Actor David Kagen has enjoyed a long and successful career over the last 30 years, spawning appearances on over 250 television series, multiple movie roles and an acting school that has been training performers for years. But even with all those credentials, there is one role that might end up being the milestone in his long career — Sheriff Garris in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.
Now, with the reissued versions of the “Tommy Jarvis Trilogy” recently being released, the actor is still surprised and humbled by the reactions of fan enthusiasm for a role he performed 23 years ago.
“I had received fan mail for years and years and I just never realized when we were making Jason Lives just how important the role of Sheriff Garris would end up being to the horror fans,” explained Kagen. “Because of their enthusiasm I decided to start making myself available for appearances and conventions.”
“I just never thought that my work in a horror film would end up being so cherished by so many fans. Every fan that I meet, I always make it a point to ask them about their experiences with Jason Lives and to find out their connection the movie because I love hearing their stories. The horror community as a whole is filled with some very sweet and wonderful people,” Kagen added.
Kagen admits that he always had some apprehension with taking a role in a horror film.
The classically trained actor said, “The only real horror film I’ve ever enjoyed was the old Vincent Price film The House on Haunted Hill. I had no desire to watch any of these slasher flicks that had become popular back then and had genuine concern about what kinds of effects that these kinds of movies had on those who watched them.”
“What I figured out as I spoke to more and more horror fans is that these films are a form of escapism for them. They don’t see them as realistic, they see them as one big roller coaster ride and that made me feel a bit better years later about performing in Jason Lives,” added Kagen.
Even though it was well over 20 years ago that Kagen took on the most notorious Camp Crystal Lake resident, he still looks back on filming very fondly.
“One of the things that made working on Jason Lives such a free and wonderful experience for me was director Tom McLoughlin,” Kagen said. “He just always told me to go with my impulses on set and that was very freeing for me as an actor. Plus, working with such a great cast just made my job as an actor that much easier.”
“Vinnie Guastaferro who played the Deputy was a total blast to film scenes with too. He’s such a funny and smart guy. I think we had the most fun when we got to work with Thom Mathews (who played Tommy Jarvis) and treated him like this punk kid because we could get away with it. It was so much fun,” Kagen added.
One of Kagen’s favorite scenes to film in Jason Lives was the epic showdown he has with Jason in the film’s last act.
Kagen explained, “I had never done a real fight scene before that required some physicality on my part so that was really interesting to do, especially since Jason’s such a big guy. We worked really hard to block that sequence to make sure everything looked right.”
Kagen even had his share of funny moments on set.
“One funny thing that did happen during our takes was at the point where I am supposed to crush Jason’s head with a rock,” Kagen said. “We had been using wind machines because of the storm going on around us and the rock I was using was made out of Styrofoam. So during one of the best takes, I hit Jason, throw the rock down and instead of staying put, the rock starts to blow away. Needless to say, that take wasn’t used in the movie.”
Even though Kagen still hasn’t seen the other Friday the 13th films to this day, he recognizes just what makes Jason Lives so special in the legacy of Jason Voorhees.
Kagen said, “I think why people liked Jason Lives so much is because it offered up a refreshing story in the series. The script was full of dark humor and some classic one-liners that fans still quote to me these days. There wasn’t any nudity and it actually established the line that even though Jason was a serial killer, he wasn’t a child killer. And I think that’s definitely unique.”
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