Malek Akkad has literally grown up in the world of horror. He was on the set running around as a kid on the very first Halloween movie which was produced by his father Moustapha Akkad. This continued on every subsequent Halloween movie after to where we are today with Malek running the set as the producer of the newest Halloween movie. Over the years Malek has carried the torch and turned the Halloween franchise to what it is today, the most successful horror franchise in Hollywood history.
I had the honor to be invited by Malek to come to the set of Halloween this year during shooting to interview the Cast, Director, Writers and really just everyone and it was incredible. One of my favorite interviews was the one with Malek himself. Unlike so many people in Hollywood who talk a big game, Malek Akkad is a soft spoken man who had actually made a big impact to the world of horror. His guidance has taken the Halloween franchise and turned it into a world wide phenomenon.
Before talking to Malek I sat down with Jamie Lee Curtis and when I asked her … “How was it going onto the set again and seeing Michael in the mask coming after you?”
She told me… “The truth of the matter is, the moment that completely slayed me was seeing Malek Akkad, who was a kid, because I knew his dad. It brings tears to your eyes that he was carrying on the tradition of his father. That got me, when I saw him standing there, because I remember him as a little kid and then the horrible story of what happened to his dad and that did it. You know, I’ve worked with charities, I’ve had masks signed for charities, for children’s hospitals, I’ve done that so the mask doesn’t evoke that in me. I’ve raised two children to adulthood, can you imagine how many Halloween’s I’ve gone out? Can you imagine how many Michael Myers I’ve seen? So that didn’t so it but seeing Malek, his father’s son, carrying on this great tradition from a movie that was conceived by his dad in 1977, because if any of us have lost people, that connection was very moving to me. I’m sure I’ll feel that way when I see John, I saw Nick Castle, that was kind of wack, it’s awesome, but the real emotional moment for me was seeing Malek Akkad.”
I am please to bring you my interview with Malek Akkad.
Please to enjoy…
Cinema Buzz: So how did this whole deal come together with you and Blumhouse?
Malek: Well, that’s a complicated question. Obviously we parted ways with the Weinstein’s, we had done the previous five with the Weinstein’s, so we parted ways about two years ago, some might say it was very fortunate timing and we were then with the original Miramax again. So Miramax and us, we started looking at who would be good partners for this, not only from their point of view to help finance and distribute and that stuff, but also to bring some new life into it, so it just seemed like a natural fit and they’ve been great.
Cinema Buzz: Was the plan always to reboot the series or was there talk of spinning off a new sequel off the last film of your series?
Malek: There’s always talk of everything, at some point in time and over the last seven years since the last installment I think there’s been dozens of different takes and pitches and started and stopped. At one point after Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 we were right back in production on Halloween 3D and a couple different incarnations and then the last go around was Halloween Returns so there’s probably about four movies that could have been done in that time but I think it was all for a good reason and the result, as you guys will see more and more from the crew and what you’re going to see, it’s really great.
Cinema Buzz: Your dad did the first Halloween with John Carpenter and now hear you are forty years later, or however long it’s been, doing something that is so much an homage to the first one, and you’re also doing a lot of stuff with your dad’s work with [Lime Desert, Messenger?] and the restoring so where is this emotionally to you, as it attaches to the first one?
Malek: It’s huge, to be here working with Jamie again, I worked with her on H20 and Resurrection, but to be working with her again, and John Carpenter and the cast, all those guys who did the film, I was an eight year old kid at the time, this is my seventh Halloween, in one way or another. I found out this morning, it was shocking to me, but going back thirty years, its’ been a huge part of my life and I can honestly say no one would be happier than my father to see what we’re doing with it. He was the biggest champion of the franchise there was, he kept it alive through many periods where it could have easily gone another way, he would be the happiest person to see what we’re doing.
Cinema Buzz: About a year ago you did an interview with John Carpenter about the release of Halloween in the theaters. Was that when the conversation started about him coming back and what was that like?
