It’s a good time to be a Michael Myers fan.
Not only is the iconic horror movie villain back on the big screen, terrorizing poor Laurie Strode (played by the equally iconic Jamie Lee Curtis) and the good people of Haddonfield, Illinois yet again in Halloween, but he’s breaking records, as well. Not only has the sequel earned the highest opening weekend of the entire indomitable franchise, but it marked the best-ever opening for a film starring a lead actress over 55 years old and for a horror movie with a female lead (so long as you don’t could Jurassic World as a horror movie), as well as the second-best opening ever for the month of October.
Not too shabby for a franchise that’s celebrating its 40th birthday on October 25.
In honor of the movie doing big things at the box office and the milestone anniversary of John Carpenter‘s scrappy little flick of the same name that kicked the whole thing off, we present 40 secrets and little-known facts about the Halloween franchise that’ll help you make conversation at your next costume party.
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1. The iconic franchise with the easy-to-remember title almost wasn’t named after the holiday the action takes place on. Rather, it was originally called The Babysitter Murders until producer Irwin Yablans suggested to Carpenter and then-girlfriend Debra Hill, whom he wrote the screenplay with, that the film be set on Halloween night. The rest is history.
2. Carpenter was only paid $10,000 for his work on the film which included directing, writing, and creating the now-iconic score. In return, he was granted full creative control.
3. The production schedule was insanely tight, as producers wanted to get the film in theaters in time for the titular holiday. Carpenter and Hill only spent approximately 10 days on the script, with four weeks spent prepping the production (which included the aforementioned writing), four shooting, and four editing.
4. Despite her strong horror film lineage—mom Janet Leigh starred in Psycho, after all—Curtis was not Carpenter’s first choice for his heroine. “I had no idea who she was. She was 19 and in a TV show at the time, but I didn’t watch TV,” he said in an interview, according to the 2011 book Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. His first choice? Anne Lockhart, daughter of Lassie actress June Lockhart.
5. Carpenter wanted actress P.J. Soles‘ then-husband to play her character Lynda’s boyfriend Bob Simms, but he was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. The actor? Dennis Quaid. And the actor who replaced him? John Michael Graham, who never appeared in another film.
6. Donald Pleasence, who played the pivotal role of Dr. Loomis, was the closest thing the film had to a star and he only got the role after two other actors turned it down. He only took the role because his daughter liked Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, and his $40,000 salary took the film over budget by $20,000. All of his scenes were shot in one week, during which production rented him a Winnebago—which was one of only two production vehicles. (The other was a VW bus that carried the lights and equipment.)
7. Because the film was shot out of order, as most are, Carpenter and Curtis developed a numbered system to determine how scared she should be at every point. Before each scene, he would give her a number between one and 10 and she would act accordingly.
8. Michael Myers’ mask may be iconic now, but the original script didn’t call for any specific sort of mask. It was merely described as having “the pale, neutral features of a man.” Two cheap latex masks were purchased by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace for under two dollars apiece at a local toy store and painted white. One was a replica mask of a clown character called Weary Willie; the other, a stretched-out Captain Kirk mask from Star Trek. And that’s how William Shatner came to play a small role in the creation of unstoppable villain.
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9. Curtis’ entire wardrobe for the film was bought on the cheap. “We bought my entire wardrobe at JC Penney for probably a hundred bucks,” she noted.
10. In the film, Michael Myers is played by three different actors. He was primarily brought to life by actor Nick Castle, Carpenter’s friend from USC film school, but was also played by Wallace when needed. And when he was unmasked at the end of the film, it was Tony Moran who stepped in, earning $250 for the single shot.
11. The little girl who played Lindsey Wallace, the child left in the care of Annie Brackett, who in turn left her with Curtis’ Laurie before she left to pick up her boyfriend and, subsequently, get killed? That’s future Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards in only her third film role ever. Before becoming a household name as a Bravolebrity, Richards would go on to appear in Halloween II, an episode of CHiPs, and 21 episodes of ER as Nurse Dori.
12. In the script, Michael Myers is only referred to as “The Shape” and that’s also how the character was billed in the end credits as well.
13. Despite inspiring legions of gory imitators as perhaps the original slasher film, Halloween‘s low budget meant that the film has no special effects and very little graphic violence.
14. The sound effect you hear when the knife goes into Lynda’s boyfriend Bob? That was created by stabbing a watermelon.
15. The now-iconic score that Carpenter created for the film was composed and recorded in just three days. He took inspiration from The Exorcist‘s use of “Tubular Bells” and the score of Suspiria, another film returning to theaters this fall with a remake by Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino. Carpenter’s score is widely believed to have helped popularize the use of a theme song for the killer across the genre.
16. The film’s premiere wasn’t held in the traditional locations of New York or Los Angeles. Instead, it opened in Kansas City, Missouri at the AMC Empire theater.
