By MICHAEL GINGOLD
When Michael Myers returns to the big screen this week in the HALLOWEEN reboot, he sets his sights on a new group of potential teenage victims. Two of them are played by Virginia Gardner and Miles Robbins, and RUE MORGUE got exclusive words with them both.
In HALLOWEEN, directed by David Gordon Green, Gardner and Robbins play Vicky and Dave, a couple who are close friends with Allyson (Andi Matichak), granddaughter of perennial heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). “Vicky is kind of an outspoken intellectual type,” says Gardner (below right), whose previous credits include TELL ME HOW I DIE and PROJECT ALMANAC. “She’s kind of the opposite of Allyson in every way; I think Allyson’s a little bit more laid-back, so they balance each other out nicely.”
“Dave is a lovable teen stoner,” Robbins (below center), the son of actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, tells this writer on the set of his latest chiller, DANIEL ISN’T REAL. “I don’t know how they got the idea to cast me as this guy, but I got to be a little funny, a little sweet—though that’s not a great person to be if you want to stay alive very long in the Michael Myers universe! So we’ll see what happens. I think I’ve got a shot; Dave’s a resourceful guy and puts up a good fight, so I won’t spoil it. I think Dave might do all right.”
On the other hand, the trailers have revealed that Vicky has an up-close-and-personal encounter with Michael, and she recalls the shooting of that scene (for which RUE MORGUE was present) as “a lot of fun. The guy playing Michael [James Jude Courtney] was super-professional, and very safe about everything. It was a big, intensive day of stunts, which was really cool, though I think I still have a few bruises left over from it [laughs]. It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of, and having a fight with such a famous character on set was amazing.
“I’ve done stuntwork in the past,” she continues, “and I have a black belt in karate, so I feel like I’m always ready to get into a fight scene, because I’ve had that training. Obviously, in a scene like that, there are a lot of logistics you have to deal with, and choreography and camera angles. And the emotion has to be there as well, because you’re fighting for your life. You want to make sure that emotion is there and comes across, but you also have to remember where the camera is, and where you need to land, and not to hurt the other actor you’re working with. There’s a lot to think about.”
Taking part in the new HALLOWEEN, on the other hand, was a no-brainer for Robbins, a major fan of John Carpenter’s original. “It’s a classic,” he says, “and it defines so much of what the horror genre has been for so many years. Carpenter’s score is incredible, and very, very important to the movie. To me, as someone who loves music as well as film, in a movie like that that’s so much about tension and pacing and space and impending dread, having a good soundtrack is crucial. That’s why I’m so happy that Carpenter did the music for the new one as well [with his son Cody and Daniel A. Davies]. I think HALLOWEEN is the greatest horror score…ah, it’s a close tie with Wendy Carlos’ THE SHINING score, actually. I’ll call them even.”
“I saw the first one years ago—I was probably too young to be watching that movie,” Gardner laughs, “and I revisited it a few times before shooting this one. It’s an iconic franchise, and Michael Myers is an iconic character, one of those that haunts you forever when it’s done the right way. That movie just hit home for so many people, and David Gordon Green did a really good job of recapturing what made the first film so special in this one.”
She adds that she didn’t feel an oppressive sense of responsibility in following up such a beloved movie. “There was a little bit of that pressure, but we all just tried to have fun with it, to nod to the first film as much as we could and keep its spirit alive. I think we did a good job of that.”
Robbins echoes Gardner’s praise of Green, who makes his horror debut with HALLOWEEN after alternating independent dramas with big-studio comedies like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. “David is just meticulously talented,” the actor says. “Horror is a genre where the hand of the director is so important. The cinematography, the pacing—all those things come down to the director at the end of the day, in terms of making those big-picture calls. He did some very interesting things and made choices that I was constantly impressed and surprised by, and I’m in severe reverence of the man.
“He was also very welcoming of collaboration,” Robbins continues. “There was a day during rehearsals with me and a couple of the other ‘teens,’ and he was in the middle of rewriting something, and he took us aside and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about this scene? Do you have any ideas?’ And it was a scene we weren’t even involved in. I felt very heard, and every day we all interacted was about contributing to the movie, whether or not it was about our moments. It was about the bigger picture.”
The biggest name attached to this HALLOWEEN, of course, is Curtis, returning to the franchise for the first time since 1998’s HALLOWEEN: H20. The new movie, which ignores all of the sequels that followed Carpenter’s hit, finds Laurie as a paranoid recluse living in a fortified house in the woods, dreading and yet prepared for Michael’s return. Though neither Gardner nor Robbins got to share scenes with Curtis, both were thrilled to part of the production with her. “My character isn’t a big part of Allyson’s home life and family,” Robbins explains, “so Jamie and I never got to work together, but she’s a real legend, and I was honored to be on set with her and share a hair and makeup trailer. She was wonderful, and I felt constantly humbled, being a part of the film with her.”
“It was really cool, too,” Gardner recalls, “because she kept some of the original Michael Myers masks from the first movie, and she brought those to the set. That crew had signed them, and we got to sign some of them too. Getting to meet Jamie and talk to her about the original film was pretty awesome.”
And then there was Michael himself, largely enacted by Courtney but also played at certain moments by Nick Castle, who stalked as The Shape through the ’78 HALLOWEEN. “It was fuckin’ terrifying!” Robbins admits of first seeing Michael on set, and he continues, “It was such an honor to meet Nick Castle. I was very impressed by the way he and Jim brought out Michael’s physicality; it’s like classical acting. There’s something so striking about bringing a masked character to life, and Michael is one of the greatest of all time. He’s something you can insert all your fears into, that is both simple and somehow so deep and frightening in a complex way.”