Did you really think you’d seen the last of him? Masked madman Michael Myers has trudged his way through 11 different iterations of Halloween over the course of five decades including two Rob Zombie remakes and a few cinematic calamities (e.g. Halloween: Resurrection) that are best left forgotten. If that’s not all, the horror legend of Myers lives on, and at the time of this writing, two more Halloween flicks are set to be released.
Directed by David Gordon Green, the 2018 sequel of the franchise forgets a lot by retconning every single Halloween except John Carpenter’s 1978 original. Once again, actress Jamie Lee Curtis steps into the role of Laurie Strode, and Myers (a.k.a. The Shape) is determined to end her life on Halloween night.
For the 2018 sequel, Myers is portrayed by actor and stuntman James Jude Courtney, who also played Der Kindestod in the 1998 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Killed by Death." (Nick Castle — the man who originally portrayed Myers in the first Halloween — also slips into Myers’ murderer shoes for a key scene.) Unlike the moldering creepo he plays, Courtney is a charming fellow and quite easy on the eyes, too. Let’s take a peek behind the mask to ogle the gorgeous man underneath.
He avoided Jamie Lee Curtis on set
Let it suffice to say, James Jude Courtney and actress Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t do a lot of chitchatting between takes. "We don’t interact," Courtney confessed to Entertainment Weekly in October 2018. "And I get it." Courtney said he made the conscious decision to steer clear of the "standoffish" actress (when he wasn’t in character as Michael Myers, that is.) "They let me know that when she gets in in the morning, and she gets the wig on, she’s in character, and she’s in character all day long," he said.
Far from being offended, Courtney thought Curtis’ strategy made "perfect sense." In fact, he’s quick to point out that she’s "gracious and kind on set, and everybody loves her to death." Courtney loved watching her working process, but made sure to "watch her at a distance or … on monitors. I try not to get too close to her." But inevitably, the time came for Courtney to get up close and personal with his co-star and with that infamous mask…
The first time he put the mask on was intense
It was a fateful day — for James Jude Courtney, and for fans of the horror genre in general. A whole bunch of Halloween bigwigs (including director David Gordon Green) had covertly gathered in a side room, far removed from the rest of the cast and crew. The time had come: The mask was ready, and it was time for Courtney to try it on. The actor told Halloween Daily News that something strange happened when the mask went over his head. "This thing happened to me inside," he said. "I had already created the energy, I already knew the space, but man that was like after-burns, dude." He claims he felt "the 40 years of history and all the work that all the people have done, and all the fans’ expectations and love."
When Green asked Courtney what wearing the mask felt like, the stuntman’s response was chilling: "It’s perfect for killing," he said. Courtney, as it turns out, reportedly knows quite a bit about murdering people. (Brace yourself.)
How he learned how to kill people IRL (seriously!)
Here’s a question in two parts: Do you know how to kill? If so, who taught you how to do it? If you ask James Jude Courtney, he’ll offer up an intriguing answer: "I learned how to kill from a mafia hitman who lived with me when he got out of prison," he told Halloween Movies in June 2018. One day, they went to see a film that featured Courtney called The Hit List, and this friendly ex-hitman roommate reportedly gave him a few pointers, like: "Jimmy, it was a really nice movie but that’s not how you kill people."
Courtney claimed he took the hitman’s notes to heart. (After all, if you have an ex-hitman roommate, you probably want to give him your undivided attention.) "I’ve been complimented many times here on set on how efficiently I kill," the actor boasted, "and all I did was take what he taught me." We’re not sure what this guy taught Courtney, but as you watch Michael Myers drop a bunch of teeth on the floor and cut up victims with a knife, you can thank Ex-Hitman Roomie Guy for those acting chops.
The big role came ‘out of left field’
Luck played a big part in James Jude Courtney getting cast as Michael Myers. "The beauty of it is that in my life and really in my career, the most beautiful things have come out of left field," he told Halloween Daily News in March 2018. Courtney claimed veteran stunt coordinator Rawn Hutchinson — who worked on the Rob Zombie Halloween reboots — felt Courtney would be the perfect Michael Myers since the role required someone who could be "really physical" but who also had some seriously sharpened "acting chops."
Courtney said he tried out for the part at Hutchinson’s behest and hadn’t even left the parking lot after the audition when he "got a call from Los Angeles asking [about his] availability." In fact, Courtney said he "hadn’t even got to the interstate before I got another call from Los Angeles asking if I’d be willing to come back and meet David [Gordon Green]. So there was something really big happening there." In other words: It was so on.
