Anthony Michael Hall on Unleashing Tommy Doyle in ‘Halloween Kills’ – Exclusive Interview

After what seemed like forever, Halloween Kills is finally here. The second entry in David Gordon Green’s trilogy follows directly after the gruesome events of Halloween night, 2018. What should’ve been Michael Myers’ death sentence, Laurie Strode’s burning trap basement, is turned into something far more distressing as the Boogeyman lives up to his everlasting name and manages to escape. Once again, Michael is heading home. But the night’s death toll has drastically motivated the townspeople of Haddonfield to unite and take down the murderous, masked psychopath for good. While Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) recovers in a hospital bed, a new face steps up to speak for Haddonfield, a now-adult Tommy Doyle played by veteran actor Anthony Michael Hall.

We were lucky enough to sit down for a fascinating, extensive chat with Anthony Michael Hall, best known for his iconic roles in John Hughes classics such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Hall’s role as Tommy Doyle, a recognized character returning from the original 1978 Halloween alongside Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace, plays a pivotal part in the film, both thematically and action-wise. “The new avenues that David Gordon Green takes with introducing a wider cast of characters is very welcomed, especially as it emphasizes the sheer inhumane and indestructible nature of Michael Myers.”

Our conversation with Anthony Michael Hall covers plenty of ground on Halloween Kills, from his on-set collaborations with David Gordon Green to his approach to Tommy Doyle’s legacy. He also puts it out there that he wouldn’t mind joining Green’s upcoming Exorcist sequel for Blumhouse as well!

So the first question is pretty simple, did you grow up liking the Halloween films? Did you know much about them?

Anthony Michael Hall: It’s very funny because, to be very honest, I wasn’t somebody following horror over all these years and in the industry as well. But when I was a kid, I did see the first one. So when the first [Halloween] came out, I saw it on cable, which was new, like streaming, all those years ago in the 80s. So I remember seeing it, when I was about 11 or 12 years old, for the first time when my parents had gone out. And what I remember are those visceral shots where it’s from Myers’ perspective and he was stalking [Laurie Strode], while she’s walking through the neighborhood with the soundtrack and the whole thing. So I do remember as a kid, and it did have an impact because I remember thinking, wow, this was new territory.

Anthony Michael Hall courtesy of Riker Bros.
In Halloween Kills, Tommy Doyle has gone through the natural progression brought on by the terror that he lived through as a child. He’s become a hero of sorts, as I would describe it. Out of curiosity, did you get much say in Tommy’s actual characterization?

Anthony Michael Hall: You just hit it on the head because that was the feeling I got from David Gordon Green, immediately. He became a friend and an ally, and I felt like he was giving me this kind of hero’s role, which is wonderful. The truth is, in fairness to the rest of the cast because there are so many great actors in this, he makes the whole town take this heroic turn where they go from being victims and survivors, as you saw in the opening of the picture, to really summoning and going deep within themselves to take [Michael Myers] on now. Then there’s a scene later in the movie with Jamie Lee Curtis where I go “what do we do now?” and she goes, “we fight.” And that’s the model.

That whole idea of creating a hero in Tommy, and that he’s kind of the eye of the storm, was really meaningful to me because I felt very much trusted by David and I felt really excited to play that part – to lead the charge on behalf of the town. As an actor even though this is all make-believe, as we know, you have to make those circumstances and situations real for yourself, which sort of jazzed me up because I really felt like, “Wow, this is cool, David really believes in me and I have this really fantastic role.” That was actually what came to mind too, which is that it’s a hero’s role. So what happens after the opening of the film is that energy galvanizes everybody and then we’re off and running because [Michael] is on the loose again.

This leads well to my next question, did you feel any pressure when preparing to play Tommy because he’s such a recognized character from the original? What was it like for you considering that there were other versions before?

Anthony Michael Hall: The first thought I had when you said that, was like when I did The Dead Zone all those years ago, I was asked similar questions. I’ve always been a huge fan of certain actors like Christopher Walken, but in the context of that show, I never wanted to imitate him in any way. But I kind of knicked the pea coat and the cane and some of the elements from the original film.

