This interview contains spoilers about the new Halloween.
Judy Greer’s Karen Strode spends much of the new Halloween deflecting her mom’s insistence that she be more vigilant about the dangers of the world, that she fortify her home against intruders, and probably carry at least one gun at all times. Karen knows her mom lives life under the shadow of that terrible day 40 years ago, but the intense manifestation of Laurie’s PTSD means that Karen largely has, too. After being taken from Laurie’s custody at a young age, Greer’s character has done her best to reject the fear and anger that defined her upbringing, and by the time we meet her in new Halloween she has a daughter of her own she’s trying to shield from the pain of the past.
But Halloween is a horror movie, and no one gets out of those without confronting their demons — either literal or figurative. In the movie’s big finale, Greer and Karen both finally get to shine. All that doomsday training she went through as a little girl, the time spent at the on-property gun range and helping to wire her own home with traps, translates into Karen Strode dropping the suburban mom act she’s worked so hard to curate and becoming a participant in the quest to defeat Michael Myers. Halloween fans will come to this movie geared up for Jamie Lee Curtis to be all kinds of badass, but Greer has one of the most triumphant moments in the film. Vulture called her up shortly before the extremely successful theatrical release to talk about it.
Thanks so much for talking to me about Halloween, Judy.
Oh my gosh. Of course. I love talking about this movie. I’m so excited about it, and I love it so much.
Well, great! Why do you love it?
There’s so many levels to why I love the movie. I’ll start with the obvious. The movie itself turned out just so good, and had it not been a sequel to anything it’s just such a good stand-alone. I’m excited about that, because sometimes I’m slow on the uptake, even though the original is obviously such a cult classic and so beloved. But it’s scary and it’s funny and it’s suspenseful, and if I dare say, the performances are wonderful [laughs]. I’m just really proud of it and I feel like we made something that is really special. Even though I was in it and I knew everything that was going to happen I was screaming and jumping and clutching onto my manager who was sitting next to me at TIFF. I was a great audience member.
You give a great performance, you’re a great audience member …[Laughs.] I’m really killing it! Then I love it because I am just such a huge fan of Jamie Lee Curtis and David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. That was such a huge get for me, to work with those three. David and Danny had been on my list of people I wanted to work with for so long, and never in a million years did I think it would be on a horror movie! So that was really cool, and I’ve been a fan of Jamie Lee Curtis for so long, but getting to know her and working with her and spending time with her was so awesome. She was a thousand times cooler than I ever could have imagined.
From what I have gathered, being around Jamie really pushes people to basically be their best selves.
It does. She is a great teacher. She holds you accountable. She has a great memory. She is extremely compassionate and loving and she’s a wonderful listener. Like, you come out of an encounter with her and you end up a little bit better of a person. I think it’s because she doesn’t suffer fools, and she is really super clear on who she is. It’s really inspiring, because I’ve worked with so many actors at this point, and it’s not often that you run into someone who inspires you to be better at your job and then also in your life. I’ve felt that with Jennifer Garner and with Jamie. I’ve felt that a handful of times, but Jamie is one of those people who if you say “I like peanut butter,” she’ll be like, “Why?” You’re all, “Oh, okay. I’m going to tell you. God, I’ve gotta back myself up. I need to know my shit around this woman.”
And then there was an incredible amount of honor I felt once I met her that she sort of — I don’t know if she had casting approval — but feeling like she wanted me to be a part of this, because it’s so near and dear to her heart, it did feel really flattering to be asked to do this with her. And David is such an electric director. I think it’s very cool that he stands his ground and does whatever the fuck he wants to do. And working for Blumhouse, they know what they’re doing and you just feel really safe going forward in a project like this.
So the thing I am most excited to talk to you about is Karen’s big moment in this movie. The “gotcha!” moment.
Up to that point I had started getting angry wondering when I was going to get more Judy Greer, but then you raised that gun and it got the biggest reaction of the night in my theater.
That is so cool!
So what was it like after so much slow buildup for your character to finally get to break out like that?
You know, I don’t like to get my hopes up until I see the finished product, so it really wasn’t until I saw it for the first time at TIFF that I could wrap my mind around what it was that happened that day on set. You never know how the movie’s going to cut together. I certainly felt like, “Oh, if this works it will totally kick all the ass!” But, like, I don’t fucking know! I don’t watch playback on the monitor. I don’t like to watch myself in that way, but the crowd erupted and screamed and yelled in a way I could never have imagined. And look, just as a human person who wants to feel pride and excitement, it was a really incredible moment in my life. Then as an actor I felt like, “Oh, cool. It worked. My performance worked. I did what my director wanted me to do, and I did my job! Yay!”