Malek: Yes, actually that was you that did that interview. And yes it was and for whatever reason in the past I had wanted to get John involved, I won’t go into those details why it couldn’t happen, but as soon as we did part ways with the Weinstein company the first call I made was to John and I just said you know, there’s no way we’re going to do one without you. I was a no brainer, from Miramax to Blumhouse, we just said we’ve got to have John so super excited to have his involvement and him sort of overseeing and giving his blessing and working with David and Danny and Jeff with the script, so it’s been great.
Cinema Buzz: Since you’ve been involved with so many other movies in the series, when you hear the pitch from David and Danny about just starting from the first one, does that hurt you a little bit, we’re just getting rid of these things that I worked so hard on previously?
Malek: I mean it does and it doesn’t. First, a little bit, you’re always wondering what the fans reaction to that is going to be and to be honest, the franchise has taken a lot of left turns as you know, but when you hear it from filmmakers like David Gordon Green and Danny McBride of course, that’s what makes you feel comfortable in doing it. For me, from the get go, what was really important was I didn’t just want to get another horror director and so the idea was very early on, this franchise should be able to attract an A list director and that was kind of the mandate and even though the studio was sending a lot of horror directors, and they’re all very talented, but Jason Blum really agreed and championed that idea as well and I give him credit for bringing in a filmmaker like David Gordon Green.
Cinema Buzz: Is there anything you sort of miss about the films that are no longer part of the continuity, like did you have plans for the cult of thorn that never came together?
Malek: You know, like I said, there’s been so many left turns. One of the films I did not work on was Halloween 5 and that ending for example is so out of left field and to be honest, they didn’t even know how they were going to answer that, the man in black thing, so you know ultimately, we want to do something that the fans will love and we also want it to be fresh. At one point, we were working on Halloween 9 and you had so many loose ends after Resurrection, you had so many characters and you had the relationship in the family, that’s just a huge puzzle to solve and my father, god bless him, was working with us on that. After he passed away we were going to start fresh, do a really big kind of revisiting of the story, that was Rob Zombies of course, and it was sort of Rob’s take, he got to take his crack at that apple and now I think we wanted it to be fresh but something that connected for the fans. There are so many arcs in there that you can never satisfy them all and I think what David and Danny and Jeff have done has really cracked it in a way that the fans are going to love. The fans are going to love all the homages they put in the film, there are just so many little Easter Eggs and you know, just kind of touches to the original.
Cinema Buzz: How do you interact with the fans? Are you listening to blogs, are you talking to them personally, how are you getting a sense of what the fans are looking for?
Malek: I mean now it’s sort of all online social media of course and I can’t get too buried into that because there’s such a debate and you’re always going to have people who are supportive, people who are not, for example, when we did the remake I knew that was going to cause quite a stir, and it did, and the only thing you can say is well, if you want the original you’ve got the original, this is something new, something fresh so you just try and do the best you can and something you feel the fans are going to like. You know, making a movie is like this huge ingredient dish you’re making with over a hundred people, everyone’s putting in their little touches so to get that baked right you could say, it’s always a challenge but having done so many of these, at this point in time, I’ve never been more excited and confident that what we’re doing the fans are really going to like.
Cinema Buzz: After so many, not only your own Halloween films, but so many imitations and unofficial spin offs if you will, is it difficult to really come up with something fresh when it seems like everything has been done, just in the slasher film field in general?
Malek: Yeah, it’s always a challenge and like I was mentioning earlier, the pitch’s that we’ve heard have been so crazy, it would definitely be a good article just talking about some of the crazy pitches we’ve heard but it is, and that’s why I think what David and Danny are doing is fresh. It’s not going to make everyone happy, people want to see various threads of the story continued, some people want it to pick up after two, some after six, some people after Resurrection, some after Zombies but I think it’s doing it in a way that will satisfy and really engage viewers and hopefully be a really satisfying movie for the fans.
Cinema Buzz: It sounds like an easy question but what makes this incarnation of Michael Myers so scary?
