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Anthony Michael Hall Goes To Bat Against Michael Myers In Halloween Kills - Exclusive Interview

Anthony Michael Hall is no stranger to other actors taking over for him in roles. After all, he did play the original Rusty Griswold in the 1983 hit comedy "National Lampoon's Vacation." Due to his rising stardom at the time and scheduling conflicts involving another John Hughes-penned film called "Weird Science," he was unable to embark another holiday with the Griswolds, so the torch passed on to Jason Lively in the 1985 sequel "European Vacation." From there, older versions of Rusty went on to be played by Johnny Galecki, Ethan Embrey, and Ed Helms. 

Now, Hall is on the flip side of a similar casting situation. In "Halloween Kills," he plays a now fifty-something Tommy Doyle, a role previously played by Brian Andrews (1978's "Halloween") and Paul Rudd ("Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers"). "Halloween Kills" is the direct sequel to 2018's "Halloween," which finds Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) once again being terrorized by the masked menace known as Michael Myers 40 years after the events of the original 1978 movie.

Since Laurie was unable to vanquish the seemingly unstoppable and perhaps inhuman slasher, he is once again terrorizing the residents of Haddonfield, but this time Tommy and his fellow riled-up townsfolk aren't having it. Tommy, too, is suffering from his own form of post-traumatic stress disorder all due to the night Michael came home 40 years prior. As you may recall, Tommy was the little tyke Laurie Strode was babysitting during the events of the original film — the same boy responsible for naming Michael "The Boogeyman." Now, armed with a bat and backed up by a weaponized and revenge-hungry mob, he decides to go full-on vigilante and lead the hunt for Myers.

During a recent exclusive interview with Looper, we talked to Hall about his initial reaction to learning that he was going to be in a "Halloween" movie and go head-to-head with Michael Myers. We also asked him how he approached playing a role that was once held by two other actors. And while we were at it, we couldn't help but pick the "Brat Pack" actor's brain about the current string of 1980s revivals and asked him which of his teen movies might be the best candidate for a modern-day revisit. Is it "Sixteen Candles"? "The Breakfast Club"? Or maybe "Weird Science"? Read on to find out.

Halloween Kills is like a freight train

You were about 10 years old when the first "Halloween" came out in 1978. Would you say you were a casual fan of the franchise? A super fan? What was your reaction to finding out you were going to spar with Michael Myers?

Oh, I was over the moon. I was really excited by it. So the way it came up, in 2019, I had a great management company that works with me called Untitled. Mitch Mason and Jason Weinberg, who are my guys there, called me about the project. When something really cool comes up, I'll initiate a meeting, and [director] David Gordon Green was kind enough to comply. So we met in LA. He flew in and we had a great conversation at this hotel out on La Cienega. And he shows up, wearing Billabongs and a concert T-shirt, and he's sitting in the lobby bar. He knew the bartender and he was just super frigging down to earth and really easygoing. And I just got a sense of his objectives, and what he wanted to do. So we talked about his process. We had a really nice chat for about an hour and then I screen tested after that and then I found out probably a couple of weeks after my first meeting with him. So I was over the moon, man. I was really pumped and excited to be welcomed into the family of this franchise.

The Tommy Doyle role had previously been played by Brian Andrews and Paul Rudd. Did you go back and watch what they did, or did you choose just to run with it and do your own thing?

I kind of went to do my own thing and a lot of that was just informed by taking David's cue. And I think the sense I got from David was that Tommy was going to be in the center of the storm — sort of the tip of the spear and leading the townspeople against the evil Michael Myers represents. So to me, it was really exciting, just that simple idea in planning how it all fell apart. Now, in fairness to my fellow actors and actresses, that's really the character arc that he gives everybody. When the movie opens and we're at this cool little bar in Wilmington, North Carolina — obviously you know it's supposed to be Haddonfield — and all the survivors and townspeople are there. And basically, there's a shift that happens — everybody goes from discussing having survived to saying "Okay, look, we're not just going to be survivors. We're going to fight. We're going to stand up. We're going to go and really take this thing head on." And I think that energy really gives pace to the whole movie, which is great. And then it really takes off from there. This movie is like a freight train.

