The horror event of the year is the return of Michael Myers in the new Halloween movie, along with the franchise’s most recognizable icons in John Carpenter as executive producer and composer, Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, and Nick Castle suiting up as Myers again, but make no mistake, there is a new man behind the mask stepping into The Shape, his name is James Jude Courtney, and he’s about to make a killer impression.
When it was first announced that Castle would once again play Michael Myers 40 years after he originated the role in John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween, it was announced that Courtney was also cast in the role, and many might have assumed that Courtney was only doing the stunt work. But having talked to both men in recent weeks since filming wrapped, I can assure you that this is more than just the sharing of a role, but in fact a passing of the mask, from the original to the new.
I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk to almost all of the men that have portrayed Michael Myers on screen, and I don’t think any of them have ever approached the character quite like Courtney has. He knows the history, he respects the legacy, he’s bringing four decades of experience that he believes has all led him to this moment, and he is deadly serious about getting it right for us, the fans.
Read on for our interview with James Jude Courtney on becoming Michael Myers.
Can you tell us how you got into this business, and ultimately what has now led you to Haddonfield?
(laughs) Well it’s kind of crazy, man. In fourth grade I knew I was going to make movies for a living. I had several epiphanies at that time in my life, and that was one of them. So I picked up my dad’s 8mm camera and started making my own movies, in fifth grade for every little project and through high school and college. So when I graduated from journalism school – I went to a top ranked journalism school at the University of South Carolina, so I have a great respect, by the way, for what you do. I think, maybe at this day and age more so than any other time, it’s so important that journalism is respected. It’s such a lifeline for information. And you know, for a show like this (Halloween), with a huge fan base, where integrity and excitement and all these wonderful things are bound, it’s really great that you’re doing what you do, man. So thank you. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to speak with you.
I majored in journalism because I wanted to learn how to research and how to present information to the public in a way that would mold their minds and create new ideas or challenge ideas. When I got to California, I intended to make my own films, but my reasoning was that if I got in front of the camera I could learn every aspect, because I would see and feel everything. I’d be able to shadow amazing directors, or see scripts that were sometimes good and sometimes not. But every time a film is made it’s a minor miracle, whether it’s good or bad.
When I got out there (to California), my first job was a tour guide at Universal Studios, which was awesome. And being that Universal has done so many amazing horror films, we were very deeply educated in the tradition, so we could share that with the tourists. And then shortly after that, I was cast in The Adventures of Conan, which was the live Conan the Barbarian show at Universal Studios.
I had never really thought about doing stunts. My idea was to be an actor and then write and make my own films. But I’m an athlete, and I’ve done martial arts off and on since 7th Grade. So when I was cast at Conan, putting swords in my hand was just a really natural thing. Doing high falls – I did probably 3,000 high falls in that show and easily 8,000 sword fights. And it was a really physical show, thousands of stitches, concussions, broken bones. It was a really physical, beautiful show.
While I was there, three of the guys – Brian Thompson, Alex Daniels, who’s a top stunt coordinator, and Clint Carmichael – snuck down one Halloween night and actually spent the night in the Psycho house (at Universal Studios). It was crazy fun. Only some knuckleheaded actor-stunt guys would do that. So our initials are engraved somewhere at the top of that structure.
So I just kept pursuing, writing screenplays, and learning and growing. I got to play lots of bad guys and lots of tough guys, because of the physical nature of being an actor-stuntman. Not too many people do that. People really focus on acting or focus on stunts, and for good reason, because a lot of times people will say, ‘Well he’s just an actor who does a little bit of stunt work,’ or, ‘He’s just a stuntman who does a little bit of acting.’ But the reality is, you refine and work on both, which is what I did – I studied with Stella Adler, who is an iconic acting coach, Marlon Brando’s coach, and I had a private coach in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
The first role I played in a film was in a little Cannon film, a labor of love for the director-writer, and I went and stayed in a psych ward for a weekend, and learned from the psychiatrists and the orderlies, and stayed with murderers. It was fascinating. I learned so much. And that knowledge I carried with me through my career, and certainly brought into the work I did on Halloween.
