The original Friday the 13th landed in theaters in 1980 and quickly became a slasher sensation. Over the course of a decade, it scored a staggering eight films, making murderer Jason Voorhees one of the defining pop culture characters of the '80s. Despite the character's notoriety, one of the struggles of the series was finding a performer to fully embrace the role, with each film finding a new performer to bring the masked monster to life. That all changed in 1988 when director John Carl Buechler tapped Kane Hodder to play Jason, with Hodder being not only the first Jason actor to play the role more than once in the subsequent sequel, but amassed four installments in the series.
One of the biggest differences between Hodder and previous performers is that his legacy in the stunt world allowed him to not only portray Jason's more mundane moments, but also the extremely physical sequences, lending a consistency to Jason's on-screen physicality. Additionally, Hodder seized the opportunity to create as frightening a figure as he could, even without the recognition of his face appearing in the film, while other performers had previously merely gone through the requisite motions of the movie.
Hodder is considered by many to be the defining performer for the character, with his accomplishments in the franchise leading to dozens of other cinematic opportunities and convention appearances, with Hodder's own personality becoming nearly as iconic as the characters he's played in films.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Hodder to discuss his experience with the franchise, his time with Jason, and his new podcast, Casualty Friday.
ComicBook.com: While you've amassed a passionate fan base for your contributions to the horror world, you also have a number of other genres under your belt. Was it always an active decision to pursue genre work or was it something you found yourself immersed in accidentally?
Kane Hodder: Well, I had always been a horror fan, enjoyed horror movies, watched all the Friday the 13ths, the early ones, and the Halloweens and everything. I always enjoyed it, but the fact that I ended up so deeply involved in horror was pretty much just by accident. I think you know from the documentary [To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story] that I was stunt coordinator on a movie called "Prison" with Renny Harlin, and based on the fact that I was a stunt person and stunt coordinator doing most of the stunts on the movie myself, John Buechler asked me if I wanted to do a role in extensive makeup, prosthetics, lenses, dentures, everything. I had never done it, so I said, "Sure." And worked in the makeup two days at the end of that film, and based on that performance, John Buechler, the following year, when he was hired to direct Friday the 13th Part VII, campaigned to have me cast as Jason since there had already been six films and nobody had ever repeated in the role.
In his opinion, they hadn't really found what they were looking for, so he said, "Here's the guy that I'd like to play Jason in the movie I'm going to direct." And because Jason had to do so many stunts in Part VII, that aspect of it helped my chances tremendously because everyone knew that it's better to have, in this particular one, it's better to have a stunt person play Jason, because when you have an actor playing Jason and then a stunt double doing so many scenes doing stunts, the performance is not going to be consistent because it's two different people. It's not going to look as consistent as what John Buechler wanted. Basically, it's all because of Buechler and how he liked what I did the previous year.
Given your passion for the character and the years of experience you've had since first playing him, do you ever look back at your performances and critique them or wish you had made different choices?
I'd have to say there are small moments where I'll look back and say, "Oh, I kind of wish I had done this a little bit differently." And it could be a very subtle thing, which may not necessarily read to the average audience member, but I would think it would look better. Hopefully it doesn't make me sound like an asshole, but it's usually things where the director really tried to push me to do one particular thing or one particular move or something. And if it's something that I didn't like, very often it's because of that.
I think after I did Jason a second time, when it came to doing Jason Goes to Hell, I think people realize, "Wait a minute, now this guy really is Jason. He's not just a guy that is stepping into the role. He's done it twice already before." They pretty much just let me do what I thought was right because, if I do four movies in a row as the character, there's something to my performance. So, why do you feel like you have to necessarily direct me? Now, if it's something because of a camera angle or something like that, then I understand. But if it's a performance thing, just let me do my deal or I'll kill you too.
And just to let you know, I hope I end up liking this piece because then you might have to watch your back as well.
Thanks for the warning, we'll make sure not to reveal our address.
