Quantcast Don Shanks interview - Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

Don Shanks
Michael Myers - H5!!!
If you're a HALLOWEEN fan, then we're sure you know Don Shanks played the infamous "shape" in 'Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers'. Don's had an incredible long career as an actor & stuntman in the biz. We sat down for a quick conversation & he told us a bit about first starting out as an actor/stuntman, the direction the Halloween series COULD have taken, and reveals to us that he's got another "killer" part in his future. Read on for the FRIGHT exclusive interview with Don Shanks!!! - by Robg. 10/05

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first movie you remember really scaring you?

Well... I believe it was Frankenstein, when I was a kid. I had heard about it, but hadn't seen it. Ya know, I was pretty young when it was on TV, and then there were a lot of the Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi films... The Black Cat, some that don't get shown as much, but they were scary. I remember seeing M for the first time with Peter Lorre? And I thought it was so creepy. I've always liked horror films.

What exactly motivated you to get into the movie industry? How'd you start out?

Actually, I started out as a special effects artist!

That's how a LOT of people start out! And break in.

Well, I was doing a play at the Salt Palace. And I was playing a man who was 65, and I was 22 at the time. So, I had done the prosthetic make-up, put on a bald cap and put the gels on. And someone came back to compliment the show, and tell me how much they liked it, as I started to peal this stuff off. And they'd say "Wow, you look a lot different!" I'd pull this bald cap off and they'd see I had long black hair. And so, they were asking me about the effects and I answered all their questions, and then about 2 months later, I get a phone call saying that there's a movie company in town. And they need someone to simulate someone being tore up by a bear. So, I thought "OK". I asked if they also needed any actors, and they said they needed a Native American. Well, they were calling us Indians then. (laughs) So, I said "Well, I'm part Indian." "Well, this guy has to be able to wrestle a bear." ..."Sure. I can do that." (laughs) And that's how I got started in movies. And that was Grizzly Adams. And then from there I went to another series, with some films in between those 2 series. I was always considered what we'd call an "action actor" because I do my own stunts. I wrestle the bears, I do the falls. When I was in theater I taught stage combat.

It's safe to say you know how to kick a lot of ass! (laughs)

Well, yes, but it was staging. And believe it or not, I did a lot of dance. I took 4 years of ballet. I'm a terrible dancer, but it's very good exercise. This all kind of led into the movies and doing stunt work, along with doing other stuff.

Would you even consider yourself a daredevil for doing your own stunts?

No, a daredevil usually doesn't know where they're going...

... Whereas stunt work is a very prepared thing?

You HAVE to hit marks. I can throw a dime down on the curb and turn a car over and land right on that dime. If they want me to stop on that dime, I'll stop on that dime. We hit our marks everytime. A daredevil - they're skilled, but they don't know if they're going to stop or where they're going to go.

Was there any stunt in your career that either you were really nervous to approach doing? Or even one that maybe you're particularly proud of?

I've never really been that nervous about doing stunts. You prepare them, but there are sometimes where you don't know if you're going to come home that night. Because things can happen. It's dangerous enough. Yea, I'm proud of them all. From the smallest fight scene to the biggest high falls and burns. But they're all about doing what your supposed to be doing as a stuntman. Technically I started out more as an actor and I worked my way into doing the stunts.

Do you think it was easier to migrate to stunts because you're a big fellow?

Well, they always need a big guy for the little guys to beat up on. (laughs) If I beat up on the little guy, it's doesn't look very good. But it's being able to take the punchs and doing what you know how to do. I was a martial artist and I used to wrestle. So, it all works into it.

How'd you get cast as Michael Myers in Halloween 5?

The stunt co-ordinater called me up and wanted to know if I was available.

Then you met with the director and that was it?


When you worked on the Halloween 5, you hadn't seen the previous entires in the series, right?

Well, I had seen them but it was years before. And I'd only seen 1 & 2.

Weren't you told not to go back and rewatch them, in order to do your own take on the character?


How'd you approach playing the character then?

What you have to do, especilly when you don't verbalize anything, you have to internalize the part. You get the script. You read what's supposed to be happening and you try to imagine what you're supposed to be doing. And when you think about that, it changes your walk, it changes your attitude. It puts you into that character without saying anything.

I'm a big fan of 5! It was the 2nd Halloween I had the chance to see on the big screen. One of the sequences I love was at the beginning after you fall into the shaft and float away in the river. I think on the DVD you mention how difficult it was to work in the water...

Going into the water, we were going into the river which was all snow melt coming down from the mountains. So, it was 36 degrees, a little bit above freezing. We're doing it at night. So, you lose your core temperature very easily. And where I had to catch myself, there was a little bend there that led into a processing plant. So, you go thru the turbains. I put on a dry suit, because it was too cold for a wet suit. The thing I didn't take into consideration was the mask. It had been fitted to my face and when water went under it, it didn't really vent out. So, it got very difficult to breath, you can't blow it out, and I have to hit my target because if I missed it I would've been in trouble!

