (with Zombie). I played that crazy talk show host. If people watch the DVD, although there’s only about four seconds in the movie, the truth is we had a great time shooting that entire episode. You can actually see the whole show (on the DVD bonus features). That was the first thing we got to do together. Good times on that show; brief but good.”
 
On the set of ‘The Devil’s Rejects’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
How did it feel to be on the set of the Halloween remake?
 
“I was on set a day or two, I think. That’s my joke to Rob. He calls me to do a day or something and I go, ‘You know Rob, I’m actually a movie star. I can do more.’ It was at the strip club, the Rabbit in Red. What was funny was being in the strip club and that character being there, and even though they cut me out of the movie – there’s like one brief shot of me walking through a scene – when it came time for Halloween II and it just so happened that I was part of a sequence of the first movie that happened in the past, to be able to come back and play that guy a second time was even better.
 
“Then of course, Rob really wrote the hell of it for me and gave me a lot to do, a lot of stuff like letting the guy be the Frankenstein monster in town. Rob’s a good guy and he knew that would appeal to me.”
 
On the set of ‘Halloween II’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
I love the scene when you have your showdown with Michael. It’s definitely one of the more memorable scenes.
 
“We shot it twice actually. We re-shot that whole murder sequence because for whatever reason Tyler wasn’t wearing the mask the first time we shot it. When we re-shot it, it was 10 times creepier. I mean you’ve got Sylvia (Jefferies), the actress, and she’s naked and I got my hands on her ass, and then he comes in the door – I can tell you dude, I’m going to tell you now, if people know me they know I’m a fan of this genre.
 
“To have that scene when Michael Myers walks in – Okay, first and foremost I’m the actor in the scene. Secondly I’m the character that I’m playing. It’s not that complicated but I’ve got to respond like the character. But here was the hardest thing – not being Dan Roebuck the complete and utter film nerd when it’s like ‘Oh my God, that’s Michael Myers. I’m in a movie with him! Can I have your autograph Michael Myers? What mask is that you’re wearing Michael Myers? Is that the Don Post one?’ It was just great fun.
 
“Something I remember is that when Tyler was pounding me into the couch – and I had decided whether they gave it to me or not that I was going to sneak the Frankenstein head off of the set – I kind of said ‘Rob I’m stealing this, just so everyone knows where it is, it’s in my collection.’ So he’s pounding me onto the couch and I’m hellbent on getting that thing off my head so that I don’t wear it when I fall to the ground because I don’t want it to be covered in blood. So I’m working hard to knock it off my head, and Tyler’s pounding me harder and harder and harder, and Rob won’t say ‘cut’. I’m sure they were laughing at video village. Can somebody, for the love of God, please cut! It went on for five minutes. But I did get that thing off of my head. So it falls off in the shot, when I’m running in the hallway. 
 
“We shot the re-shoots in Connecticut. The way that the camera was set up, I was running away from the office with the great prosthetic that Wayne (Toth) did. I’m running down the hallway all beat to shit, running toward the camera, and then they wanted me to turn when Michael Myers came out of the room. So I’m screaming, I’m running, my arm’s broken, I’m working it and I turn around and there’s Tyler, I mean there’s Michael Myers. He had been Tyler all day long, and there’s Michael Myers. And he’s like nine feet tall so in like four steps he had crossed the 40 feet between us. Dude, I almost shit myself. Fucking unbelievable.”
 
“I am extremely, extremely lucky to have these experiences.”
 
On the set of ‘Halloween II’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
Were you always into horror as a kid or was it something you grew into?
“From the time I was young, I’d watch these horror movies. I try to think about now, what was the attraction, and I think it was the makeup. Whatever desires I had in my life, I kind of had an idea that I wanted to be on TV. I loved that in these makeups Boris Karloff looked different from one movie to another. In one movie he looked like he was 30, in another movie he looked like Frankenstein, in another movie he looked like he was 60. So I think I was drawn to the gothic horror through the makeup. 
 
“My room since I was a child has been covered with monster posters. 

“I would tell readers to please go to DocShocker.com and check out our Vault of Horror DVD. I’ve got Rob Zombie in it, and Guillermo del Toro. It’s about people who collect monsters and why. The anchor of it is a documentary called Monster Maniacs. It’s about people that collect monsters. 
 
“So anyway, my love for it was born very early. I was making myself up by the time I was eight or nine years old and had an idea of how to do it. 
 
“But doing Halloween II, like they aged me 20 years, and my dad was on the set and, I can send you pictures, I just have a different hairdo but my dad and I look exactly the same. (pictured below)
 
Daniel Roebuck and his father on the set of ‘Halloween II’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
“I was just reminded of this, and if I wasn’t in Pennsylvania this weekend I wouldn’t have thought of it. When Halloween II (1981) came out, the owner of the theater I worked at actually had me run through the audience in one show. I don’t know why it was just one show. At that point no one had the information that it was a William Shatner mask, so I made a makeup on myself, this all white makeup, and ran through the theater that one time. I would have been maybe 16 or 17 when I did it, so it was the second Halloween movie.”
So I guess technically you kind of played Michael Myers.
“I played Michael Myers too!” (laughs)
 
“The reason I remembered that was I was visiting Scott’s grave, my friend who I saw the original Halloween with, and we were bullshitting about Rocky Horror and I thought of that memory, which was so like gone. Again it was makeup. I didn’t wear a mask. Creepy.”
 
