Halloween Star Took Advice From A Real-Life Killer

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What are the greatest lengths a method actor can go to when portraying a serial killer? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it isn’t actually committing a murder. At best, that’ll get you fired from the gig, and nobody wants that. So, short of wanton violence, what are the greatest lengths a method actor can go to when portraying a serial killer? James Jude Courtney dutifully provides the answer.

The actor/stuntman lent his skills to bringing masked murderer Michael Myers back to screens in 2018’s successful slasher sequel Halloween, and one of the more disturbing facets he incorporated into his performance came from an encounter with a real-life killer.

Speaking with Vanity Fair, Courtney explained how this deeply atypical meeting came about:

“Years ago, I met a real hit man through a mutual acquaintance—he wanted his life story written, so he was living with me. He had just left a safe house and served in a penitentiary up in the Northwest. I absorbed his life just by hanging out with him every day. I took him to see a film I was in called The Hit List. We walked out of the screening, and he said to me, “Jimmy, it’s a really nice movie, but that’s not how you kill people.”

“Really?”

“I’m gonna show you how.”

“There’s a stealth efficiency to the way an actual trained killer works. Movies tend to dilute that quality with dramatic pauses and dialogue, which a true predator would never waste time doing. That efficiency is what I took to the part of Michael Myers.”

I used the word earlier, but it’s the only word adequate: disturbing. It’s also totally real. Hitmen exist and actors seeking to understand how to play hitmen exist. Nonetheless, Courtney’s admission sparks a discussion as to how far an actor should go in the pursuit of performance.

Many would feel deeply uncomfortable interacting with a known killer, let alone learning from one. I won’t pretend it sits well with me, as instinctively, it doesn’t. Yet how could an actor better understand his subject than to be taught by it firsthand? Actors portraying monsters have to understand their role, no matter how reprehensible. That’s what performance is.

Whether Courtney’s interactions muddied some kind of moral water, for once I’ll walk the line. On a less weighty note, you can judge for yourself whether it helped his performance by giving Halloween a spin. Can’t say I’ll be joining you, though.

Source: Variety

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