How The Movie 'Halloween' Was Made, Against All Odds
Directed by John Carpenter and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween is a horror classic -- but behind the scenes, it was a ramshackle affair. The making of Halloween, given the limitations, was a miracle. Like so many paradigm-changing movies, the 1978 slasher movie was a passion project with little funding -- the actors were paid next to nothing, sets and props were cheap, and wardrobe was BYO. While Halloween was not John Carpenter’s first film, it was the one that established him. Despite its low budget, the movie remarkably effective, and terrifying, managing to scare audiences using on suspense rather than buckets of blood and gore.
A Low Budget Classic
Halloween cost just $300,000 to make. The actor who played killer Michael Myers, Nick Castle, was Carpenter’s film school friend and was only paid $25 per day. The famous Michael Myers mask, actually a Captain Kirk (William Shatner) mask painted white, only cost $1.29. Carpenter liked it because of its blank stare.
Other actors were also not paid a lot to make the film. Jamie Lee Curtis was reportedly only paid $8,000. It was her debut performance, and she almost wasn’t cast as Laurie Strode, the last girl standing in the film. The production did not spend a lot of money on wardrobe, either. Most of the cast provided their own costumes, and Jamie Lee Curtis bought her costumes for under $100 from JC Penney.
The Myers house also helped to save some money. It really was abandoned, so the dilapidated nature of the house was quite realistic. On the last day of filming, the crew painted the house and added furniture. Though this was the final thing to be filmed, it was the opening shot in the movie.
The Men Behind The Mask
Because killer Michael Myers wears a mask, different actors were able to play him with ease. Nick Castle was the main person to wear Michael Myers’ mask, but the person behind the mask changed depending on the needs of the scene. Tommy Lee Wallace, the production designer, wore the mask during the closet scene, the stuntman James Winburn wore it to fall out of the window, and finally, when the mask was revealed, Tony Moran’s face was the one to peek out.
A Tight Production Schedule
In addition to being a low budget, the film was produced very quickly. John Carpenter, who was only 30 at the time that he wrote and directed the film, managed to write the screenplay in two weeks. His original title was The Babysitter Murders. He also completed the entire score for the film in three days. The theme came from a drumming exercise for the bongos that Carpenter had learned as a child.
Carpenter and his crew filmed the movie in 20 days, which required them to film the scenes out of sequence, jumping from an action scene at the end of the film, cleaning off the blood and then moving right into a scene at the beginning.
Halloween was not shot on location, or during the right time of year. It was shot in the spring in California, and because it was set in Illinois in October, the production had to use dozens of bags of painted leaves. It was too cost-prohibitive to change the trees that lined the streets.
The Release And After
The film premiered on October 25, 1978, in Kansas City, Missouri, and was released through local sub-distributors because producers were unable to coordinate a national rollout.
Despite its low budget and choppy release, Halloween grossed $47 million at the box office. It was number 10 on the list of the top-grossing films of 1978.
Interestingly, the production of Halloween continued after its release. When the movie was edited for television, it needed more footage to fill the two-hour time slot. By that time, Halloween II was in production -- so the filmmakers shot extra scenes that were added to the original.
Tags: Behind The Scenes | Halloween | Horror | Jamie Lee Curtis | Movies In The 1970s
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