There’s really kind of a striking similarity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where I played a character called der Kindestod and I murdered children in their dreams. When they cast me in that, it was because of the way I moved. It was my ability to bring a character into physicality and then allow that to define how the character moved.
So all this training brought me to this amazing, beautiful moment, where I get to step into this iconic role that John Carpenter and Nick Castle created. The room was already filled with just ample information, and the fan base, and the years and legacy. And then I got to bring my experience and whatever talents I have into this.
It sounds like it has all been leading you to this point.
The beauty of it is that in my life and really in my career, the most beautiful things have come out of left field. I actually had made the decision, because I’m very close to making my own films, not to step in front of camera unless I was called specifically by a friend or someone who knew I was right for a particular role.
Out of the blue, the stunt coordinator Rawn Hutchinson, who did the Rob Zombie Halloweens and has been around for years, when he read the script, he told Malek (Akkad) and David (Gordon Green), ‘Look, this is a role that, the way it’s written, this is really physical, and it’s also going to demand really deep acting chops. So you need a guy who can do both.’
After Rawn called me, I went down to meet them. When I did the first audition in Charleston before I even met David Green, I was driving, not even out of the parking lot, and I got a call from Los Angeles asking my availability. I hadn’t even got to the interstate before I got another call from Los Angeles asking if I’d be willing to come back and meet David. So there was something really big happening there.
So after that first meeting, it didn’t take them long to make a decision.
At first I didn’t know, because they were supposed to shoot in October, and then I didn’t hear anything, so I was like, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’ It was awesome to step in front of an audition camera again and get to meet David and Ryan (Turek) and Malek and all those guys. But then, I think it was sometime in early December, I got the call, and they said, ‘Hey man, you got it.’ I was extremely stoked.
So had Rawn worked with you before?
Oddly enough, we have known each other for years and we’ve worked on projects together where he was the stunt coordinator and I was only the actor, but he knows I am a stuntman as well, he knows my capabilities. Of all the people he knows, and he knows a lot of people because he’s been around a long time, he just felt I was the guy that could bring those two elements together.
Before we talk about the new film, this is the 40th anniversary of the John Carpenter’s original Halloween, so can you talk a little about how familiar you were with that film or even the franchise before this project came into your life? Most people can’t remember the first time they saw it, but have you been a horror fan?
My mom and dad were both very supportive of film. My mom was my first cameraman. My dad used to sit with us and watch horror films when we were little kids. We were too small to watch them or we’d be scared, but if Dad was there, it was cool. So he would sit and we’d watch the great old Boris Karloff films and the Lon Cheney films, the great old horror films. So I’ve definitely been tapped into horror my whole life.
Knowing that I was going to make films, in high school and college, I went (to see movies) with a critical eye, because I was trying to learn and pick up information. And there were two films when I was an undergrad at University of South Carolina that I saw and I knew immediately that they were game changers. One was Rocky and the other one was Halloween. I walked out of Halloween and went, ‘Dude, this is a game changer. There’s a whole new paradigm being created right now.’ So I remember it very, very well.
Of course over the years I’ve seen it again at various times and when the new ones come out you go see them. It’s just a part of my life. You know what mean?
I never envisioned that I would be so honored as to be able to step into The Shape.
That sounds like me and my 10-year-old son. We’ve been bringing him up on horror, like you said, starting with the classics and working our way up over the years, so he’s got a true appreciation. So it sounds like your parents did it the right way for sure.
I had awesome parents. I had six brothers. We spent a lot of time together, my brothers, my parents, and I, and movie nights were one of them. It was always something, and there was an education going on that I didn’t understand at the time.
Now let’s talk about stepping into The Shape. This is the horror event of the year. So in December (of 2017) you got the call saying that you got it. Can you walk us through what happened next?