Malek: Great question and a hard one, actually. I even ask that question of other fans, what is it about that mask, about that faceless killer and for me I guess, people can put the attribute of whatever their worst nightmare is for that mask and I think in some weird way, even though you’re not seeing him this makes it relatable in a way, you project your own fear into it but, of course I’m biased, but I would say he’s also the coolest of all the serial killers but that’s just my opinion.
Cinema Buzz: The guy that’s doing your makeup is incredible, talk about him a little bit and what was his input on the mask, how was it going to be unique for this movie?
Malek: He’s an amazing artist, Chris Nelson, we’re super lucky to have him again, there’s this love for this franchise that fortunately attracts great talent like that, and it’s also gone on to launch a lot of great talent, but Chris, David and I, we collectively conceptually wanted this mask to be special and where would it be in the timeline of these events and how would it look an it’s always been a difficult thing to get the mask right, as you all know, there’s been hits and big misses but what Chris has done is fantastic, I think you guys are going to see it later and we’re just super excited about it.
Cinema Buzz: Should we expect just the one mask, I know through H20 and Resurrection there were moments where there was emotion there, you saw the mask changed because he was angry because he got hit or whatever, should we expect just one face or will it change like that?
Malek: I don’t know, that’s a good question. I don’t know if you should expect it, it’s definitely possible, yeah. There will be emotion in his moments and the funny thing about the mask is it sits differently on everybody, so it’s a matter of sculpting it to the actor, making it look as good as it can, if you put it on anyone else it would sort of look a little different.
Cinema Buzz: Has William Shatner ever commented on the fact that his face is the face of Michael Myers?
Malek: Not to me directly but I did hear a rumor that because people have asked him of course his whole life and from what I hear he doesn’t really acknowledge it, I think he makes light of it, I don’t really know but we actually have one of the original impressions of William Shatner in our office in L.A. so obviously we’re really grateful to him.
Cinema Buzz: You should have him do a cameo where he dies and just looks at it…and then he’s dead.
Malek: Nice, nice. I guess it’s on record here that you came up with that so…no it’s funny, in certain ways we’ve tried to reach out to him and do maybe appearances and stuff, lord knows he’s busy enough with the Star Trek stuff, but you never know.
Cinema Buzz: By going back to the original film and setting it in that sort of continuity, what you have is a Michael Myers in his sixties. How does that effect the story and the development of it and how do you think that will continue to be scary, is that a realistic quality that you have to consider?
Malek: It’s definitely something we talked about and thought about and I think absolutely it’s a terrifying prospect. I mean, you can look at someone like a Mickey Rourke, not that he’s terrifying, someone who’s fit and at that age and yeah, there’s something very creepy about that because he will start to get a little bit old. I think it’s exciting because it gives us more options and things that we can do later and hopefully this won’t be the last one. My father used to always quote Donald Pleasance, he would ask Donald after he was on six I believe, and he’d done five of them, and he asked him Donald, how many of these are you going to keep doing and he said no, I’m not going to keep doing them, I’m going to stop at twenty two and that was my father’s favorite quote, to quote Donald so I mean as long as we’re doing something that the fans like and there’s respect for the franchise, hopefully we’ll keep doing them.
Cinema Buzz: Speaking about age and everything, I love the fact that you’re not afraid to bring in mature actors, bringing Jamie back and showing that they can still kick ass and if you look at Don’t Breathe with Stephen Lang’s performance, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still be a badass. Can you kind of talk about that and how important it was to represent and show that it doesn’t matter?
Malek: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, Jamie Lee is the greatest, she’s the best thing about this franchise, other than Michael, and we’re so honored to have her back again but I think what David’s done with the three generations of women has really kind of opened this up where it’s not just the typical teenage victim, it’s broadened it, it’s a more mature telling and again I think that’s just down to a filmmaker like David Gordon Green.
Cinema Buzz: I wonder if you could speak to where the genre is, it feels like we’re in a really awesome renaissance, much of that is directly do to the stuff that Blumhouse is putting out, Get Out is an Oscar nominee. Does it feel like an exciting time to be in the world of horror?
