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A handful of actors have portrayed the iconic “Shape” known as Michael Myers over the years, kicking off with Nick Castle in John Carpenter’s original Halloween and continuing onwards with the likes of Dick Warlock, George P. Wilbur, Don Shanks and, most recently, Tyler Mane. In this year’s David Gordon Green-directed Halloween, a direct sequel to Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Myers is actually being played by *two* actors, which is not uncommon in the world of masked horror villains. And one of those actors, in a nice little tip of the hat to hardcore Halloween fans, is Nick Castle himself, who will reprise the role of Michael Myers for a few moments throughout the new movie.
The bulk of the work, however, is being done by actor/stuntman James Jude Courtney, who officially takes up the mantle as our new Michael Myers on October 19. The actor, who memorably portrayed the terrifying Der Kindestod in “Buffy” episode ‘Killed by Death’ back in the ’90s, has been tasked with bringing Myers back to the big screen in Gordon Green’s film, and his Myers isn’t quite like the others for several reasons. One of the biggest of those reasons, of course, is that Courtney’s Myers is no spring chicken.
This year’s Halloween takes place exactly 40 years after the events of the original film, which means that Myers is right around 60 years old in this particular timeline; and he’s spent those past 40 years locked up in an asylum. But the second you see Courtney in the mask and full get-up, as we were fortunate enough to on the South Carolina set of Halloween this past February, it’s clear that though Michael may be older, he’s damn sure no less terrifying than before. In fact, with Courtney underneath the iconic blank-faced mask, we may be in store for the most ruthless Michael Myers to date.
Courtney, an imposing, intense man with a martial arts and boxing background, explained to us that his technique for fake-killing the film’s actors was taught to him by, get this, a real-life Mafia hitman!
“I learned how to kill from a Mafia hitman who lived with me when he got out of prison,” Courtney told us, silencing the room with his revelation.
He continued, “I was writing his life story, so he went to see the movie I did… it was called The Hit List. It wasn’t a big movie or anything and when we walked out he was like ‘Jimmy, it was a really nice movie but that’s not how you kill people.’ And I’ve been complimented many times here on set on how efficiently I kill and all I did was take what he taught me.”
Courtney described embodying the character of Michael Myers as a sort of transformation of his own psyche, leaving himself behind and fully inhabiting a sadistic killer.
“I’m in a place, this is a place, it’s a place that exists, my job was to find that place; it’s a living, breathing place so when I go into that place everything is natural. I just do what the place or space dictates, which was created by Nick [Castle] and John [Carpenter] and Debra [Hill] and has lived and breathed all these years,” Courtney explained, inviting us into that head-space. “Michael Myers is carrying the space for the shadow that most human beings are afraid to look at. Most human beings are afraid to look at the fact that there’s a killer inside them, that there is someone capable of heinous acts. For me, for instance when we were in the mental institution and before [Michael] broke out, all I focused on was… ever since then it’s been building and festering so the energy was just expanding and expanding and I just held that space from again, what Nick created, and just let it grow and grow because he’s become more powerful. He’s defying death, he’s defying any type of restrictive condition. So to me, from my perspective, what Nick created has just gotten stronger and more powerful.”
He added, “It’s really important to note that Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin didn’t consider themselves evil. There’s a judgement where people are saying well, this is evil, but Michael Myers is just being who he is; he’s being true to who he is and that’s an awesome space to occupy, man. I can’t tell you how incredible it feels.“
Specifically touching upon Myers’ age, Courtney told us one thing that has stuck in my mind these past several months. “A fighter never loses his punch,” he said, recalling his experience on another film set that taught him a valuable lesson about age being little more than a number.
“I’ve got to tell you, even old fighters don’t lose their punches. I got in the ring with Joe Brown, who was Rocky Marciano’s sparring partner for seven of his eight title fights. I showed up on Far and Away, the Tom Cruise film, and I showed up late,” Courtney recalled. “The guys had already been in the ring with him and he said, ‘C’mon Jim, you can throw better than that.’ And I threw hard at him, man, and that old man kicked my ass like a mule and that’s when he sat me down and said, ‘A fighter never loses his punch.’ I think it’s the same with [Myers]. He’s not going to lose his strength, his virility, his power and his focus.”
Michael isn’t just battling age in 2018, however.
As many fans noticed when the first teaser poster was revealed, Courtney’s Michael Myers is completely blind in one eye, a result of an injury he sustained at the hands of Laurie Strode way back in 1978. In Carpenter’s film, Laurie stabs Michael in the left eye with a clothes hanger, and he’s still dealing with that injury to this day. But again, Courtney explains that, just like his age, a missing eye is little more than a minor annoyance for an older, angrier Michael Myers.
“There is a guy I know who was blinded in one eye and ended up being a pitcher for San Diego State, so if you can pitch a baseball at the college level with one eye, you can do just about anything with one eye,” Courtney assured. “It’s just adaptation.”
Courtney cut right to the chase towards the end of our chat, beautifully summing up the character of Michael Myers while tying him back into his Mafia inspirations…
“My Mafia friend, he could walk into a place and tell you everything about people, what they did for a living, because his life depended on him reaching out that way. I think Michael Myers is the epitome of someone who can reach out and feel everything around him. And then hiding behind that mask makes it all the more private and personal.”
“He’s a bad motherfucker man. He’s a bad dude.“