In December they sent me out to do the life cast of my face. So I went out and met (makeup effects artist) Christopher Nelson for the first time, and we did the life cast. We cast the masks to my face, and the other prosthetics, which you will discover during the course of the film.
Then in January I went down (to Charleston, SC) and did a week of rehearsal. David called me actually prior to rehearsal, and we talked about the character and we talked about movement. He said, ‘Look, I really see a certain – yes, The Shape moves a certain way and Nick Castle was the one that created that iconic sort of presence, but – I have this idea that there’s a certain cat-like quality to the efficiency and movement.’ I said, ‘Well oddly enough, David, I have a cat in my lap right now.’
In fact I used a cat to design my movement for der Kindestod. I think cats are the most perfect hunting, killing machines on the planet. And the beauty of it is we don’t judge a cat for what a cat does. A cat does what a cat does because that’s a cat. So I sort of carried that movement and the non-judgmental approach to the way I moved as The Shape, which I learned from my cat Parcival. He’s a little Grail Knight. He’s a badass.
And David was also really sensitive and generous when he said, ‘We’re inviting Nick Castle to come back to do a little work. Do you have a problem with that, because you’re the Michael Myers now?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God. Are you kidding? What an honor it would be, first of all to meet the guy, but secondly to work with him. How good does that get?’
So we started work, and I can’t remember if it was the second or third week that Nick came in and did kind of a cameo. He did a couple of scenes, and I’m in the scenes with him, which is really beautiful. He and I were hoping that would happen, because he even said, ‘This is the passing of the torch.’
We met with foreign journalists on the set, and Nick was so super gracious and just saying, ‘Look, I’ve come in to do a cameo. Jim is our Michael Myers now.’
The crazy thing about Nick is that he is such a giant talent. Not only what he created instinctively and intuitively with Michael Myers, but look at his body of work. The man is just a genius. And he’s the kindest, most generous, neatest guy you’ll ever meet. I have a friend and a brother for life in Nick.
So through the filming, I’m in every scene. I was there almost every day, long days, (and it was an) extremely physical role.
The script is different than previous incarnations, and it would be with guys like Danny McBride and David and Jeff (Fradley). These guys are brilliant writers. Then you’ve got Blumhouse and their whole perspective. Look at what they just did, winning an Academy Award (for Get Out). I mean, come on. And Ryan Turek, who is one of the guys who was instrumental in putting this all together and the representative for Blumhouse on the set, is just a prince of a man. And he’s so into horror. His knowledge is just so deep.
And I have to say this, man, and this was a real big thing for me and a first in my life: I took what John Carpenter and Nick had created, but I co-created this character with Christopher Nelson. Christopher’s work with the mask and the prosthetics, and his deep knowledge of the Halloween tradition and the characters and how they move, not only creating the mask that when I put it on something special happens, but he was with me every single shot.
He was the guy that put the mask on and took it off, and he would drop little pearls, like little whispers or reminders. He wasn’t directing me, but his knowledge was so deep. Sometimes we’d do a take and all the sudden I’d get five or six notes from five or six different people, and that’s a lot to remember. ‘Okay when you get to the bottom of the stairs I need you to move one inch to the left.’ But Chris would always bring me right back really deep into, like, ‘Okay, this is what it’s all about.’
So I feel like I co-created this moment with Christopher Nelson, who is just a giant of a talent and one of the finest human beings you’ll ever meet.
And he’s an Oscar winner too (for Suicide Squad). It sounds like he was almost like a coach, pulling you back into that mindset needed to get back into the character. And it sounds like he’s a fan himself too.
Oh yeah, big time. He actually had said to me later on, ‘You know, I was offered to do this, and of course I’d be super excited to do it, but I made up my mind that if I didn’t like the guy playing The Shape, if I didn’t think he was right, I wasn’t going to do it, because I wasn’t going to invest myself in something I didn’t think was going to be good.’ But after we sat and talked, he realized, ‘Yeah, we got the right guy,’ which I take as a massive compliment from such a talent.
