In Part 1 of my interview with the man behind the Michael Myers mask in Halloween II, legendary stuntman Dick Warlock talked about meeting Elvis Presley, and how in awe Warlock was of his own personal idol, and we learned how that experience still reminds him how his legions of fans feel when they meet him today.
Despite working with everyone from Hitchcock and Spielberg to Cameron and Carpenter, he says that not many other people ever made him feel the way Elvis did, though there were quite many other notable encounters. Among the numerous Hollywood legends he came into contact with, each would leave a unique mark on Dick as he made a career as a gifted actor, fearless stuntman, and eventually revered stunt coordinator of some of the most iconic movies ever made.
One of those meetings that changed his life was with Walt Disney. On Day 2 of the 2015 Mad Monster Party horror convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, after enjoying a relaxed lunch with his wife Cat and my wife Sue, Dick and I made our way into an empty hotel bar room that had not yet opened to the public to continue our conversation about meeting his heroes, living dangerously, and surviving Hollywood.
“When I went to Disney and met Walt on an introduction to Wonderful World of Color, that was a big event for me at the time,” Warlock said. “I found out eight years later that he (Disney) wanted to make a star out of me, just because I winked at him during the rehearsal.
“I was supposed to be a rebel soldier, I think it was. I was standing at the counter of the costume department. The camera started on what I was doing, putting a coat and a hat on, and then it panned around onto him, which it usually did for this Wonderful World of Color he had on NBC, and he would be sitting on a desk. He would proceed to tell the audience what the story was going to be about.
“In this case it was ‘Willie and the Yank’ (1967), and it starred Kurt Russell.
“He (Disney) would say, ‘How do you make a man out of a 16 year old boy?’, and then he would proceed.
“We finished rehearsal and he called me over. He said, ‘Come over here, son’. So I walked over to Mr. Disney and said, ‘Yes sir?’ He said, ‘Now you’re not going to upstage me are you?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘Would I do that?’ And I winked, and I walked back over, shot the thing, and then I left.
“Art Vitarelli, who was the second unit director normally, was directing this segment. He told me eight years later, ‘Walt wanted to make a star out of you. I never wanted to mention it before now because I didn’t know how you’d take it, but I think you’re pretty settled into what you’re doing.
“And meeting Walt Disney – you know you’re so like, not in shock, but it’s like a little bit of awe, to say the least. I spent 10 years at Disney Studios as a result of that meeting, but Walt passed away shortly after and that put his son-in-law in charge and evidently he didn’t feel the same as did Mr. Disney about me. Of course, that’s why I never became a star, because he was the only one that saw that little something, I guess.
“Anyway, that’s where I met Kurt and went on to do 25 years with him.”
|(Dick Warlock photographed on 3/6/15 by Matt Artz)|
This blows my mind, that this chance encounter with Disney, and an unknown prospect of one possible career path would at the same time prove to be the beginning of an entirely different career path as Kurt Russell’s stunt double for a quarter-century on some of the actor’s most beloved projects, including John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble In Little China, among many others.
Having just learned of Warlock’s meeting with Elvis during Part 1 of our chat, I wondered if Dick ever actually portrayed his hero onscreen.
Were you working with Kurt (Russell) when we he did (John Carpenter’s) Elvis?
“I was working with him, but I was not part of Elvis.”
There were no stunts, I guess?
“There was one thing where they were driving somewhere, and somehow Aaron Norris, who is Chuck Norris’s brother, was down there in Memphis or wherever they shot that, and Aaron drove the car for Kurt.
“Aaron Norris actually directed Delta Force II, which I worked on. Chuck Norris and I went to high school together, North High in Torrence, California. He knew my sister better than he did me. Kind of a quiet guy, I didn’t really know him as ‘Chuck Norris’, you know, the guy whose Total Gym I now use at home, along with a recumbent bicycle and mini tramp.
“There were several shows that I didn’t double Kurt on. Overboard I gave to someone else, and Captain Ron, there wasn’t really anything on it, so I didn’t do that one either.”
“I’ve never hung out with actors. Even with Kurt, we never hung out. One time he came to my house and we sat around and had some beers, but other than that, we had totally different lives.
“I’m kind of reclusive. I was never star struck as far as the general definition of being star struck, except for those two guys that I mentioned (Elvis and Dick Jones). Of course when you’re around people that you admire, I’ve learned to really love some of those people, like Dean Jones and some of the people at Disney.”
|(Dick Warlock and Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken on ‘Escape From New York’, photographed by Kim Gottlieb-Walker)|
While Warlock and Russell may not have hung out off the set much, they would go on to work together on some monumentally awesome films, collaboratively bringing to life some of Russell’s most popular characters, like Snake Plissken, R.J. MacReady, and Jack Burton. It was also through this relationship with Russell that Dick was introduced to director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, and eventually to Michael Myers.
“It was only because of Kurt that I met John and Debra and got to work with that group, and that was on Escape from New York,” Warlock recalls.
“I was in the contract, so when they hired Kurt, they had to hire me. They asked me about coordinating the show, and I was like, ‘Yeah, fine.’ So I did that and at the end of that show, that’s when Debra a few months later called and said, ‘I’m doing a little movie, we’d like you to come in and coordinate.’ I said, ‘Okay’.
“So I went in and she told me a little bit about what the character was about – this white mask and so on. I had never seen Halloween at that point. I did however view it before going to work on Halloween II.
“She (Debra) said, ‘You have to meet the director, Rick Rosenthal. He’s down the hall.’ I got up and started down there and I passed a couple offices, and in one of them there was a desk and chair and that was it. Nothing else was in there, but there was this mask that was lying on the desk.
“I walked over there and picked the mask up, and I put it on and walked to Rick’s doorway and I just stood there and looked at him. He said, ‘Who are you?’ I didn’t answer, I just stared at him.
“I think I could actually feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he said, ‘Who the hell are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Dick Warlock,’ and I took the mask off and we had our little meeting. He said, ‘Yeah, the coordinating is fine.’
“I started to walk out the door and I turned around, and I had the mask and I held it up, and I said, ‘Is there any reason I can’t play this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t care if Debra doesn’t.’ So I went and asked her, and she said, ‘That’s fine’.
“That’s how I got the job on Halloween II. Through that I did The Thing and on and on.
“Then I did a picture with Debra where we had a misunderstanding or an understanding, I’m not sure which, about another member of the crew that, since I was responsible for the stunt people – we just didn’t gel. So I left, and as a result, that cut the ties between John and Debra and I. Hard telling how far the spokes from that wheel extend out.”
Before those ties were cut, however, Warlock would help a certain masked killer to cut his way into movie history.
In the third and final part of our interview, Dick Warlock will talk about working with John Wayne on The Green Berets, and we will discuss the challenges of creating “safe” kills as stunt coordinator on Halloween II while at the same time embodying the ultimate evil as Michael Myers, coming next month to HalloweenDailyNews.com!
|Halloween Daily News editor-in-chief Matt Artz with Dick Warlock, photograhed on 3/7/15 by Sue Artz.|