It’s no secret that I’m a big booster of the new Friday the 13th from Platinum Dunes. I was on the fence about the film until I visited the Austin, Texas set of the movie, where I got a lot of off-the-record time with producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, who were saying things that I, as a dyed in the wool Jason Voorhees fan, liked hearing. But just as much as that was important in winning me over, so was meeting Derek Mears, the guy beneath the hockey mask (and the sack, for a while) in this outing. Derek’s an unbelievably sweet-natured guy and he’s a legitimate fan of the franchise. Talking to him on set and getting his take on this character filled me with the same feeling I got on the set of Watchmen – the people involved in this movie are doing their best to make it good, to be true to the spirit of the originals. We won’t know how it turns out until we actually see it – although that Comic Con footage was fucking promising as hell – but after talking to Derek and the producers, my fears are almost totally at rest.
I’m still embargoed on my set visit, but I did get a chance to sit down with Derek (and Andrew and Brad – look for their interview soon) at Comic Con, and we talked a lot about his notions about the character of Jason Voorhees. I’m looking forward to talking to Derek again when this movie is released… and on the sets of the sequels, which I know he’s raring for.
I’m curious about your take on Jason. You said on the panel that he’s smarter in this version, he’s more athletic, it seems like he just has more going on for him. Did you sit down and figure out what Jason’s actual medical situation is, what it is that’s really wrong with him?
A little bit. I don’t want to give too much away because it blows the mystique of the character. I don’t want to give too much away because people misinterpret what you’re thinking. I talked before about basing him on John Rambo in First Blood, and people were like ‘What’s he talking about? Is this an action movie?’ No, it’s not – you have to see it. It’s all about the motivation.
It’s an actor thing.
Exactly. I did research. What I like about him this time is that the guy’s a full character, he’s not just a guy in a mask. He has range. You seem him going to an extreme of childhood torment and you’re so sad for him, but taking that energy and going to the the other end and retaliating with that anger and energy – it’s disturbing to me. It gives you somewhere to go, it gives you more than one key to play all the time.
That’s been done so rarely – they usually just play Jason as a lumbering maniac and write him off as retarded. How much of that backstory do you use when you’re actually in the scenes where you’re killing people?
I use it as almost a Vietnam flashback. It’s a motivation for me, personally. He has a sense of time where he doesn’t know what time it is. He just saw his mother get killed, he’s young and he can’t help her, he can’t defend her. So now these kids, even though it’s incorrect [of him], come into his area, he thinks they just killed his mother. I use it like ‘I’m going to get my revenge.’ It’s misplaced anger.
You’ve obviously come to the point with the character where you have sympathy for him. How much sympathy should we have for him?
That’s a hard question. I can really only speak for myself, from what I’m thinking and where I’m coming from. It’s tough, because for me he represents the victim. Anyone who has grown up being teased, whether it be for being tall, short, talking with a lisp – anything you’ve been teased about, that’s what he represents. So when he retaliates, you understand where he comes from, so you understand him. That’s my opinion, but I don’t know what other people’s feelings are when they watch the character.
You’re a legitimate fan of Friday the 13th. What’s your favorite in the series?
Definitely Part IV. I really like the part with Corey Feldman – to get really personal, growing up I had [alopecia], so the scene where Corey Feldman has shaved his head and he’s trying to be Jason, or a younger version of what Jason looked like, and at the time I actually looked very similar to that. I really related to the Jason character. Now he’s grown up and become bigger and stronger, and I can relate to that. It’s very personal, but that’s what it was.
That may be the only other time in the whole series where they actually go into Jason’s head. It goes back to your take on the character. On this same serious note, what would be your dream way to see Jason kill someone?
That may be the best question I’ve had all day. That’s great. I’ll give you my email, we can answer this later on. That’s a great question – that’s one to think about on the drive home to LA the whole way. On set they switched out some of the kills, trying different versions of them. One that turned out really, really well happens to be [producer Andrew] Form’s favorite kill in the movie – I haven’t seen it yet – Form says that the writers switched it around literally six hours before [shooting] and it turned out to be his favorite kill.
It was weird watching you on set because you’re just so friendly. Some previous Jasons have gotten so into character that they won’t even talk to the other actors, but I watched you hanging out and goofing around with everybody.
It’s just a different acting choice. It’s not bad or negative – one’s not better than the other. Some people want to scare the other actors and not socialize with them, but I think we’re all friends and artists, professional actors. If we’re not strong actors then we shouldn’t be where we are. So when the time comes we should be able to switch and get into character. I shouldn’t have to actually scare you to get that reaction from you on camera.