Overlooked No More: Debra Hill, Producer Who Parlayed ‘Halloween’ into a Cult Classic

Overlooked No More: Debra Hill, Producer Who Parlayed ‘Halloween’ into a Cult Classic

On “The Fisher King,” (1991) when the director Terry Gilliam suddenly decided, during a location scout, that he wanted to create an elaborate dance with 1000 waltzing extras in Grand Central Terminal, Hill figured out how to pull it off. The sequence was among the most lauded in the film, which earned multiple Oscar nominations and won one.

Debra Gaye Hill was born on Nov. 10, 1950, in Philadelphia, to Frank and Jilda Hill. Her mother was a nurse and her father, who had been a Hollywood art director before her birth, eventually became a salesman, including on a car lot. The family, among them Hill’s younger brother, Franklin Robert Hill Jr., known as Bob, moved often.

Once, when house-hunting in Connecticut, their parents parked the children, then 10 and 11 or so, in a local movie theater. “I think Deb and I saw ‘Gone with the Wind’ four times a day,” said Bob Hill, a retired tugboat captain.

They later settled in Haddonfield, N. J., which Hill used as inspiration for the fictional Haddonfield, Ill., setting of “Halloween.” Horror, she observed, always struck in small, under-policed towns and sleepy suburbs, where it seemed — tantalizingly — like nothing could go wrong.

“The idea of pulling off the veneer and seeing what lies beneath has always intrigued me,” she told Konow, the author of “Reel Terror” (2012).

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology at Temple University, she became a flight attendant, then lingered in Jamaica, getting involved with a jazz musician.

That led to writing liner notes for albums, her brother said, which evolved into more writing gigs. She landed in California and, through her father’s connections, worked as a production assistant and a script supervisor, or “script girl,” as it was then called, on low-budget movies (including Carpenter’s first feature, “Assault on Precinct 13”), eventually moving her way up to producer.

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