Paul Rudd gave the Tommy Doyle stamp of approval

Apparently, some fans started a Change.org petition to get Brian Andrews back in the Tommy Doyle role. I don't see what the big deal was since the role was already once recasted with Paul Rudd. What was your reaction to that? Hopefully you didn't see too much negativity on social media.

No, you know what? I have a very limited threshold for people's negativity. I distance myself from it. But I heard some rumblings about that, but I really don't want to speak about it because I don't even know who that person is. In all fairness, I know that he did the original and that's all good. But the way I look at it in my life, there's enough for everybody and I just wish everybody success. But one thing that was cool is that a couple of weeks into the shoot, David called me. It was so funny. He said he got a call from Paul Rudd, and they were chatting, and Paul was really excited that I was going to play the part. So that was really cool. And I admire Paul Rudd. I think he's a really talented actor, very versatile too. He does a lot of different stuff. 

So yeah, I just hit the ground running with my own plan. Like I said, it was really informed and driven by David's enthusiasm for me to play the leader of the town and fighting against Myers. The other thing too with the bat, I don't recall if that was in the original script, but it was another thing that he added which I thought was fantastic. So the huckleberry bat, that became my weapon.

Where did that bat end up? Did you keep it as a souvenir when filming wrapped?

I wish I did, but it went back to the prop department. Usually, the best you can do is get the director's chair and the backs, so I usually leave with the director's chair.

David Gordon Green reminded him of John Hughes

You mentioned how the bat might not have been in the original script. Is there anything you added on your own that wasn't in the screenplay? Perhaps something that you just totally came up with on a whim while you were on set?

You know what? Honestly, the script was really all in the pocket, it was all there. Even that whole opening speech, I just kind of went with that. And often you'll have clues from the writer that aren't in the dialogue, in the setup or in the slug lines. So you can just follow the guideposts of the screenplay, and in this case we had a great one. And I think that's one of the things that they did which was really great, they threaded the original characters from '78 to '18 to this one. And another thing that David Gordon Green does that's very cool — for example, the Black gentleman who plays the bar owner, his name is Brian. He's actually a friend of David Gordon Green's and he owns a barbecue restaurant in Austin. Has 16 kids, by the way. What a cool guy he was. So David Gordon Green — it's almost like a [Federico] Fellini touch where he hires non-actors to play parts too.

So this guy is so talented as a director and very flexible and very inclusive in his process of everybody's ideas. He's a dream to work with, man. He really is. He's super down to earth, very collaborative. And then that discussion is one that's ongoing with all the actors, and in some ways, he reminded me of John Hughes — just that same kind of support and the joy with which he worked — and he's having fun when he's doing it, and that's a big part of it too.

I have to ask about your costars Jamie Lee Curtis and Kyle Richards. They both lived and experienced the making of the original together. You weren't in the first movie, so did you try to bond with them to help get in the headspace of the character and get a feel for the common backstory they all shared?

Well, those conversations aren't often acknowledged and spoken of the way you just articulated. But that kind of just happens in the process of being there on set and working and you just spend time with people and everybody was really cool. And everybody was very excited about being there. Not just the actors, the crew too, because they wanted to follow up and do a great job after the last one was such a hit. So it comes from the set, you take from those moments, but I suppose that's an interesting thing about this art because at the beginning as you know in "Halloween" '78, Tommy was bullied and then he and Lindsey Wallace are obviously looked after by Jamie Lee Curtis. So there's this interesting arc there where they're also victims because their babysitter was killed and the whole thing. And that's a very interesting connection so it's allowed to go full circle now that Tommy, as you see, takes charge and he's leading the town to rise up against this darkness.

So I think in that context of a classic good versus evil theme, it's Laurie Strode versus Myers, but this one also has the whole town of Haddonfield. They've decided to fight. They've decided to unify and come back and really create a united front against him. I think that's what separates this from the other films. It just packs a punch in all these ways.

You can't kill the boogeyman

One of my favorite scenes is that final confrontation when the lynch mob goes head-to-head with Michael. And of course, after taking a brutal beating, Michael springs back up to his feet. The source of his inhuman abilities hasn't been addressed in this trilogy yet. In your mind, do you think he's human or maybe something supernatural?

