[Interview] ‘Halloween’ At 35: Brian Andrews on Tommy Doyle

If John Carpenter created the ultimate face of fear in the iconic blank mask of Michael Myers, it was Brian Andrews as young Tommy Doyle who was the face of the afraid, the first to notice and believe in the unseen evil lurking in the shadows, and it is through his frightened eyes that we first meet what Tommy quite correctly calls “The Boogeyman”.

In fact, it’s Tommy at least as much as Dr. Loomis who paints Michael Myers as an undefeatable evil even before he really starts his rampage in Haddonfield. Tommy knows that the old Myers House is the home of tragedy, a spookhouse to stay away from.

Without Tommy’s growing sense of coming danger, one wonders just how alert Laurie would have been to what was happening around her, as he sets up her unease later in the film with the presumed silly questioning of a kid high on candy corns.

Brian Andrews only worked for four days on the 1978 set of Halloween, but in that short time he helped create a legacy that is still celebrated three and a half decades later as one of the best horror films of all time, and a character just as immortal as Michael Myers himself.

We recently spoke to Brian at length as part of our Halloween 35th anniversary retrospective series, and you can check out Part 1 of our interview below!

“I had been acting for some time,” Brian recalls about getting the role of Tommy Doyle. “My mother would take me out to auditions. I went in, I read for the casting director. The casting director came out with me to meet my mother, which is an unusual thing but it’s a very good sign. I probably had one or two more auditions maybe, I can’t really be certain. This was so long ago, and the audition process is not as memorable as making a movie.

“You go through audition and audition and audition, and there are a few that I remember. Steven Spielberg was a very big audition. Meeting Paul Newman was big. If I met John Carpenter (during the auditions for Halloween), I don’t really remember.”

Brian recalls more of the audition process for what would be a landmark film.

“They were going for a certain look,” he remembers, “and I guess I had the right look and I did the lines well, and because I had been doing this a while, I wasn’t a beginning actor, so they weren’t going to have any trouble on the set. I’m not even sure if there were sides (a script) there, they might have just wanted to meet me and see what my personality was like. There might not have been a script ready.

“They certainly want to know what your personality is like. Can you interact with adults? Can you behave? Because it’s going to be a difficult part for a child.

“This was not a nationwide search, you understand. When they did The Champ and they got Ricky Schroeder, remember? That was a big search. This was like they wanted an actor who could do the job. John (Carpenter) is probably pretty adamant about that, which I can understand any good director should be. Can the actor do the job?”

“I did not meet Jamie Lee Curtis until the first day on the set, so we did not audition together.”

After getting the part, filming of Halloween began in South Pasadena, California.

“I worked the first four days only,” Brian said. “So basically the beginning and end of the movie were shot in the first four days.

“Monday morning, my mother gets me to the set, I’m really excited I’m in a movie, and I meet John and he says, ‘Hey Tommy, this is Laurie.’ Me and Jamie read our lines once or twice, and they were already set up and ready to go. They were very quick. They knew what the next shot was going to be and what the next shot was going to be, so me and Jamie just did our lines.

“The first scene shot on the first day is where Jamie is walking across the street and I say ‘Hey Laurie’. That was what we did first. That was my first shot on the first day and probably the first shot of the movie. Me and Jamie had not met until an hour before. My career has not exactly gone in the direction I’d like it to go recently, but I like the fact that me and her produced a really powerful relationship. I’m very proud of that work.

“I love the way John frames it. I love John’s long shots. The first shot when we meet Jamie and we meet Tommy for the first time in that long shot of her walking across the street. She gets closer and she gets closer, and then Tommy shows up and now we see two people walking across the street in juxtaposition, and it ends on the corner. It’s a beautiful shot.

“I love the way John uses the camera, especially in this film. It’s arguably his best cinematography film.

“The scene of us walking and I start asking these weird questions like ‘How come you’re walking to school this way?’, that’s a long shot of the two of us not in the foreground but in the background. These are the shots that I love. That dialogue was recorded afterwards. There was (originally) no dialogue in that scene, but John felt I guess we need to keep something moving so we’ve got to put something in there, so we’ll put some dialogue in there, but later. It’s not in the screenplay.

“You have to appreciate the dialogue. They gave us very simple dialogue. It was a very easy script. Basically, everybody has memorized the script. I think it’s one of the most incredible screenplays ever written. 
“Visually, the movie is storyboarded in the screenplay. Each shot now the camera does this, not the camera does that. Plus the dialogue is very natural. Debra Hill has a great contribution to this.

“All of the characters are identifiable. We can identify with Laurie Strode and we’re meant to identify with her. There’s a lot shots of the reactions on her face that identify and participate with ongoing action on screen. That’s one of the strengths of this movie. Everybody in it is average, maybe a little higher than average, but they’re average, you know what I mean?”

Brian told us he and Curtis would often improvise new lines in between takes, much of which he says was captured by set photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker.

“We did some improvisation, me and Jamie,” said Brian. “I can’t remember what they are, but I’ve seen some Kim Gottlieb-Walker stills and I can tell by the positioning and by the fact that someone’s shoelace is not tied or something’s out of place that all the pictures are from before the cameras started rolling.

“Kim told me that she did not use a blip. I guess a blip is something you put around a camera to make it totally silent so you can take pictures while the camera is rolling. All the pictures I’ve seen are from before the cameras rolled, so we did a lot of improvisation. We must have, because I’m looking at these pictures that Kim took of me.

“I’d love to see every one of Kim Gottlieb-Walker’s pictures. There’s only like a hundred pictures out, and I know Kim must have taken a thousand. I hope.

“I love the acting in this movie. I love Nancy Loomis in this movie. I think Nancy Loomis is underrated. I think she does one of the great performances. She’s just incredible.

“I appreciate the acting in the movie and I think it sometimes gets overlooked for the scare factor. I love the juxtaposition of the three girls, scary car, and then we’ve got the three girls again. Scare, humor, scare, humor, scare, humor…

“I love the scene at the graveyard with Donald Pleasence and Arthur Malet because it’s like two of the most hammy British actors trying to upstage each other. To this day I want to know how in the world John got some of his small supporting cast. Everybody in this movie was a professional actor. Nobody was an amateur. Nobody was a first timer.”

So what is Brian’s favorite scene?

“I guess I’d have to go for the graveyard scene, because I like humor, he said. “I like the scene with Dr. Wynn. I like the scene at the phone booth, because Donald just kept on rolling even though the train was coming. I love that. Those would be my three favorite scenes, and the opening credits. 

“I think they’re some of the best opening credits. The movie starts and the first sound of the opening credits, you’re already brought into it. You already know you’re about to see something really scary.“It’s an overture to an opera of the macabre.

 “I understand – I heard this from Tommy Lee Wallace – that the pumpkin was carved by Randy Moore, and Randy designed the lettering. They made a brand new font just for Halloween. Randy also made the Judith Myers headstone. These are the things that interest me, these particular details. I like the technical aspects. It’s nice to know who carved one of the scariest pumpkins in movie history and who made the lettering. That’s a nice little tidbit of information I think.

“I’m under the impression John just got all of his friends to work for him and that’s how he made the movie. That could have been the only way.”

We’ll talk much more about working with director John Carpenter in Part 2 of our interview with Brain Andrews!

Read Part 2 of our interview with Brian Andrews here.

Read Part 3 of our interview with Brian Andrews here.

Brian will be at the upcoming 35 Years of Terror Halloween anniversary convention happening November 15-17 in Pasadena, and you can click here to follow him on Facebook.

Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.

[Interview] ‘Halloween’ At 35: Brian Andrews on Tommy Doyle