TUCKERTON, NJ – Since the release of “Halloween Kills” on October 15, Mike Dupree has been turning heads. Dupree appears as a ventriloquist in the latest installment of the “Halloween” film franchise.
Dupree, a longtime resident of Tuckerton who has practiced ventriloquism since childhood, was one of 150 performers who auditioned for the role. After an audition with the director, Dupree was flown to North Carolina in September 2019 to film his scenes for the film.
“It was just love at first sight, love at first sight, once in a million,” Dupree told Patch. “For a guy from Tuckerton, being thrown into something like that was a fluke of nature.”
Dupree’s interest in ventriloquism began when he was five years old. He grew up watching Paul Winchell perform with his model Jerry Mahone on children’s shows like “Winchell-Mahoney Time”, “Storybook Squares” and “Runaround”. Winchell is known for voicing Tigger in Disney movies and for other cartoon characters.
Dupree had his own Jerry Mahoney figure that he liked to play with, until he smashed it.
“I was devastated,” Dupree said. “I told her I wanted another one and she said ‘I’m not going to buy you one unless you learn how to do it.’
By studying the special book that came with the figurine and listening intently to its accompanying recording, he practiced until he earned himself a new puppet.
Now 57, Dupree has collected, traded and manufactured nearly 200 models during his career.
As a child, Dupree attended Tuckerton Elementary School and then Southern Regional High School briefly until Pinelands Regional High School opened in 1980.
From an early age, Dupree was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and used ventriloquism as a way to overcome it.
“While a lot of autistic people are in retreat, I was able, with the help of a ventriloquist dummy, to be more forward. It would give me more self-confidence and it made me become a class clown. for the most part, ”Dupree recalled.
After graduating from Pinelands Regional High School in 1982, he entered the Coast Guard where he continued to ventriloquist for their talent shows.
Later, during his long career at Atlantic City Electric, Dupree found another way to use his ventriloquist skills. As a lineman, one of his jobs was to visit local schools to give seminars on electrical safety.
“I was a popular product when I was a lineman because I used to go around schools with these models and if you’re just a lineman who comes to talk to the kids they say ‘Yeah, yeah “But you introduce the model, they’re like ‘Huh?’ You really capture their interest,” he said.
Years later, Dupree said former students still recognize him in public and recite the punchlines of his jokes to him.
Dupree’s big gig as a professional ventriloquist came in the early 1990s, when he was hired at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City to host giveaways and bingo shows for about nine years.
“It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet and hang out with a lot of famous people,” Dupree said. “It was the time of my life and I was like ‘Well this is the pinnacle. This is the best you can find.'”
That all changed two years ago when Dupree’s friend called him about a casting for a ventriloquist movie. Dupree submitted an audition video to the production company’s website – not thinking anything would come of it.
A few days passed and he got a call from the film’s casting director. The producer and director asked Dupree to audition again during a Zoom call for a movie called “Mob Rules,” the film’s working title at the time.
“Once the Zoom call came in I saw the names of the people and it was David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jason Blum and Malek Akkad, and when I saw that I thought ‘Oh my God, this is a “Halloween” movie, “” said Dupree. “I thought a two-bit movie, probably on a phone video or something, would actually be on the big screen.”
For the audition, Dupree and his ventriloquist model Horace Horowitz were invited to sing “Shaving Cream”, a new song written in 1946 by Benny Bell.
Dupree’s phone rang a few days later and it was the casting director who asked her to come to North Carolina to film her role.
From September 16 to 20, 2019, Dupree worked with Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina to shoot their scenes.
Dupree is featured in one of the opening scenes of the film. It’s in a bar and he sings “Shaving Cream” during his number following the Singing Levesque Triplets.
Almost exactly what Dupree sang during his Zoom audition is what he ended up singing in the scene.
“I had the opportunity to date Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stevens, Michael Smallwood, Robert Longstreet. They were all in my scenes – fantastic people,” he said.
On her last day of filming, Dupree’s path also crossed paths with film star Jamie Lee Curtis.
“When I was in the studio, she came in and I got to meet her briefly. She was such a nice woman,” he said. “Exactly what you see on TV is how she is in real life – just a phenomenal person.”
Dupree was called a supporting role in the film and appeared in the credits.
Within days of the film’s release, people who had seen it began to recognize Dupree in shops and restaurants.
“One of the things that blows my mind is getting noticed now everywhere I go,” he said. “But what’s really crazy is the Internet.”
Unexpectedly, he was inundated with over 900 Facebook friend requests and posts from people looking for autographs.
“It’s mind-blowing. It’s hard to accept,” Dupree said. “A friend of mine asked me ‘How does it feel to be immortalized in a movie? You will be remembered in the realm of’ Halloween ‘for all eternity’ and that’s an honor. because before that a lot of people only saw me in casinos, but the memories fade. not the movie. “
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