Did they already have the Michael Myers mask for 5 or did they mold it to personally fit you?

Well, it's molded to my face but a lot of it is Greg Nicotero, who did the special effects. The original mold is his face, but my head's a lot bigger then that. So, there's pieces of him and pieces of me, but the inside of the mask is molded to my face.

Obviously, you worked with the late, great Donald Pleasence, and you both got a little physical. Overall, how can you sum up working with Donald, especially since he's such a big & intricate part of this series.

Well, he was the consummate actor. There was that one scene where he's talking out into the woods because he knows that Michael's out there. And I had wrapped for the night, but he came to my dressing room, and politely asked me if I'd stay. I said "Sure". He was having trouble really getting into that scene, so he asked me to stand in the woods. He said, "I just need to know that you're out there. I don't need to see you. But by knowing your out there, it'd help." Because he'd tried it in rehearsal and he wasn't able to focus unless he felt Michael was out there.

Donald also had some of the craziest, wackiest dialogue in that particular film. I know fans love Donald in part 5.

You know, he was the type of actor where I'd come on the set just to listen to what he had to say. When he comes in thru the house, and he'd just be talking... he just has that presence. I've always said too, that if you want to watch a good actor, then turn the sound off and just watch his eyes and face. He was very subtle about everything & very understated.

Well, you worked with Danielle Harris on Halloween 5. She was very young at the time and you spent the majority of the movie trying to kill her! How difficult was it to work with such a young actress on such dark material?

She was a sweetheart. We were buddies. She already knew the difference between the movies and reality. It'd be late at night, we'd be sitting there and she'd be up on my lap, and I'd say "It's ok. It's time to play the killer". So, she'd get into it and start screaming, but then after it was over, she'd start laughing. She knew the deal. She was like one of the guys. She wanted to be part of everything. Anytime something was going on, she was always there, so we looked at her as a little person. But then she could turn around, be scared... cry...

Speaking of, I heard you say at one of panels last night that the part where you remove the mask and cry, you did completely on cue. You can cry on cue!?

Yep. It was a very difficult shot. On the ECU's, you can't move a millimeter, so they had to put a brace on my neck to keep me still. They hold your head in place, while they set the lights, and the camera. You just can't move with this type of shot. While your sitting there waiting to do this, it gets very uncomfortable, and when they yell action, you have to cry on cue. And they asked me if I could and I could.

Not many people can do that!

It just takes a little practice but you can do it. Besides, that's what we get paid to do. Not as stunt men, as actors. (laughs)

Although it was scripted that Michael took off the mask and cried, did you read into that scene in any particular way? Maybe even when you finally saw the film?

What was being described to us while we were doing it, and they never told this to Danielle. Dominique was telling me the man in black with the black boots & silver tips...

You played him too, correct?

Yes, on several shots. The reason they were showing the face and not the man in black's face is because in part 6 when they're driving away and they do a flashback, it was going to be my face. And I was going to play both parts in 6. But you'd never see them together. In the car during that flashback, you'd see them separately. Sorta like Fight Club.

Interesting... Was that character intended to be Michael's brother? I think you mentioned something along those lines on the DVD.

It was meant to be his alter ego. Like his twin brother. The thing about when they do the incantation... the thorn. They get that split personality. Thru the druids, they get eternal life. But it's bringing everything back to life.

One of the things that cracks me up about Part 5 is they arrest Michael, he's in jail... yet they don't take his mask off. (laughs)

Maybe they were too freaked to take his mask off. (laughs) Actually, we shot it one way, where I was just in the shadows without the mask and I was just rocking back and forth, and they didn't think that worked, so they said "Put the mask back on." But they did shoot it both ways.

There's a lot of subtle hints to things in Part 5 that were never truly explained. Other people eventually took over the series and continued, but you mentioned at a panel that Dominique had a clear vision of what Part 6 was going to be. This is the first I've ever heard that...

See, he was supposed to be writing the script for Part 6. Part 4 led into part 5, and 5 was supposed to led into part 6 where everything was meant to be explained. When she touchs him, she sees what he sees. In part 4, she goes a little berserk in the end. But as the movie in Part 6 was meant to go along, she was meant to become Michael. And she starts doing what Michael does.

If Jamie was the original intended killer for 6, then what part would Michael and/or the twin brother (the man in black) have in it?

The whole thing was that he was there to do the explanation. The man in black, that is. He'd be the one that could talk. And they had called me about doing Part 6. I went out, and started promoting the film, started doing conventions. And everyone wanted to know about the man in black. So I'm not supposed to tell anyone. So, when they got different people to do 6, they totally changed it.

