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 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.
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.
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 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...
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?
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...
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...
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?
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?
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.
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?
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!
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