GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — It’s true. The boogeyman has ties to Northeast Ohio.
James Jude Courtney, the actor who has portrayed horror villain Michael Myers in the three latest Halloween movies alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, was born and raised in our community.
“I was born in Garfield Heights at Marymount Hospital and raised in Bedford,” he tells 3News in an exclusive interview. “I think I had just turned 15 when we moved to South Carolina. I went to St. Mary’s grade school and Holy Name High School.”
He said his memories of Halloween in Northeast Ohio were very special.
“Back in that day, the streets were just swamped with kids in costumes,” Courtney says. “It was a different era.”
Watch our extended interview with him in the player below:
By the 4th grade, Courtney says he started delivering newspapers – a decision that also helped shape his college career.
“I remember delivering papers through the fall and the change of colors and into the winter where snow drifts were higher than my head,” he reflects. “The temperature with the wind chill of -8 degrees. I had two paper routes, man. Cleveland Plain Dealer, dude. It got me interested in journalism and I majored in broadcasting journalism as an undergrad.”
Courtney, who still resides in South Carolina, says he was just back in the area as recently as six months ago.
“My family and I are back often.”
So how did he land the iconic role as Michael Myers? He tells 3News the opportunity surfaced when the stunt coordinator who worked on Rob Zombie’s previous Halloween movies reached out.
“He called me up and said, ‘Hey, so we’re doing another Halloween.’ I was like, ‘Great, that sounds good. Have fun, man.’”
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But then his friend explained how this script was different and would require somebody “with deep acting chops” and experience as “a really good stuntman.”
“I’m a trained actor,” Courtney explains. “I studied with Stella Adler. I had a private coach in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I had done a lot of work on the acting end and as a stuntman. I’ve done over 3,000 high falls and probably 7,000 fights because I started out in live shows. Then David Gordon Green (the director) said, ‘Well, he’s got to be 6’3”, 200 pounds and he’s got to be in his 60s. Do you know anybody?’ Ron knew one guy, and that was me. So, it was meant to be.”
Wearing the mask for the first time is a moment Courtney describes as electric.
“We all gathered in a room and very dramatically Chris [Nelson] put the mask on me. Dude, it was like an 8-million amp connection. Everybody collectively in the room just went, ‘Oooooo.’ It was a guttural sound. Inside me, it was the connection I needed to make it happen.”
While there’s always the possibility Michael Myers returns in a future film, Courtney says his days in the boogeyman’s boots are done.
“For Jamie it is, for me it is. Who knows what they’re going to do in 10 years, but I think it’s going to be pretty hard to cap this for right now. I’m done. I’ve got other projects that are in the pipeline right now. I don’t want to be stuck playing one character, but it’s been an honor playing this character, for sure.”
As he leaves the Halloween legacy behind, he’s also keeping some very special mementos from the trilogy.
“I’ve got masks from each one of the films,” Courtney says. “There were only a couple of them made for each film. The hero, which I wear, and then there’s one for a stunt double and then there’s ones made specifically for fire. So I have the hero masks, in other words the masks that I wore every single day. They’re incredibly valuable. I’ve been offered just an insane amount of money for each of them. But of course I’m not going to sell them. I’ll keep them. They’re being preserved. I’ll never put them on, by the way. I’ll never put them on. Once I take the mask off, I’m done. That’s it.”
Bonus horror movie fact: Horror icon Wes Craven, the man who created Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street, was also born in Northeast Ohio.