The Shape is played by two actors
Although James Jude Courtney is featured in every scene that includes Michael Myers, he’s not the only actor who plays the character in the latest Halloween. Nick Castle, the man who played the sadistic psychopath in the original 1978 Halloween (for only $25 a day,) also stepped in to play the role. "Nick came in and did a few scenes, and multiple takes," Courtney told Bloody Flicks in April 2018. He added that it "was awesome to work with Nick," who is "a super talented man, and a quality human being."
In August 2018, Castle told Bloody Disgusting that he recorded all of Myers’ ominous breathing sounds, but he was physically featured only in the scene that finds Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) seeing Myers again for the first time in 40 years. Halloween obsessives can reportedly catch a subtle nod to the first film in Castle’s body language: "I’m not sure this is done any other time in the movie," Castle says, "but the director asked me to tilt my head like one of the prominent things that fans remember in the first one."
He’s a big fan of the franchise
According to his March 2018 interview with Halloween Daily News, James Jude Courtney fondly recalls watching two blockbuster films while attending the University of South Carolina as an undergrad and knowing they’d be "game changers." The first one was Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 boxing drama Rocky, and the other was a small-budget chiller by the name of Halloween. Courtney recalls walking out of the theater and thinking, "’There’s a whole new paradigm being created right now.’ So I remember it very, very well."
Courtney has occasionally revisited Halloween in the decades following its release, and he’s checked out plenty of other entries in the long-running franchise. "When the new ones come out you go see them. It’s just a part of my life. You know what I mean?" But never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d get to play an iconic baddie like Michael Myers. "I never envisioned that I would be so honored as to be able to step into The Shape."
Michael Myers is a well-learned journalist
Before James Jude Courtney ever put on Michael Myers’ famed mask, the star had big Hollywood dreams — just not as a stuntman or on-screen serial killer. In an interview with Halloween Daily News, the actor revealed that he knew he wanted to make movies since he was in fourth grade and started making films on his dad’s 8mm camera the following school year. Eventually, he ended up going to the University of South Carolina, where he pursued a degree in journalism to help him learn how to create a captivating story.
"I majored in journalism because I wanted to learn how to research and how to present information to the public in a way that would mold their minds and create new ideas or challenge ideas," he said. After college, Courtney ended up accidentally falling into a career in front of the camera. "… My reasoning was that if I got in front of the camera I could learn every aspect, because I would see and feel everything," he told Halloween Daily News. "I’d be able to shadow amazing directors, or see scripts that were sometimes good and sometimes not. But every time a film is made it’s a minor miracle, whether it’s good or bad." As it turned out, instead of becoming a director, Courtney ultimately forged a path as a stuntman.
He feels like the ‘luckiest guy in the world’
Getting to play one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history isn’t an opportunity to pass up, and James Jude Courtney isn’t taking the career coup in stride. "Right now I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world," he told Halloween Daily News in March 2018. At the time, he was beyond excited to "get to meet the fans and … travel around with Nick [Castle.]" Courtney is even reprising his role yet again for 2020’s Halloween Kills, and at the time of this writing, the footage for the flick looks pretty epic.
Courtney knows Halloween fans are going to have strong opinions about these new iterations, but he’s also confident they’ll find lots to love: "When you take this many gifted people that have this much love and passion for Halloween, you can’t help but think that the fans are going to be really just as happy as we are and feel like they’re a part of it."
From tour guide to star
James Jude Courtney certainly worked his way up in Hollywood. When he first moved to California, he took a job as a tour guide at Universal Studios, which he loved because of their history with horror films. He never considered becoming a stuntman until he was cast in the theme park’s live Conan the Barbarian show, The Adventures of Conan. In an interview with Halloween Daily News, the actor admitted that the show was highly physical. He did "probably 3,000 high falls" and "easily 8,000 sword fights" during his tenure, and the set saw "thousands of stitches, concussions, broken bones."
"I had never really thought about doing stunts," Courtney told Halloween Daily News. "My idea was to be an actor and then write and make my own films. But I’m an athlete, and I’ve done martial arts off and on since seventh grade. So when I was cast at Conan, putting swords in my hand was just a really natural thing."
Courtney kept pursuing whatever opportunities knocked at his door, all while writing screenplays. He ultimately decided to focus on both acting and stunt work — unique in an industry of highly specialized talent. After studying with Stella Adler (Marlon Brando’s acting coach) and a private coach at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he eventually began landing roles in TV series like Babylon 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.