Horror Movie News and Reviews

Jamie Lee Curtis: The Making of a Scream Queen – Halloween II

Halloween II began filming on April 6, 1981, around South Pasadena, California, where much of Halloween had been filmed.

The hospital scenes, which are most prominent in the film, were primarily filmed at vacant Morningside Hospital, located near Inglewood and Los Angeles, with additional hospital scenes to be filmed at Pasadena Community Hospital. “The main hospital we shot at looks really creepy in the film, which I’m happy about because, in reality, it was a relatively pleasant place to work,” recalls [Rick] Rosenthal. “It was easy to get to, fast to light, and there was a lot of cooperation from the location people.”

images

The hospital setting was quite suitable for Rosenthal’s planned German expressionist vision for Halloween II, the mixture of dark and light settings. The hospital’s reception area was airy and light— relatively so given that Morningside Hospital, which has since been torn down, was an old and somewhat decrepit place—which contrasts the contorted, darkened, and long hospital corridors that were ripe for grim suggestion. “We were making a film that takes place one minute after Halloween so I felt a responsibility to maintain the style of Halloween,” recalls Rosenthal. “We had virtually the same crew, and so I wanted it to feel like a two-part story. I wanted to do a thriller more than a slasher movie, like Halloween, but I had no control over the script which was very gory.”

One problem with filming at Morningside, which the cast and crew of Halloween II wouldn’t fully appreciate until filming was underway, was that the hospital was located in close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The resulting noise from nearby air traffic would distract the cast and crew and ruin many takes of scenes. “When the weather was bad, there was almost a continuous line of jets stacked up on approach, holding just above our hospital,” recalls Rosenthal. “This made shooting very difficult, especially long dialogue scenes. We’d do scenes and the jets would roll in and ruin the scene.”

halloween-2-ii-1981-jamie-lee-curtis-laurie-strode

The only part of the hospital that Curtis saw during the filming of Halloween II, until the end of the film, was the hospital room in which Laurie Strode lay prone for much of the film. Although Curtis could, and would, freely walk around the hospital in between takes and talk with the cast and crew, most of her acting in the film takes place in a hospital bed with Laurie Strode being drugged and semi-conscious throughout much of the story. “It was strange to have so little to do, and so little to say, in the sequel because Laurie had been such a big part of the first film,” says Curtis. “Because they set the sequel in the hospital, and that’s where Laurie was, there wasn’t much for me to do in the film.”

Rosenthal’s closest professional ally on Halloween II, and a person who’d play a major role in Curtis’ life at this juncture, was production designer J. Michael Riva. Like Rosenthal, Riva who’d recently worked on the 1980 Best Picture Academy Award winner Ordinary People—was an artist himself who was entirely in-step with the film noir, German expressionist approach that Rosenthal envisioned for Halloween II.

3

Curtis and Riva had more in common than any other relationship Curtis would ever be involved in prior to her eventual marriage to actor-director Christopher Guest in 1984. The biggest thing they had in common was that Riva was, like Curtis, born into Hollywood royalty as he was the grandson of Hollywood screen icon Marlene Dietrich which is probably just as impressive, if not more, than being the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. Unlike with her previous relationships, including her relationship with then-fiance Ray Hutcherson, Curtis didn’t have to be self-conscious of her Hollywood pedigree and her famous last name around Riva.

Although Halloween II’s $2.5 million budget was modest by Hollywood standards, it was like Gone with the Wind compared to Halloween’s $300,000 budget. The increased budget, which was the biggest example of De Laurentiis’ involvement with the sequel, was visible during the production of Halloween II in many ways. This was no longer a group of friends floating around South Pasadena in the haphazard pursuit of completing a movie. Halloween II was a real Hollywood production.

index

For Curtis, this meant getting her own Winnebago trailer, unlike on Halloween where Curtis and the rest of the cast and crew had shared Dean Cundey’s lone Winnebago. Curtis also had her own chair with a gold star on the back of it, a clear sign of her value to the production.

The exterior of Morningside Hospital was full of Winnebagos, along with catering trucks, production vehicles, and all of the various Hollywood studio trappings that were just a dream during the filming of Halloween in the spring of 1978.

hw29

One of the most hilarious examples of the sequel’s relative excess is present in the film’s opening shot, a wildly-ambitious crane shot that hovers over the front of the Doyle house as the sequel recaps what happened at the end of Halloween. Meanwhile, The Chordettes chime Mr. Sandman over the soundtrack. Neither of these elements—either the crane or the use of the music—would’ve been imaginable during the production of Halloween.

Given that Halloween II takes place immediately after Halloween, which had been filmed almost precisely three years earlier, one of the most difficult tasks for the crew—especially cinematographer Dean Cundey and production designer J. Michael Riva—was achieving stylistic and visual continuity between Halloween and Halloween II. To this end, the film succeeds in terms of successfully recreating the feel and look of the Haddonfield streets. Everything from Halloween that’s in Halloween II—from Loomis’ appearance to Haddonfield to Michael Myers’ William Shatner mask—looks virtually the same. Everything in Halloween II looks pretty much identical to Halloween with the noticeable exception of Laurie Strode’s hair.

h2

Curtis had transformed physically in the past three years, definitely, but her hair was a whole other story. In Halloween, Curtis’ hair was thin and tomboyish-looking, very much a microcosm of Curtis’ own awkward self-image at the time. Between Halloween and Halloween II, Curtis’ hair—as seen in the four other films she’d made after Halloween— had undergone so many different frostings and treatments that, by the time of Halloween II’s filming, it would no longer respond to her commands.

4

The real problem, in terms of matching the look of Laurie Strode’s hair in Halloween II, is that Curtis had trimmed her hair short for the filming of She’s in the Army Now and so the situation was unattainable. The only solution was for Curtis to don a wig in the film. “Getting her hair to match was a problem,” recalls Rosenthal. “Jamie had cut it for a role and there wasn’t time for her to grow it out before we had to start shooting, so we ended up wigging her for the role. But, this being Hollywood, we had access to amazing hair people and I think it’s hard to tell that Jamie is wearing a wig throughout— especially amazing considering Halloween II picks up right where the first film left off. Jamie had to look exactly like she did in the first film—and I think she does.”

This excerpt was taken from the book Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, which is available in paperback and on kindle.

Download The iHorror App