[Interview] Nancy Loomis on the Heart and Humor in ‘Halloween’

If Laurie is the shy bookworm and Lynda is the promiscuous party girl, then Annie is clearly the unfiltered voice of the group of Haddonfield high school friends, played respectively by Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, and Nancy Loomis, in John Carpenter’s classic Halloween. With Annie’s brash, often cutting humor, Loomis wins audiences over in a very believable triangle of teenagers targeted by a masked psychopath by giving us a breath of air inside the otherwise relentless bubble of tension Carpenter creates. And her ultimate ending is perhaps the most tragic and utterly brutal scene in the entire film.
It turns out that Annie’s sense of humor was very much a part of the real life actress portraying her. Carpenter knew well to embrace his friend Nancy’s natural talents, first recognized in their initial collaboration in Assault on Precinct 13 and later fully realized to an even further degree in The Fog. The fact is that “Speed kills, jerk!” would not have rolled off anyone else’s tongue in that movie the way it flew off Annie’s, and that’s entirely because of Loomis.
We caught up with Nancy Loomis at the epic Halloween reunion at Flashback Weekend Chicago last summer, to get her memories of working with Carpenter (as well as cinematographer Dean Cundey and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace) and the undying appeal of Michael Myers. Read on for our full interview!

What do you remember most about playing Annie in John Carpenter’s Halloween?
 
“I was playing myself to a certain degree. John and I were friends and he wanted to take advantage of my sense of humor, which he seemed to relate to. So I was pretty comfortable playing that part, because it was easy for me. 
 
“I didn’t have a whole lot of film experience at that point, so it was really crucial that I try to find ways to stay relaxed on camera, and John helped a lot. That was, I think, my biggest concern – outside of curling my hair in five minutes, because I had straight hair – was how can I stay relaxed and keep it going. 
 
“It’s a big responsibility. It’s hard to explain, because that world ‘relaxed’ is so generic, right? But that’s why actors spend years making sure that they are able to really relax their will, because then you’ll get more access to whatever you want to bring to the role.”
 
You got some of the funniest lines. Was any of that you or was it all in the script?
 
“We made up a lot of stuff right on the set. Some of it was me, some of it was just banter with the crew and other actors, and we would rehearse it. There was this wonderful camaraderie that lends itself to that sort of spontaneity. 
 
“I think, as Dean (Cundey) said in the panel today and Tommy (Lee Wallace) both, there was this openness on the set, because there was nobody really paying any attention. We could do whatever we wanted, and that kind of attitude really filtered down into every department. 
 
“There was a great deal of trust between all parties. That looseness was really helpful.”
 
And you got along with all your costars?
 
“Oh yeah, we had a lot of very fun times on the set. We were all so young and inexperienced – of course there was other key people that were very experienced and that was helpful – but you know, we all had enough training and background to know that the movie is essentially teamwork and you participate in that.”
 
Other than the opening scene with young Michael, yours is the first kill. What do you remember about filming that scene?
 
“Well, the hardest part was that they used a lot of fog. It’s very hard on your throat, and I was screaming. It was extremely difficult technically, to me, because I was so sensitive to that chemical they were using. 
 
“We were in a closed garage. There were all kinds of factors at work that made it really challenging. I don’t really have any other memory other than ‘Thank God this is over and they got the shot’. Later I saw that it really worked.”
 
Do you have an opinion on the lasting appeal of Michael Myers and this movie?
 
“I think – and I’ve said this numerous times – I really attribute a lot of the phenomenon that we experience now to the internet. It’s the rise of the web, and the ease at which everyone can communicate very quickly with each other, for better or worse, that really is responsible for this kind of appreciation. So who could have predicted that?”
 
(Photo by Kim Gottlieb-Walker)
Do you like watching scary movies?
 
“No.”
 
What’s your favorite TV show?
 
“Well I don’t really watch TV because I’m too busy, but I really enjoyed watching Wolf Hall. You talk about a scary, well made television series, I teach theater history and that was a fabulous chunk of theater history that I’m going to make my students watch in the fall. That’s the latest thing that I’ve watched that I really enjoyed. Mark Rylance is one of the finest actors working today anywhere in the world and I really admire him.
 
“I love movies of all stripes, but I really don’t like being scared. It’s not like I have to go to a movie and laugh and yuk it up. I’m not really that crazy about sentimental, sappy, shallow movies. Those don’t really appeal to me either. I like to be challenged. 
 
“I also really appreciate good filmmaking, whatever it is. I really appreciate good filmmaking, and I think I got that working with John Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace and Dean Cundey, so my roots are right there.”
 
Well thank you so much for talking with us.
 
“You’re welcome.
Halloween Daily News editor-in-chief Matt Artz with Nancy Loomis. (photo by Sue Artz for HalloweenDailyNews.com)
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[Interview] Nancy Loomis on the Heart and Humor in ‘Halloween’