The beautiful thing was every single day before I’d step on set, I spent 45 minutes to an hour in his trailer. So it was Chris and I talking about things and getting into the moment. The music Chris played every morning or every afternoon before the day started was the music that set the tone for what it was we were going to do that day or that night.
I’ve got to tell you, man, it is singularly the most joyful and uplifting, fulfilling experience I’ve ever had professionally.
It sounds great. I want to go back just a little bit to working with Nick. When you say you did scenes together, I’m assuming you mean it will be intercut with the two of you, not two Michaels in the same scene?
That’s correct, exactly. The thing is – I didn’t look at any press while I was working. I just wanted to stay focused. But I started reading this thing about my being his stunt double. I mean, Nick is 5’10, 170lbs, and I’m 6’3, 210lbs, so… (laughs) I think that’d be really difficult to pull off. Nick was very gracious.
Of course we want the fans to understand that he’s back. And I’m not much of a self-promoter, at all. I never have been. But the other side of that is, Nick said, ‘Look man, you’re doing the work. You take credit for what you do. The fans are going to love you, and the fans are awesome.’
And the great news is that I’ll get to start travelling with Nick to these conventions and stuff. The awesome part of that for me is I really love people. And the people that I’ve met so far – the fans that did manage to get onto the set, and there were very few because it was a closed set – to see their reaction when they’re meeting Nick and when they were meeting me, like the new Michael Myers, to see the joy that they had in their eyes. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get to be one of the guys who brings joy to these people who have been fans for years.’ How good does that get?
That’s something else I wanted to talk to you about. Obviously you realize that this is a legacy with a huge, passionate fan base.
At one point somebody on set asked me, ‘Are you ready for this?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ This is a hallway I’ve never walked down, man, and now the lights aren’t on. I have no idea what it holds for me. But at least I have a knife in my hand. (laughs)
And I have to give a shout out to Jamie Lee. She is bad to the bone. She’s an amazing human being, a larger than life talent, and a woman who is – I mean, wow, what a pro. Working with her was definitely also a highlight of my life. And getting physical – that woman – I’ll just tell you this: When actors say they do their own stunts – Okay, I can say that because I do. I worked with Tom Cruise on Far and Away, and yes he did do his own stunts. He did his own fighting stuff. – But it’s really rare. Usually a double comes in and does this or does that.
Jamie Lee is tough as freaking nails. She is a bad to the bone woman.
Nick has said too when he was talking about you (at his Mad Monster Party Q&A) basically that Michael is very physical in this film. Can you elaborate any on that?
I think, having seen all the films myself and doing what I do, the script first and foremost lent itself towards a far more physical nature. And David Green’s directing of course, I mean, wow, what a great director. The cinematography (by Michael Simmonds) is amazing. Even Nick said, ‘Wow, there’s no way I could have done this.’ You know he’s 70 years old, and he was never a stuntman. And I had so much experience with weapons and physicality.
I think it takes it to a natural progression. I would certainly hope that there’s nothing that the fans would be upset about. I think it really takes Michael Myers to a natural place of what The Shape is really capable of.
And Jamie Lee wrote me a beautiful little note thanking me for the depth that I went to embody this. Without the muscle memory of being able to do the things physically that I did, that would have been impossible.
I wasn’t there for the first one obviously, but Nick was just walking around saying, ‘This is just like the first one. The crew and the cast are just amazingly close, and it’s a family and everybody’s happy to be here.’ It was great to see him walking around happy like that, and to see him and Jamie when they saw each other it was like, ‘Boom! Here we are.’
Yeah, when I talked to Nick, that was one of the things he told me, that both he and Jamie commented on how alike the atmosphere on this new set was to that of the original set in 1978. It’s got to be a trip for them, and for Carpenter, to have all of this happening 40 years almost to the day later. It’s really kind of unbelievable. I don’t think fans thought it would happen like this, but I think everybody’s getting real excited, from what we’ve seen so far.
