She began her film career as a script supervisor, film editor, assistant director and second unit director before writing and producing the hit horror classic, Halloween, with John Carpenter. Made for only $300,000, it grossed over $55 million.
Married to Canadian director John Carpenter, she produced the first three Halloween films. The couple split in 1985. They made Escape From LA together.
Debra's written five of the Halloween movies.
Hill told Eonline.com: "Both John and I were raised in the '50s, and there was a slew of films we watched when we were kids. The Creeping Eye and The Crawling Terror. We wanted to bring to Halloween that kind of scare and to open up the world to show it was a reinvention of the horror pictures we grew up on. Once we got the idea to set the film on Halloween night, we set up ideas of Halloween scares like the boyfriend dressed up in a sheet who's not your boyfriend. We actually didn't write in the same room together. I sort of wrote the babysitter's story, and John wrote the Sam Loomis character and all that stuff about evil. Once we created Michael Myers as a throughline, we put it all together.
"I'm from Haddonfield, New Jersey, and I used that sleepy safe community as a backdrop for Halloween's community."
Q: Was there any reason the girls who have sex get killed?
Debra: "There was absolutely no intent for that to be the underlying reason. I was raised a Catholic schoolgirl and what leaked into the script is my Catholic sensibility. It was totally unintentional."
According to Moviepit@aol.com, "Debra Hill played Michael's hands [in the first Halloween film] during the opening tracking shot, grabbing the knife, picking up the mask and stabbing his sis. She also wore the costume when Tommy sees Mike standing across the street, but apparently looked so short and squat they reshot it."
Jeff Wells writes on Reel.com: "John Carpenter's directing heyday was in the late '70s and early '80s, when he teamed with producer Debra Hill (just after making Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13) to make Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York. They parted company sometime after Escape, and the consensus is that his subsequent films never had the same snap or ingenuity or tension. Hill produced a couple of knockoff Halloween films just after Escape from New York, and re-teamed with Carpenter on 1996's Escape from L.A., but by that time whatever there once was to Carpenter and Hill's collaborative magic had dissipated, or Carpenter's natural creative resources had downshifted on their own, or something."
In 1985, Debra joined forces with her friend Lynda Obst to form the independent production company, Hill/Obst Productions. They produced the movie Adventures in Baby-sitting, as well as the CBS pilot based on that film. Hill/Obst also produced Heartbreak Hotel with Adventures director Chris Columbus.
In 1991 Debra and Lynda Obst produced the Academy Award nominated film The Fisher King, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, and Mercedes Ruehl.
An avid environmentalist, Hill is a founding member of the Earth Communications Office (ECO). She is a board member of Women in Film.
On the set of "Crazy in Alabama," Hill urged actress Melanie Griffith, a smoker, that her character didn't need to use cigarettes. "I think you can make a sexy character in other ways," Hill said. "Once I got Melanie to see her character doesn't smoke, she found other things to do."
In September, 1998, Debra Hill told a Hollywood 2000 conference: "The challenges now are different to those of 20yrs ago. More people are making movies. Films are driven less by story than by marketing. It is becoming harder to make movies even though more are being made. Most are not getting distribution. The development of the script now ends up with marketing dictating casting, dictating release times and scheduling etc.
"Making movies used to be magic. But we now tell our secrets. So everyone knows the box office figures, salaries etc. So sometimes people just see the figures."
Debra Hill Dies
I tried to interview her for my book on producers. Like a dozen others, she turned me down saying she was working on her own book. I guess it was never finished.