I’d never been to Austin, TX before, but it’s one of those cities that I’ve heard so much about that I couldn’t wait to finally get a chance to check it out. So when the invite came in to be flown into Austin for a visit to the set of Platinum Dunes’ redux of “>Friday the 13th, I sure didn’t have to think about it for very long. A free trip to Austin? Hell yeah. A free trip to Austin to see the return of one of the most beloved serial killers of all time?
Hell fucking yeah!
”For us, to work with an iconic villain like Jason Vorhees is a dream come true” producer Brad Fuller explained to myself and my fellow reporters upon our arrival to the non descript set of Friday the 13th, “It wasn’t a discussion. Michael, Drew and I all wanted to do it and that began the process of trying to figure out the rights. And that took a long time because there’s different rights holders and it’s a mess.”
That’s one of the reasons why it’s taken so damn long to see everyone’s favorite hockey-masked serial killer make his way to the big screen again. Shortly after Jason X failed to set the box office on fire, there was some talk that the franchise may have finally seen it’s real final chapter. The insane success of Freddy Vs. Jason changed all that, however.
So when the folks at Platinum Dunes were approached to do something, anything, with Jason and his big ass knife, the only thing they were sure of is what they didn’t want to do. ”We weren’t interested in doing a sequel. We weren’t interested in doing Friday the 13th Part 12.”
It took a script by Freddy Vs. Jason penners Damian Shannon and Mark Swift to show them what they did want. Fuller explains; ”We felt that a lot of the horror movies, and some of our own, were so dreary that we wanted to kind of take a step away from that and kind of bring in the horror, which you have to have there, and bring in some great characters and funny, amusing situations. Out of all the writers we met with they were the only ones who really had a handle on that portion of the movie. We knew they could do the scares because they’ve been doing that for a long time, but the characters that they’ve created, the kids you go on this journey with are so fun – and a blast to be around. So that was really what clinched it for them.”
Co-star Danielle Panabaker, who plays Jenna, believed it to be a damn good script, as well “I think for starters, it’s really important to me to start off with a good script. It’s really easy now a days to make a really cheesy slasher film because you know people will go see it, and it will make money, so you can make it cheaply with a bad script, and it doesn’t matter. But this script is great. The characters are totally real, and I related to all of them.”
The big question on a lot of fan’s minds is what will this new “re-imagining” of Friday the 13th actually be about? It’s not a remake of the first film, since Jason wasn’t even featured in it, but instead is a stand-alone picture that puts a group of kids in a situation where Jason is a known legend already, though not in the same sense as he is in some of the sequels. ”We tried to take elements from all three of [the first] movies to create one reboot of Friday the 13th.” Producer Andrew Form explained, ”We take the elements where you will see Jason put the hockey mask on for the first time – how and why. I mean, you’ll see him actually do it, not just come out with it on.”And I’m sure if it’s anything like the first time Leatherface picked up a chainsaw in the Texas Chainsaw remake, it will be an iconic moment in the film.
As our formal conversation with Brad and Andrew rapped up, we were taken to the area where tonight’s filming was taking place, a location that appeared to be an actual campground under normal circumstances.
The setup was a rundown bus that had obviously been in these woods for many years and was serving as some kind of shelter for tonight’s victims. The scene we would watch shoot for most of the night involved Jared Padalecki’s character, Clay, being stalked by Jason through the bus and, eventually, making some serious face time with a bus window at Jason’s hands.
”This is sort of in the heat of the climatic end of my chase sequence, but I’m not fighting so much as getting my ass kicked.” Padalecki explained, ”But, we’re on the run, obviously, as happens in Friday the 13th movies. We’re trying to get away from the scary guy in the hockey mask and he comes up on us and catches us unawares and basically makes me into a little pile of mincemeat, which is fine, I want to be a guy who’s like, “What’s goin’ on?” Just survive with instinct.”
Padalecki wanted to be very clear that even though he’s well-trained, his character is not the one who wants to take down Jason, ”I’ve taken fight classes and Derek [Mears] is a big-time actual fighter, but no one wants to see Jason get up there and do a roundhouse kick. No one wants to see Clay and Jason Maui Thai kickboxing. It’s just very brutal and raw and animalistic, which is kind of exciting for me.”
It’s easy to say from the comfort of a chair, but man you should see the punishment this guy takes by the end of the night. It’s not pretty, that’s for damn sure; “brutal and raw” is actually a very good way of describing it. But that is what they signed up for, right?
”There’s enough getting banged around and getting throw around, that’s for sure,” explained Amanda Righetti, who plays Whitney, ”When it’s on, it’s on, but once you cut, you’re kind of like, “I’m drained.” A lot of the set pieces and the way that it’s choreographed with the fight scenes and stuff like that all help keep you in the moment of what it is you’re trying to achieve.”
