When a young actress named Adrienne King signed on for a small horror film called Friday the 13th, she had no idea that it would end up becoming one of the most successful independent films with a budget of around one million dollars and a gross of over 50 times that to date and that it would become one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood (spawning ten sequels including Freddy vs. Jason and one remake so far).
While Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th was another step forward for reinvigorating 80s horror films, it was King’s portrayal of creative spirit Alice that centered the film and solidified her place as one of Dread Central’s most beloved final girls.
When King took the role as Alice, she was already a 25-year veteran in the entertainment industry. I asked King to discuss how it felt to grow up as a child actor and how she lent her experience on the set of Friday the 13th.
“I started in the industry at six months old so obviously I didn’t have much decision in becoming an actress,” joked King. “I think I figured out it was my real calling when I was eight years old in a production of Inherit the Wind. I just fell completely in love with the acting process at a very early age.”
King added, “I think having so much experience coming into Friday the 13th gave me a little boost, but you really had a solid group of performers in the whole cast. Betsy Palmer was so brilliant and maniacal. I loved being on that set.”
Part of what made Alice so memorable to many fans was that she was a character that almost everyone could relate to: the unassuming, creative type who finds her inner strength when pushed to the brink.
“Sean was critical over making sure that Alice was an identifiable girl next door character. I really made her my own, so when that happened, I made her into an artist. Sean really encouraged that from all of us. He was a great director, and his spirit helped us all want to push hard to make a great movie,” said King.
The actress went on to talk about one of the most memorable scenes in the genre’s history: Alice being pulled into the lake by a young Jason Voorhees.
“I will always consider the lake scene to be one of the biggest moments in horror,” King said. “It was also one of the more difficult ones but everyone had a ‘get it done’ mentality on set so we just pushed forward. The lake was 28 degrees when we shot that scene. There were only two sets of clothes for me, which meant we had two takes to get it right. There were no wet suits available so we did everything we could do to nail it. And we definitely did,” added King.
One thing that always struck this writer as remarkable was that at the epic final battle between good and evil, you didn’t have the usual male serial killer chasing down the hapless female in Friday the 13th. It was Alice and a still grief-stricken Pamela Voorhees (Palmer) who met toe-to-toe on the shores of Crystal Lake.
King said, “To have a female as both your main antagonist and protagonist in the film was just brilliant on Sean’s part, I think. That really had never been done in horror before that, except for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. It was really intense filming that kind of a scene with Betsy.”
King’s character Alice lived to make it to the sequel, which now pitted her against a vengeful (and full-grown) Jason Voorhees, who sought revenge over the death of his mother. The actress talked about the decision to switch the franchise’s villain after the first film.
“I think it was a really brilliant move to make the villain the son in the sequels,” explained King. “It was a new direction, and you can get more out of the movies that way. The only thing fans always ask me about (and I still have no idea) is how Jason exists. They want to know if it really was a dream, and if so, how Jason would have become an adult in just a few months. Thirty years later, I still don’t have those answers.”
I asked King to talk about what it meant to be a final girl during the very early years of the modern era of this cinematic phenomenon.
King said, “My generation was the 60s and 70s with the women’s lib movement. So, when it was the late 70s and early 80s, you had these women all coming into their own. That’s what you see on the screen with the final girls of horror films during those years. I got to be a part of that.”
“(Friday the 13th writer) Victor Miller tapped into the idea that women can be feminine and strong at the same time. He wrote them being able to fight for themselves where they didn’t have to be the victim anymore. Friday the 13th was important in a lot of ways because it really set the standard for a woman completely fending for herself until the very end,” added King.
King went on to talk about how the franchise’s legacy still manages to resonate after three decades, sometimes in some very surprising ways.
“My father-in-law works for a charity that helped sponsor a US surgical team to Zambia to perform a brain surgery,” explained King. “The surgeons were halfway through the procedure on this man named Mulanga when they lost power. They had to make special arrangements to make sure he lived through the surgery and promised to bring him to the US to finish the surgery.”
King added, “So, the charity puts together a dinner in honor of Mulanga and his doctors. The dinner is very quiet as we started, and Mulanga tells someone at his table how much he loves movies and Friday the 13th is his favorite movie. My brother-in-law points me out to him, and he starts crying he’s so happy.”
King went on to discuss this fateful meeting by saying, “Mulanga starts repeating the lines. He tells me about how he saw the movie with his sister and he got free popcorn when he went. I was simply stunned that my movie reached this gentleman in a completely different place in the world. This really shows how huge and impactful movies, especially the Friday the 13th movies in particular, really are and just how small the world can be.”
Since horror fans are now living in the prime time of remakes, I wanted to find out how the actress felt about the film that etched her place in pop culture history being redone last year.
King said, “I think it’s interesting that they did a re-imagining of someone else’s work. I’m happy it gave the franchise new life, but I think instead of doing a remake, they should have done a completely new sequel. I still think there’s good original stories for Jason Voorhees; it’s a shame they can’t understand that.”
After completing her work in the first two Friday the 13th films, King walked away from the entertainment industry for some time due to dealing with a stalker situation. The actress found refuge from her real-life horrors through her other passion: art.
“I was born with two passions – acting and art,” explained King. “Even from a young age, I was always creating art in some form, whether it was acting or painting. My art was therapeutic when I was going through my stalker years, and now it has become part of my spirit. A lot of my paintings now have a Friday the 13th theme to them. It feels amazing to be able to incorporate my two passions into one.”
In 1993 King did return actively to Hollywood, this time keeping herself busy working in the field of voice-overs. King talked about what made her decide to start as a voice-over artist and what spawned her recent return to working in front of the camera again.
“I used to have really bad anxiety stemming from the stalking, so I went into just doing voice-overs. I found that it was a wonderful niche for me. It was the fans that raised my acting career from the dead. It took some time, but I finally realized I was ready to do onscreen acting again,” King said.
One of King’s recent acting projects is Walking Distance, written and directed by Mel House. I asked King what was it about this project in particular that made her want this to be her comeback vehicle.
“I wanted to make sure when I came back to the industry that I did something that was going to make me think and push me as an actress,” explained King. “With Walking Distance I had to read the script three times just to understand what was going on. It’s a great blend of sci-fi and horror. I definitely want to work with Mel again; he is an amazing talent. The movie is horrifying and twisted, and the cast was just brilliant. I couldn’t have asked for a better film to be a part of,” King added.
Not willing to just ease back into the scene slowly, King has already lined up another project.
King said, “I am now getting ready to do Blood Shots (which used to be known as Prank) with Anthony Masi. The focus is to put some of us ladies of horror behind the camera to direct.”
“It’s wonderful to work with Anthony again after His Name Was Jason and to have such an incredible script to direct, which is called ‘Golden Rules’. We’ll be shooting it in the spring, which is very exciting. I just think it’s something special to see us ladies do something different and step behind a camera to tell a story,” added King.
A very special thank you to Adrienne King for taking the time to speak with Dread Central.
Get ready for Dread Central’s interview with our next final girl, Jill Schoelen, coming this Wednesday!
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