With Halloween Kills, having seen that first film, I remembered some interesting things which create a sort of polarity with a full circle arc with Tommy. As a kid, he was bullied, in the first film, by Lonnie. It’s really funny because Robert Longstreet [who plays Lonnie] and I really hit it off and became good friends, he’s a great guy. So I worked with the awareness that as a kid, he was the one who says that to Jamie’s character Laurie, which is “you can’t kill the Boogeyman,” and he’s a kid that’s bullied, and that he’s kind of living in fear. So there’s a very special bond between Jamie’s character, Laurie, and also not just myself, but Lindsey, too. That’s a really interesting arc if you go back to that first film.

Now, what’s brilliant about what they did is they, Scott [Teems], Danny [McBride], and David, did a beautiful job threading those original characters, right from the first film through 2018. People are really going to get hit with this film, and we’ll see the impact of it. A lot has been said about the sort of mob rules mentality and all that, you know, the fact that the world started to mirror some of the themes that David was exploring in the film was just happenstance – it just kind of evolved that way with the world and all the societal issues in the pandemic. It was life imitating art, instead of the other way around, or it could be viewed that way. But, obviously, none of us planned that.

David Gordon Green & Anthony Michael Hall on the set of ‘Halloween Kills’ courtesy of Universal

So with Tommy, I didn’t look at the other films, I’ll be very honest. I’ve seen a few of them in the two years since. What’s funny is that it’s given me an opportunity with the delay of the movie, I’m just like any Halloween fan. I’m online, I’m on YouTube, I’m looking at fan sites and looking at these reaction videos. There’s like a whole culture of Halloween fans. So that was actually really fun, that in the delay, once Jason Blum made the decision, I tried to find any reaction videos to either the test screenings or what people thought of the trailer that was released. That’s all been brilliant for me to get a closer sense of what the fans think. And as you know, they have very specific opinions about all 11 other movies. So for me, I looked at the original film and I did appreciate that the arc is interesting because as a kid, he’s afraid of the Boogeyman, he was bullied, and then he comes back as a total fighter here in his middle age.

From the film premiering in Venice until now, have you felt the buzz surrounding its release?

Anthony Michael Hall: I do and I’m really excited about it. I mean, you can probably hear it in my voice. It’s such a thrilling thing because, with the exception of The Dark Knight, I’ve never been a part of a big franchise. Obviously, I had a nice role that [Christopher Nolan] gave me, but it was smaller. So with this, I’m over the moon. I was really excited about it during the making and the two other years that I’ve been waiting, like everybody else and all the fans. You know, it’s a very rare sort of alignment of things where we all feel great about the work that David did, it’s a phenomenal movie that David put together.

Also, I was a huge fan of Danny [McBride] and David from some of their other comedies, especially all those TV shows they did for HBO. So to me, it’s this beautiful combination of elements and events coming together. It’s truly a thrill ride, that was like my first takeaway when I saw the film. I was like, wow, talk about satisfying an audience or fanbase. They really did with this film and I’m very proud of that. Just by association, working with Danny and David has meant so much to me. To be given this role, to play this hero part with Tommy, it really means a lot. Then the other aspect for me is just to build up the fact that there is a domestic and global anticipation and appetite for this film. It makes it really exciting, especially because people are going to be wowed by it. I’m very fortunate, blessed, and excited. And I have to say, I think more than anything I’ve ever done in my career, I’d have to go on record.

Talking about David Gordon Green, how was it working with him, someone who is becoming more seasoned in the horror realm? Is he a natural at this?

Anthony Michael Hall: That’s a great point, your instincts were spot on. I think he really is. One of the things that happened when we first met, which was a good fortune – I have a great management company, Mitch Mason and Jason Weinberg at Untitled Entertainment – and when this came up two years ago, I requested a meeting with David. He was in town doing casting and taking meetings, we met in his favorite hotel. We sat down and I’ll tell you, he was so forthright, cool, easy-going, accessible, and very open. He said that they had just moved back to South Carolina, he and his wife and kids, and was very excited about how they set up their life.

Also, creatively, he just went from comedy to now this franchise. As we all know, the last one was a massive hit, right? So we had a really cool conversation at the end of the summer, we spoke for about an hour in the hotel lobby. Then what happened was they did a screen test and I just made it as real as I could for myself, just like in the film, I just go all in. So I was really over the moon that I got the job. It’s a combination that we know the movie is really solid, that it really packs a punch, and then also there’s such an expectation for which makes it sort of a perfect alignment.

Halloween Kills has been described as one of the most bloody entries in the franchise, how was it working on the set of such a gore-filled extravaganza?

