John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) started out as a low-budget horror flick about a silent shape quietly following a young babysitter around a suburban neighborhood on Halloween (while stabbing a bunch of people), then became an unexpectedly massive hit. Before long, it had morphed into a bulky franchise so conflicted with its own story that it kept rewriting it and dismissing entire films within the series altogether. Like its white-masked serial killer, the Halloween franchise itself cannot be killed, and well-meaning filmmakers attempt to resurrect it every so often (to mixed results).
In the original 1978 slasher masterwork, Michael Myers (Nick Castle) has been locked up since the age of 6 for killing his sister with a large kitchen knife. He escapes his psychiatric facility 15 years later to wreak inexplicable havoc as he returns to his childhood home. Eleven films later and counting (Halloween Ends is scheduled for release in 2022), things have gotten ... more complicated. Here are 20 surprising facts about the Halloween franchise.
1. Freddy Krueger worked on John Carpenter's original Halloween.
Carpenter filmed the Midwest-set autumnal Halloween during a California summer, so they used fake fall leaves to help achieve the right atmosphere. One of the assistants who was tasked with scattering those leaves around the set was Robert Englund, who would go on to don Freddy Krueger's iconic striped sweater for A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). "It's so funny," Englund told Access Online. "I actually had a roommate back when they did the original Halloween, the John Carpenter one. And he conned me into going to Pasadena one day with garbage bags full of dead leaves."
2. The face of Michael Myers got paid $250.
In the first film, Nick Castle portrays the masked shape slowly carving his way through Haddonfield, but Tony Moran played Michael Myers at the moment his mask comes off to reveal the all-too-human face beneath. Moran was paid the handsome sum of $250 to be a serial killer for the day.
3. Stuntman Dick Warlock was cast as Michael Myers in Halloween II by being creepy.
When Halloween II (1981) was gearing up to recast Myers, stuntman Dick Warlock scored a meeting with Hill and director Rick Rosenthal. He saw the Myers mask outside Rosenthal's office, and inspiration struck. Donning it, he went into Rosenthal's office and stood silently, refusing to speak as Rosenthal continued asking who he was and what he was doing. The freak-out worked; by dressing for the job he wanted, Warlock ended up playing "The Shape" in Halloween II.
4. Michael Myers became Laurie Strode's brother because of writer's block—and beer.
Since there was never meant to be another movie about Laurie and Michael, Carpenter and Hill had no backstory to pull from for Halloween II. "I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again," Carpenter told Deadline. "But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six-pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do anymore."
5. Jimmy the paramedic survives in the TV edit of Halloween II.
Jimmy (Lance Guest), the plucky paramedic who has a crush on Laurie following the traumatic events of the first film, seems to solely exist in Halloween II (1981) to flirt and pass out a lot from a head injury. His other main purpose was to collapse on a car horn to signal to Michael where Laurie was hiding. His last act on screen is to pass out, leaving us to wonder if playing dead is the best way to survive or a good way to die from an ironic lack of medical care.
The tamer TV edit gives Jimmy a happier ending; he appears in the same ambulance as Laurie, grabs her hand, and says, "We made it." The franchise's general Choose Your Own Adventure vibe means fans get to decide for themselves what really happened to him. Did he and Laurie fall in love, get married, have a daughter named Jamie, and die in a car crash together? Did he die that Halloween night after helping (and not helping) Laurie escape? It's up to you!
6. Jamie Lee Curtis had a secret cameo in Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
Hill and Carpenter envisioned the original Halloween as the first installment in a holiday-themed series of horror tales, but the popularity of Michael Myers hijacked that idea. After reluctantly agreeing to make Halloween II a sequel starring Myers yet again, the writers sought to course-correct by leaving Myers out of Halloween III entirely and focusing on a completely different plot about magical Halloween costumes. Even though there's no Myers, nor any mention of Laurie Strode, they still found a way for Jamie Lee Curtis to make a sneaky cameo: She voiced a telephone operator as well as the person who announces the town curfew.
7. "London Bridge is Falling Down" is used in Halloween III's Silver Shamrock commercial because it was free.
The original film is famous for turning a William Shatner mask into one of the most iconic totems of horror film history, and the third film is famous for contorting a children's rhyme into the hypnotic earworm commercial jingle for Silver Shamrock. After taking in loads of cash from two films, the third was still not given a healthy production budget, so Hill suggested using "London Bridge is Falling Down" as the basis for the tune because it was in the Public Domain. Fortunately, there's a 10-hour version online for everyone to unironically enjoy.
