Who says you can’t go home again? Tell that to Michael Myers, Haddonfield, Illinois’ most infamous son, who, 40 years after terrorizing babysitter Laurie Strode and slashing, slicing and strangling her friends, is back in town in Halloween, a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic that ignores the 10 sequels in-between.
Halloween not only brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Strode, but Nick Castle, who portrayed Myers, aka the Shape, who is variously described in the original film as “it,” “evil” and “the boogeyman.” Castle could probably have had a comfortable career reprising Myers in sequel after sequel. Instead, he became a screenwriter (the cult classic Escape from New York) and director (The Last Starfighter, The Boy Who Could Fly).
With the new Halloween coming to theaters in October and the original marking its 40th anniversary, Castle spoke to Redbox about the importance of being Michael, accepting his fate as a horror movie icon and putting on the mask one more time.
Redbox: How were you cast in the original Halloween?
Nick Castle: John and I were classmates at U.S.C. film school. We were two of a crew of four on a short film called The Resurrection of Bronco Billy, which won the Academy Award. We maintained our relationship. After that, I worked with him on his first film, Dark Star. Halloween was being filmed just a few blocks from my house. I went over there and said, ‘Hey, can I hang around and just kind of demystify the experience for when I’m a director?’ He said sure. Then he said, ‘Why don’t you just put on this mask; you’ll get $25 a day.’ That was it. He told me nothing, absolutely nothing (about the character). I asked him during the first shot that I was going to do, ‘You want me to walk across the street; what do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘Walk across the street.’ It was so offhand. That this will go down on my tombstone is just hilarious.
RB: Why did he choose you? Was it the way you looked? The way you moved?
NC: John has said (over the years) that he loved that my dad was a dancer (Nicholas Castle was a renowned dancer and choreographer who worked with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis and others). That’s all B.S., but maybe not. (laughs).
RB: One of the creepiest moments in the first film is when Michael Myers impales that guy and stands there admiring his handiwork with a head tilt. Did you contribute that moment?
NC: That was Mr. Carpenter; all John. This is a kind of role where you’re puppeteering this character. I remember him saying, ‘Tilt your head to the right and to the left.’ It’s one of the big moments in the film that fans absolutely love (look closely for an homage in the new Halloween).
RB: Yours is an odd celebrity. You’re one of horror’s greatest villains, but Michael Myers is mostly masked so people don’t know your face.
NC: Exactly; thank god. But the die-hard fans (who attend the horror conventions) know my face. Professional collectors are always around the airports and know when I’m going in or out of town for whatever event. I’d just assume be more anonymous.
RB: Do the kids in your neighborhood know who you are? Do you put the mask on for trick or treaters?
NC: No (laughs). That doesn’t happen. My house is not like some shrine to the movie where tour busses come by. I’ve somehow escaped that. Now that you mention it, I’d better watch out.
RB: So just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. How did you get involved with the new Halloween?
NC: Half a dozen years ago, my agent, Sean Clark, corralled me into attending horror film conventions and signing autographs for the fans. Someone from the production company called him because he represents other people who have played Michael Myers. He said, ‘It’s 40 years later, use Nick Castle.’ They immediately picked up on that. He called me and said, ‘Nick, this may sound crazy, but what do you think of this idea?’ I said that would be hilarious. I got on the phone with (director) David Gordon Green. I did suggest they would want to use someone a bit more fit; I didn’t see myself waiting around for someone to throw a chair at me. But I still wanted to be a part of this. I have a cameo (the scene in which Laurie Strode first sees the Shape); I was on the film for a week. I had a blast. (James Jude Courtney is the new Michael).
RB: The buzz on the new Halloween is promising.
NC: It’s true to the first one; that’s what David and (screenwriter) Danny McBride were after. I wound up doing all the ADR (automatic dialog replacement) breathing for the Shape in post-production, so I got to see all the scenes with the
James Jude Courtney. He does a wonderful job.
RB: Did you watch any of the sequels and ever think, “Michael Myers would never do that?”
NC: (Laughs) I hadn’t seen any of them except for the second one and the third one which didn’t have Michael in it. But when I started going to these horror conventions, people were asking what I thought of them. They would ask, ‘Why would Michael do this?’ and I would say I had no idea. So I ran them all one afternoon. Frankly, they are all a blur for me. I should probably give them another shot.
RB: Did being on the set bring back fond memories of making the original?
NC: John ran a friendly and happy set. Jamie was great. One of the tricks that will allow you to have a decent life in this business is to make sure that your time spent on the set is with people you love to work with. That was a great lesson I learned working with John. But I can tell you my worst time on the set. In the scene at the beginning of the movie where I jump on the car, they put me in that hospital gown. I didn’t know they were going to turn on the hoses. It was four in the morning and 45 degrees. That was my least favorite time.
Halloween is one of our absolute favorite horror movies and Nick Castle just made us love it even more. Which horror monster do you want to hear from next?