Well, it took a good 5 or so years from 5 to 6, no?

I don't think it took that long. At least not when they approached me about it. Danielle was supposed to come back. And apparently, they went with the production group that they had on part 4 - the line producers, all the coordinators and everyone involved with 4. So, the people involved with part 4 were back, which is why they got George (Wilbur) back. But it was nothing like what they told me it was going to be. At least what I was told by Dominique. Dominique and Moustapha had a little falling out.

Dominique definitely brought a unique vision to the Halloween series with Part 5. And there's certain elements of the movie I really like. What was it like to work with Dominique as a director?

Sometimes he was... a little weird. (laughs). Well, he was French & Swiss. Those were his primary languages for him. English was his third language. It was in his interpretation. Sometimes you wouldn't be sure exactly what he was saying. There was one time where I'm doing the kill with Ellie (Cornell) and he's trying to explain what's happening and it sounds kind of... erotic.

Were you and Ellie weirded out by that?

Yea. And I just hated to kill her character off the worst.

She's a fan favorite!

Plus, she's such a sweetheart! And a great character.

What was it like for you to see the completed film on the big screen?

It turned out very good. Most of the time I don't watch the stuff I do. The first movie I ever did, I got second card. It was kind of exciting to see my name up there. When I came on screen, I looked to the floor and never looked back up! I did a series for years, and I never saw it.

A lot of actor's say they're uncomfortable seeing themselves act.

I see things I do that I become self conscience about, that no one else is going to notice. As a matter a fact, about two weeks ago, I saw a movie I did in 91 that i'd never seen before. But I watched it and thought ..." hmm... I did a pretty good job!" (laughs) I'll watch the stunts as a coordinator, but that's because I'm seeing technically how they're done and if they're cut the right way. It doesn't bother me. But to watch myself in a performance, I have no desire to.

After Halloween 5, did you follow the rest of the Halloween series?

Oh yea!

Any particular ones either before or after Part 5 that stand out to you?

You know, they were all good for their own reasons. It's just that part 6 was tough, because of what I knew it was supposed to be. And the character I was supposed to be (the man in black) was completely different and to me it didn't make any sense.

A few years back, I had seen you meet up with the rest of the Michael Myers for the 25th Anniversary of Halloween in Pasadena. What was that experience like for you? Was that the first time you'd met all the other Michaels'?

It was fun. But one time, Dickie (Dick Warlock) got us together for a show in Cleveland. But it was just a little show. It was more of a get acquainted kind of thing. When we did the 25th anniversary, we had a lot more fun with it.

So, what do you remember being the best part of that weekend?

Ya know, I enjoy meeting the fans. I'm not crazy about doing the autographs and all that, but I love being able to sit and talk to fans. If they want pictures, I can understand that. Sometimes at these events, they line people up and sent them thru, but I'd rather talk to them. Find out what they like. And it gives me more of an idea what I'd need to do in the future as an actor and stunt person.

I'm sure you hear plenty of stories about people's various memories to various films you've done.

Oh yes. Here's a story for you... I just had my wallet stolen in LA. I was at the airport and there was this one policeman taking my report. So, he's got the preliminary, and he asks "What's your name?" And I tell him "Donald Shanks." He kind of looks at me and asks, "Don Shanks?" "Yea." "Did you used to have long hair? Were you... the Indian in Grizzly Adams?" And I tell him "Yea." So he tells me this story, "When I was 6 years old, my dad took me and my sister to a personal appearance you did, and you signed an autograph for us, but you sat and talked to us, because we had a bunch of questions for you, about the bear, etc. Every morning I see your picture! It's still on my wall!" (laughs)

(laughs) How surreal is that!?

Yea. I mean, that was almost 30 years ago. But it's examples like that, because you took the time to talk to them and years later they have that story. That's what's nice about this event (Monster Mania) because they don't run people in. They're allowed to ask questions & be part of panels. Maybe this is the only time a lot of these people get to ask these questions.

What's the next film you're working on?

I'm doing the new 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', which they're calling 'I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer'...

Didn't you have your own title at the panel the other night?

'Who Cares What You Did Last Summer'? (laughs)

How'd that part come about?

Well, we just worked on Bloody Mary which became Urban Legends 3. I coordinated it and doubled several people in the film. They (the producers) thought, "Well, Don does all this stuff, why don't we just make him the killer?"

Excellent. And you kind of resemble the fisherman from the other 2 films.

Well, I can't give anything away, but you'll see in the film that it's a little bit different this time. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Well, Don thanks for your time. See you at the next con!

Special thanks to Don Shanks for his time.
Visit: Don Shanks official site.

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