Malek: It does, it’s exciting to be working with Blumhouse and Jason Blum because you’re right, I think anyone would say, in a way it’s not anything groundbreaking or new, it’s low budget quality films, that’s the way the first Halloween was done so there’s always be the desire and market for good horror. But in this day and age he’s really cracked that Rubik’s Cube on how to do big, theatrical horror and we’ve never seen that on that scale before so it’s a really exciting time for horror and a really exciting time to be working with Blumhouse, honestly.
Cinema Buzz: The horror genre is doing really, really well now, as it always has, the slasher genre has been a little sleepy for a bit. Were you concerned about that in terms of revitalizing it in some way, how do you make that break out again?
Malek: You know, it’s cyclical of course, I think everyone in this room could talk to the genre better than I could but no, that’s not really our concern, we just wanted to do another good Halloween movie and there were various multiple reasons why it hasn’t happened until now and I think that was fateful because the team we have together is like I said, super exciting.
Cinema Buzz: Why do you think Halloween has endured over so many decades?
Malek: That’s a great question, I don’t know. It all goes back of course to what John did in the original and I think he disrupted the space so completely with this low budget film, it was so terrifying, and created this iconic character in Michael Myers which has now sort of become part of the American Lexicon so that alone, new and younger generations, they’re all gravitating towards that and now we’ve got an audience that spans generations, it’s crazy how long I’ve been a part of it, that’s exciting. I think this film will also broaden our audience out even more and there’s probably the younger generation who probably hasn’t seen even the original, or any in the franchise and I think the beauty of this film is it will be a stand-alone piece of work by David that you can take on its own, you don’t have to necessarily have to tie it to the original, it will be a stand-alone and a really strong film.
Cinema Buzz: Do you see anything similar in the way Carpenter directed the first one, obviously your observations of him were limited, but do you see any similarities between how Carpenter directed the old one and how David is directing the new one?
Malek: No, I was too young and only there a day or two and I didn’t really get to watch John in action. I spent more time on Halloween 2 with Rick Rosenthal, but what I can say is we’ve worked with many directors, not only on Halloween but all the Halloween directors, and David is a directors director. He’s fantastic with the actors, fantastic with the crew, it’s really a joy actually to watch him work and learned a lot from him, he’s great.
Cinema Buzz: Can you speak to trying to find that balance between that elegance and rather bloodless version that is John’s original and most violence that audiences have become accustomed to by at this point, because obviously that is two demographics that you’re trying to appeal to, was that difficult?
Malek: Well, my personal taste is definitely for the former, more elegant and it’s what you don’t see and it’s the moments leading up to the kill that are more terrifying for me than after the kill and it’s interesting because we had some of these sort of battles with Rob Zombies, especially the second one which became a very violent and bloody film and it’s a taste thing I guess and that’s more of Rob’s style and that certainly found an audience and people who like that. Personally I like the more bloodless elegant, that’s a nice way you put it, style and I will say I don’t think anybody who’s into that, the gore and special effects, they’re certainly not going to be disappointed in this one, David is taking it to a higher level.
Cinema Buzz: Talk about the communication between you and Jason. When you have an idea or he has an idea and you’re in the middle of shooting, do you guys talk and then go to the director, how does that dynamic work?
Malek: Well it all focuses more around David and it goes out from there. What I’ve noticed working with Blumhouse is there an artist driven company, they really let their filmmakers make their voice and that’s a very admirable thing. It’s a collective between all of us but really at the end of the day it’s supporting David and his vision.
Cinema Buzz: So can you talk about the possibility of spinning off into other forms of media, I think it was Dead by Daylight that did a Halloween theme and with the success of the Friday the 13th video game, is there any possibility of making this into something like that, like a VR experience or something?
Malek: This year there are going to be some big announcements to that effect, looking at new forms of media. All of those you said are possibilities, the attractions we do, videogames, VR, it’s all sort of being discussed so stay tuned, this year is going to be a big year for Halloween.