The many credits of FX and makeup artist Chris Nelson include Sin City, Kill Bill, The Walking Dead, Deadpool, Avengers: Infinity War, and Suicide Squad, for which he won an Academy Award. But according to this self-confessed horror “nerd,” Nelson’s toughest-ever task was designing a new, weathered version of Michael Myers’ iconic mask for the director David Gordon Green’s Halloween (out Oct. 19), a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic of the same name.
“I’m absolutely being 100 percent honest and I’ve done some tough stuff,” Nelson said, when EW visited the set of Halloween in Charleston, SC., earlier this year. “You can’t recreate that iconic image. I think the original, that mask, they way they did it, who it was on, how he wore it, and how they shot it, was the perfect storm. It was the perfect storm, never to be imitated ever again. You just can’t do it. So, the goal was to try to get the form of the original, the expression of the original, the feel for that character. [That] was the goal. It wasn’t trying to copy it, it was just trying to take it a step further and bring that character back again. [I looked at] hundreds and hundreds of reference photos [from the original film], and behind-the-scenes, and still photography, and books. Getting a copy of that Captain Kirk mask, and looking at that copy, and going, How did this work? And when you look at that original mask, you just have no idea how that worked. I have no idea. Because it’s so simple, and not much to it, but again it was just the perfect storm of how it was all shot and how it was all played.
“The mask in the context of this story is forty years old, so I’ve studied a lot of forty-year-old masks, and how they warped, and how they rotted, and how they weathered, and just tried to do that with a cinematic license, and bring that character back to life. It’s made out of slip latex, like all Halloween masks are. So, we went old school. We wanted it to be a Halloween mask and that’s what it is. Hopefully, when fans — real fans — see it for the first time they’re not put off by it, they’re not disappointed by it, they know that that character’s back in the movie and that was point. But really hard to do. A lot of research and then also just a lot of heart. I mean, I’ve been studying that face for forty years, so I know it fairly well!”
Nelson’s hard work paid off on the days the mask was worn for the first time by James Jude Courtney — who plays Myers for most of the film — and by Nick Castle, who portrayed Myers in the original 1978, and makes a cameo appearance as the masked killer in the new film.
“It was exciting the first day [Jim put on the mask],” said Nelson. “That was probably the biggest thrill of this, and seeing him in the jumpsuit, and everything like that. He’s great. I was really impressed. And Nick came in, that was exciting too. The original, you know. To have a mask that I made, putting it on the original guy, and seeing him stand there in the jumpsuit at the top of the stairs with a knife, was also terribly thrilling, because I’m a huge nerd, so I just couldn’t believe it. I almost cried. I think David and I did shed a tear.”
In the new Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her signature role as the Myers-battling Laurie Strode.
“The first movie I was running more, and in this movie, I’m hunting more,” says Curtis. “[You] watch this woman take back the narrative of her life.”