James Jude Courtney (born January 31, 1957) is an American actor, stunt double, and stunt performer. He is best known for playing serial killer Michael Myers in the 2018 film Halloween. Courtney will reprise his role as Myers in Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, scheduled for release in 2021 and 2022, respectively. He also played Der Kindestod in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Killed by Death”.
Life and career
Courtney was born in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, as the eldest of seven brothers. From an early age, Courtney was determined to become an actor and made short films from fifth grade through college. He majored in journalism at the University of South Carolina in 1981 and subsequently moved to California to pursue acting. There, he started working at Universal Studios Hollywood as a tour guide before he was cast as Conan in the park’s Conan the Barbarian live show. Courtney applied his martial arts skills to the role, which demanded high falls and sword fights; he sustained multiple injuries during performances. At Universal Studios, Courtney met actor Brian Thompson and stunt coordinator Alex Daniels, who helped him to branch out as a stunt performer. He also pursued acting studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was coached by Stella Adler.
Courtney made his film acting debut in The Freeway Maniac (1989) and continued acting through 2002. In 1997, he gained wider recognition in the role Der Kindestod in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Killed by Death”.
Courtney played Michael Myers in David Gordon Green’s horror film Halloween, the 2018 sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 film of the same name. Green explained to Courtney his vision for Myers’ mannerisms, an amalgamation of the performance of Nick Castle, 1978 Myers actor, and the addition of a feline style of movement. Courtney tailored his portrayal to those specifications by observing the movement of his cat: “I think cats are the most perfect hunter-killer machines on the planet. And the beauty of it is we don’t judge a cat for what a cat does. So I sort of carried that movement and the non-judgmental approach to the way I moved as The Shape, which I learned from my cat Parcival.” Courtney used Carpenter and Castle’s work on the original film to inform how the forty years that transpired between the events of the films would affect the character.
The December 2017 announcement of Castle’s participation in the film was widely reported as his retaking the role of Myers, with Courtney only doing additional work as the character. However, in a 2018 interview, Courtney stated (supported by Nick Castle) that Castle’s screentime was a single cameo and that every scene under the mask was done by Courtney, including the window/mirror scene which he shares with Castle, leading to the question of why Castle’s return had been misrepresented by the production.
Honoring his portrayal of Michael Myers, October 19, the film’s United States opening day, was officially proclaimed James Jude Courtney Day in Warren County, Kentucky, by Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon. In January 2019, Courtney was nominated for Best Actor at the 2019 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards alongside Castle for his work in Halloween.
Courtney is set to return to the role for its two upcoming sequels, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, thus earning him the accolade of being the actor to portray Myers the most times.
|Title||Year||TV or Film||Role||Notes|
|Tour of Duty||1987–1990||TV||Stunts|
|The Freeway Maniac||1989||Film||Arthur||Credited as James Courtney|
|Knots Landing||1989||TV||Peter Christopher / R. Peter Christopher||3 episodes|
|We’re Talking Serious Money||1991||Film||Biker #2|
|Unsolved Mysteries||1992||TV||Peter Byrne|
|Far and Away||1992||Film||Boxer|
|The Hit List||1993||Film||Final Hitman|
|Danger Theatre||1993||TV||Man in Bar||1 episode|
|Philadelphia Experiment II||1993||Film||Vortex Technician|
|Firearm||1993||Short film||Alec Swan a.k.a. Firearm|
|…And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him||1994||Film||Carpenter|
|When a Man Loves a Woman||1994||Film||Earl|
|Girl in the Cadillac||1995||Film||Stunts|
|Access Denied||1996||Film||Bill Robinson|
|Babylon 5||1994–1996||TV||Narn #1 / Gyor||2 episodes; stunts|
|The Killing Grounds||1997||Film||Craig|
|The Nurse||1997||Film||Stunt coordinator|
|Devil in the Flesh||1997||TV film||Mr. Roberts|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer||1998||TV||Der Kindestod||1 episode; stunts|
|Soccer Dog: The Movie||1999||Film||Mafia Goon|
|Level 9||2000–2001||TV||Stunts; stunt driver|
|The Gray in Between||2002||Film||Huge Goon|
|Halloween||2018||Film||Michael Myers / The Shape|