17. Surviving largely on a word-of-mouth campaign, the film went on to earn a theatrical total of $70 million on its modest $320,000 budget, making it the most successful independent film ever until The Blair Witch Project came along in 1999.
18. When NBC bought the television broadcast rights for $4 million in 1980 and planned to air it in October of 1981, tied to the release of Halloween II, the safe-for-TV edit would up being 12 minutes shy of the two-hour slot it needed to fill. So Carpenter filmed additional scenes during the production of the sequel, which he co-wrote, but did not direct, featuring Pleasence and Curtis, which foreshadowed the sequel’s reveal that Laurie was, in fact, Michael’s sister.
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19. The film spawned several sequels, all of which played loose and fast with the events that had come before. The third ignored the Michael Myers story altogether, considering he’d died at the end of Halloween II. By the sixth, the villain’s driving force had become the Curse of Thorn, which apparently forces a person to kill their entire family in order to save all of civilization.
20. Despite Curtis’ Laurie being alive in the just-released sequel, her character actually perished in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, stabbed and thrown off a roof by Michael in the film’s opening sequence. That film replaced the iconic actress with acting heavy hitters like Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. (No, we’re not joking.)
21. There are three films with the simple title of Halloween: Carpenter’s ’78 original, Rob Zombie‘s 2007 remake (which spawned a sequel of its own, meaning there are also two Halloween II‘s in the world), and the 2018 sequel, directed by David Gordon Green.
22. Carpenter hadn’t had any involvement in the franchise since acting as producer on Halloween III: Season of the Witch, famously distancing himself from later installments and Zombie’s re-imagining, but he returned for the 2018 sequel, serving as executive producer and composer once again.
23. Despite the many sequels that followed the ’78 original, the 2018 Halloween ignores them all, acting as a pure sequel to the original film.
24. The idea to ignore what had come before is nothing new for the franchise. When Curtis returned to play Laurie in 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, that script ignored the three films that proceeded it entirely.
25. Other famous faces who’ve appeared in the franchise over the years? Paul Rudd (who starred in 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers), Josh Hartnett, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams (all of whom appeared in H20), Katee Sackhoff (Resurrection), Malcom McDowell (Dr. Loomis in Zombie’s remake), and Judy Greer (who plays Laurie’s daughter Karen in the most recent film).
26. In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
27. The franchise, when compared to other top-grossing American horror franchises, is the forth highest-grossing in history, bested only by Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Hannial Lecter films.
28. When Curtis returned to the franchise in 1998, it was at the tail-end of a 10-year addiction to painkillers. She attended her first recover meeting on Feb. 3, 1999. “No one knew. No one,” she admitted to People this week. In fact, her husband, film director Christopher Guest, wasn’t aware of the addiction until her first day of recover. “He was incredulous that he’d never noticed.”
29. Curtis is no fan of the franchise. “I don’t understand why people like these movies,” she told People. “I don’t like being scared! I’m the girl who watches movies under a blanket, and I cover my face.”
30. Curtis’ appearance in H20 only happened because she was tricked into it. She only agreed to return because she wanted to put the characters to rest and have Laurie kill Michael once and for all. Everyone involved agreed, but once she signed on, she was informed that contractually, Michael couldn’t actually be killed.
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31. Despite critics reading into virginal Laurie’s survival as some sort of morality tale, with the more promiscuous teenagers winding up victims of Michael’s knife, Carpenter insists that this wasn’t his intention. Rather, it was simply easier for Michael to kill the characters who were distracted while having sex.
32. In the first film’s opening scene, when viewers witness 6-year-old Michael stab his older sister Judith to death from his perspective, it was writer Debra Hill’s hands that were used because the production couldn’t afford any more time with the child actor. It also didn’t help that the actress playing Judith was nude at the time.
33. The climactic shot of Laurie falling down the stairs was achieved by throwing the camera from the upper landing while attached to a bungee cord.
34. When Michael appears to kill Lester the dog, that shot was achieved by Carpenter filming the dog’s trainer slowly lowering the pup to the ground and run in slow-motion.
35. The name Michael Myers came from a random business associate who helped carpenter’s finance partners get his earlier film, Assault on Precinct 13, into film festivals in Europe.
36. And the name Laurie Strode? One of Carpenter’s exes.
37. In H20, Curtis’ mom had a cameo, playing her daughter’s secretary. The character was filmed standing in front of a 1957 Ford Custom 300 with the license plate NFB 418, the same car she drove in Psycho.
38. In Halloween III, Curtis has an uncredited cameo. Her voice can be heard as a phone operator.
39. Emma Stone almost assumed the role of Laurie Strode in Zombie’s remake, but the role ultimately went to Scout Taylor Compton.
40. As described by Hill, she and Carpenter came to conceive of the original story with this jumping off point: “The idea was that you couldn’t kill evil…We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that’s what made Halloween work. We didn’t want it to be gory. We wanted it to be like a jack-in-the-box.”
Happy anniversary, Halloween!