Anthony Michael Hall may have starred in a bunch of seminal pop-culture classics, from the original “Vacation” to John Hughes’ most beloved works, but he missed out on the rise of the slasher movie in the late 1970s and ‘80s.
Four decades later, Hall’s making up for lost time, picking up a baseball bat and facing off with iconic villain Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills” (in theaters and streaming on Peacock now). A yearlong pandemic delay in the film’s release gave the 53-year-old "Brat Pack" star extra time to go to “Halloween school” and deep dive on the horror franchise’s die-hard fan base via Google and YouTube.
Hall first saw the original “Halloween” on cable when he was about 11 or 12, at a time when the young actor already had quite a few commercials and stage work on his growing resume.
“I remember the night distinctly because my parents went out and when you're that young, it's a big deal,” says Hall, who loved the “very simplistic, very primal aspects that (director John) Carpenter created.”
After the 2018 hit “Halloween” caught up with heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after her fateful night of babysitting turned bloody in Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” the new “Halloween Kills” sequel reintroduces more personalities including Tommy Doyle (Hall). The role was played by Brian Andrews in the first film and Paul Rudd in 1995’s “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers,” but Hall takes on Tommy as a grown-up community leader in Haddonfield.
Hall describes him as “full throttle”: “He's a fighter and he's scrappy and I love that he's kind of in the eye of the storm."
In the beginning of “Halloween Kills,” which picks up where the 2018 film ends, Tommy leads an annual toast to Laurie and the survivors, as well as the victims of the 1978 slaughter that forever altered their lives. It’s a “meaningful and important” moment that “gives the audience a refresher on the mythology of Myers,” Hall says. But when they hear the iconic villain has returned, the townsfolk "make this very simple and powerful choice to fight and to unify and to take (Michael) head on.”
'I'll say goodbye when I'm dead': Jamie Lee Curtis talks a hospitalized Laurie in 'Halloween Kills'
Tommy’s also the one who has to deliver the grim news to a hospitalized Laurie, who is suffering from a bloody stab wound courtesy of Michael, that her plan to trap him and send him to a fiery grave didn’t work.
“When he says to her, ‘You protected me when I was a little boy and I'm going to protect you,’ that was very emotional and powerful,” Curtis recalls about Hall’s “beautifully done” performance.
He was “the right choice” to play Tommy, says co-star Judy Greer, a “giant, enormous fan” of Hall’s early movies. “If you can't get the people who originated the roles, then it's really great to cast people who should have or could have.”
Curtis and other rising stars of the time, including Kevin Bacon (“Friday the 13th”) and Johnny Depp (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), had early breakthrough parts in horror films, but for Hall, scary movies "really just didn’t come my way, to be honest” after his run of hit comedies like "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club."
But “I would've certainly entertained it," says Hall, who sampled the genre in a 2000s USA Network sci-fi show based on Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone."
Hall’s next project is another throwback: He produces and stars in the coming-of-age film “The Class,” a reimagining of “The Breakfast Club” with Hall coming full circle as the assistant principal and Debbie Gibson as the drama teacher of six students forced to come to school on a Saturday and do presentations to pass her class.
“I think John Hughes would be very proud,” says Hall, who threw “a couple of little things” into his character inspired by late friend Paul Gleason, the original hard-case assistant principal in “Breakfast Club.”
Not unlike his "Halloween Kills" character, from a young age Hall had “determination and that kind of fighting spirit,” says the actor, who also stars in the coming Netflix action movie "Trigger Warning" with Jessica Alba. But it wasn’t until he started working with Hughes as a teenager that he was inspired to entertain “thoughts about my own future and just thinking, 'OK, I'm gonna just really go for it and really make it my career and my craft.'"
He can relate to Tommy, but looking back on his famous early roles, his “Breakfast Club” geek Brian Johnson was the biggest acting stretch for Hall: “I wasn't a nerd. I wasn't a shy kid. I wasn't a great student.”
He veered closer to Farmer Ted, who wooed Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles,” and Gary Wallace, who Frankenstein'd dream woman Kelly LeBrock into existence in “Weird Science.” Hall's wavy “Weird Science” locks were Hughes’ idea, by the way.
“I’ll see young kids today, like skater kids, and a lot of them are rocking that haircut," Hall says. "Right on, man.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Halloween Kills' gives Brat Pack star Anthony Michael Hall a gory hit