It's a very interesting question because that's kind of what's insinuated in the new trailer, and he transcends every time he kills and comes back stronger. I think that's what makes him interesting as the boogeyman with the human body and the evil that he represents. It's very mythic. Because if you think about it, there's actually not a lot of information about it, right? We don't really know what makes him tick. We know that he was released from this mental hospital and he just keeps coming back 43 years later in the 12th installment. You can't kill this guy. But it's also interesting to note that Tommy was the one who introduced that idea "You can't kill the boogeyman," right? So it allows me to take the character full circle.

What was your first reaction to seeing that mask in person for the first time? Scary to you, or no?

Well, you know what? I've become kind of friendly with James Jude [Courtney]. He's a great guy. And I was at the premiere the other night talking with Christopher Nelson, a very talented special effects artist who did it. During the making of the film, we did give each other a healthy amount of space because I get a little method actor-ish. By that I mean, I like to prepare and do certain things whether I'm listening to music or stretching or I'm shadow boxing and throwing kicks. I do any number of things to loosen myself up and the purpose being that I just want to relax myself — mind and body — so that when the camera rolls, I'm ready to go and there's no pretense, if you will. So I just went from there. I just gave him a lot of space. And the irony is, Jude Courtney couldn't be a cooler guy. He's a really nice guy, very spiritual, very down to earth, very friendly. So it's kind of ironic because he's playing this demon.

The Breakfast Club sequel that never was

You starred in these big '80s teen movies, like "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles," and "Weird Science." We've seen a lot of '80s revivals lately. The best example would be "Cobra Kai," which has taken off as a major series on Netflix. Are there any '80s teen movies you starred in that you would like to see revived or characters you think are worthy of a modern-day revisit?

Well, out of deference and respect for John Hughes, I don't know if that will ever happen because he's no longer with us. But I can tell you this — the last time I had the privilege of speaking to John Hughes was in 1987 or 1988, I think. I had just finished "Johnny Be Good." And what happened was he called me with John Candy on the phone, which was really cool. The three of us wound up hanging out for about two hours on the phone. And I'll tell you at that point John did mention the idea of doing a sequel to "The Breakfast Club." I think what was interesting to him was to see where we would be if we did come back together as so-called adults. How would we deal with each other? Or how would they progress into their professional lives and with families and the whole thing? So that was something that John Hughes was entertaining.

But I can tell you this, I produced a film this past summer called "The Class" and it's not a remake of "The Breakfast Club" but it's sort of a re-imagining. It's a writer-director named Nick Celozzi. He wrote a really great script. And so, in this new version we have, it's funny you mentioned "Cobra Kai." We have Hannah Kepple from "Cobra Kai" in it and Charlie Gillespie, who has a show called "Julie and the Phantoms" on Netflix and then Lyric Ross from "This Is Us." So this time it's six kids instead of five and Debbie Gibson and I are the two teachers. So I play the assistant principal but there's shades of Paul Gleason there from the original and then Debbie plays their drama teacher. 

And the last thing I'll give you is that it opens with her giving them a test — they've all failed her class previously. So they have to do an improv and basically come into class and present a character to the rest of the students and so it unfolds from there. And I have to tell you, the script is so good because the stakes for all the kids individually are much sharper. They're very keeping with modern day situations and stresses and things that people deal with. So it was a really interesting project. So okay, it's not a remake but it's an updated sort of "Breakfast Club" for a new generation. So I produced that this last summer and then from there I went into a project called "Trigger Warning" for Netflix, which I'm starring in with Jessica Alba and that's produced by Thunder Road, the company that does all the "John Wick" series of films. So very exciting. I feel very blessed and very fortunate there's good projects and I'm still active and doing as much good work as I can do.

Very cool. My vote would be for a "Weird Science" revival because I'd love to see what those guys are up to, and I think it would benefit from the special effects these days.

Isn't it funny, man, because when I look back at that movie, those effects are so cheap. They look like the 1950s or something [laughs]. But I appreciate that because I love that film. That's one I'm really proud of too because that one still holds up with audiences. I think it was made into a show in the '90s too.

"Halloween Kills" is now in theaters and streaming exclusively on Peacock.