Jamie Lee Curtis may be the face of the Halloween franchise, but for true fans, Nancy Stephens is almost as iconic. As Marion, the nurse who works alongside Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in the original Halloween and Halloween ii, the 72-year-old activist actress was among the first to meet fleeing Michael Myers on a stormy night outside a mental asylum. At the time, she lived to tell the story, but in 1998 Michael finally caught up with her in the memorable opening sequence of Halloween: H20, when his chain-smoking and sarcastic character finally had a fateful encounter with his butcher’s knife.
Like a little Halloween head myself, I was delighted when she came back in Halloween kills, the second film in David Gordon Green’s new trilogy, which ignores the events of all Halloween movies except the original. Marion lives again! Alas, her resurrection is brief – Michael soon drops her once again – but her appearance is one of the film’s stealthy thrills. To find out what it’s like to die brutally in the world’s most iconic slasher franchise, not once but twice, I called Stephens. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Jeffrey Bloomer: When I was watching Halloween kills, I was so happy to see you, but soon after, Michael Myers had something to say about it. And I was like, damn, again? You are already dead! How did you react when you heard it was going to happen again?
Nancy Stephens: Well David called me. I was a big fan. And to tell the truth I had not seen the 2018 Halloween. But David followed and I broke my foot, so it was in a cast. So I said, “If we want to talk, you’re going to have to come see me.” So he come and I said, “But David, I’m dead. Someone brought me in, in H2O. “He said, ‘Nancy, it doesn’t matter.’
So OK. Voluntary suspension of disbelief. And I loved the gestalt of this movie, that he was doing this contemporary PTSD group therapy with those who survived Halloween and weren’t crazy now. And so I thought, why not? I love being an actor. I haven’t worked a lot lately. I’m not quite in that “mature woman” category that gets offered roles, so I was like, “Well, that will be fun”. And I know Mad Nurse Marion is an icon. My adult children know that. My daughter will say, “Mom, the waiter found you. And I say, “No, no, he didn’t. Do not be stupid. And of course inevitably someone who wasn’t even born when the original Halloween came out, “Oh, Mrs. Stephens, I’m such a fan. I love these movies.
What was it like to be back on a Halloween fixed after decades?
I liked it. I liked it. And I keep telling David, “I’m available. You know I’m available. And I think it’s important to say — and I texted David about this — I so appreciate the safety the staff had around the guns. The guys who took care of the guns, it rolled and then he handed the gun to me. And the minute they said, “Cut,” he picked up the gun. He was right outside. And I said, “No, I can keep it. We will go back. And he would say, “No, Nancy, it’s my job. Protect yourself, protect everyone. And boy, that’s a sobering lesson and an important lesson right now. Unbelievable.
You’ve been in the front row for very different times from Halloween—The original in 1978 and Halloween ii in 1981, then Halloween: H20 during the 90s slasher revival, and now this new trilogy. Can you guide me through these different eras?
When I think back to the first Halloween, it was, “Wow, that’s great. I have a job. You’re a young actor and I’ve always played guest roles and stuff, but it seemed to be different. The thrill for me in the first Halloween is that I was able to work with Donald Pleasence. John Carpenter was an unknown quantity, and I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I’m no horror lover. But I enjoyed the script. I thought it was really interesting, and I love it [Halloween co-writer] Debra Hill. Debra and I, along with my husband and others, continued to do a lot of environmental work at the start. So Debra was in my life in a whole different way until she died too young. She was truly a pioneer. She was pushing against the glass ceiling.
John wrote the characters that survived the first in the second, and John was going to direct him, but decided at the last minute not to. And my husband, Rick Rosenthal, had the same agent. So his agent at the time said, “I’ve got the guy to run it.” A lot of people mistakenly think that Rick and I met on Halloween ii, but we didn’t. We were a couple before that, but we kept silent. Fans seemed to love the romance of “Oh, they met on Halloween ii. “
When H2O happened, it seemed a little ridiculous to me, but I thought, “Why not? At that point, I appreciated the frankness a little more. It’s ironic when I think about it, that through a whole career, it has made me an icon. In a narrow window, of course. But it is remarkable for me and fun. I have a lot of fun with it.
How is this last round different?
My young assistant insisted that I go on Instagram. And it’s like, “I don’t know, Shannon.” She said, “You should.” And so she interpreted things – like a lot of people, if they look at a picture, they put “queen”. I had no idea it was the iconic praise. But also, I can see how addicting it is. It’s like, how many followers do I have now? How many subscribers? So you wanna know? I have 1836 subscribers.
I should follow you on Instagram.
You should. I want another follower. I want to go up to 2000. What’s my name?
Nancy Stephens official? I found you. I’m clicking “follow” right now.
Oh good. Check it out. Oh. Oh. And I have here “Jeffrey Bloomer started to follow you.” Excellent.
I don’t post a lot, but I will love all of your photos.
Well, who has time for all of this? It was so amazing to me, is that people, I’m posting something, and – oh, there you are. Here, I see you. How old are you? You look like you’re 10 years old.
I just turned 35—
I put a political thing — political in the sense that I had posted a small Constitution. And then it’s a picture of me from 1978 Halloween, where I just got blasted in the car, and I said “Marion is in danger, and so is our Constitution.” But Michael Myers is fictitious and the threat to our constitution is real. And I have a really angry person, “you Hollywood liberal. You’re just trying to get another job. It’s like,” OK, OK. You love Hollywood and you love movies, but you hate it. the fact that people are politically active in the entertainment industry? ”Anyway.
I’m sure most of the fans are very happy to see you again.
I went to a horror convention. I had never been, I just thought, “This is kinda crazy.” And Jamie Lee called and said, “I’m doing one.” It was to support a children’s hospital in Los Angeles. So she said, “Nancy, you never did. So why don’t you come? I had been in Washington, DC, with very dedicated climate senators. And so I was in a whole different world. And then I flew to Indianapolis, where I waited three hours for autographs. It was crazy. And it opened my eyes. I thought, “This is crazy.”
The fans are dedicated and, for the most part, really respectful. They like the genre. You know, when you see three generations – the grandmother comes with her married daughter and their 6 year old child – I am very shocked that the 6 year old girl saw Halloween, but the fans are just very affectionate.
You mentioned your husband, who has experience in different Halloween eras too – he did it Halloween ii, but also Halloween: Resurrection, the one with Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. Has he seen the new movies?
We went to the premiere at the Chinese theater together. So it was really fun. We had to go in disguise. I said, Marion goes like Marion. She does not dress in any costume. But Rick searched his closet and found his old one Halloween ii ballroom jacket, the crew jacket. If you follow me, if you go to my Instagram, you will see a pic of us at the premiere.
I am all over Instagram. When you’re 92 and they restart Halloween once again will you come back Again with Michael Myers?
And how did you know that I was planning to live to be 100 years old?
Just talking to you it looks like you’re going to be there for a while.
I have a lot of work to do, Jeff. My real life is the climate and the climate catastrophe that I have been working on since Earth Day one. And now I’m so angry. It’s like, “Why weren’t you listening 20 years ago? So here we are in such a phenomenal crisis. And so my job is tailored for me. I have two grandchildren, one and a half and two years old, and I am looking at their future. Even you and my grown children, the legacy we leave here is dangerous.
Anyway, I loved David. I loved his crew. I loved being back with actor friends. I am ready to return.