The fun in that was watching Nick walk around just happy. He was so sweet, he went to a place called Jim & Nick’s BBQ and he bought me a shirt that says “Jim & Nick’s BBQ” on it. So I put the mask on and sent him a little selfie, which we’re really not supposed to do, but I trust Nick.
He told me also that David and Danny’s whole intention from the start was to really capture that essence of what Carpenter had going on in the original. Did you get that vibe too?
From an intellectual point of view, absolutely, when I read the script and in talking with David, from a left brain point of view looking at this, yeah, this is a very creative, very intelligent natural progression from the first one, without a doubt. However, as soon as we began work, I got out of left brain and went into right brain mode, and that’s just really about the intuition and the character that’s already been created, and then whatever work I did to embody that.
For me, it’s kind of metaphysical in a way. There’s a thing that’s called the morphogenetic field. If you believe the universe is one big soup bowl filled with information, the thing that John Carpenter and Nick Castle created is information that exists in the universe. So my job was really to find that information, to find that vibration, that bowl filled with The Shape in the original Halloween, and to become, to define myself in that space and allow that space to inform me as to how this was going to happen 40 years later.
What had transpired in the 40 years of Michael Myers’ existence that has now informed him.
I think the writing is brilliant. And Jamie Lee’s character is a very intelligent, natural progression, and she embodied it to a T.
It’s kind of both, you know what I mean? You have to honor it, embody it, and then let it go.
Being so tied to the role psychologically, was it easy to shake off when you weren’t shooting, or was it easier for you to just be like Michael, off in the shadows?
I’ve done over 15 years of volunteering for group therapy sessions in a thing called family conciliation therapy that actually draws into this morphogenetic field. So oftentimes with someone who volunteers, they represent. So I’ve represented heinous perpetrators. I’ve represented protectors, like Archangel Michael, or protector animals. What I’ve learned from that experience is something that very definitely helped me in creating the space in the work I just did (on Halloween).
What I learned to do is to drop into it, be it fully, and then breathe out of it. So what I would do for each scene is, once we began filming a particular take or angle, I’d drop in – and you’re going to have (numerous) takes to do – find that space, and be in it. While things were being rearranged or re-setup or whatever, I would just stand quietly. In fact, Atilla (Salih Yucer), the brilliant first A.D., referred to me as the Buddha, because I was just extremely quiet and I would just stand. I wouldn’t move.
But the moment I’d hear someone say, ‘Check the gate’, and know they’re going for a different setup, I’d take a deep breath and boom, I became Jim again. Then when they’d be ready and we’d have another series of shots, I’d breathe into it, find that space, like quickly. I could do it in and out and never carried it. I didn’t take it home with me. I slept well.
David complimented me on that ability to be able to drop in and drop out. He told me there was a film he worked on where there was an actor who wasn’t able to do that and was nearing psychosis by the end of the film, because he just couldn’t let it go. And I could see that happening to someone who wasn’t capable of dropping in and dropping out.
Somehow, everything I’ve done has prepared me for this moment. I just feel so fortunate that I’ve had the experiences I’ve had in my life that have honed whatever I’m able to bring to this, and I can’t be the judge of that. All I can say is my experience was beautiful. Whatever it is that I was able to bring and whatever I was able to do to give David Green what he wanted, to make Malek happy that I was there, and make Chris Nelson happy, was done so organically. It’s like when you find something that you do and you love doing it, and you happen to do it pretty well, it just flows. It’s like a hot knife and butter.
We had long days, man. I had to see a chiropractor and get massages, do acupuncture. (laughs) It was not easy by any means. It was long hours and hard work, but it was just so fulfilling.
So were you there on set filming pretty much every day of the shoot?