Karen really came through in the clutch.
Right?! I pray that if that happens to be me, I will fucking step up. It was important that Karen rose to the occasion, and I’m glad it worked. I was just really swelling with pride in that moment, like, “Oh, my God! It worked it worked it worked it worked it worked it worked it worked it worked it worked!
It’s a pretty special way to be immortalized in horror, and for what the story was going for in terms of highlighting the ripple effects of inherited trauma it was a great crystallizing moment. Up until then, Karen had spent the entire movie really running away from the idea of what happened to her mom, because that was all she could do to survive in her own life and have a family. But even when you don’t have a masked murderer chasing you, that day of reckoning is unavoidable.
Laurie became defined by what happened to her on that night 40 years ago. It is her whole entire existence. Then you have her daughter, who has devoted her life to not being defined by what happened for her mom.
And as such, then becomes defined by the reaction to it.
Yes! “I’m not a victim of my mom’s trauma. I will not live my life the way my mom did,” and that is what defines her. Then you have Laurie’s granddaughter, who is the product of [Karen’s] hard work, basically, “It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I’m living a regular life. Can’t I just have a nice relationship with my grandma?” Karen sacrificed everything so that so that Andi Matichak’s character can have a regular existence until, of course … she doesn’t!
Until she sees her mom go full survivalist in a panic room.
I know! I mean, come on! That room was so cool! But it worked. Until that moment,I did rewrite history. But like, this is why we bring our family to therapy with us once in a while. It’s why we fight so hard to change our narrative, and why when you have a bad breakup you have that great coffee with your ex and you’re like, “Yeah, I fucked up.” “Oh my God, I fucked up too! Wow, we can move on!” We’re all kind of searching to find some peace with our history, and Laurie never could, and I’m fighting to do it, and I’ve protected my daughter from it.
People are going to go see this movie and they’re going to be scared and they’re going to love it and it’s giving you everything you want. But they will see it again and they will see these levels in it, because it took me a minute. I was like, “This is kickass!” And then when I met Jamie and I met David and we started to rehearse together with Andi, the four of us were in a room together hashing out these scenes and what this is about — really the meta conversation. I was like, “Fuck, I just thought it was like really cool and scary!” That’s why I think this movie is special, because nothing is taken for granted in it, and that’s really David and Jamie, and Jamie’s just refusal to allow anything to not have a defined, single-sentence reason for why it happened.
From talking to Danny and David it sounds like the script was evolving throughout production. Was that something you were involved with?
There were times when there was struggle in the rehearsal room when Jamie was like, “No, I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t do that.” And they’re like, “Can you just do it?” And she’s like, “No!” Then it’s, “Okay, let’s figure out why.” And she even felt that way about Karen. “Karen wouldn’t do this,” and I’m like, “She wouldn’t?” And Jamie would be like, “No!” And I’d say, “Okay. Let’s solve the problem.” It was really cool. It was a really fun, inclusive experience, and I didn’t expect going into this to come out feeling like it made me a better actor. That sounds terrible to say! But I wanted to do this movie for the reasons I told you, and one of the perks that I got out of it, besides some great relationships made in the process, is that I came out feeling more committed to my craft.
And obviously Jamie Lee is Laurie Strode. She’s really the core of this franchise, but did you feel, too, like you had a say in how the story and your character were shaped?
Oh, 100 percent. It was one of the more collaborative jobs I’ve ever had. We all worked really hard together, and I never felt like my voice was second to anyone. I felt 100 percent able and excited to speak up and excited to solve problems — story problems, character problems, character descriptions. You know, we have to be able to explain things when we do interviews. We have to be able to be honest when we’re playing these roles in front of the camera. I have to tell the truth so I have to know what the truth is, and I always felt like I could say, “This isn’t sitting right with me. Can someone help me with it?” It was such a fun process. I wish I could do it all over again tomorrow.
Well, if you guys are doing it again, feel free to tell me right here!
Let’s do it again! I am crossing everything. I loved working with these people, and it was such a treat, and all this craft stuff aside, this was fucking fun. It was so fun to hear the word “Cut” and everyone in video village would be like “Yes!” or “Holy shit, we just did that!” And that is always my first hope with any movie like this, that it’s got to be fun.
This interview has been edited and condensed.