The new Halloween has proven at least one thing by adding to the long-running horror franchise: Michael Myers has still got it. The masked serial killer is just as scary now as he was upon his debut in 1978 as The Shape. But what about the people behind the masks? Well, thanks to a new series of interviews, slasher fans can discover just how dangerous it is playing the famed (and seemingly indestructible) murderer. Almost as dangerous as babysitting in his vicinity.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, seven actors who’ve put on the mask explained their various brushes with death and how truly terrifying their visage was to their unprepared co-stars. Sometimes, these co-stars were children, like the 7-year-old actress Emmalee Thompson from 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She was the little girl opposite Chris Durand’s turn as the murderer when the latter appeared at a rest stop.
“We shot the exterior of the rest-stop sequence on the first day of shooting,” Durand said. The mother and daughter had to use the men’s room and Myers “was supposed to crack the men’s-room door open and peek over the doorframe. But they neglected to tell the little girl that I was in there, and that she wasn’t supposed to pull the door open.” So when Thompson flung the door open, Durand “watched the blood drain from her face.” It took a full (maskless) hour to calm her down.
A scene from Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake had a familiar story. Though they’d rehearsed together, Jenny Gregg Stewart hadn’t yet seen Tyler Mane with his Myers mask on. “I only put the mask on at the very last minute,” Mane (who also played Myers in 2009’s Halloween II) said. Sometimes only the full visual gets the result. “When [Mane] came smashing through the door, her scream was completely genuine,” Zombie said. “She told me it was; she was freaked out.”
Even series regular and seasoned vet Donald Pleasence got the heebie-jeebies from the character’s presence. Don Shanks, the Myers from Halloween 5, recalled that one day after he’d finished shooting, Pleasence asked a favor. The actor knocked on Shanks’ trailer and said, “I have this scene where I know that you’re out there, and it would help me if I knew that you really were physically out there — even though I don’t see you.” You can just feel it.
But Myers’ malevolent presence isn’t as dangerous as actually playing the character — and Shanks and Dick Warlock (from 1981’s Halloween II) had their own troubles. The former had to be blown out of a mine shaft into a frigid river — and that wasn’t even the most dangerous part. “The mask was stuck to my face, and I couldn’t get the water out,” Shanks told Vanity Fair. “I also had to grab a safety net on the other side of the river and pull myself out. If I missed the net and went around the river’s bend, I’d hit a water processing plant. Then I’d get killed.”
Yikes. Is that as bad as being actually set on fire? Maybe, according to Warlock, who explained that in his scene spent ablaze, had the metal zippers of his suit searing into his flesh. A few gunshot wounds and these guys are basically as Rasputin-esque as Myers himself.
Halloween continues the grand tradition of Michael Myers on Oct. 19.