It almost goes without saying that Jason Voorhees is the integral part of any Friday the 13th film (except for the first. Or technically the fifth), but it’s easy to lose sight of the hockey masked maniac when we get caught up in continuity and kills and boobs and all that. But without a strong Jason behind the machete, the whole thing falls apart.

For a while Kane Hodder has been the go-to Jason. He played the character in four films, and for many fans he is Jason Voorhees. That may be changing very soon. Derek Mears has taken up the mantle and, in the opinion of this F13 fanboy, has made it not only his own but has offered perhaps the ultimate take on the pre-dead Jason. Mears brings menace, speed and intelligence to the role; his Jason isn’t a lumbering retard but a fierce hunter, always one step ahead of his prey.

And in real life Mears couldn’t be a cooler guy. Humble, funny and yet wonderfully serious about the role – he’s actually thinking about it, not just collecting paychecks – Mears could be the Jason against which all others are judged. And if things keep going well for him, he might be the only Jason whose big claim to fame isn’t simply being Jason.

I grew up on Friday the 13th but for some reason your version of Jason
is the first to make me realize that this guy lives in the woods all by
himself… and still wears a bag on his head. That sort of encompasses
the tragedy of this guy – he’s in the woods trying to be by himself but
he’s still hiding his face.

I looked at in the script that way. It’s almost like protection from
society; it almost makes him normal. He knows he’s been rejected, but
it almost makes him human. When he finds the hockey mask later on it
has that symbol of protection from the outside world, but it makes him
more normal. It gives him facial feature.

You bring another feel to Jason. We’ve been used to zombie Jason for
decades, this being of pure anger. Can you talk about this other layer
you’re bringing?

Well, a lot of it was from the script, what Mark and Damien wrote. They
tried to make him more of a character this time, not an entity. I
approached it like any other acting role, even though I didn’t have any
dialogue. I did a lot of research, like we talked about before, on
things like child psychology, the power of seeing your mother killed
before you when you’re 9 years old – what the effect would be on a
child seeing that. I researched being alone, what it meant to be so
alone, the effects of that. The will to survival, the emotions you go
through. It is a normal acting job and hopefully the details come
through the mask so that it’s not just one dimensional.

We had talked about you bringing something to this character but until
last night that was all theoretical to me. Now having seen you in the
film what’s interesting is realizing that you have the one eye that we
can see and your body and the cocking of the head. I know you come from
a comedy background – does that play into the way that you approach the
physicality of the role, bringing the little things through movement?

I don’t think about it that much. I don’t think about what I’m doing. I would do the same things if I had the mask off.

So you’re not amping it up.

Not at all. That’s just how it turns out. I am aware of what it would
look like. I did have Scott Stoddard on the side, being my flight tech
– ‘You have a bogey coming in on your 12!’ – but he would say ‘The neck
looks pretty cool, and if you twist it a little bit this way it’ll make
a great shot, it’ll give  more pizzazz to the make-up.’ I was aware of
that with his help, but you put the character shell on and let it go.

You saw the film for the first time a couple of days ago. What was the experience like of seeing the whole thing cut together?

Everyone kept asking me if I was nervous, but I wasn’t nervous, I was
really excited to see it. Seeing it for the first time was strange
because, working on the film, you know the terrain – you know what
happens next. You know what was cut out, what wasn’t cut out. I looked
at it more with a technical aspect – they used that take of me running,
that was a total accident, that was an improv moment. It’s really hard
to judge what my true thoughts are, I need to see it a couple more
times, but I’m really proud to be in it. The cool part for me is
knowing the dialogue in the script and seeing how the actors
embellished what was on the page and took it to the next level, they
really nailed it out of the ballpark. I’m so proud to have worked with
these guys. I’m proud of my friends.

The tragedy is that you won’t work with them in the sequel.

That is really funny. I’m going to mention that to them on the phone
today. ‘The film did really well, I can’t wait to come back for the
sequel. Sorry, man!’ It’s like roller derby – I’m the oe that gets
slung forward and gets the point!

Andrew and Brad are being coy about a sequel, saying they’d like to do
one if this does well. Are you contracted for two, or possibly beyond?

I have a second picture option with Platinum Dunes, so it could be for another Friday or it could be something else. We’ll see.

Are you talking with them about doing a non-Friday movie?

Possibly. This film opened a lot of doors for me. It’s exciting.

Are you talking about Butcherhouse Chronicles?

[smiles] There are rumblings. I don’t know.

What’s the general plan for the future?

I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like a professional child,
going to work and acting. I’m more of a physical actor, but each film I
try to find something else to play with. I love horror and scifi.

For Friday you have a foot in both worlds of straight acting and stunts
– are you interested in doing roles where it’s just acting, without the
physical stunt stuff?

Definitely. I get pigeon holed because so many times when you balance
acting and stunts they think you’re a stunt guy trying to act. But I
started out as an actor. It’s like white collar and blue collar, but
they’re both a blast to me. Early on I was told you’re either an actor
or a stuntman, and I don’t know why you can’t do both. That’s what I
enjoy. But the funny thing is that I’m never satisfied. When I get
hired as a straight actor I’m like, ‘Do you need me to punch somebody
or fall through a wall?’ And when I’m hired as a stunt guy I’m like,
‘Can I have some dialogue? What’s my character?’ I’m never happy.

You could do a remake of The Stuntman!

This Friday is a lot more grounded than the last bunch in the series,
but Jason still takes an amazing amount of damage and keeps coming. Do
you see him as a regular guy who can deal with the pain, or is there
something supernatural?

I see it as a Die Hard thing, where Bruce Willis is a regular guy who
gets his ass beat but is just so passionate about what he’s doing. When
I’m playing the character when he’s attacking these kids for him it’s
almost like a Vietnam flashback – these kids just killed his mother. It
doesn’t matter how much pain or injuries he’s taken, he has this goal
and he’s going to make it happen. That scares the crap out of me more
than something from beyond. This guy is not going to stop – you can lop
off an arm but he will keep coming. He’s that pissed.

That goes to the question of what happened to Jason as a kid. His mom
thinks he drowned – did he? He’s obviously grown up from being a 9 year

I don’t know. I don’t know for sure. We used to talk about this on set,
and everybody had their own takes on it. My take on it is that he
didn’t [drown].

So for you he didn’t drown but hid in the woods and even his mother thought he was dead.

In my mind his mother knew about it, thought he died and somehow thought he came back. That’s just my thing.

That’s the mystery at the heart of the series.

I love it being a mystery because everybody brings their own thing.
It’s the monster outside the box – it’s scarier because there’s no
direct answer.