In 1978’s Halloween, directed by horror master John Carpenter, a masked killer wielding a knife named Michael Myers stalked babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and went down in horror film history as one of the most iconic characters ever created. Nick Castle, the man behind the mask, went on to become a successful filmmaker in his own right, having directed films like The Last Starfighter and Dennis the Menace.
Horror fans squealed with delight when it was revealed that forty years later the OG Shape, Nick Castle, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, would return to the screen in a sequel directed by David Gordon Green. Green worked with John Carpenter and producers Jason Blum, Malek Akkad, and Bill Block to bring Michael Myers and Laurie Strode back to life and terrified audiences once again with Halloween in 2018.
Dread Central had the pleasure of speaking with Nick Castle about creating Michael Myers, reviving him forty years later, filmmaking, and much more! Read on to find out what we talked about.
Halloween is currently available on digital and will be available in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD today, January 15th.
Dread Central: What was it like to play Michael Myers in Halloween in 1978 and how did it feel to become such a huge horror icon?
Nick Castle: At the time, it felt like putting on a rubber mask and walking around and having John Carpenter tell me to turn left, right, and tilt my head (laughs). I guess when you look back it was surprisingly simple and straightforward. The reason I was doing it was just to hang out on the set to learn how to become a director. So, it was a great experience for me and you never know how things are going to turn out and this thing is pretty crazy (laughs). It’s this iconic character and now I’m attached to it for the rest of my life. I’m having fun with it, too! So, that’s fun.
DC: What was it like to work with John Carpenter?
NC: John was a friend of mine in film school. We did film school shorts together. In fact, we did a short that won an Academy Award around the crew. He was my assistant camera man for that particular movie and he wrote the songs for it. We have a long history, so it was very comfortable working with John. He was the same on a feature film as he was on a student film. He’s a very smart guy and, as you can tell, has a strong sense of how he wants to make movies. And he also has a very friendly demeanor on the set, which I thought was a good way to approach how to get the best out of the cast and the crew. That’s one of the lessons I got from working with John and hopefully it translated to my own projects.
DC: What was it like working with Jamie Lee Curtis in 1978 compared to working with her again forty years later, even though you don’t share screen time in the new movie?
NC: Jamie was nineteen at the time, but I still remember her being, not only a lovely person, but also having the strength in personality to be able to figure out how to do things and get things done well, and being very professional. She comes from Hollywood royalty and I’m sure John couldn’t have been happier with the way she took the role and the job that she did. I think her performance has a lot to say about not only how the movie worked, but also its longevity. It was a character you could relate to and she did a great job at it. In the new movie, she hasn’t lost any of those qualities. I wasn’t surprised a bit by coming back. She’s just as lovely and very committed to making this thing work. It was great to be a part of it.
DC: How did you make the jump from playing Michael Myers to co-writing Escape from New York and eventually becoming a director?
NC: The purpose of me being on the set of Halloween was to hang around, because John got out of the gate faster than anybody from our film school. I worked with him on his first movie, Dark Star, right out of film school on the crew. Then when this came along, it was the perfect opportunity for me to learn. That was my goal, as it was John’s, to become a writer/director. So, coming out of film school I wrote a bunch of scripts. Then John gave me the opportunity of co-writing Escape from New York with him. He had already done the first draft a while back and he asked me to come on to help him flesh the whole thing out. So, that was quite an experience and, as it turned out, a great calling card that I used a lot to say, “Hey, look at this. I was John Carpenter’s collaborator. I can be a director, too.” And I even got John to sign a ‘this guy could be a good director’ note (laughs). It was a tremendous help to me having a career and hopefully he knows it, because I mention it all the time (laughs).
DC: How did it feel to come back and resurrect The Shape in 2018?
NC: It was a lot of fun. It started actually with my agent who books me at these horror conventions calling me up and saying, “Nick, I have a weird idea.” I said, “What?” He said, “Would you like to play Michael Myers in the new one?” I said, “Okay, let me get back to you (laughs).” Immediately, I got on the phone with David Gordon Green and we had a Skype meeting. I’m sure he wanted to see how decrepit I looked over the years (laughs). And we talked about it and I said, “Listen, I probably am not the right person to do the full shoot. I am seventy. It’s probably a lot of night work. I don’t see myself staying up until four in the morning waiting around with a mask on at my age (laughs). “ He said, “Yeah, we’ll figure something out.” I had fun with it.
He sent me the script and I got to make some notes for it. By the time I got on the set we had already become partners on trying to make a good movie and then he was gracious enough to let me be a part of it and throw my two cents in. So, there was him and Danny McBride, who was just hilarious. I love that guy. I’m a big fan of his. Then it was just getting back on set. I’m retired now, so I haven’t been actively working for, I don’t know, ten years. So, that was a blast. And then of course, the fact that it is reviving this character and making the whole thing work was just a lot of fun. The crew were such big fans of the movie and liked my other movies, by the way, too, which was a nice little pat on the back. Then James Courtney did all the work, except for the one scene that I’m in. I talked with him and became friends with him and I just had a blast. It more cemented my relationship with fans of this genre because everyone was really interested to see what I had to say about it.
DC: As a horror fan, I can say that we were all so happy to have you back after forty years!
NC: (laughs) I got that. And I also got the fact that I think David and the company realized the importance of getting the fan base back on board. Everyone was very conscious of that and not just for the obvious reason, to make money of course, but they did respect John’s work.
DC: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today, Nick!
NC: Of course! Thank you so much. Take care.