Nearly 40 years after changing the landscape of the horror genre and pop culture as a whole, fans have a brand new Halloween to get excited for this October, with this latest installment bringing together some of the original lifeblood by way of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter, as well as a copious amount of new talent, with Malek Akkad carrying on his family’s legacy, powerhouse producer Jason Blum, and director David Gordon Green (oh, and of course there’s also Danny McBride, who collaborated with Green on the script for Halloween (2018).
While in San Diego for Comic-Con 2018, Daily Dead had the opportunity to hear from Curtis, Green, and Akkad about why the timing was right to revisit the story of Laurie Strode, the impact that fateful night from the original Halloween has had on her existence over the last four decades, how Green plans to utilize Carpenter’s original iconic score, and what Halloween (2018)represents in the #MeToo era.
Guys, it must have been absolutely surreal to just jump back into this world after 40 years. Can you talk about the early first days on set and the process of putting this whole thing together?
David Gordon Green: I have a good answer to that. Yes, it was surreal as f--k. For me, it was a childhood dream because this was a very, very formative movie in my cinematic upbringing. I was at a slumber party and I was forbidden from seeing this movie. And my friends put it on. I got so scared, I vomited and went home. So, this was an opportunity for me to face my own demons and play in the playground that became one of my favorite movies—after I got over the shock of what the movie was. With this, there’s the idea of the Akkad legacy, the Curtis legacy, and the Blumhouse legacy that we're in the middle of today, and it's just a very exciting thing to be a part of. It’s a great way to birth new franchises and also look back into the history of the series.
Related to that, I know you and Danny go back to North Carolina School of the Arts. What were your conversations back in the day about the original Halloween movie as well as its sequels? This is definitely taking an interesting approach towards the series and those sequels as well.
David Gordon Green: Yeah, we just had a great amount of affection for the first film. And I'd say every single film I've made has some sort of reflection back to the film school days, including the enthusiasm of Danny and several of our friends that also worked on this movie—from our production designer to our sound mixer. We were all in school together, and we were this really passionate collective of film fans that liked everything from the classic to the trashy, and horror was a big part of our diet.
We were not as critical as audiences sometimes seem to be today. We just loved movies. So, one day we'd be watching Dangerous Liaisons, and the next day we'd be watching No Holds Barred. That was just the way that we loved to talk about movies, through positivity, which was a big part of how we came together as different personalities, different characters, who all had different sentiments. And we just loved Halloween, because of some of the stillness and the composition and just letting a moment linger. There were incredible performances in that movie, and it could actually sustain great tension without using a lot of the devices. Of course, the music was another huge part of what we love. Who doesn't? We're working with John [Carpenter] now putting together the score for this movie, and it's just unbelievable.
Jamie Lee Curtis: And you have to understand what's very similar about this film versus the original Halloween is that, you see, David's from the South and went to film school with all these guys. John Carpenter's from the South-ish, and he went to film school with Tommy [Lee] Wallace and Nick Castle. So, this was the same kind of vibe. These are all film geeks coming together and none of this would have happened had it not been for Moustapha Akkad going to John and Debra [Hill], saying, "I want to make a babysitter murders movie." He went to them because it was clear from their work that they were film students who loved movies.
And so, I think that this honors the way Moustapha Akkad went to a young filmmaker, and it's very similar. The vibe with David and the way he works with his friends is the exact same vibe as it was with John and Dean Cundey and Tommy Wallace. So, to me the parallels of those two movies are wild because at the helm were these two Southern boys who are film geeks and love it, and so everybody who wants to work with them loves it, too.
For Halloween, nobody got paid. It wasn't a payday movie and believe me I've done them. Just look at Virus. No, don't—dreadful. But I mean I've done them before. We all have. Because once in a while a payday is not a bad thing. This [2018's Halloween] was not that job. This was a group of people coming together, not dissimilarly to the way we made the original Halloween, to create something powerful, simple, classic, and elegant. And it wouldn't have occurred had Malek not carried that same belief as Moustapha, where you said, "Let's go and play in the playground."
Malek Akkad: Well, that's nice of you to say. I think you guys captured lightning in a bottle in that film—you, Debra, John, Cundey, and my father. And this one was really more about the stars needing to align, because it had been nine years since the last one. That's where Jason [Blum] and his uncanny ability to mine the stars comes in, and there’s our fearless leader David and the incomparable Danny. And, of course, John Carpenter. On and on and on. All the talent on this film, it really was this celestial alignment that doesn't often happen.
