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John Carpenter on HALLOWEEN and How He Helped ‘Just a Tiny Bit’ (Interview)

John Carpenter just wants to have fun. At this point in his legendary career, the horror master himself just wants to do the things that will bring him joy. Thankfully, composing the score for the new Halloween reboot directed by David Gordon Green was one of those things. It helped that he collaborated with his son, Cody Carpenter, and godson Daniel Davies. The score they’ve crafted is singularly great—one of the best film scores of the year, and possibly one of the best scores of all time.

We spoke with Carpenter about working on the new film, and he remains enthusiastic and humble about the magic of making movies, saying, “I learned a lot in this go-round. David’s a really talented director. I haven’t ever done this before so for me, it’s just an absolute joy.”

Carpenter is an artist who focuses on the work, the craft—not his own persona. He credits the people he works with, saying, “If someone has talent, you don’t have to worry about it,” and emphasizes the importance of the collaborative process. As for his own contributions, Carpenter will only admit, “I think I helped a little bit. Just a tiny bit.”

Aside from his work on the Halloween score, Carpenter, has been touring, playing live shows with Cody and Daniel, though he’s circumspect and self-effacing about how much he’ll continue to play live, chuckling, “I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

Nerdist: You famously wrote the original score for Halloween by yourself in just a few days. What was it like collaborating with your son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies on this new Halloween score? 

John Carpenter: We’ve done four albums together, so we know each other pretty well, and it was easy. Everybody brings something different to the table. Keeping it in the family is great fun. 

The score consists of two parts. One is the old score, which has been updated and retrofitted with the brand new technology and the new sounds. And some new music that we had to create. We used bow guitar, and added new synthesized sounds. Both parts required a lot of attention, and we threw all the talent we had at it. 

What was the scoring process like?

Nowadays, we can score to picture, which is great. We had several spotting sessions with David Gordon Green. We’d go through the movie with him and find out what he wanted, what he was emotionally looking for, in terms of the effect on the audience, and then we’d just start recording.

The score in the scene where Allyson starts running through the street for the first time gave me full body chills. Do you have any favorite moments? 

That was it. I love that piece of music. Once we had that, we went back and adapted that to various places in the movie.

On Halloween night this year, if you come to the Palladium and see me play live with Cody and Daniel, we will play that piece of music.

Were there any film scores that made a lasting impression on you when you were growing up?

Oh hell yes. The biggest influence for me, when I was 8 years old, I saw a movie called Forbidden Planet. This is a color science-fiction movie and it had the first electronic score in movie history. It was by a husband and wife team, and had some really crude techniques, but I still can hear that score in my head. It so impressed me. I think that’s where it all started; I wanted to be both a movie director and a movie composer.

Why did you decide to start playing live shows? 

It was my kids pressuring me to get out there and perform. I didn’t think about it. It wasn’t something I wanted to do at first, and then bang, this is fun. Damn. We just have this great band. Besides the three of us, it’s a six-piece band, we have the rhythm section from Tenacious D playing with us, so it’s amazing sounds.

When Jason Blum came to you with the idea to reinterpret Halloween and asked you to participate, what was your reaction? What was the thing that made you say yes? 

Jason Blum came to me and said they’re gonna make the movie without either of us [Carpenter or Jamie Lee Curtis], why don’t we get on board and make it good? I thought, oh man, that’s a pretty good idea, I like that. Plus I get paid, so I had to say yes.

When you were making the original film, what was it about Jamie Lee Curtis that made you want to cast her as Laurie? 

She read for me, and she was perfect and brilliant. She was that character. I thought, “Oh God, I’ve gotta cast this girl.” She was young, 19 years old. It turns out that was the one thing that I was right about.

Michael Myers/The Shape, is one of the most terrifying movie monsters of all time. There’s something about his walk and the way he moves. What was your thinking behind how he would behave on screen? 

It was in the casting again. I cast my friend from film school, Nick Castle, and he has a grace about him. His father was a choreographer, and he just has an elegance about the way he moves. You can’t stop watching him when he’s on screen. That’s what I needed, so I cast him.

Are there any films that you never made that you wanted to?

Well there’s a couple things, but I don’t wish I had made anything and didn’t. I had a Western once that I really loved and I didn’t do. I’m not sorry I didn’t do it, but it would have been fun. It’s called El Diablo.

Any plans to tackle that in the future? 

You never know…

Images: Miramax

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