Michael Myers was a very, very bad boy. That point is made frightfully clear in Rob Zombie's Halloween, a new take on John Carpenter's original and seminal 1978 shrieker, hitting theaters Friday. After screening the much-anticipated flick, TVGuide.com welcomed the chance to sit down with the edgy auteur to discuss how he gave shape to "the Shape."
TVGuide.com: Halloween was one of my favorite movies as a kid. I remember coming out of the theater, in broad daylight, and looking over my shoulder the entire walk to the car.
Rob Zombie: I totally understand that. I remember going to see Jaws as a kid, 1975, and afterwards we went to Denny's and I was literally in the bathroom freaked out thinking that a shark is going to crash through the wall. I totally get that.
TVGuide.com: One of the things I liked about your Halloween is that we get a deeper, more intricate backstory for young Michael Myers. Was that something you knew from Day 1 that you would want to delve into?
Zombie: That was the main thing that at first attracted me to do it. Michael Myers was an amazing, iconic character, much like Frankenstein, and that's what was exciting about doing this. But I thought, "That character has a lot of limitations — he doesn't talk, and you don't really see his face." So I thought all of that will live in the backstory, and by the time you get to the adult Michael, you feel like you know him without ever really seeing him. That way, you've added something to the classic Michael.
TVGuide.com: And the mask iconography, you made that very important to his story. It's not just a prop.
Zombie: Yeah, I was trying to make it so that there's this arc. Michael starts off f--ked up, kind of born bad, but as he gets crazier and crazier, he starts losing himself behind these masks until he has no actual personality of his own. He just is that mask. We never really see his face as an adult, and the classic white mask becomes his adult identity, really.
TVGuide.com: What specific parallels to the Charles Manson story, if any, did you weave into Michael's backstory?
Zombie: Nothing really. Basically, I just did research about kids who kill, or kids who grow up to be killers, and they all seem to share certain things, these early warning signs. They are obsessed with fire. You can't discipline them. And the big thing is they love torturing animals — that's always an early warning sign. Dr. Loomis (played by Malcolm McDowell) even says it: They enjoy causing pain to smaller creatures and as they get older, the cat might become a smaller child and then... there's a line they travel. And it has nothing to do with him having a bad home life. He could have had a good home life and become the same person.
TVGuide.com: The film is touted, in trailers, as your "unique vision," yet there are still images/set pieces from the original, like the guy in the sheet and glasses, the transplanted tombstone....
Zombie: There were things that I remembered — I've seen the original movie a million times — that jumped out at me. Like, I always loved the ghost with the glasses. But I wanted to add one extra twist.... And with the tombstone, essentially Michael is trying to reunite his family....
TVGuide.com: Being a big fan of A Clockwork Orange, how stoked were you to get Malcolm McDowell for Dr. Loomis? Did it take any convincing?
Zombie: Not really, he was pretty much good to go from the get-go. I always wanted Malcolm and he was excited right away.
TVGuide.com: Tyler Mane (The Devil's Rejects, X-Men's Sabretooth) makes for a most imposing adult Michael, much more so than his earlier incarnations. How did you arrive at that direction versus going with a more "average Joe" figure, which some might argue is more frightening in its ordinariness?
Zombie: I never could understand why an average-Joe figure might be more frightening. I know a lot of people who are huge, like Tyler, and it is frightening to be around humans who are that big. If you're standing with an average guy, you're not really scared of him. But if you're standing with a guy who seems superhuman because he's huge, and he's strong as s--t.... The main thing is I didn't want Michael Myers to be supernatural, so I thought, "If a guy is going to do these things.... "
TVGuide.com: He needs to be able to take some damage.
Zombie: Yeah, and Tyler could lift you off the floor by your neck. An average guy wouldn't be strong enough to do that, so it had to be somebody big and strong enough to pull it off.
TVGuide.com: One thing isn't clear in the film: In your opinion, how is grown Michael able to track down his sister?
Zombie: That's the problem sometimes, things get cut out of a movie that explain it. But I had written it so that Dr. Loomis tries to explain to Sheriff Brackett that Michael functions on pure animal instinct. That was the one thing I took artistic license with.
TVGuide.com: But the original Halloween did, too.
