For Malek Akkad, the Halloween films have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, and for the last 12 years, he’s been carrying the mantle of the landmark horror franchise after the horrific and tragic loss of his father (and sister) in a 2005 bombing. With this newest installment, David Gordon Green has taken the series back to the beginning with a sequel that picks up after the events of John Carpenter’s original Halloween, which Malek's father, Moustapha, had been the driving force behind from the very start. In Malek’s eyes, Halloween (2018) is not only a way to honor the roots of this series and these iconic characters, but also a way to keep the mythos of Michael Myers going strong into the future.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Akkad about Halloween (2018), and he discussed how it was more than just the obvious timing that helped resurrect the Halloween franchise for this newest film. Akkad also chatted about bringing in an “outsider” to take the directorial reins for the new Halloween, the thrill of watching Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Nick Castle reunite on the sequel, keeping the legacy of his father’s passion for the Halloween movies going strong, and much more.
Halloween (2018) slashes its way into theaters everywhere beginning this Thursday night, courtesy of Universal Pictures.
I'm curious for you, because this is a franchise where it has been a while since we've had a sequel, and obviously, it's been a while since we had sequel that's really embraced what these movies were about originally. Can you discuss why—other than the fact that obviously having this 40 years milestone makes it a really good call, in terms of the marketing—it felt right at this point now to go back to Halloween, to go back to Michael Myers, and to go back to Laurie Strode?
Malek Akkad: Well, it's funny, because for me, this ride's been about a nine-year-long odyssey since we did the last one. There have been several stops and starts, and this was at a previous distribution company, and for whatever reason, it would just come down to some kind of silliness. I can tell you, they wanted the last one to be shot in Serbia, for example, and I refused to go to Serbia. This is the most Americana horror franchise, set in the Midwest, and I don't know if they know what Halloween is in Serbia. So, little things like that just kept impeding our progress, and next thing you know, seven years have gone by.
Now, when that situation went away, we were able to look at the landscape and say, "Okay. Who can we partner with? Who can we make this really big with?" Of course, Blumhouse having their finger on the zeitgeist of horror today more than anybody made a lot of sense. We did want to blow it up big and get that sort of momentum behind it. And one of the really important things for me, on this one, was to get a filmmaker auteur not necessarily known for horror. Those directors are fantastic in their own right, but I just really felt like this is a time to just get a really good director, not necessarily known for horror, and Jason was extremely instrumental in that.
And we were able to get David Gordon Green, who I was a big fan of his work. So, all these things, it's in a weird way, where you say, "What was the feeling that now was the right time?" It was more like fate had this in for us. By the time we got a great director like David Gordon Green, then we all started looking around at each other saying, "Well, it's coming up to the 40th. Let's talk to Jamie. Let's talk to John." So, it was really a situation where the stars aligned for us on this one, in a very fortunate way.
You mentioned looking outside the genre for filmmakers, and I'm sure you guys probably looked at multiple possibilities, in terms of who could come in and do this film. What was it, specifically, about David Gordon Green in your eyes? What is it that he brought to the table, along with Danny and Jeff?
Malek Akkad: I've been a fan of David's work. When you look at Rob [Zombie]'s films, they have their audience, and they're good in their own right, but what I really felt missing in many of the last few sequels, was just that human connection of the relationships of the characters, and from there, that's where the terror comes from. That's where the fear comes from. If you don't have those relationships, you don't have those performances, then you're just shocking the audience rather than really terrifying them.
So, being such a huge fan of David's work, with Snow Angels being one of my favorite films of his, I recognized that he really handles interpersonal relationships in such a wonderful way for these characters. So I think what's elevating this film above some of the past ones is definitely the performances and the relationships, and this Michael is where he belongs, as this behind-the-scenes, ever-present, omnipresent, lurking evil. But really the crux of it is this family, and how they're dealing with this trauma over 40 years.
In terms of bringing Nick Castle back, I think it's such a wonderful thing to do, but it's not something you guys necessarily had to do because of the nature of the character of Michael Myers, as he’s someone who spends most of his time in a mask. And of course I mean that with no offense to Nick, too. So, was Nick’s involvement another way to honor the traditions of that first Halloween in this film?