Halloween, Don Post (masks), all that is intermingled in the great memory of my brain.”
 
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
“I wanted to be an actor. When I was about 13 years old I went to see a production called “Give ‘em Hell, Harry”. James Whitmore played Harry Truman, and they filmed it and they showed it in movie theaters. It was a special ticket you had to buy, and you could see it in the movie theater. I went to see that movie, and I walked out of that theater at probably 13 or 14, and said ‘That’s what I’m going to be when I grow up. I want to be an actor’. Literally my life changed in the movie. 
 
“Years later I went to see James Whitmore in a play. I went backstage and I said, ‘Mr. Whitmore I became an actor because of you’. And he goes, ‘Are you working?’ I said, ‘I am’. He says, ‘Okay, because I wouldn’t want that on my conscience’. 
 
“Then years later after that, during my TV show, the writers would knock on my door and say, ‘Can we talk to you? We wanted to tell you before we told anybody, but we just hired James Whitmore as the town doctor.’ They knew I had an autograph of James Whitmore from that show. So there I was 30 years later, literally standing next to the guy for a week. Can you believe that? Life does not get better than that for some poor white Polish kid from Pennsylvania.”
 
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
“I was a ventriloquist and an impressionist. I had the greatest parents. My mom took me to see Rich Little, and I got hang out with him after the show. I told him I wanted to be an impressionist and he was very gracious to me. Then I’m doing The Late Shift. I’m playing Jay Leno, doing like the ultimate impression, and Rich Little played Johnny Carson. I brought in what he had signed for me when I was 7 or 8, and he was speechless. Then he wrote, ‘Dan, I always knew we’d end up working together’.
 
“These things happen in everybody’s life, I think. The key is to take a moment and thank God that these things do come to us. Everybody’s life has a little hint of what’s to come. You just have to have the due diligence of your life to get to that point where you deserve what’s to come. That’s what I think anyway.”
 
“I think with actors and entertainers, there’s no specialness. Because you can do this doesn’t mean you’re better than anybody. It just means that you have been lucky enough to recognize this talent in yourself. Everybody has a talent. There’s not anybody on this Earth that God didn’t give some special gift too. Everybody has it. You have to find it.”
 
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)
You’ve been in a lot of iconic projects. Was that just fate at work or is it because you are such an honest fan?
“I don’t pick projects generally, they pick me. I love to work. My work is a fulfillment of a gift God gave me and a lifelong dream I had. Even under the most extreme circumstances, it may not be easy, but there’s never a day that I don’t think I’m luckiest man on the planet. 
 
“That I end up in things that become iconic is as much a testament to the greater plan for my life – I don’t want to come off like a Jesus freak, I just don’t like taking credit for everything. 

“Look, here’s the thing, I was on Matlock for three years because I was on Matlock one time and the one time I was on it, I did something to Andy Griffith that shocked him so much and that he appreciated so much that he told them that day, ‘I want this guy on my television show’. And they tried for years. I came on as other characters. They did a pilot for me as another character to come on the show and the network wouldn’t have it. Then when Andy Griffith got control of the show, he made sure they hired me, because he remembered that six years later. 
 
“So I was on the show because when I was there the first time I did my job. I got Lost because I did a good job on Nash Bridges. So that’s the self fulfilling destiny in that I always come prepared.
 
“I’m not an asshole to people. I’m generally excited to be there. I have a high skill level for what I do. So people are like, ‘Hey let’s have this guy back again. He wasn’t an asshole, and not only did he not complain when we put him in the makeup, he ran to the makeup room’.”

You recently worked with Rob Zombie for the sixth time in 31, which takes place on Halloween night. Is there anything you can tell us about 31?

“Let me tell you, dude, it is fucked up. It is some fucked up shit. At the read through I was sitting next to Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and this character he plays, it’s just – dude, I want people to just get ready to strap in and go on the rollercoaster. My role as Pastor Victor is very brief. 
 
“Rob as a director is getting better and better, and I am pushing him to get out of the horror genre. I think as a director he’s at a level way above most of the people I get to work with, honestly. I would love to see him doing other kinds of movies, because he could. He’s a smart cat. 
 
“Dude this movie, oh my God. Here’s the hint I’ll give you: It starts kind of like The Godfather. Take that to mean whatever you think it could mean.
 
“His cast is great. Jeff Phillips and Sheri (Moon Zombie), I mean there is no bigger fan of Sheri than me and her parents and maybe Rob. Jeff is great. Meg Foster is so great. Malcolm is great. They’re all great.
 
“But this movie – when you’ve shocked me, you’ve shocked somebody. I can say I’ve spent a lot of time staring at Rob shaking my head. It’s great. I wish that I could say more. I think fans will be delighted.”
You can currently see Daniel Roebuck on the acclaimed series The Man in the High Castle streaming on Amazon Prime, and look for him in Rob Zombie’s 31 later this year.

On the set of ‘Halloween II’. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Roebuck, used with permission.)

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[Interview] Daniel Roebuck Talks Monsters and Michael Myers