Zombie: Yeah, how does he know to go there? How did he know how to drive a car in the original? I also wanted to play it so that in Michael's cell you can see his newspaper clippings of his crimes.... He's a lot smarter than they think he is, and he's always paying attention more than they think he is. I took that idea from Cuckoo's Nest, where the big Indian guy, Chief, everyone thinks is deaf and dumb and he's not. He's got everyone fooled. That's the way Michael is playing it.
TVGuide.com: Was there any temptation, no matter how fleeting, to keep this set in the late '70s, if only to "play" in that era?
Zombie: It would have been fun to keep the later part of the film in the '70s, but then the early part would have been set in the early '60s, and I wanted that '70s vibe for young Michael as opposed to older Michael.
TVGuide.com: The numerous cameos from the regular troupe of Rob Zombie players... was there anyone you wanted or wished you could have had to the party, but were not able to?
Zombie: There were a couple of people we were talking to along the way with whom it didn't work out. Like, Charlie Martin Smith (American Graffiti) is an actor I've always really liked, but it didn't work out with him. But for the most part I had good luck with this, and with Devil's Rejects, in always getting who I wanted.
TVGuide.com: Some of the song choices are simply too perfect to have been otherwise. How much of the soundtrack is locked in before you even film a scene?
Zombie: A lot of it. A problem that people have with soundtracks is they don't think about it, and then they edit the movie and they temp in all this music, and they can never get the rights to it. And then they're bummed — "Oh, man, that Rolling Stones song was perfect!" Yeah, well, you're never going to get the rights to it! [Laughs] So I like to clear the music in advance. But sometimes I juggle it around. Like, I actually shot the scene with Michael's mother [played by Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie] stripping to an Alice Cooper song ["Only Women Bleed"], but then when I moved that scene to the night, it didn't intercut well lyrically with Michael, so I changed it to a Nazareth song.
TVGuide.com: What moment are you most proud of, that no matter how many times you screen this movie, you go, "Wow, I like that."
Zombie: There are a lot of things I really love. A lot of the things I love are not spectacular moments, but some of the scenes in the sanitarium where Malcolm McDowell and little Michael are talking, I like those because they don't say anything unless you read between the lines. And the thing with the mother, I was trying to play it that Michael was all she has left, so she still clings to him until she walks in the room and he is covered in blood and [a character] is dead. She still had not accepted the fact that her son has killed these people.
TVGuide.com: Being someone who, as underscored by the ending of The Devil's Reject, is very anti-sequels, how do you reconcile that with the fact that having rebooted this franchise, there may be a hankering for more?
Zombie: [Laughs] I figured that no matter what I did, if it's successful, they'll figure out a way to make a Halloween 2, so I knew it didn't matter. I thought it better to play something that has some impact. I hate that feeling when you're in the theater and it's like, "Get ready for Part 2!" Ugh. You want to feel like you got a complete story. Also, little Michael Myers is crazy. Maybe his sister is crazy, too? Same family.
TVGuide.com: Aug. 31 versus an obvious Halloween-time release date — were you 100 percent OK with that?
Zombie: No, I think it's fine. I would have never wanted an Oct. 31 release date because by Nov. 1, everybody would be sick of Halloween and thinking about Christmas already. I want the movie to have a good life, and there are certain decisions you leave up to the movie company. If they say they can do a better job with this date than that date, you have to believe them.
TVGuide.com: What sort of extras might we expect at DVD time? Did you leave yourself lots to play with?
Zombie: Well, we shot a documentary of the whole making-of, as we did with Devil's Rejects. It's pretty intense. And there's so much extra footage. I really shot two movies. At one point I tried to convince them to let me make two movies — one where it's little Michael until his escape from Smith's Grove, and the second would be Michael in Haddonfield. But I essentially shot enough to do that.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you? A "Werewolf Women of the SS" feature film? [Zombie directed a faux trailer for "Werewolf Women" for Grindhouse.]
Zombie: I wish! But I don't know if that's going to happen.
TVGuide.com: Have any recent horror releases received a hard-earned salute from you?
Zombie: I don't know if technically it's a horror movie, but Pan's Labyrinth was pretty intense. And I just started watching The Host the other night, and that was pretty cool.
TVGuide.com: What scares Rob Zombie?
Zombie: I don't know — not having an answer for that question!
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