Becoming a filmmaker
Was it always an aspiration of yours to become a film maker?
I caught the bug in 8th grade. My father gave me a super 8 camera for Christmas. I made movies in high school before going to film school at USC.
One of your first big projects was Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. How did you get involved with this movie?
I had a “demo reel” that was sent in by my manager to Moustapha Akkad ‘s office. I had made some small movies by then like “Getting Even” and “Bloodstone”.
The demo reel caught the eye of an executive over at Trancas films. I had a long talk with Moustapha about shooting in India which really interested him. He was an important director in his own right. After we had our talk, then I pitched him my concept for how to do #4. He was a little reluctant at first but once he was on board, he was all in.
Resurrecting the Boogeyman
Going into a franchise that had already established itself and being the guy tasked to bring Myers back too our screens, was that a daunting task?
I liked the first film. John Carpenter had been several years ahead of me at USC but I was very aware of what he had been able to accomplish with Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13. I didn’t know much about Halloween two or three. I just wanted to make a good thriller. I wasn’t that worried about Michael Myers. He was an interesting, escaped convict in my mind. I didn’t obsess about him.
How did you want to leave your mark on this entry?
I wanted my entry to be full of believable characters without any campy self-references. I wanted H-4 to work as a standalone thriller even if you didn’t know anything about Michael Myers.
As with all Halloween movies there’s always alternate screenplays. Was there a script or screenplay that differed from the version we saw on screen?
Trancas had developed a screenplay for H-4 that Alan McElroy and I kind of avoided. We were doing our own thing. What Alan wrote is what we shot. The film is very close to the screenplay.
Is it true Tommy Doyle and Lyndsey Wallace were set to appear?
I don’ know the story about Tommy or Lyndsey.
Along with Myers, the character Loomis made a return, what was it like working with and directing Donald Pleasence? He always seemed enthusiastic about the Loomis character.
I was thrilled over the moon to be able to work with Donald Pleasance. This was the guy from The Great Escape! You Only Live Twice! He was a little fussy but always brought 100% effort.
He could have tried to walk through something like this, but he gave it his all. I “directed” him quite a bit, but he didn’t seem to mind. Even with his resume, he was open to trying new things.
The end scene where Loomis finds Jamie at the top of the stairs always sends chills down my spine, Donald really gave it his all in that scene, right?
We tried several takes with Donald at the bottom of the stairs. They were all good takes, but I didn’t feel the level of performance quite matched the insanity of what was happening.
I told Donald to try one where he really “lost” it…. I told him to ” go over the top”, and if he didn’t like it, I wouldn’t print it. “Just take a chance, really let loose” was what I was saying.
He did let loose, and it was chilling. “Just don’t make me look like an ass” was what he said.
Along for the ride with Loomis was the no-nonsense Sheriff Meeker, Is it true initially he was to be killed off by Myers?
He was going to be killed in the house. Alan then realized he needed him at the end to lead the cops in destroying Michael.
Casting the to-be Scream Queen, Danielle Harris
Another addition to the cast was Danielle Harris, who has gone on to become an icon in the horror genre, how did you find Danielle?
We went looking in New York because all the young actors here in LA seemed like they had only done commercials. No one was real. Kind of phony.
I asked Moustapha if we could go to New York, and he said yes. Danielle was the second or third actress to walk in the door. We just knew.
When casting someone as young as Danielle, what did you do too keep the atmosphere as least scary as possible for someone that young?
I had George Wilbur always walk around with his mask off…even during rehearsal. And right after a shot, George would take the mask off and say something
nice like ” Hi sweetheart, it’s just me George”. The thing is George Wilbur is a very sweet, lovely man so it was easy for him to be calming.
How was working alongside the Moustapha Akkad? I believe he was very protective of the franchise.
Moustapha was very supportive. He always backed me up. If he wanted something I was happy to do it for him. The important thing about Moustapha
was that he was first and foremost a director….so he really understood. Great man.
A scene that always caught my attention was Blonde Michael, in the school scene, was it just the lighting or a stunt mask?
On the night of the school scene…the real Michael mask was damaged during shooting. In order to make our nights work…a prop (back up) mask was taken off the prop truck at the last minute. The mistake was made as we were all exhausted and we didn’t have the budget to reshoot. In today’s world…it would have been an easy digital fix.
The concept of the mask
Was the mask in Part 4 made especially for the movie?
The main mask in Halloween four was created to reflect the fact that Michael took it from a costume rack at a local discount store. It was a bit cheap looking because of where it came from story wise.
Potential return to the franchise?
If asked to return to the franchise, would you? Would you also want to continue your story of Jamie?
I think the Franchise has run its course. The one this month will likely be the last.
What would be your favourite moment from Halloween 4? I love the rooftop scene because it combines the best of Michael, real world suspense, and the resilience and strength of the sisters. I also love Rachael taking Michael out with the pick-up truck…but then again there are endless great moments.
Have you followed the latest Halloween movies? If so, what are your thoughts?
I have not followed the series. I felt I made my contribution the best I could and moved on to other projects. I did enjoy the Halloween 4 display at Universal Studio’s Horror Nights for two years