8. Someone called the cops thinking Danielle Harris was really in danger while filming Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
After a fan revolt demanding Michael Myers return for a fourth installment of Halloween, the story shifted from following Laurie Strode to focusing on her adolescent daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). While shooting a scene where Jamie screams while running down the street, neighbors called the cops because they thought Harris was genuinely in danger.
“I was banging on doors, yelling for someone to help me, help me, after I got lost trick or treating or something," Harris explained in the 25 Years of Terror documentary. "So, 4 o’clock in the morning, they’re hearing a little [kid] screaming ... and someone called the cops."
9. Ellie Cornell, who starred in Halloween 4, got more money to die in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.
Jamie's foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell), like Laurie Strode, is a badass who survives Michael's assault in Halloween 4. But Halloween 5 director Dominique Othenin-Girard wanted a Hitchcock-like shock at the beginning of his entry, so Rachel was offed early in the film. The original concept was to have her shower (like in Psycho) then have a pair of scissors shoved down her throat. Cornell, however, rebelled. As she explained on a Halloween 4 commentary track, Cornell was irritated that the formerly tough Rachel, who was Halloween 4's Final Girl, was going to be killed so easily, and so gruesomely, in the sequel. So she negotiated more pay to make her role smaller, and worked out a more dignified death that was played more for sympathy than pure shock.
10. Dominique Othenin-Girard got the Halloween 5 job after throwing the script in the trash.
Hill met the Swiss-French filmmaker at Sundance and was impressed enough by his work to get him a meeting with Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad. Instead of donning a Michael Myers mask and creeping everyone out, he insulted them instead. He told Halloween Movies, "After I made an analysis of the market of horror film and their sequels and an analysis of the script I received from him; I asked him if he intended to continue with following installments of the Halloween films. He laughed and asked who I was to ask such a question. I then said, so if you do, may I do what I think will allow you to continue with the privileged niche that you have on the market? He nodded. I took the script they gave me and threw it in the trash can in front of them." Akkad hired him, and they then figuratively tossed out the script they'd had.
11. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was Paul Rudd's first starring role.
Halloween producers wanted Brian Andrews, who had played Tommy Doyle in the original Halloween, to reprise his role from the original movie in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995). but Andrews didn't have an agent, so they were unable to locate him to offer him the part. Instead, the role went to then-newcomer Paul Rudd, who filmed the movie in October 1994—just one month before shooting Clueless. Yes, flirting with Alicia Silverstone made Rudd a star, but running from Michael Myers gave him the chance to be in a movie whose title is an inside joke about how bad the production was.
12. Danielle Harris got legally emancipated for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers—and then wasn't in it.
Harris was game to come back to play a teenage Jamie Lloyd, but the production didn't want to be hampered with a 17-year-old actress who had to abide by work laws that limited her available time on set. To work around it, Lloyd paid out of her own pocket to emancipate herself from her parents only to have the production lowball her with an offer of $1000—an amount that didn't even cover the legal costs of the emancipation. She turned the offer down, and the part went to J.C. Brandy.
13. Janet Leigh came out of a nearly 20-year retirement to make Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.
Psycho inspired a lot of Hill and Carpenter's vision for the first Halloween, and casting Psycho star Janet Leigh's daughter in the starring role was only the largest of the homages. Two decades later, with the franchise lost in the wilderness, producers brought back Laurie Strode from the dead to breathe some life into the hulking corpse of a franchise with a storyline that pretended most of the other movies never happened. Curtis returned, and she brought her mom along with her.
The MGM icon made just three films in the 1970s, and effectively retired after acting (again, alongside her daughter) in John Carpenter's The Fog (1980). But Leigh agreed to come out of retirement in order to appear in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). Leigh played Norma Watson, Strode's secretary at Hillcrest Academy, where Strode was now living as "Keri Tate" in order to escape her old life. Leigh's character also drives the car from Psycho, complete with the NFB418 license plates on it, and her name is a reference to Norma Bates (and to Halloween alum P.J. Soles's character in Carrie, who is also Norma Watson).
