As the movie was actually shot in early spring in southern California (as opposed to Illinois in late October), the crew had to buy paper leaves from a decorator and paint them in the desired autumn colors, then scatter them in the filming locations. To save money, after a scene was filmed, the leaves were collected and reused. However, as Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter note on the DVD audio commentary, the trees are quite full and green and even some palm trees can be seen, despite that in Illinois in October, the leaves would probably be mostly gone and there would be no palm trees.
Due to its shoestring budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest mask that they could find in the costume store: a Star TrekWilliam Shatner mask. They later spray-painted the face white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes. Shatner admitted that for years he had no idea his likeness was used for this film. It was only during an interview that someone mentioned his mask was being used. He has since stated that he is honored by this gesture.
All of the actors wore their own clothes, since there was no money for a costume department. Jamie Lee Curtis went to J.C. Penney for Laurie Strode's wardrobe. She spent less than a hundred dollars for the entire set. She shot the film while on hiatus from the sitcom Operation Petticoat: Operation Petticoat.
The opening shot appears to be a single, tracking, point of view shot, but there are actually three cuts. The first when the mask goes on, and the second and third after the murder has taken place and the shape is exiting the room. This was done to make the point of view appear to move faster.
Carpenter approached Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to play the Sam Loomis role (that was eventually played by Donald Pleasence) but both turned him down. Lee later said it was the biggest mistake he had ever made in his career.
Morgan Strode's black Fleetwood (seen in the driveway when he is talking to Laurie early in the movie) belonged to director John Carpenter, while the Phelps Garage truck was owned by the company that catered for the film.
None of the big studios at the time was interested in distributing the movie, so executive producer Irwin Yablans decided to distribute the film via his own company (Compass International). MCA/Universal produced and distributed the next two sequels in the early '80s.
The original script, titled "The Babysitter Murders", had the events take place over the space of several days. It was a budgetary decision to change the script to have everything happen on the same day (doing this reduced the number of costume changes and locations required) and it was decided that Halloween, the scariest night of the year, was the perfect night for this to happen.
When they were shooting the scenes for the start of the film (all the ones seen from Michael's point of view) they couldn't get the 6-year old child actor until the last day, so the movie's producer, Debra Hill, volunteered to be Michael for any scenes where his hands come into view. This is why the nails on young Michael's hands look so well manicured and varnished.
According to Don Post Jr., President of Don Post Studios, the famous California mask making company, the filmmakers originally approached his firm about custom making an original mask for use in the film. The filmmakers explained that they could not afford the numerous costs involved in creating a mask from scratch, but would offer Post points in the movie as payment for his services. Post declined their offer, as he received many such proposals from numerous unknown filmmakers all the time.
The "Myers" house was a locale found in South Pasadena that was largely the decrepit, abandoned place seen in the majority of the film. However, as the house had to look ordinary (and furnished) for the early scenes with the young Michael Myers, almost the whole cast and crew worked together to clean the place, move in furniture, put up wallpaper, and set up running water and electricity, and then take it all out when they were through.
Much credit for the concept must go to its producer Irwin Yablans, who had the concept originally for a horror film called "The Babysitter Murders". Upon further research, Yablans discovered to his surprise that no previous film had been titled "Halloween" and thought it would be a great concept to set these "babysitter murders" on the holiday. With these ideas, Yablans convinced an excited John Carpenter to write and direct a film around them.
The wealthy film producer Moustapha Akkad had admittedly little interest in this film and helped make it primarily due to the enthusiasm of John Carpenter and Irwin Yablans. However, when the film turned out to be a huge box-office smash, Akkad saw an opportunity and facilitated every 'Halloween' sequel. This does not include the two remakes, which were produced after his death in 2005.
John Carpenter was quite intimidated by Donald Pleasence, of whom he was a big fan and who was easily the oldest and most experienced person on set. Although Pleasance asked Carpenter difficult questions about his character, Pleasance turned out to be a good-humored, big-hearted individual and the two became great friends. Pleasance went to appear in two other Carpenter films.
In the documentary short, Halloween 2000: Unmasked, it was revealed that the crew had chosen two masks for Michael Myers to decide on. The first was a Don Post Emmett Kelly smiling clown mask that they put frizzy red hair on. This was an homage to how he killed his sister, Judith in a clown costume. They tested it out and it appeared very demented and creepy. The other mask was a 1975 Captain James T. Kirk mask that was purchased for around a dollar. It had the eyebrows and sideburns ripped off, the face was painted fish belly white, and the hair was spray painted brown, and the eyes were opened up more. They tested out the Kirk mask and the crew decided that it was much more creepy because it was emotionless. This became the Michael Myers mask.
A young Jamie Lee Curtis was so disappointed with her performance that she became convinced she would be fired after only the first day of filming. When her phone rang that night and it was John Carpenter on the phone, Curtis was certain it was the end of her movie career. Instead, Carpenter called to congratulate her and tell her he was very happy with the way things had gone.