I had a couple days off through the shoot, but mostly those days I would end up coming back to do electronic press kit or interviews with journalists. The principals, Jamie, myself, Andi (Matichak, and Judy Greer), we did a photoshoot with Dan Winters, who is an iconic photographer. So that was going to be a six-day week, but then of course the photography was on the one day off, so that was a seven-day week. We put in crazy hours and crazy days.
Those photos I’m sure will probably be used in the promotion of the film at some point.
I have a couple of them that Dan gave me, which I can’t show to anybody, but they are stunning. There’s a reason why this man has photographed two presidents.
If you look at it, the talent that has come on board to make this film – and everybody who has come on board has a Halloween story, some kind of impact that Halloween made in their lives, and that’s why they’re there.
It really feels like everybody was in it for all the right reasons and has respect in all the right places. It really is impressive when you look at the talent both in front of and behind the camera. And then you’ve got Blumhouse and Universal who are going to present it. Who better right now to present this movie in October, the perfect release date?
Even if you look at the cinematography – Michael Simmonds and his operators Paul (Daley) and Stewart (Cantrell) – these guys are really tight. Stewart and I did a long steadicam shot that initially they thought they were going to have to stitch together with digital. But we did it. The chemistry that happened between all of us, it was like playing basketball with your brother, who you’ve played with for 20 years, so you don’t even need to look to see where he is when you pass, because you know exactly where he’s going to be. We had that kind of chemistry when we were working with camera and special effects and stunt coordinator, and the action. We all had this synergy where we just knew. Everybody just knew.
That sounds amazing.
The other crazy thing is, years ago a buddy of mine was dating (John Carpenter’s ex-wife) Adrienne Barbeau and we used to play volleyball at her house, and for years I played tennis at (Halloween II and Halloween: Resurrection director) Rick Rosenthal’s house. I had no idea that I was on the periphery of an orbit that was going to draw me into this amazing, beautiful place.
At the martini shot, the last scene you’re going to shoot, which happened to be my scene, when David yelled, ‘Cut!’, the entire crew was around me just off camera and they were applauding.
Chris Nelson took my mask off and he said, ‘Look around, man. Absorb it. You deserve it.’ And they were applauding. It still brings tears to my eyes, because I have never felt that kind of love for putting in – I mean, we do what we do because we love what we do. We would do it free. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it is. But to have that kind of appreciation from so many really talented people, I mean everybody there, props, the grips, you name it, everybody who was there was so super stoked to be there.
Man, we were tired towards the end, but everybody was still, ‘Good morning! Good to see ya,’ big hugs.
It sounds like the whole thing was super special, and I think that’s what us fans have been hoping this project would be. It’s been a long time coming, but it seems like it was worth the wait.
Well how perfect is it that it’s the 40th anniversary? And then there’s the perfection of Blumhouse stepping out and quality horror getting the recognition that it deserves finally for the artistry. Instead of being a genre, let’s talk about art. Let’s talk about talent, right?
And certainly there have been incredible, iconic, beautiful horror films through the years, and innovative horror filmmakers and amazing performances, but I think there’s something in the synchronicity of the timing of all this that is – I still don’t understand it and maybe I never will, but I certainly feel super honored to be a part of it.
I think you’re right. Especially after watching the Oscars the other night, it feels like it’s the right time and the right studio. They’ve made all the right moves, starting with getting Carpenter involved.
And he was out there (on set) and he was awesome, wonderful to talk to. He’s a funny guy. He’s a salty old dog. But his energy, once I embraced his energy, I was like, ‘Oh his energy has been here every day. It’s been a part of this every single day.’
And I have to say the thing with Universal, man, because I was a tour guide at Universal Studios, this is like a coming home for me. I have always had a special place in my heart for Universal Studios, because I started there, and I spent so much time on that back lot just steeped in history and lore. So for me to do a Universal film right now, it’s special. It’s like a victory lap for me.
And it’s great too because Michael is one of the modern Universal Monsters. He’s right up there with Frankenstein, Dracula, and the classics.
