Halloween’s Nick Castle on Michael Myers’ return and Haddonfield memories

We talk to Nick Castle about bringing Halloween back and what makes Michael Myers such an enduring nightmare

Last year’s Halloween saw the return of one of horror cinema’s most iconic boogeymen, as Michael Myers stalked and slashed his way through Haddonfield, Illinois for one final showdown with Laurie Strode. It was wonderful to see the great Jamie Lee Curtis back on screen as the great horror heroine, and it was such a thrill for fans that Nick Castle was asked to reprise his role as The Shape for the first time since John Carpenter’s 1978 original.

We talked to Castle about putting the mask back on, getting the gang back together and his memories of shooting that classic first movie.

It must have been great to see the amazing response to this new Halloween!

Oh yeah, I’m very happy, especially for my good old friend John and my new friend David Gordon Green. I thought David did a wonderful job and deserves all the credit in the world, as well as the writers, and I was pleased that it kind of hit the zeitgeist at the right time in the right place.

How did you get involved with the film?

Well, in the summer before they shot the movie, I got a call from my agent who books me in for conventions. He represents all the other people who were behind the mask in the other Halloween films, and I think the casting people were calling him to get some ideas and he said, “Well, why wouldn’t you use Nick Castle?”

I had a Skype call with [director] David Gordon Green where he asked what I was interested in doing in the picture, I basically said I wouldn’t be interested in being the character the whole time, that I didn’t have the time or stamina for that probably, I am after all 71 years old now! And thank goodness they also cast James Jude Courtney, a very good actor and stuntman and I think he did a wonderful job on the picture.

Did you have any time to discuss the role with James beforehand?

No, we didn’t, by the time I arrived on set they had already been shooting for a couple of weeks so Jim and David kind of had their own discussion about that. Later on, Jim told me that he had watched the original Halloween and had spotted where he thought he could channel what I did and make it his own. So, there was some thought about resurrecting not only the style that they eventually used for the movie but also what I think Jim took from my performance in order to have some continuity. He’s a more brutal Michael, maybe 40 years in a psychiatric institution didn’t help!

Nick Castle and an old friend.

It must have been nice to see that there was so much effort to treat the original with respect.

Oh yeah, and I think they knew going into it that the fanbase is so, so strong for this thing that tips of the hat to the franchise would be appreciated. One of the first things that David did when I was on the set was start showing me all the little Easter egg things that he had set up in the particular scene he was shooting. They were very clear about wanting to honour the franchise and they thought that would be a lot of fun. I thought that was a difficult thing to pull off, too.

My favourite part of that was that scene where The Shape throws Jamie off the building and she’s lying down there like the Shape did in the last one and then he looks back and she’s not there, I thought that was one of the coolest ones.

Were you familiar with David Gordon Green’s work beforehand?

Well, I didn’t know David before I heard that we were going to speak, so I looked at some of his films and I thought “Oh, that’s a good one, that one’s a good one…” He had a pretty eclectic resume but the things he was famous for were comedies. And of course, Danny [McBride, co-writer], I had just finished watching some of his TV stuff and I think the world of him, I think he’s the funniest guy in the world. I was as excited about meeting him as I was doing the picture!

But it all came down to the screenplay, if it wasn’t good it wouldn’t have worked. And so I thought they managed to figure out something that not only honoured the original one but took it to another spot and I was very happy to meet them and Jeff [Fradley] who was another one of the writers.

What was it like being back on set in costume and working with Jamie Lee Curtis again?

Well, it was a lot of fun. Every moment, every second of it was something to photograph and take note of. The first time I put on the overalls in the trailer and the first time I put the mask on in the make-up trailer and then putting it on during the scene that I shot…everything was pretty much fun. And it always seemed like the crew were all big fans of the original, which was very nice of them, and of some of my other work that I had directed. So that was quite an honour, quite a lot of fun.

I’d seen Jamie about three years before at one of these horror conventions where we were signing autographs and then actually went back on a plane with her. And I’d seen her from time to time, we got to spend some good time on the set on this one and she…I remember the first day I got there she saw me across the area where they’d parked all the trucks and yelled at me “Castle!” We just jogged over towards each other and gave each other a big hug and she said “Is this nuts or what?”

Is it true that you were just looking for on set experience when you starred in the original?

Right, John’s my buddy from film school and they were shooting near my house so I went down and talked to him about hanging out on the set and he said “Well, put the rubber mask on then and you’ll be here the whole time.” “That’s good, OK! I’ll do that!” And it was as casual a thing as it could be and here I am now, I’m an action figure, I’m looking at one of them now on my desk! 

Nick Castle as The Shape in the original 1978 Halloween.

How did Michael’s movement develop?

That was again just an off-handed approach. John didn’t give me much direction in terms of how to walk, in later years he said he liked the way I walked and whatever I did I guess wound up being what worked. He would say things like “Maybe get there faster, tilt your head, enter the scene now,” but if I had anything to do with it, it would have been deciding to have that plodding style and taking your time with the reactions, I thought that was a little creepier. But there wasn’t really a lot of forethought.

It’s kind of strange, once you put that mask on you just do turn into something else.

How did it feel to see the incredible success of that first film?

Yeah, well it’s fantastic. And it took a little while to get the wheels underneath the release of the movie but it really had legs and wound up being so popular within the first year of its release.

And then it just continued to gain interest and of course studios that owned it wanted to capitalise on that, made sequels and things like that, kept it alive. Then there’s this amazing fanbase which horror has, which is probably no small measure why this film has continued to live on. It’s amazing.

Why do you think Michael Myers has endured for all these years?

It’s the unrelenting need to kill. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. And you can’t underestimate just how fortunate the filmmakers were, good fortune and talent, to devise this mask. It really has an odd way of telling you they’re human but not a human. It’s like this blank slate, it’s like a death mask. It’s the combination of all those things make it very interesting. And like many, he is a killer of the innocent and that’s a scary thing.

Halloween is available on Digital Download, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD 25th February from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.