While he may not have initially seemed like the obvious choice to helm the latest sequel in the Halloween franchise, David Gordon Green is poised to prove his mettle in the macabre with the newest chapter in the story of Laurie Strode that focuses on what happened after she survived a brutal attack by a masked killer one fateful All Hallows’ Eve some forty years prior. For Halloween (2018), Green, along with co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, chose to pick up the series after John Carpenter’s original film, exploring the trauma that Laurie was forced to live with for four decades, and how that shaped her life, as well as the lives of her family, over time.
During the recent press day for Halloween (2018), Green discussed how he wanted to take the iconic franchise back to basics, and strip away the mythology of the sequels in an effort to get back to what scared fans about Carpenter’s original exercise in terror back in the first place in 1978. He also chatted about the surreal experiences of collaborating with the likes of Carpenter, Curtis, and Nick Castle, how it felt to have John providing this newest Halloween with a brand new score, and so much more.
Look for Halloween (2018) in theaters this week everywhere, with early showings beginning on Thursday night.
Well, clearly from watching this film, this is something that meant a lot to you because there are a lot of moments in this film that really tip their hats to the first movie, the second movie, and some other little intricacies of the franchise that us fans really love. I'm curious for you, what was it about Halloween where you're like, "I need to be the guy that does this movie?"
David Gordon Green: Selfishness, really. I didn't want to see someone else's version. I've just been a huge fan of these movies, all of them actually. But particularly, the original film, which got under my skin in a way that no other horror film has. Well, maybe Silence of the Lambs, too. Those two movies really affected me, and I saw them in my youth at a time in my life where those were really exciting and terrifying films. And as the franchise progressed, it got more and more complicated and my concept, and Danny's, when we started talking about it, is whether or not we could go back and say something didn't happen.
We wanted to simplify it again, so we thought we should go back to the least complicated version. I wanted to do that rather than have to incorporate all the mythology the series absorbed over the years, and I was worried that someone else would not. Also, for me, I could make this very self-indulgent in terms of the nostalgia I have for the original Halloween and also use it as a device to get to meet John Carpenter, too [laughs].
Could you have conceived of this story if Jamie Lee hadn't wanted to come back?
David Gordon Green: Well, we had written it already, hoping she would do it, but we were also slightly prepared for her to say "no." But if she says "yes," it's like The Force Awakens. It's our way of honoring the first film, bringing many of those players in, and the aesthetic, and showing our appreciation of everything that the first Halloween had to offer. And if she says "no," we have to go the Batman Begins route, and create our own take on the mythology. I just wanted to hang out with her, really [laughs]. But really, she's Laurie Strode and when you think about someone else stepping into that character, there's no one like her. It's an iconic character and performance from Jamie Lee, and I just had a hard time swallowing the idea of doing this without her. So, I just put on my sweet talking salesman voice and gave it the hard sell, and she said "yes."
How early on did you guys hit on the idea of this being about PTSD and Laurie being so damaged by these events, which you don't see explored a lot in the genre?
David Gordon Green: Originally, we thought, let's just try to get Jamie Lee for a couple of days and see if she'll just do a cameo in the movie, so our initial thought was to take the trauma having been inherited by Laurie’s daughter. We wondered, should you start with Karen, who's inherited this sense of trauma and identity crisis and a mother that raised her in this kind of captive, strange, overprotective landscape, and make that the centerpiece? Before we presented her with the script, we did a quick sleight of hand and moved all the meat to Laurie, and we just said, “Let's just put it all on the table and see if we can make it happen.” But we were prepared to have to pull it back and play with other characters and other dimensions and take the foreground with those other characters. I'm just glad we didn't have to do it, and it seems silly to even think about it now.
Jason [Blum] famously makes movies for far less than his Hollywood counterparts. Is that an arena you're very comfortable in, coming from the indie world?
David Gordon Green: Yeah, and it's interesting because then you see something like IT or A Quiet Place, that are properly budgeted movies, you see what you can do with a big budget, so there are examples on both sides of it. But Jason, what he does for me that's very helpful, is that he creates a creative environment, and he gives you creative control, you just don't have a lot of money to blow a lot of stuff up. But whatever, you get resourceful, and along the way, we'd lift a scene that we thought we could scrap, and that allowed us to spend more time on the climax, for example. This was a 25-day shoot, so you have to make a lot of compromise to get there, to get it done on time and on budget. But if you do it on budget, then nobody breathes down your neck, they let you do whatever you want, so it's worth it.
Did John come and bless the set when you started?
David Gordon Green: He did. He came to hang out, which was super surreal. My parents were also visiting that day and my dad and him were just talking about comic books while I'm shooting the babysitter scene. So it was a fun scene for him to show up on set on. It was also really surreal seeing the moment of Jamie Lee and Nick Castle and John bonding again, too, then seeing my crew of all my film school cohorts that I've been working with for 20 years as part of all this. I don't even have that much recollection of it. Someone was showing me photographs of that day recently. It was pretty overwhelming and emotional, nostalgic, and sentimental in a lot of ways.
As a fan, what was your first thought upon hearing Carpenter's new music for your film?
David Gordon Green: I was so fu--ing excited to hear it. That original theme is genetically encoded, because whenever you hear the theme to Halloween, you feel amazing, right? It’s very simple and means everything, and that's all you need. But then to hear the new stuff, I was like, "Where's he going to go? What's he going to do with this?" John kept me out of the process. He said, "I want to have a whole score for you, it's not going to be piece by piece. But then to hear all of it, and it feels very Carpenter, where I can sense a little Escape from New York in pieces and things like that, it was pretty exciting.
How does it feel to be part of revitalizing the Halloween franchise?
David Gordon Green: One of the things that I'm most proud of in my career is that I genre hop. I can't sit still. I gotta do a comedy here, a fantasy movie there, a drama there. I just have to mix it up all the time. But what I'm excited about with this movie is that let me exercise all of it. There's some funny shit in this movie that made me laugh a lot. But then, I was also able to get those extra dramatic moments and tap into an emotional honesty, too, and things like that. Plus, there's action in it. So, I felt that with this film, more so than any other movie I’ve done, that I could jam all the genres that I love into one movie and call it a horror movie.
So that's really rewarding, particularly if an audience likes it, because I don't have a huge relationship with an audience responding well to my films [laughs]. Critics have been kind and I've managed to have an awesome, exciting career and travel the world, but out of 13 movies, only one of them has been commercially successful, so that’s not a great track record [laughs]. It would be awesome to be able to think that I can infuse so much of what I've learned through the various movies, TV shows, and commercials I have done into one thing, and have an audience respond to it, because then it opens the doors to the sky being the limit to what we want to continue with this franchise. A lot of this movie for me is about trust. Getting an audience to trust me and getting a franchise to trust me, and what needs to happen next if it all actually works.
Stay tuned to Daily Dead in the coming days for more interviews for the new Halloween, and in case you missed it, check here to catch up on all of our previous Halloween (2018) coverage!