I think, nothing overt, but there are subtleties that you’ll see in the movie when it’s released that pay homage to the layering that those old classic horror films had. They weren’t just cut and dry slashers. There was humanity involved. There were layers of character development. There were things done that certainly had been done with other horror films, but I think there’s a certain classic quality to what those guys at Roughhouse and Blumhouse saw and what they created.
As the story goes, when Ryan (Turek) was made aware that the project might be available and pulled together the elements from his Blumhouse perch, I think they all understood that something special was about to happen.
And Malek – I’ve got to tell you, Malek Akkad is one of the finest human beings you will ever meet. He’s bright, he’s brilliant, he’s kind, he’s compassionate. He has amazing depth of knowledge in filmmaking in general but specifically with Halloween and the legacy that his father was. Had his father not been there and seen what he saw in John Carpenter, this may never have happened. I think Malek has really carried that torch forward from his father nobly and well.
Was Malek on set the whole time during filming of the new movie?
Yep, he was there the whole time.
And I know John came in for a while. About how long was he on set?
John was there for a few days, enough to be around and see things and meet people. I don’t know this, but my take was he didn’t want to be the 800lb gorilla in the room. He wanted to come in, give everybody his blessing, shake some hands, look in some people’s eyes, have a few laughs, and move on. He was letting David and the Roughhouse/Blumhouse crew do what they do, which is what a great filmmaker would do. When you bring talented people like that, you’ve got to let them run.
It sounds really exciting, especially when you talk about the writing.
When I got the first draft, I was like, ‘Oh, we’re on to something here, kids!’ The subtleties in their script is what – The broad strokes and the arch of the story are all super solid, but it’s the subtleties that they put in there that give people like myself and Jamie just whole boxfuls of gifts to work with. These guys are really good writers.
Another thing Nick had mentioned is that they made sure there’s a lot of Easter eggs and references to the original sprinkled throughout for the fans. Is there anything you can tell us about any of that?
All I can say is: I agree with Nick. (laughs)
Right now I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world, and it’s only going to get more and more fun, as I get to meet the fans and I get to travel around with Nick. Let’s see where this leads.
The thing is, and I’m aware of this enough, that fans have an ownership, they feel like they have an ownership of the films, because they’ve invested so much of themselves into it. I think it’s a really beautiful thing. So I’m really looking forward to the dialogue that happens, because people are going to have opinions and they’re not all going to agree. There’s going to be ideas that are passed back and forth, and there’s going to be questions and answers and conjectures. And isn’t that beautiful when a piece of art starts a conversation?
Absolutely. And I think that’s great that you’re looking forward to meeting the fans and having this dialogue with them. Was there any particular moment, maybe it was the first moment, when you put the mask on and you just realized, ‘Holy crap, I’m Michael Myers in the new Halloween’?
I don’t know that I had an awareness of ‘Oh my God, I’m Michael Myers’, but here’s what happened. We were doing some work prior to my getting the mask, shooting a very complicated scene. Christopher Nelson shows up on set at 11 or 12 o’clock at night, he had just flown in from Los Angeles, carrying a box. And it’s like, ‘Okay, he’s got the mask.’
So David, Danny, Jeff (Fradley), Mike (Simmonds), Rawn (Hutchinson), and myself, we all walked off to a room to the side where nobody could see it, and Chris pulled out the mask, and he said, ‘Okay Jim, let’s put it on and see what it feels like.’ So I walk over and he puts it on me and fastens it in for me, and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ David goes, ‘What does it feel like, Jim?’ I said, (lowers voice to a near-whisper) ‘It’s perfect for killing.’ It was perfect.
And all the sudden, this thing happened to me inside. I had already created the energy, I already knew the space, but man that was like afterburns, dude – And the love, it’s more than just the beauty of the art that Christopher created when he did the mask, it’s all that knowledge he put into it, and somehow he imbued all the history, the 40 years of history and all the work that all the people have done, and all the fans’ expectations and love. I felt all of that. I will never forget the first time I put that mask on.
