One of the scariest things about regular Halloween villain Michael Myers has always been the cold and emotionless way he hunts down his prey. It’s part of the “he’s pure evil!” thing that Dr. Loomis was always going on about, and in the movies it makes him appear like more of an unstoppable force of nature than a real man who just likes to kill babysitters. In honor of the latest movie in the series hitting theaters, The New York Times has tracked down some of the men who have worn the modified William Shatner mask over the years, and—considering that Michael never talks and barely moves when he’s not stalking or stabbing—they all have surprisingly varied takes on what makes the guy tick.
Nick Castle, who played Michael in John Carpenter’s original film (and who had a cameo in the new movie), basically just got the part because Carpenter liked the “grace” of his regular walk. When it came time to film the movie, he walked the way he would normally walk with Carpenter acting as a “puppeteer” who would tell him to go faster or slower or to tilt his head. “It’s his performance, in a way,” Castle notes. That’s wildly different from how Don Shanks approached it in Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, which was to think of Michael’s walk being like “wood through water,” in the sense that he’s “rigid, but able to flow.”
Then there was Chris Durand in Halloween H20, who somehow got to play Michael without ever seeing the previous Halloween movies. He had no idea what Castle or Shanks did, then, but he knew he had to “bring something extra” to the character or else he’d just be “some guy in a mask.” The extra thing he brought was to imagine Michael as a “big cat,” especially the way a tiger will “lock eyes on its prey” and single-mindedly tear them apart. To capture that, he would tilt his head down and growl a little as he attacked.
Tyler Mane, the Michael in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, essentially just used the fact that he’s a huge dude and that his eyes were more exposed than previous Michaels, both of which gave him a chance to be more “aggressive and intense.” Then there’s James Jude Courtney, the Michael in David Gordon Green’s new movie, who brought a “Zenlike approach” to the role. He purposefully absorbed everything he could about previous Michaels, but he didn’t really get it until rewatching a scene from the first movie where Michael walks through a backyard. “It was a vibrational thing,” Courtney explained, indicating that he had just sort of picked up on the vibe of Michael Myers.
In order to avoid losing that vibe, Courtney would just “stand off to the side, motionless” between takes, going so far as to avoid talking to anybody so he could stay as Michael Myers. At the end of filming, he would “exhale it” so he wasn’t “carrying it around.” Meanwhile, for his cameo, Castle says he put as little thought into it as he did the first time around. “It really was putting on a mask and walking,” he says.