Nick Castle will always be horror royalty for having played the iconic role of Michael Myers (AKA The Shape) in John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween. His performance as the iconic villain has never really been equaled, which is amazing, given that his only direction from Carpenter was basically to walk as he normally would. Since that time, Castle has gone on to an incredible career as a writer and director, co-writing Escape from New York and Hook, writing and directing The Boy Who Could Fly, and helming such other films as The Last Starfighter, Dennis the Menace and Major Payne.
This past year, Castle returned to the world of Halloween to re-team with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis for a 40th anniversary sequel from Blumhouse and Universal Pictures. David Gordon Green’s Halloween became one of the most talked about horror movies of the year and continues to do extremely well now that it is on VOD.
Castle was kind enough to talk about his experiences returning to the new film, as well as working on the original and its legacy in general.
Wicked Horror: After Halloween, you went on to an incredible career, co-writing Escape from New York and Hook, directing The Last Starfighter, Dennis the Menace, Boy Who Could Fly and so many others. How did it feel to come back to Halloween having done all of these other things over the course of forty years?
Nick Castle: Well, that’s the thing. It was just a lot of fun. When you do all that other stuff, it’s a lot of work. Doing this was a lark. It was fun to reconnect with this world because I’m retired now for a number of years, so I haven’t had the experience being on set for a long time. That was fun. Never been to South Carolina, where they were shooting it. Really talented crew, and cast, and having the chance to reconnect with Jamie. I see her from time to time at horror conventions and things like that. John, of course, he’s still a close friend and he came out during the time I was there. It was like a vacation. It was like a fun vacation and then you put this rubber mask on. It’s fun.
Wicked Horror: When you did the original Halloween, there were obviously no preconceived notions, but the franchise has obviously become huge over time and this entry had a lot of hype behind it. How different was it to work on a Halloween where you knew that there were all of these fan expectations?
Nick Castle: Yeah, well, that’s a good point. Of course there’s a lot of anticipation of this thing. I even heard both David and Danny talk about how intimidating it was. They took this job and knew that they were going to be doing a sequel to the original movie and all kinds of comparisons will be made. They had the luck of having John again and Jamie on board and that I’m sure was very helpful for them. Because, again, you can lean back on the old timers there to go “Yeah, well, they like it. They’re on board.” So it was definitely I’m sure more pressure on the filmmakers. But for me, like I said, it was more like a vacation. I had none of the anxiety because my name wasn’t above the title or anything.
Wicked Horror: What kind of wisdom did you impart onto James Jude Courtney, who did an incredible job in the movie?
Nick Castle: Not really, because I didn’t meet Jim until we got there on the set. And they had already been shooting for a couple weeks. So he had already gotten the mask and figured out what he was going to do and had discussions with David. But what I did find out from him was that they looked at the old movie and he said he wanted to absorb the essence of what I was doing and take it from there. What a great guy too, Jim was. Really nice and we enjoyed working together and talking on the movie. And now he has the pleasure of going to meet the fans at some of these conferences, which is so much of the fun I’ve had for the last few years. I love it.
Wicked Horror: While you obviously went on to an enormously successful career post-Halloween, were you ever offered the chance to return as The Shape in any of the sequels?
Nick Castle: No, no one has ever asked. Even on the second one, I had already started my first feature film. Even though it was a big hit, it wasn’t the big franchise yet. It didn’t have any kind of rabid fan base where they would demand like “Where’s Nick Castle?” The question probably never even came up in John’s mind. And of course, for me, I would probably have declined because I was just doing other things. This was just the perfect opportunity for me. I’m retired, I had all of the fun of being the character and I have a relationship with the character, and I think it was especially fun for the fans.
Wicked Horror: Was it David Gordon Green’s decision to pick that particular moment you put the mask on? Because it’s really a perfect reunion to choose that scene.
Nick Castle: I think that’s how it wound up. Even by the time I got there it was a little unclear how much or when I was going to do something. There was a chance I was going to be in the closet scene, for instance, maybe as a close-up. And I never spoke the David specifically about this. I didn’t want to get in the way of the movie. But I think you’re right. It was certainly one of the scenes that he wanted me to be in and then as it wound up, it was the only scene I was in.
Wicked Horror: Even if you couldn’t have predicted what it became, do you remember a moment while working on the original that made you realize that this was at least going to be a very effective horror film?
Nick Castle: No. I had no idea. Truly no idea. And you can look at the dailies and say “hey, that worked. It’s in focus,” things like that, but everyone knows when you’re jumping out of a room or out of the darkness, it’s not scary. Until you put that music in and have an audience and hear them scream, you don’t know if it’s actually working. That was actually something I heard from Tommy Lee Wallace, who was one of the editors and John’s very old friend, production designer and such, and made the mask. He said when they looked at the movie without the music, they said “Okay, that seems like it works.” Then when the put the music on they went “Oh my God!” They really knew it then. Sure. You never know. You hope it’s good. At a certain point I was just hoping “Oh God, I hope John gets another job.”
Wicked Horror: What was it about David Gordon-Green’s approach to Halloween that made you want to be involved in this movie?
Nick Castle: Well, yeah, I liked the fact that he was taking the interest of the fans seriously. About seeing the film as not just his opportunity to do his own movie about a horror thing, but going back and looking at it and honoring the original one by the way he approached it—both filmically and story-wise—but also thinking of the fans in terms of references to not only the first movie but to others in the franchise. I thought that was really sweet. And I read the script and thought, “Geez, I could see where this would be a tough thing to pull off.” You know, you can’t just write whatever you want, you have to stay within these parameters. And then add to it. Yeah, I just thought “Well done, sir.”
Wicked Horror: Now that the new film has done so well, and has been so successful, could you see yourself returning again in a potential sequel in any way?
Nick Castle: Oh, I’d love to do it again, yeah. Especially if it’s in the same parameters, just doing something fun and showing up in the right place and the right time. And that also hopefully would mean that James would do the work again. He deserves it and he did a wonderful job.
Wicked Horror: Now, the original film took a long time to gain traction through word of mouth, and become a big hit. When did you first realize that this had actually become something big?
Nick Castle: Wow, well, I don’t think I knew until… First of all, you remember it didn’t jump out of the gate like that. In fact the reviews weren’t great. It wasn’t until Roger Ebert had everyone take a second look at it, I think he liked it a lot, that the critics went back and took another look at it. Thank God it wasn’t released this year, because if you don’t make it in the first week you’re usually dead. It was great that it had the time to find its audience. That’s, again, another lucky part. So much of this has to do with challenge, but so much of it has to do with fate, too. With how things turn out.
Yeah, I didn’t know for a long time. I think someone called me and said “Hey, you know John’s movie’s doing great?” And I said, “Really?” And then someone said “You know it’s the highest grossing independent film of all time?” “What are you talking about?” It totally surprised me. One thing I did do, I remember, I went and saw the movie the first week it was out and in the movie theater, it played great. I said “John, I went to the movie, everyone’s scared, that’s good, right?” He said, “Yes, that’s good.” That’s when I realized it actually was a good movie.
Halloween is now available on Digital and hits Blu-ray/DVD January 15th.