In the late ‘60s, two young filmmakers, John Carpenter and Nick Castle, met at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. Their friendship would go on to breed creative collaborations that have stood the proverbial cinematic test of time.
Together Carpenter and Castle have worked together on such seminal films as Big Trouble in Little China (as theme song bandmates), Escape from New York (as director and screenwriter, respectively), and Halloween (1978), for which Carpenter directed Castle’s performance as the now iconic The Shape (aka Michael Myers).
Now, 40 years after Halloween premiered in theaters, there’s an eponymous sequel due in October that continues Carpenter’s original narrative. It also features a cameo by Castle in the Michael Myers mask once more. And on Sept. 25, the original Halloween arrives on home video remastered for 4K.
Unexpectedly, 2018 has become a reflective moment for Castle, who has effectively retired, yet finds himself back in the spotlight once more because of his Halloween legacy. Castle is happy to attend conventions where he can interact with fans of his Carpenter projects, as well as his own classic films such as The Last Starfighter (1984) and The Boy Who Could Fly (1986). Castle says it was his con booking agent that actually landed his upcoming return cameo appearance as Myers.
“Sean Clark got a call from either the production company or the casting people asking about all the people he's represented who have played The Shape,” Castle told SYFY WIRE.
As it turns out, they were looking to book an age-appropriate actor for the new movie and Castle says Clark made the case for using him again. “He said to them, 'Why aren't you using Nick? Because this is the same guy, just 40 years later.' And they went, 'Huh? Would he do it?' That's what got the ball rolling. I eventually talked to [director] David [Gordon Green]. David talked to John. I talked to John and he said [to me], 'Yeah, he wanted to make sure you weren't totally decrepit,'" Castle said with a laugh.
As we talked with Castle about his Halloween experiences, we especially wanted to know how Castle’s life-long friendship with Carpenter influenced his own career as a director, writer, and even as a musician. He happily revealed some key lessons he's learned along the way.
ALWAYS HELP OUT A FELLOW FILMMAKER
“We had the experience of working on several student films together as part of the crew. One of our senior projects [The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970)] won an Academy Award. I was a cameraman. He was my assistant cameraman. He was the editor. We both sang the song. And we stayed close friends. I worked on his first feature, Dark Star, starting in film school and then even worked when he expanded it into a feature with Dan O'Bannon. We were really close. So, walking onto this set wasn't very complicated in terms of us maintaining that relationship in that it was simple and seamless.
"The reason I was even on the [Halloween] set at all was that there was a convenience factor because some of the scenes were being shot close to my house. I went and visited John as they were prepping the streets they were gonna shoot in Hollywood. I asked if I could hang out to really demystify the directing experience on a feature. He said, 'Yeah sure. Put on the mask. Why don't you just be the killer, then? Hang out, you'll be here, and we then can call you whenever we need you and that would be really helpful.'"
DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
"[Halloween] ran very smoothly, is how I remember it. It was on budget, on time, but as far as individual moments, everything kind of blurs after 40 years. It was very casual. Some of my fondest memories were just hanging out with some of the cast like Jamie [Lee Curtis]. And I'm sure there were times when I was carrying cable, or something like that, helping the crew. I wasn't a professional crew [member] but we were all young and really out of film school only a few years before. It’s the nature of those kinds of movies when you're on a low budget, and you're strapped for what you would normally need in terms of all-hands-on-deck."
THE DIRECTOR SETS THE TONE
"One of the things that I got from John and [writer/producer] Debra Hill is their respect for the crew, and how that turns into a very happy and productive set. It makes the time of doing the movie — which for filmmakers is a big chunk of your life — a pleasant experience and rewarding. That I took to heart and, hopefully, tried to live up to that bar going into my movies so that not only the crew but also the cast and everyone associated with the movie would enjoy the experience."
LET THE WORDS ON THE PAGE DIRECT PERFORMANCES
"From my experience on the set with John, I remember him doing very little of what you'd call 'acting directing,' where you'd take someone off to the side and have a discussion. There may have been, as I'm not remembering it from other people's point-of-view. But, especially when you're a writer of a project, you have a very good sense of what you want, and you feel like the direction is there on the page.
"I suppose that the only problem would be is if you see an actor misinterpreting something. Something like that, for instance, happened on Escape from New York. I co-wrote it with John and stayed on the set for everything except for the St. Louis shoot. That was interesting to see, where someone was misinterpreting a thing, and then he just corrected it. It was just simple. I didn't consider that as I didn’t have much experience directing actors."
SEE HOW THE END PRODUCT LANDS WITH AN AUDIENCE
"I went to a theater to see [Halloween] with an audience. What I was shocked at was that people were scared in the movie theater and yelping! When you do a movie like that and are one step away from it like I was, you don’t know how the audience is gonna react. I was certainly impressed with what I was hearing in the audience, so that was neat. I know when I'm going to jump out of the shadows every scene, but they don't. I remember also, when I saw it, thinking that John did a great job with the music and of course, that's an understatement now."
Halloween (1978) is available Sept. 25 on 4K. Halloween (2018) is due out in theaters Oct. 19.