Of course, one of the scariest things about taking part in a Friday the 13th film is who the producer decide to cast as Jason Voorhees. No matter what you know they’re going to get someone big and mean, and the new movie is no exception. It’s just beneficial that the new Jason, Derek Mears, is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet.
”I have other friends who play “bad guys” who think they have to be mean and tough all the time, that they have to intimidate their fellow cast members, they can’t hang out with them.” Mears explained about how he can be so cool but so damn mean when he needs to be, ”My theory is that we’re all actors, so we should be able to be both. It’s a mindset. I call it “fight mode”. You can be fun and jovial before a shoot but when the cameras start rolling, you get that visual of going into the ring, envision what your goal is, and you can channel the anger.”
“I get thrown off all the time by Derek because as creepy as he looks, he’s such the opposite.” Righetti revealed, ”He’s such as sweet guy. We’re always making jokes, he and I, before we start shooting, and he says, “Now don’t make me laugh right now.” He’s great, and he’s been just lovely about asking, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” as soon as we cut. It’s so weird; it’s like a paradox. He’s really great about the whole thing.”
Co-star Daneille Panabaker, who plays Jenna, feels the same, ”He’s so sweet and so genuine and so giving, and I love hanging with him off set, but then you get on set and you see him with the mask on, and he’s terrifying.” she enthuses, ”He’s an incredible actor. The way he uses his body to communicate is fascinating.”
But just because this new Jason can be nice when the cameras are off, don’t think you’ll see even a hint of it when you’re in theaters on February 13th, 2009. ”In my head, this Jason is a mixture of John Rambo from the first film, a little bit of Tarzan and the Abominable Snowman from Looney Tunes.” Mears explains of where he’s drawing his inspiration, ”You really see Jason thinking and planning in this one, setting people up; in my opinion it’s very similar to First Blood where he’s been wronged, people invade his space and he fights back and it’s just brutal, but you also understand why he’s doing it. You have sympathy for the character. You realize that this Jason is much more intelligent, he’s setting people up. There are scenes that you don’t think are a big deal, then later on you’re like “holy fuck, he just set that guy up!” Yeah, I’m really, really excited because he’s a much smarter Jason.”
Whoa. A smart Jason? If there’s one thing I never would’ve thought would come out of a Friday the 13th film, it’s a smart Jason. Though not everyone sees Jason as just an unstoppable killer, “I think that Jason is just really misunderstood.” Panabaker explained, “I know that sounds really cliché, but when you see the film, the way they’re creating him is totally authentic. He’s a person with a heart and a mother. He’s got some issues, obviously, and I guess his way of dealing with them is by chopping people’s heads off with machetes.”
A sympathetic Jason is a new approach, depending on how much the filmmakers play that angle up, and that goes to show you how different Platinum Dunes are trying to make this while still keeping fans of the franchise happy. And you really can’t ask for a bigger Friday fan than Derek Mears,
”Back when videos were first available to rent at home, when you had to actually rent the VCR to watch the movies, the first two videos I watched were Friday the 13th one and two, and I just fell in love with the character.” Mears told us, ”He’s a victim. He represents those people in high school who were different, the ones with the lisps or the hair loss, the outsiders and the misfits. Being rejected by society and the beautiful people. We’re not allowed, socially, to lash out and get our revenge, but Jason does, albeit it in a poor way. He just wants to be left alone but people kept crossing into his territory.”
With that kind of mentality working behind the iconic hockey mask, you can be sure we’re not going to be seeing a kinder, gentler Jason this time out. But unlike other films under the Platinum Dunes banner, the main goal for Friday the 13th was to make it, believe it or not, fun. ”If you look at all the horror movies over the last 5/6 years you really can’t count on your hands how many have been that type of a fun, slasher-type horror film with, you know, sex and drugs and rock and roll and kids having the time of their life and paying the price for it.” lamented producer Andrew Form, and Brad Fuller agreed, ”It’s exciting to us because we’ve never done that either. We want to have some fun on these movies. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in the basement dismembering people.”
And the fun carries over to everyone involved with the movie, from the crew to the victims to Jason himself, Derek Mears, who still has a child-like wonderment that he got so lucky, ”It’s still so surreal to me. I watch the monitors and I just want this to be so good because I can’t believe that I’m being able to be Jason!”
We’ll find out if Mears, Fuller, Form and the rest of the Friday team accomplished what they set out on Friday, February 13th when the brand new Friday the 13th hits theaters nationwide! Check out the film’s official site to learn more and expect to see a lot more from it between now and then right here on Dread Central!
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