Malek Akkad: Yeah, we were having fun, working things out, and of course, the conversation comes up as it always does, "Well, who are we gonna get to play Michael?" And 40 years to the day, it's the exact same age that Nick would have aged since then. So it was just more about doing something cool for the fans, a throwback to the original, so when they see that name, Nick Castle, it’s this really cool thing. There are some other throwbacks in a lot of different Easter eggs and homages in this Halloween, too. David and his team really had a strong respect for those guys and what they did in the original Halloween. And they appreciated it when Nick, John, and Jamie were all on set, it was just so amazing.
John's always been pretty vocal about his thoughts on where the Halloween franchise has gone, and his feelings on Rob Zombie's Halloween movies as well. For me, personally, it makes me feel so happy to see how excited he is about this one, about how tuned in he is, and just how proud he is to be a part of this world again. I know you could have technically made this movie without his input and his support, but how much did it mean to you guys to be able to have him come in and be a part of this behind the scenes as well?
Malek Akkad: It meant the world to us. It was something I'd been trying to push for, I can't even tell you on how many previous sequels. And for whatever reason, it was a situation that was beyond my control. I couldn't bring John back, in a suitable way, for all parties. So, when we got out of that situation, he was the first person I called. And of course, John is the ultimate maverick, and he's gonna speak his mind, as he should, but to have him involved in this one, it was just an absolute joy. I think that to every single person on this, from the actors to the crew members, John’s support just somehow legitimized it in their eyes, and pushed them to try and achieve greater things in their performances and their work. He inspires people. What he did in his films, he's the ultimate auteur, and I think everyone in Hollywood just respects him immensely, as they should.
I know we're getting close on time, but before we go, I wanted to talk to you about this legacy of Halloween, what it has meant to Trancas over the years, and being able to keep that mantle going for your family. Both times I watched Halloween (2018), when I saw the dedication to Moustapha, it brought tears to my eyes. Can you talk about being the person now who is that representative on this side of these films, and keeping that legacy going for your dad, who was so passionate about the Halloween series?
Malek Akkad: Well, it's an interesting position to be in, because this film has just loomed large in my life, whether I've wanted it to or not, and it's been incredible. I've got to work and meet with such wonderful people. But I think it all comes down to that first film, where they really caught lightning in a bottle. And my father's biggest contribution, I would say, is taking the risk. You had John and Debra [Hill] writing the script, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ amazing performance that holds up today, and this great release strategy that really worked in the film’s favor. But it was really the risk, where my father believed in this, so that's where it all started.
Then, the next big milestone of this franchise was Halloween 4, and because Michael was blown up at the end of Halloween II (1981), everyone said, "Well, that's it. You can't do another one." My dad again, very boldly, took that risk upon himself, independently financed, independently distributed, and got Halloween 4 going. It was a huge success, and that's the moment where it became a franchise, and where he became the godfather of the franchise, because he just kept believing in it and bringing it back. Certainly, there are, how to politely put it, some much better installments than others, but nonetheless, he just kept it going. And the only reason that we're here 40 years later, talking about it, doing it, and it's as big as it is, is because he nurtured it for that long.
So, for me, it's of course an amazing thing to be able to continue, and I do, in some ways, stand in for him now. But I could never fill those shoes, ever. Hopefully, he's living it vicariously through me somehow. And I can tell you that no one in the world would be happier right now, to see Michael Myers as big and mainstream as Universal's taking it now, than my dad. It definitely feels like the whole new beginning and start, and would be something he would really, really love. While we were on set, John, Jamie, and Nick, and everybody that was there [that were also] involved in the first one, it was like we could feel him there, and it was lovely, and it's a nice continuation of a lot of his hard work and his unwavering belief in this franchise.
Stay tuned to Daily Dead in the coming days for more interviews with the cast and crew of the new Halloween, and in case you missed it, check here to catch up on all of our previous Halloween (2018) coverage!