Anthony Michael Hall: [Halloween Kills] had to live up to the title, right? It’s built on the title. What I will tell you is, this franchise and this group of people are incredibly creative. Especially the people at Rough House Pictures, which is David and Danny’s company. They are very loyal guys. The only other case that I’ve heard is Clint Eastwood’s sets, where they’ve kept the same crew that they worked with for 15 years. That says a lot. They’re family guys who really are down-to-earth and good people.

Christopher Nelson, for example, although I didn’t really have many conversations with him, that guy takes it very seriously, he’s a top-notch special effects artist. Then we also had this brilliant cinematographer, Michael Simmonds, who was such a great guy to work with. That’s such a key relationship because when I do a picture, like when I was on The Dark Knight and I saw Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister, or when I did Edward Scissorhands with Stefan Czapsky and Tim Burton, I’m always studying the relationship between the director of photography and the director because that’s key. We really have to have a blood bond, to get through it together and attack the day. I’m just trying to paint the picture [for Halloween Kills] that there are all these great departments, where the crew all have a shorthand because they’re really friends and not just co-workers, a lot of them went to college together in South Carolina. So you have this really cool, well-rounded, very healthy, adjusted, nice group of people that really work hard and are great at what they do.

Anthony Michael Hall in ‘Halloween Kills’ courtesy of Universal

Also, there’s a lot of laughs because David is very collaborative, he’s very fluid and loose on the set. The one thing I noticed, to be honest, was that it very much reminded me of my early years as a kid working with John Hughes. Let’s delineate for a second to make the comparison. There are some common traits, they’re both great writers and natural filmmakers. Obviously, David’s a very talented filmmaker and really understands from the audience standpoint. So it’s a combination of all those things. Having all the same qualities that John Hughes had, took me by surprise. The other thing too is that he’s such an accessible, easygoing guy. Throughout the production, John Hughes did this too, he really carves out time to have discussions with each actor on the scene. Whether it’s to dismiss certain things if they feel clunky or to discuss if we need another line. Ultimately, when you have a filmmaker at the helm like that, who has that kind of humility within their process, you get so much more out of it because people want to go to bat for you that much more. Pun intended in this case.

Even the thing with the bat that came up about a week or two into production. David was like, “I think you should have a weapon” and I said, “Dude, let’s go for it.” So we placed the bat, which is called Huckleberry, behind the bar. Now, here’s a quick little interesting anecdote about David and his casting. He’s able to do this Fellini-esque type of thing. For example, the gentleman that plays the bar owner is a guy named Brian. Brian is actually a good friend of David’s from Austin, Texas, because David’s originally from Dallas. So the gentleman who plays the bar owner in the film really does own a restaurant in Austin and really is friends with David. So he cast him to play the bar owner in [Halloween Kills]. David can write comedic characters, work with dramatic actors or people with no acting experience, and still get something of value. I was impressed that just not only did he reintroduce the characters from the original, but he creates space for others. That’s quite a feat because I think he did it quite effortlessly.

Would you like to do more horror in the future or is it more dependent on the character you’re given, or even perhaps the director you’re working with?

Anthony Michael Hall: In fairness, it is a little bit of all of that. I really would be interested in doing more, but it would depend on the character and the filmmaker. For instance, I would work with these guys again in a second. Anything they would ever ask me to do, I would be there for them. You know what’s interesting, too? As I’m sure you’ve read about, David is now attached to The Exorcist reboot. I would never sort of throw myself at them like that, but I have already let them both know that I would love to work with them again.

So to answer your question, yeah, I would definitely like to explore more in horror. It’s a genre that I’ve learned a lot about in this process. From an audience perspective that just like comedies are great dramas, it’s something that people obviously love. The idea of a good scare, I think there’s something very fundamental about it. I know I’m kind of late to the party, but it’s really interesting and I would like to do more. I can tell you this without giving away any Blumhouse secrets, [Halloween Kills] was made for the same price as the last one. So considering you can pack that much of a punch and deliver such a good movie on a $10-11 million range is amazing. I have a lot of respect for Jason Blum and the company with what they’re doing, and I would work with any of them again in a second. But, in terms of genre, I am more intrigued now, absolutely.

Halloween Kills debuts in theaters and on Peacock October 15!

Our ★★★★ review: Michael Myers Doesn’t Hold Back in this Gnarly Slasher

Follow Senior Film Critic Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW

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