That Michael Myers could drive a car despite having gotten committed to an asylum at the age of six inspired many guffaws. The first movie novelization came up with a simple but effective explanation: when Doctor Loomis drove Michael to sanity hearings over the years, Michael simply watched very closely and carefully as Doctor Loomis operated the car. Remember, even if Michael sat in the back seat and there was a screen of bulletproof glass partition, Michael could still look over the Doctor's shoulder without Loomis realizing the significance. Alternatively 'Halloween 6; The Curse of Michael Myers' provides a retroactive explanation to this question.
Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill have stated many times over the years that they did not consciously set out to depict virginity as a way of defeating a rampaging killer. The reason why the horny teens all die is simply that they're so preoccupied with getting laid that they don't notice that there's a killer at large. Laurie Strode, on the other hand, spends a lot of time on her own and is therefore more alert.
From a budget of $325,000 the film went on to gross $47 million at the US box office. In 2008 takings that would be the equivalent of $150 million, making Halloween one of the most successful independent films of all time.
P.J. Soles went to a screening of the movie after it was released, sitting in the 4th row of a regular audience. She was very amused, when during her nude scene and line of "see anything you like?" a male audience member in front yelled out "hell yes I do!" unaware she was right behind him.
On the 25th anniversary disc, John Carpenter states that the original title sequence was to show a long shot of a sidewalk ending with a Halloween mask on the floor. The idea was dropped and the more iconic title sequence of the Jack O'Lantern was used.
John Carpenter told production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to go out and find a "government-looking" car to be used by Dr. Loomis and Marion in the opening scenes, which Michael Myers ultimately steals and uses throughout the film. Wallace went to the nearest car-rental agency and a 1976 Ford LTD station wagon was the only car there that looked the part. Wallace hired it for two weeks, installing a wire-mesh divider between the front and rear seats, and slapping Illinois state decals on the front doors. Carpenter loved it, and the car-rental agency had no idea of the LTD's use in the film.
As Annie and Laurie are frantically trying to put out the cigarette in the car and they drive up to Sheriff Brackett and the burglarized hardware store, the sign on the light pole says Mission Street. The street exists both in South Pasadena, California (where the movie was filmed) and in Carol Stream, Illinois - the latter being the state the movie setting was taking place.
In an interview, Moustapha Akkad said that John Carpenter had envisioned making the movie for around $320,000. Coincidentally, Moustapha Akkad said he was producing and filming a major motion picture at the same time starring Laurence Olivier which was costing his company roughly around $320,000 a day. When John Carpenter told him the fixed price of his movie, he immediately funded it.
For years after 'Halloween' was released people would tell writer/director John Carpenter how horrified they were by Michael Myers grotesquely disfigured face, glimpsed when Laurie pulls his mask off for a moment towards the end of the film. But actually all they saw was the ordinary face of the actor playing the role, perfectly normal except for the small knife wound inflicted by Laurie during their struggle in the closet which was created using Special Effects makeup. Carpenter cites this as evidence of the power of suggestion in cinema, that the audience saw a monster on-screen so assumed that he must look like a monster underneath the mask.
There are numerous references to Carpenter's childhood hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The performance of the film's musical score is credited to "The Bowling Green Philharmonic." There is no Philharmonic in Bowling Green. The "orchestra" is actually Carpenter and assorted musical friends. In one scene the subtitle depicts the location as "Smiths Grove, IL." Smiths Grove is actually a small town of about 600 people located 15 miles north of Bowling Green on I-65. There are also numerous references in Halloween to street names that are major roads in the greater Bowling Green area.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Aside from dialogue, the script cites Michael Myers by name only twice. In the opening scene, he is called a POV until he is revealed at age 6. From the rest of the script on out he is referred to as a "shape" until Laurie rips his mask off in the final scene (which he never reapplies in the script). "The Shape", as credited in the film, refers to when his face is masked or obscured.
Originally the script had Dr. Loomis having a surprised reaction to the disappearance of Michael Myers's body from the lawn at the end of the film. Donald Pleasence suggested his character's reaction should instead be an "I knew this would happen" look on his face. They shot it both ways and ended up using Pleasance's idea.
The adult Michael Myers was portrayed by Nick Castle in almost every scene, except for some pick-up shots and the unmasking scene, where he was replaced by Tony Moran. Castle was a school-buddy of John Carpenter, and was on set just to watch the movie be filmed. It was at the suggestion of John Carpenter that he took up the role of Michael Myers, as he was tall and had what Carpenter considered an interesting walk. Castle admitted he was disappointed to not be the face shown, but understood that Carpenter wanted a more "angelic" face to juxtapose with Myers' ghastly deeds. Castle has gone on to become a successful director.
The only blood seen in the movie is when Judith Myers is killed and the body of the man Michael killed for his clothes after Loomis makes the phone call along the railroad tracks. It is also see on Laurie's hand and arm after escaping from Michael.