Peter Mensah battles Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in 2002's "Jason X." (Ava Gerlitz / New Line Cinema)Link
Kane Hodder. (Courtesy of Kane Hodder)Link
Friday the 13th, for some horror enthusiasts, always will be associated with hockey masked killer Jason Voorhees, and for fans of the franchise that put Camp Crystal Lake on the genre map, actor Kane Hodder is often cited as the man who breathed real life into the silent slayer.
His work can be seen alongside the other actors to inhabit the role in “Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection,” a 10-disc set that includes all 12 movies in the slasher series, plus 11 hours of special features, which comes to Blu-ray Friday from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. (The series also will be the subject of a mini-marathon at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica; the event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday and will feature the first four “Friday” films, in addition to a costume contest and prize giveaways.)
To commemorate the occasion, Hero Complex caught up with Hodder, who is due to appear in Lexington, Ky., this weekend at the city’s ScareFest convention. The actor and stuntman chatted about his favorite “Friday the 13th” memories and what playing Jason has meant to him.
HC: I noticed in the blurbs for your 2011 memoir, “Unmasked,” that C. Thomas Howell described you as “the nicest bad guy in Hollywood.” True?
KH: Maybe he was being extra nice because I was about to throw him off a building in a movie.
HC: You’re famous for playing Jason but he’s not the only killer you’ve brought to the screen. What do you most enjoy about these murderous sorts of roles?
KH: I’ve been very lucky with the directors I’ve worked with in this capacity too, but the more crazy and out of control I appear to be, the better they like it. For a personality like mine, that’s a dangerous thing, but I love the fact that I’m somehow able to make violent things look natural. It may sound like an easy thing, but it really isn’t. There are so many times where I’ll see other actors playing a part similar to this and it always appears to me that they’re overacting, they’re trying too hard. That’s how it comes across. It’s not believable. Somehow, the way I do it, it’s more convincing and natural-looking, so it makes it a fun part to play — and very challenging too. As an actor, two of your main tools to get a scary, intimidating type of character across is your voice and your facial expressions. Suddenly, with a character like Jason, you don’t have either one of those at your disposal. Now you have to be scary and intimidating just by the way you stand. I love that challenge of trying to be scary without anything to work with. It’s much harder than people think.
HC: I would imagine that the large machete helps.
KH: It certainly does. But even if I’m standing there without anything, you have to look scary. What I always noticed in the previous Jason movies before I started playing the character is that a lot of times if Jason was staring at someone motionless, he often could look like a mannequin because there’s nothing else going on. Once I got the job, I did things in the mirror to see how I could still look scary when I’m just staring at somebody. I came up with the breathing thing that I do — I do a thing where my chest is kind of heaving as I’m staring at you and somehow that looks much scarier. It looks like he’s about to do something, even though he’s just standing there motionless.
HC: At what point did you realize you had a talent for making violent actions appear natural?
KH: I guess when I did the first Jason movie, when I did the screen test for it, probably. I had another stunt buddy of mine, Alan Marcus, come in and we did a screen test of me in a Jason-type outfit…. I brought my buddy Alan in and we just ad-libbed a bunch of violent action and photographed it and it came across well. Even when I saw it, I thought, “Oh, wow! That’s better than I thought it would look.” It looked menacing, violent and natural, and that’s everything I was hoping to do.
HC: You came to the role of Jason through working as a stunt man, is that correct? Had you previously been a fan of the franchise?
KH: I’d certainly been a fan of all horror since I was a little kid, so yes, I was a fan of the franchise, the first six films over the course of seven or eight years, and loved the character. I had done a movie the previous year with [“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” director] John Buechler, he was the makeup effects coordinator on a movie called “Prison” and it was Renny Harlin directing. We shot it in Wyoming. At the end of the movie, along with doing the stunts, they asked me to put a full-body makeup on and be the ghost of a dead prisoner from back in the day. I had a full body latex makeup, including three-and-a-half hours of makeup on my head and everything. I only worked in that character one day, but John Buechler as the makeup effects coordinator said, “Wow, I like how this guy works in the makeup,” because it’s not easy. You have to exaggerate your facial [expressions] to make it read when you have tons of makeup on like that. When he was hired to direct “Friday the 13th” the following year, his first thought was, “Hey, I know a big guy that wears makeup and wears it well” and in his particular movie, there were so many stunts that Jason had to do — the storyline is Tina has telekenetic powers and makes things happen to Jason with her mind. This was the first time that anything was really going to happen to Jason, as opposed to the victims. They knew they needed to cast a stuntperson as Jason because it doesn’t make any sense to cast an actor and then have a stunt double doing some of the scenes. Just hire a stunt guy to do it. That was working in my favor too, that Buechler liked how I worked in the makeup, I was a stunt man, Jason needed to be a stunt man this time. That’s how I got in there.
HC: Do you remember the first scene you filmed wearing the mask?