Jamie, was there stuff with your character that you had thought you maybe had missed out on doing, but were able to explore here?
Jamie Lee Curtis: No. I thought Laurie Strode in the original movie was as great a part as a young actor could ever want to have. And I had been doing a TV show [Operation Petticoat] prior to that, where I was fighting for two lines a week. I was one of five army nurses on a Navy sub. It was deadly. And here was an entire character fleshed out with fantasies and dreams and repressions and vulnerability and it was gorgeous, the original movie. But Laurie Strode had something happen to her that no one in our lives should ever have happen, and she just reacted in her own intelligent way to save her life. Period. End of story. The movie ends.
This new movie picks up 40 years later and what happened is that 40 years later there was no trauma therapy. No one went in and gave her mental health services. She was raised by Midwestern, simple people who said, "Baby, you're okay," and she went back to school two days later with a little scar on her arm. And that's it. So, you’ll see that kind of PTSD, that kind of trauma, and how it just compounds over time.
What we're seeing in the world today is that all of these women who've been traumatized, victimized, beaten, battered, and raped have all found the voice to be able to say, 'No more.' And it's interesting that this movie coincides beautifully with that wellspring of empowerment and understanding. Laurie Strode was a 17-year-old high school student whom nobody paid any attention to, and now she is demanding a moment. That's who we meet 40 years later. It's powerful.
David, what’s been the scoring process with John, and how do you strike the balance between using the original theme versus new music in this film?
David Gordon Green: The original theme by John is certainly the foundation of this movie. He's been composing the music with his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies, so the three of them are working together. And it's fun to be able to figure out, 'When do you want the iconic music, and when do you want the music to be fresh and inventive?' So, that's the balance we're exploring right now.
How important was it for you to go back and remove all kinds of context and motivation for Michael, in terms of your characters being related?
Jamie Lee Curtis: So, the beautiful construction here is, 'How do you tell a story that has nine other stories attached to it?' Because you see those nine stories were written by nine different people. And each one of them individually has their own merit, their own value, and no one is saying they don't exist. What we're saying is this movie is only directly related to Halloween in 1978 and what happened to Laurie Strode on Halloween night in 1978. So, the idea here is that there is nothing more terrifying in the world than a random act of violence. That is the route to terrorism. Not that you see it coming. That something occurs in a horrible way without you ever thinking it could happen to you. That's what made this movie so profoundly terrifying, was it was random.
Now, the story got twisted and there are people that love that idea. Kevin Smith loves that idea of Michael being her brother, but, to me, what is really terrifying is not knowing why this happened. And that's what David so beautifully has woven back. You’re left with this woman with nothing, but she's become the boy who cried wolf. She is that perseverating woman who has spent every day of her adulthood since she was 17 preparing for when he comes back. And in the process, she had two marriages dissolve, had a child. But then the child was taken from her because how can you raise a child when you live like that?
And the irony is, of course, you can imagine Karen's [Laurie Strode’s daughter] first day in first grade. Laurie Strode walks in, looks at the teacher, and says, "What's your exit strategy?" And she says, "I'm sorry, what?" "What's your exit strategy?" Now, today, sadly, every first grader knows what shelter in a place means, or knows what an active shooter alert means. Our children today are prepared for that horrible reality. But decades ago? So, you can imagine why the state stepped in and took Karen from Laurie to be raised by her dad. Because Laurie couldn't raise her. And you see that's the woman she became. It's fascinating when you have somebody unchecked like that who's had no help, and that's really who you find in the movie.
On a personal level, how does it feel to return to this character that has meant so much to the horror genre for so many years, and know the kind of support the community already has for this Halloween?
Jamie Lee Curtis: It honestly means more to me than it means to anybody who loves this genre, and I don’t mean that in a dismissive way, either. Because this role is my life. This [being Laurie] is the greatest job I will ever have in my life. And I know it. I knew it then. I tried to pretend it wasn't, but it truly is the best thing I could have ever hoped for. And now I understand that this role, and being a part of horror, is my absolute legacy, and I am thrilled that here I am kissing 60 at Comic-Con, getting to talk about Halloween. Seriously.