An Original Michael Myers Actor Has Died
James Winburn passed away on November 19th. He performed stunts as Michael Myers in the original Halloween
The long-running horror franchise Halloween has lost its first stuntman, James Winburn. According to Entertainment Weekly, the man who performed the stunts for villain Michael Myers died of an undisclosed illness on November 19. The stunt veteran, who performed in more than 70 films, was 85 years old.
For most of the first movie, the masked Michael Myers is played by Nick Castle, while the face of actor Tony Moran is seen when Myers is unmasked. However, whenever the movie called for any intense action or stuntwork, a masked Winburn played the iconic role. For instance, at the end of the movie, Winburn is playing Myers when Dr. Samuel Lewis shoots Myers, causing the iconic villain to fall off the balcony.
The Halloween series has since spawned 12 more movies, with 2022’s Halloween Ends being the most recent. While Castle reprised his role as Michael Myers in multiple movies, Winburn never returned to the series. Nevertheless, Wilburn went on to a long and successful career as a stuntman.
Stuntmen are a valuable resource. That was even more true back in the days before CGI became so prevalent. So it comes as no surprise that Winburn’s role as Michael Myers was not the only iconic movie he had performed in during his career. His credits include the original seafaring disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure, the classic detective series Kojak, the Kurt Russell sci-fi action film Escape from New York, the groundbreaking sci-fi adventure film Tron, and the hilarious crime comedy The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear.
Although Wilburn never played Michael Myers again, he is still well-remembered by series fans. In 2012, he spoke about his experience in the film during a question-and-answer session. According to Wilburn, he was originally brought on to oversee the safety of the film’s cast and crew. However, director John Carpenter started asking Wilburn to put on the mask for short shots. On top of that, Carpenter asked Wilburn to do all the heavy stunt work.
He said, “So, when Donald Pleasence shot me, and I went through the porch window and over the railing to the ground — not knowing that little fall would resonate for 34 years.”
Wilburn gave his final performance as a stuntman 20 years after his role as Michael Myers. He performed stunts in the little-known 1998 film The Waterfront. However, that was not the end of Wilburn’s career. He was the stunt coordinator for the 2005 film Moses: Fallen In The City of Angels and he even had an acting role in the 2014 film Island of Witches.
Wilburn also tried his hand at directing. Staying true to his roots as Michael Myers, Wilburn debuted as a director with his own horror movie in 1988: Evil Altar. He then directed the 1991 action thriller The Death Merchant, then the 1993 action crime film Miami Beach Cops. The little-known films didn’t make any waves in the movie industry, but they paint a picture of a man well-versed in all facets of filmmaking.