That sounds awesome. That’s the moment I was looking for.
When I put it on, everybody was just like, ‘Whoa.’ That’s all they could do was just make some kind of guttural response. There was no ‘Hey that’s pretty good looking.’ There was none of that. David and everybody was just like ‘Whoa.’
I don’t know when they’re going to put out a picture of the mask, but I know the internet is going to explode when that happens.
I would hope that it’s a Dan Winters photograph, because he captured not only the beauty and artistry of it, but he captured the spirit of it. I wish I could share with you, but it’s such a masterpiece. The mask itself is such a masterpiece.
That’s the thing with this film. The cinematography is so masterful. There are so many masterful elements to this film. Again, at the end of the day, the fans are going to love what they love or not like what they don’t like, but I have to say, when you take this many gifted people that have this much love and passion for Halloween, you can’t help but think that the fans are going to be really just as happy as we are and feel like they’re a part of it.
Their (fans) opinions and all the time and love that they’ve invested into Halloween was definitely with us there, and we talked about it. We talked about how much this means to people, and that we were the ones lucky enough to be there doing the next Halloween. But who are we doing it for? Of course we’re doing it for ourselves because we love doing this, but we’re doing it for them too. Without them, there is no us.
I think fans will love hearing that they were on everyone’s minds on set. It is a unique and special family.
How do these things happen? In the late ‘70s, for me those two films, Rocky and Halloween, two things that happened that changed the course of filmmaking. Then fly forward to now. And where does it take us from here?
I guess that’s something we will talk about in our next conversation, what comes after 40 years later.
I’m sure something will.
As a fan, it makes me feel good to hear that the people making this film are treating it with the respect and reverence we all want.
And a lot of people worked for a lot less money than they normally work for. This was a true labor of love.
In so many ways, it felt like it must have felt on that first film, when they were just doing something new and exciting, and it wasn’t about money or a career. It was about doing what we freaking love, and knowing you had something special.
Like you said, it’s dreams come true for so many people on so many levels, it sounds like.
When you see the film, you’ll see the insane amount of talent they invested in this film.
I think it’s great that Nick has kind of given you his blessing, kind of like Carpenter giving David and Danny his blessing. I just think it’s an awesome passing of the torch.
That was so important (to me) for Nick to be so gracious. When we did the first presser (on set interview) together, you know we’re sitting side by side, of course they want to talk to him first, and they start firing questions at him. I didn’t know how he was going to handle this, because I didn’t know him yet. And the graciousness with which he handled everything – That’s why when I read this thing that said, ‘James Jude Courtney is in a couple of scenes,’ first of all as journalism major, journalistic integrity to me is the center point of what we do as journalists, because they have to know they can trust us.
Then I thought about how, even by lack of information or conjecture, it’s just wrong to mislead the fans. We don’t have to give the fans everything. Part of what we do as filmmakers is leaving people waiting and wondering and conjecturing, but at the end of the day, I felt it was really important in talking to you that they knew what they were getting into. I didn’t want to have something misperceived and then have somebody having to explain something they said or something they did, when in fact Nick and I are both coming from this place of being super stoked to do what we did.
Normally, when you finish a show, and you have your name on a director’s chair, you get to take the back of the chair, but they keep the chair. A lot of people frame them or whatever. Props gave me the whole chair. They wanted me to have the chair with the energy that I sat in every day. So I’m sitting here looking at it right now. (laughs)
I feel like my whole career is starting over again, except I’m coming in with 30 years of knowledge that I get to apply to it, and with a great group of people and an amazing fan base. I mean, wow, man.
You know, all these alleged divisions in society – race, color, gender, whatever – it doesn’t matter. I’ve been hit up on Facebook by people from around the world, from Muslim countries and South America, but all these alleged divisions that exist in our society do not exist among Halloween fans. They’re just Halloween fans, man.
The new Halloween arrives in theaters on October 19.
For more Halloween news, follow @HalloweenDaily.