15 Terrifying Facts About John Carpenter’s Halloween

Compass International Pictures
Compass International Pictures

It doesn't matter how many times you've seen it; John Carpenter's Halloween, which was released nearly 40 years ago, will always be required viewing for the holiday for which it's named. Here are 15 things you might not have known about the film.

1. IT TOOK LESS THAN TWO WEEKS TO WRITE THE SCRIPT.

Director John Carpenter originally intended to call his movie The Babysitter Murders, but producer Irwin Yablans suggested that the story may be more significant if it were based around a specific holiday, so the title was changed to Halloween. Carpenter and co-screenwriter Debra Hill wrote the original script in just 10 days.

2. IT FEATURES JAMIE LEE CURTIS'S FEATURE DEBUT.

Jamie Lee Curtis was initially interested in the role because she loved Carpenter’s 1976 film Assault on Precinct 13 and went on to audition for the part of Laurie Strode three separate times. Carpenter initially wanted actress Anne Lockhart for the role, but cast Curtis after her final audition, where she nailed the scene of Laurie looking out her window to see Michael Myers in her backyard. Curtis has reprised her role as Laurie several times in the near-40 years since the original film's release, and also lent her voice in an uncredited appearance as a phone operator in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the pseudo-sequel that did not feature the Michael Myers storyline). In 2018, she'll play Laurie again when David Gordon Green will add yet another film to the franchise.

3. IT WAS SET IN THE MIDWEST, BUT IT WASN'T SHOT THERE.

Though Halloween is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, it was shot on location in South Pasadena and Hollywood, California. If you look closely, you can see palm trees in the backgrounds of some shots, like the scene above where Laurie walks Tommy Doyle to the Myers’s house. Haddonfield is named after co-writer and producer Debra Hill’s hometown of Haddonfield, New Jersey.

4. THE PRODUCTION WAS INCREDIBLY SHORT.

The 20-day shoot commenced in the spring of 1978 and the film was released in October of the same year. The seasonal restrictions created some interesting hurdles for the production—dozens of bags of fake leaves painted by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace were reused for various scenes. Others may notice that the trees that line the streets of the fictional Haddonfield are fully green instead of autumnally colored. Carpenter initially wanted to somehow change the trees too, but budget restraints kept him from making them seasonally correct.

5. THE SCRIPT DIDN'T CALL FOR A SPECIFIC KIND OF MASK.

The mask for Michael Myers was only described as having “the pale, neutral features of a man,” and for the movie the design was boiled down to two options: both were cheap latex masks painted white and bought for under $2 apiece at local toy stores by Wallace. One was a replica mask of a clown character called “Weary Willie” popularized by actor Emmett Kelly, and the other was a stretched out Captain Kirk mask from Star Trek. Carpenter chose the whitewashed Kirk mask because of its eerily blank stare that fit perfectly with the Myers character. 

6. CARPENTER NAMED MANY OF THE CHARACTERS IN HALLOWEEN AFTER ACQUAINTANCES OR INFLUENCES.

Michael Myers came from the British film distributor who helped put out Carpenter’s previous movie, Assault on Precinct 13, in the UK, while Laurie Strode is named after one of his ex-girlfriends. Tommy Doyle is named after a character from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Sheriff Leigh Brackett is named after sci-fi novelist and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who wrote classics like The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, and The Empire Strikes Back.

7. HALLOWEEN’S ICONIC FLOATING P.O.V. SHOTS WERE DONE USING A PANAGLIDE CAMERA RIG.

The Panaglide was a competitor to the now-ubiquitous Steadicam, which allowed the camera to be fitted to a camera operator for far-ranging and smoothly unbroken shots. Carpenter loved it because he could shoot copious amounts of footage in one day to make up for the film’s minuscule $300,000 budget. Halloween was among the first films to use the Panaglide, alongside films like Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. Check out director of photography Dean Cundey’s original camera tests for Halloween using the rig above.

8. ONE CHARACTER WAS NAMED AFTER ANOTHER FAMOUS MOVIE CHARACTER.

Donald Pleasence’s character, Dr. Sam Loomis, was named after the character of the same name from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Curtis’s mother, Janet Leigh, appeared in Psycho as Sam Loomis’s girlfriend Marion, and was killed in the film’s famous shower scene. For the Loomis character in Halloween, Carpenter originally wanted either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, but both passed on the film because the pay was too low. Pleasence would go on to appear in four Halloween sequels, concluding with Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, which was released after his death in 1995.

9. MOST OF THE MAIN CAST PROVIDED THEIR OWN WARDROBE.

Curtis bought her costumes at JC Penney, all for under $100.

10. THE THING MAKES A CAMEO.

One of the scary movies that Lindsay Wallace watches on TV is the 1951 version of The Thing (a.k.a., The Thing from Another World). Carpenter would later remake The Thing in 1982, though his version is more heavily based on the source material: a 1938 novella by John W. Campbell Jr. called “Who Goes There?”

11. MICHAEL MYERS IS PLAYED BY THREE DIFFERENT ACTORS.


Compass International Pictures

Michael Myers was primarily played by actor Nick Castle, who was Carpenter’s friend from USC film school and who would go on to co-write Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York, but was also played by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace whenever needed. When Myers is unmasked at the end of the film, he is played by actor Tony Moran who would go on to appear in guest spots on TV shows like The Waltons and CHiPS. Moran was paid $250 for a day’s work and a single shot in Halloween.

12. THE MYERS HOUSE WAS RELOCATED IN THE 1980S.

Halloween fans looking to see the Myers home in its original location are out of luck: In 1987, it was relocated from its location at 709 Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena, California, after it was slated to be demolished. The home is now located at 1000 Mission Street in South Pasadena, and it won't be going anywhere. The home was named a historical landmark in the city of South Pasadena, not only because of its cinematic history but also because the house itself dates back to 1888 and is thought to be the oldest surviving residential structure in the city.

13. AT THE TIME OF SHOOTING, THE HOUSE REALLY WAS ABANDONED.

The scenes of the Myers house looking dilapidated were actually how the crew found it and they shot it as is. It wasn’t until the last shot on the last day of production (which is actually the first shot in the movie) that the entire crew banded together to paint the house and dress it with furniture to make it look lived-in.

14. CARPENTER COMPLETED THE ENTIRE SCORE FOR HALLOWEEN BY HIMSELF IN ONLY THREE DAYS.

A photo of director John Carpenter.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

The director usually does all the music for his own films, and his theme for the movie came from a simple drumming exercise for the bongos that his father had taught him when he was a child.

15. CARPENTER FILMED NEW SCENES AFTER THE FACT.

To fill a two-hour time slot needed for television broadcasts of Halloween, Carpenter filmed additional scenes during the production of Halloween II (which Carpenter co-wrote and co-produced, but did not direct) that primarily featured Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis. The new scenes include Dr. Loomis at a hearing to review young Michael’s incarceration at the sanitarium and confronting a young Michael in his room, Loomis discovering Michael has escaped and scrawled the word “Sister” on his door, and a concerned Laurie asking her friend Lynda about the man she keeps seeing around their neighborhood.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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