14. Katee Sackhoff provided Bianca Kajlich's screams in Halloween: Resurrection.
There's a rumor that producers learned that Halloween: Resurrection (2002) star Bianca Kajlich couldn't scream only after she'd secured the part of Sara Moyer. While that remains unverified, co-star Katee Sackhoff (who played Jen Danzig) has revealed that it's her scream we hear for at least some of Kajlich's performance. In addition to replacing Kajlich's voice with Sackhoff's, they replaced Sackhoff's body with a body double when she refused to flash her bra. The actress credits that exploitation as the reason she includes a clause in every contract ensuring a production can't hire anyone to pretend to be any part of her.
15. One of The Monkees is in Rob Zombie's Halloween.
The reality TV-themed Resurrection was thought to have permanently buried the franchise, but five years later, in 2007, Rob Zombie brought his vision to theaters as a remake of the original. New Laurie, new Michael, new Dr. Loomis. And what screams "Halloween" more than a cameo from the guy who sang "Pleasant Valley Sunday"? The Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz appears in the raggedy horror remake as a gun dealer who doesn't question why Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is in such a hurry to buy a handgun.
16. Rob Zombie tried to fully kill the Halloween franchise.
Like others before him, Zombie attempted the franchise tradition of trying to kill the franchise. His original ending for Halloween II (2009) involved killing off all the main characters. Michael (Tyler Mane) kills Loomis, and the police kill Michael and Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), when they believe she's going to attack Loomis's body with a knife. Since it would have stuck a final nail in the coffin, another ending made the final cut, which ended up setting up the sequel that Zombie would go on to make—the 10th in the series.
17. David Gordon Green’s Halloween was released on Michael Myers's birthday.
After Zombie tinkered around with it, the Halloween franchise lay dormant for almost 10 years. Now it includes three entries that are simply titled Halloween: the John Carpenter original, the Rob Zombie version from 2007, and the version that premiered on October 19, 2018, directed by David Gordon Green and written by Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley. As confirmed in Halloween: Resurrection, The Shape's birthday is October 19, 1957, so hopefully the premiere of the eleventh film in the franchise came with a birthday cake and 61 candles to snuff out.
18. Jamie Lee Curtis cried during the entire filming of 2018's Halloween.
It's been a long journey for the actress, who owes her early career to the original, and has achieved monumental success since, so it's unsurprising that returning yet again to a franchise that has elevated and diminished Laurie Strode would be emotional. After an ignoble end to her character in Resurrection, Curtis came back as the wizened, definitely-not-dead version of Strode in 2018 to essentially erase those other sequels from the record. At first she thought she would be a supporting character who could shoot her scenes in a short amount of time with little fanfare, but when she got to the set, everything came flooding back. "I started crying the day I arrived," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. "I didn't stop crying until the day I left."
19. Halloween Kills almost got Paul Rudd back as Tommy Doyle.
Just to make things slightly more convoluted: The 2018 version of Halloween is a direct sequel to, and not a remake of, the original Halloween, which features a 40-years-older Laurie Strode. Halloween Kills (2021) is the COVID-delayed sequel to that sequel, which sees the return of several of the original film's characters, including Tommy Doyle. While Green and McBride wanted Rudd to join the film to reprise his role from The Curse of Michael Myers, the Ant-Man actor had a scheduling conflict with Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Instead, they hired Anthony Michael Hall to play Tommy. They also focused on bringing back a number of actors from the original film, including Nick Castle, who made a brief appearance as The Shape; Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace; Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett; and Nancy Stephens as Nurse Chambers.
20. No one is legally allowed to kill Michael Myers.
What's the source of Michael's invincibility? Turns out it's a stellar contract lawyer. Halloween H20 gives the series a perfect ending with Laurie lopping Michael's head off, but the scene was a major point of contention because Curtis only wanted to return to the franchise to end it, and Moustapha Akkad demanded it last forever. Even Dimension Films wanted Michael dead, but Akkad retained the legal right to keep the character alive.
"There was something in the contract that said, 'You can never kill Michael Myers,'" Curtis explained in Halloween: The Inside Story. "They never told me ... They go, 'So, if you think he’s dead, and the audience thinks he’s dead—but he’s not dead—is that good enough for you?' I went, 'Yeah, I guess.'" Screenwriter Kevin Williamson crafted the compromise scene, and in Resurrection, it's revealed that Michael crushed the windpipe of another guy, then swapped clothes (and his mask!).