Wait a minute. You think I fucking need to know your address? Come on.
Oops, sorry, we think there's another call, looks like it could be the authorities.
Yeah, I'm sure it is.
A big shift in the genre came from Freddy vs. Jason in 2003, as it pit two major franchises against one another. In the years since, fans have come up with all sorts of face-offs they'd love to see happen. Do you think pitting Jason up against or alongside another horror villain is the right path for the character?
Well, I'm conflicted because, by the time you do 10 movies of a standalone franchise, some fans are starting to tire of it. You have to think of something to regenerate the excitement again and that's where the pitting one character against another one is somewhat desirable. But I was never a huge fan of it. I thought it was starting to cheapen both franchises, but obviously it worked because the movie was a big success. But I'd like to just go back to, somehow, the original Crystal Lake setting. I don't know how you can come up with a story that's interesting enough, but somebody could.
And the release of Freddy vs. Jason was a bit frustrating for fans, because you starred in the four previous movies but weren't in this. And you've been outspoken about that frustration as well.
I mean, I thought I was doing Freddy vs. Jason. I was given the script at a lunch meeting with an executive at New Line Cinema, just the two of us. She gave me the script and said we're doing this movie. That's where the real anger and disappointment comes from. Not because I just expected to do it because I had done four other ones, but because I was told I was doing it. A lot of people think, "Well, what was he so pissed off about? Just because he did four movies before that?" No, because I was told I was doing it and handed the script. And then when I don't do it, that's a far more difficult pill to swallow.
So it's not like you have animosity against Derek Mears, who played Jason in the 2009 reboot, merely because he was a new Jason, it was that you were offered Freddy vs. Jason and had it taken away from you without warning.
Yeah. It would have been much easier to take if I was just suddenly never considered, but to tell me I'm doing it and then not do it and then never tell me a reason for it, it's just insulting. I wasn't even given the courtesy of a phone call saying, "I know we told you you were going to do it, but this is what we decided. We hired a director that came up with a different idea." At least do that. My God. Common courtesy. But no, I didn't even get that.
You've recently launched a new podcast through Fangoria. Can you talk about what fans can expect from it?
It's called "Casualty Friday," which is on the Fangoria podcast network with Felissa Rose and Tiffany Shepis, and we all know each other very well. I've tortured Tiffany and killed Felissa. We've worked together and we've just known each other for years and when Fangoria approached us with the idea of us doing a podcast, we were like, "Wow, that would be fun and easy." And it really is fun for us to sit and talk because we do that at conventions anyway, so why not include some fans in there?
We did eight episodes in Dallas and they're being received quite well, so we're already planning the next run of them. I think we're doing them shortly after Friday, the 13th of September. And it's just a good time and it's nice for me, in particular, and them too, really, to not have to watch your language. You can talk the way we just sit and talk if we were in a bar, and we have so many stories together and then we hear stories from each other that we've never heard. One of the episodes of the podcast, I told this story that I had never told anyone. Nobody. Which that's hard to come up with.
There's always stuff at least you told your friends but I somehow just got on this one track and ended up telling a story that no one had ever heard. That's the kind of stuff that makes our podcast so cool, is that we inspire each other to talk about everything. And there are no holds barred. Hopefully people check it out.
Any other projects on the horizon fans should keep an eye out for?
I have a couple of movies that I've done this year that I'm excited about. Fanboy 13 and another one called "Knifecorp" where I kidnap a girl and hold her in my house, which sounds like standard procedure with movies that I do. But you find out I'm holding her captive because I lost my daughter to a violent crime. I've lost my mind and I'm trying to do something to replace my daughter. It's not excusing it by any means, but you see a little bit of the psychology of this guy to where you could almost understand how somebody could snap and do something shitty like this instead of just being a psycho that indiscriminately kills people for fun. It's interesting to play a character that has some back story and reasoning for it.
Which of Hodder's projects are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!
Image courtesy of Amanda Edwards/Getty Images