KH: I do. It’s well into the movie, but there’s a scene where Tina has a flashback, or like a vision — she sees it but nobody else does. I’m holding an actor named Bill Butler up with a knife through his back. That is the very first thing I ever shot with the hockey mask on. Sometimes at conventions I bring a still of that just for that reason.
HC: Do you remember how it felt to shoot that scene?
KH: I had had makeup tests, and I’d had the mask on and everything before, but the first day of shooting, it probably sounds hokey but it felt like a tremendous honor for me to put that hockey mask on. Here’s a character that is known around the world by now, literally all over the world, people know the character, Jason, and now I’m the one playing him. An incredible honor, I still feel it was, which is why I always tried to do as much as I could with the character. Just putting that mask on and knowing how many horror fans across the world would be dying to be in my position and I was the guy. It’s still humbling to think about it, that I was that fortunate.
HC: People must react to you an interesting fashion when you’re wearing that costume.
KH: Yes. If I have the mask on, I would always tend to want to stay in character. I wouldn’t talk to people on the set. It’s a little Method, but if I needed to talk to the director or something, I would take the mask off, the hockey mask, even though I’d have the makeup on. I would tend to try to scare some of the other actors by making them think that I was a little too much into the character, so, by the time their violent scene comes up, they’re kind of scared to death already, so their reaction was more convincing. It was mostly for my own enjoyment.
HC: You took Jason to Manhattan and into space. Which was your favorite “Friday” installment?
KH: I loved doing all of them, just playing the character was so much fun. My favorite is still the first one that I did, “Part VII,” because of the makeup. I think Jason looked the best in that movie out of all of them — that’s not necessarily my performance, just the way the character looked. The storyline was different. I still like the fact that there were so many stunts for me to do. Then you go into “Jason Takes Manhattan,” which we shot all but one day in Vancouver, Canada. We shot one night in Times Square, which in 36 and a half years in this business was the single most amazing day of shooting I’ve ever experienced. Here I am with the full makeup, the hockey mask, everybody knows the character. I’m in the middle of Times Square on a traffic island on a Friday night at 10 p.m. And there are hundreds of people watching us film because it’s such an unusual site. Normally, we shoot these movies out in the woods and there’s never any spectators. Well, here I am in the middle of Times Square. It was absolutely incredible to see the reaction of people. I purposefully never took the mask off while I was out in Time Square because I didn’t want to take away from the vision of Jason in Times Square. I didn’t want it to be humanized. Between shots I would just stand there and do the trademark turn of the head toward a group of people and they would go nuts screaming because it was so fun. I felt like a rock star. It was the coolest thing. I didn’t want that night to end.
HC: And apparently there was even a punk band named Kane Hodder? Were you a fan?
KH: Yes, there is. Years ago, they contacted me and said, “Hey, we’d like to use your name as the name of our band.” I was like, “Oh, OK, that’s flattering.” I said, “Sure, go ahead.” I didn’t know they were just going to be called Kane Hodder. I thought they’d be the Kane Hodder Band or something, but they’re just called Kane Hodder. It makes people think I have something to do with it, but they did ask permission, I did grant it and I found it flattering. I like their music. I’ve worn shirts of theirs before, but then people say, “He’s kind of a [jerk] wearing a shirt with his own name on it.” So I gave up. It does appear to be me, but I’m actually trying to support the band.
HC: Have you ever had the experience of watching the films altogether marathon-style?
KH: The only time I did was when I got the job in “Part VII” I went back and watched all of the previous six so that I could see what things I kind of liked that people did as the character and what things I wanted to avoid, stuff like that. It wasn’t really a marathon. I did it over the course of a couple of days. That’s a lot of watching now that there’s officially 12 movies. That would be a long time. I know there are fans that say they have done it. There are people that come up to my table if I’m at a convention or something and they can rattle off the names of the characters, how I killed them and in what order.
HC: Is that impressive or troubling?
KH: Both. It’s very impressive that they have that memory, but then a little concerning. That’s what you have done with all this time?
HC: What’s next for you?
KH: I just finished a really cool movie called “Smothered.” It was written and directed by John Schneider, who way back in the day was Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which, by the way, I used to work on from time to time as a stunt man. I met John back then in the ’80s. He wrote an absolutely brilliant script, talked to me about it, said, “Hey, I’d like you to play the main character in this.” He ended up directing it. I think it’s going to be really successful. It’ a horror comedy with heart. It’s about a few of us that are known for horror — myself, Bill Moseley, Don Shanks, R.A. Mihailoff, Malcolm Danare. We’re all known for certain horror movies for real, and we play ourselves, basically, as horror personalities who are now has-beens. Nobody cares about us anymore. Nobody wants our autograph. We go on a road trip and get killed off one by one…. They’re hoping for a theatrical release on Dec. 13, which is a Friday.
HC: Speaking of which, how do you typically commemorate Friday the 13th? Is that a special day for you?
KH: Yeah, I usually kill a neighbor. I’m 58 now, so I want to do things close to home.
– Gina McIntyre
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