To fans of the Halloween films, Dick Warlock is worshipped for being the man behind the Michael Myers mask in the 1981 sequel Halloween II, and to more hardcore franchise fans he is equally revered for his unmasked portrayal of The Assassin in the controversial 1982 follow-up Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but of course Dick Warlock is much more than both of those iconic roles. He is a Hollywood legend, having worked with everyone from Walt Disney and John Wayne to Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and John Carpenter, faced Jaws, Jason, and Chucky, and immortalized Michael Myers. He is also quite funny.
|(Dick Warlock photographed on 3/6/15 by Matt Artz)
When I met Dick Warlock earlier this year, at the Williamsburg Film Festival in Virginia in March 2015, the first thing he said to me was, “I bet you were expecting someone taller.” He was of course referring to the fact that Myers has grown in height with each sequel that followed the original, but I corrected him that no, I knew exactly who I was looking for. What I didn’t know was how much I would truly learn about the man over the next few weeks, as we scheduled an interview to take place during the Mad Monster Party horror convention in Charlotte, North Carolina two weeks after our initial meeting at the film festival.
Meeting one of your heroes can be an emotional experience, and it certainly was for me. Moments after that first introduction, I found myself in a small hotel conference room with less than 20 other people, about to watch an intimate screening of Halloween II with none other than Dick Warlock himself sitting right next to me. You can read more about that killer experience here, but what I would later learn in the course of our extended interview sessions in Charlotte is that Warlock does understand what it feels like to meet one of your heroes, so he does truly appreciate that emotional place that so many of his biggest fans are coming from when they just want to shake the hand of the man who was The Shape.
Following the Williamsburg Film Festival, my wife and I kept in contact with Dick and his wife Cat, and we agreed that we would make time for Dick and I to sit down for an interview at some point during the three-day convention in Charlotte. I spent the next two weeks trying to come up with some questions to ask him that maybe he hadn’t already been asked a hundred times before, and in doing so my mind kept drifting away from Halloween II and deeper into Warlock’s unbelievable impressive filmography of credits as a performer, stuntman, and very often the lead stunt coordinator in literally dozens of classic movies.
The Mad Monster Party arrived and on Day 2, after ordering lunch with Cat and my wife Sue, Dick and I slipped away to an empty recreational room near the back of the convention hotel, where we settled in for a conversation about meeting your heroes, living dangerously, and surviving Hollywood.
|(Dick Warlock photographed on 3/6/15 by Matt Artz)
I started by asking Warlock who his own hero is. I wanted to know who he was as excited and overwhelmed to meet as so many of his own fans are to meet him, and so we began our journey with Elvis.
“As a kid, I became a fan of Elvis Presley in 1957,” Warlock recalled. “I saw him at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. I was already aware of him because of a situation (a year earlier) where my folks went to Las Vegas for the weekend and left my sister and I at home alone. A friend of mine brought this record over and said ‘Hey man, you’ve got to hear this.’ It was by Elvis and it was “Heartbreak Hotel”.
“He let me have the record, and my sister and I rolled the rugs back and we danced to that the whole weekend. My mom and stepdad came home and I said, ‘Mom, you’ve got hear this record, you’ve got to hear this guy,’ and she said, ‘Okay.’ She’s listening to it and she said to my stepdad, ‘Doug, isn’t that the kid we saw in Las Vegas with the sideburns?’ She had seen Elvis there with Shecky Greene when he appeared in ’56, and he was a flop.
“Anyway, so 1957 comes and I get to see him in person. I was just a big fan.
“Years later, I did a movie called Easy Come Easy Go, and I showed up on the set not knowing what it was about, just that I was going to dance. I went onto the stage and it was dark and there was the back of a set on one side and a wall on the other. I go into the stage and the first thing I’m looking for is the bagels and coffee.
“There was a figure coming the other way, and as I get closer it turns out it was Elvis. He had gotten there just ahead of me and grabbed a cup of coffee.
“I started telling him about this story that had happened to me years earlier when I was working for American Airlines. Two of his guys from Memphis, it turned out, were shipping a package back to Graceland, and one of them was Lemar Fike. I told him I wanted to meet Elvis, that I was a fan, and he said, ‘We’re up at Paramount, we’re shooting a movie, I’ll get you in. So I went up there for three days in a row, and I never got in.
“So I told Elvis that story, and he said, ‘Come on,’ and we went outside and we started throwing a football around with some of his guys.
“I don’t remember who all was there, because I was like beside myself. Here I am, meeting my idol, Elvis. I loved to impersonate him, I loved to sing and do all that stuff, and here I am in his presence.
“A year later, on Rat Patrol, a TV series, Nick Dimitry, one of the other stunt guys, said, ‘Hey, you want to go over to the main lot? I want to say hello to a friend of mine.’ There were three lots used by MGM and we were on Lot 3. I didn’t know who he was talking about, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go with you.’ So we go over and Nick is reaching for the door of the stage and it flies open, and here stands Elvis. Oh my God! Again!
“So Nick and him are talking for a few minutes and Nick says, ‘I want you to meet a friend of mine,’ and Elvis looked at me and said, ‘I remember you.’ I was like – Elvis remembered me? Who am I? It was that kind of experience.
“So I’m a fan, and I get as excited about meeting people as people do when they come to the table and they meet me. I can understand it.”
|(Dick Warlock as Michael Myers in ‘Halloween II’.)
Another huge idol from when he was just a young boy was actor Dick Jones, so much so that Warlock used to write letters to Flying A Productions because he wanted to be Jones’ stunt double on a western series called The Range Rider.
“I ended up meeting him years later, and there again I was always a big fan and wanted to be his stunt double and so on. I finally meet him and we became buddies, and every time I’d go to L.A., we had lunch together.
“But I’m still off balance with some of the things that happen. I’ll give you an example.”
Warlock then told me the following story of a fan he first met as young boy, who came to this convention in Charlotte just to reunite and tell Dick how much that brief meeting decades ago shaped this man’s life.
“We’re at Mad Monster here, and it’s the 27th of March 2015, and a fellow shows up that I had met when he was 16 and I was doing Firestarter in Wilmington, North Carolina. He and two of his buddies invited me to go to their house and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go.’
“So I went to their house and we watched some 8mm movies that they had made and we ate pizza, and we sat around and just hung out for the evening. He comes back today and he said, ‘I have not seen you since then, but I want to tell you what an impression you made on me at that time,’ and it was just heart wrenching. I had a tear in my eye just listening to him, that it had meant so much to him and the influence I had on him.
“You know, we don’t realize how much we do influence people.”
At this point, we were notified that our food was ready, and so we re-joined our wives for lunch, to continue the interview after. We’ll have Part 2 of our conversation posted next week, in which Dick talks about meeting Walt Disney, John Wayne, Kurt Russell, and John Carpenter, and embodying the ultimate killer as Michael Myers.
|Halloween Daily News editor-in-chief Matt Artz with Dick Warlock, photograhed on 3/7/15 by Sue Artz.