There are certain opportunities this job provides that most movie freaks would give their right nut for. I had such an opportunity this June when I was flown out to Austin, Texas, with a select group of online movie press, to visit the set of Friday the 13th. Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that it was June 13. Friday, June 13. It was also supposed to be the last day of principal photography, but they ended up needing just one more day. That's too bad, because that would've been pretty sweet.
After getting situated in our downtown Austin hotel, we met with producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller of Platinum Dunes. The producing duo, alongside Michael Bay, had produced a few films on their own before hooking up with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and forming Platinum Dunes. Since then they've produced the successful remakes of The Amityville Horror, the origin story The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and The Hitcher. Now they're here to bring one of the true classic icons of horror back to life: Jason Voorhes. While we will get a chance to talk to the new Jason, played by the gentle giant Derek Mears, and many more from the cast and crew, our day started off with a nice little chat on the hotel patio with Form and Fuller, who both had plenty to say about their new project.
Andrew Form and Brad Fuller
So what's left to film tonight?
Andrew Form: Well, we have two nights left and we're shooting, not the finale of the movie, but the sequence that leads right up to the last set piece of the film, which takes place underground where Jason has a whole underground system that he works and lives in. You guys will see it tonight.
So it seems like you guys have taken some liberties of your own with this?
Andrew Form: Yes, we do. I think we've definitely added some stuff to the story.
But do you still draw from the originals?
Brad Fuller: There are things that we all love in the originals. For us, it was really a lot of things that were in the first four. We took kills that we loved and story points that we really thought were great then kind of put those into a blender and that seems to be the back of this film. It's not really a remake of any of them, per se, it's just kind of taking some of those story points and putting them together.
What was sort of the mandate or the core that you knew you needed to get right for the rest of it to fall into place?
Brad Fuller: It's never that easy.
Andrew Form: Well, we definitely wanted the movie to take place in Camp Crystal Lake. That was very important to us, to go back there. It was going to be a contemporary film. It wasn't going to be a period piece like the way we made Chainsaw, where we went back to 1973.
Why did you decide that?
Brad Fuller: Because we wanted to get the clothes from the movie, after we wrapped, and we're sick of wearing 70s clothes.
Andrew Form: No, I think we wanted the movie to feel different. Because it's not a straight-ahead remake, like Texas Chainsaw or The Amityville Horror. Especially Amityville, since that took place that year. This one is kind of like, what Brad said, we drew from the first three, maybe the fourth a bit also and there was no reason not to tell that story in 2009. It didn't have to take place in 1980 or 1979.
Brad Fuller: There's nothing specific to this story that says it has to take place in the late 70s or early 80s. Also, all kidding aside, actually every movie that we've made has taken place in the 70s and we did want to start having kids look like normal kids, have cars that were normal looking cars and those were things that we never had.
Andrew Form: To go back to your question, the important things were who Jason is and where he comes from which, to us, is Crystal Lake and to set the movie in Crystal Lake, which I think the franchise got away from.
Brad Fuller: The other things that were important were we wanted to have a fun horror movie. When I say fun, I don't mean funny, but just everyday kids that we all know, hanging out, drinking and having sex and smoking weed. As a production company and as producers, Drew and I have spent so much time in basements dismembering people that it kind of wears on you so we wanted to kind of get out of that and have a movie that takes place outside and have hot girls running around and a more fun type of horror movie. I think, especially our first three films and this film we finished called Horsemen, I guess a lot of these films are so dreary and that seemed to be something that, at the time, was kind of novel but a lot of the horror movies now are very dreary and we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to have a really scary movie, but not just have it be like dark and dingy.
Andrew Form: You know, and having fingernails pulled off and you're not going to look at the screen because of that. I'd rather have them not look at the screen because they're scared of when Jason's popping out, than someone being put on a meat hook, you know, the insert shots of it going in. A movie like this, it's not about the torture. The killings are fun and it's scary, but the killings are fun. It's not a torture movie, not torture horror. That was one of the things that really excited us about this franchise and making this movie.
Brad Fuller: He's a very efficient killer.
The thing that made the first few movies so great was the score. That's what a lot of the scares were. Are you guys going for that same feel?
Andrew Form: Yeah. There would be no Friday the 13th movie without that iconic music so yeah, we've already licensed that music. I think this movie is more classic horror. It may be 2009, but it's still classic horror.
Brad Fuller: There's a composer we've worked with on all of our films, he's well-versed in this area and knows what we're looking for. I think the scored for both the Chainsaw or The Amityville Horror movies felt classic and good and they weren't referential of the original scores, so I think we're good in that direction.
Would you say this is like John Ottman doing John Williams' score for Superman Returns? Did you take Harry Manfredini's score?
Brad Fuller: No, it's not that specific.
Andrew Form: The theme has been licensed. You know, the Jason P.O.V. when you hear that theme, there's no doubt. We licensed that and that is in the film. I'm sure Steve Jablonsky will reference that. It's an iconic score. It's very strong and there's no reason not to.
Since you guys are so close to the end now, is there anything in particular that's surprised you in how the film has evolved?
Brad Fuller: Is there anything? Everything.
Andrew Form: This movie was so different for us, because in the films we made in the past, we casted them very small. You know, you take the chance with five actors, four in the second one. This movie has 13 young actors in it. It's an enormous cast and the casting alone was extremely difficult. There are two groups in the movie. There's a group of five and a group of seven. Getting those groups to gel together and putting them all together in the casting was really difficult. I think seeing that come to life after that six-month casting process, that was a really nice thing to see happen on the set.
Brad Fuller: Normally our movies are cast and the cast gets a chance to hang out together for a week or two before we started shooting and that happened in this movie, for the most part, but we were recasting up until a day before shooting and, in fact, Richard Burgi, who plays the sheriff in this movie, we cast him 12 hours before he was working. It was that crazy. We saw him, we signed off on him, got the disc to (Michael) Bay, and Bay had to sign off between 9 and 10 because his plane was leaving at like 11:30. If Bay had said no, I don't know what we would've done because we had no one else. You asked what was surprising, casting was surprising because we had a Herculean task to get a team together and to get everyone here on time.
Andrew Form: You know what was surprising? You're making Friday the 13th, it's Jason Voorhes, Brad and I both grew up with these movies and the first time I saw Derek Mears put the mask and the wardrobe on and walk onto set, that was surprising. It's like you see the mask and you do a wardrobe fitting.
Brad Fuller: You try to be professional but when you see it the first time, you can't help but be a fan first and then working second.
Andrew Form He turns around and looks at you and Derek Mears is not there anymore and it's just iconic and you just kind of stare at him. You take the mask off and there he is. He puts it on and truly he's gone. The first thing, every day when you see that, it's Jason right there because he truly is transformed when he puts that mask on and he starts walking around.
Did you guys take any lessons from any of the other remakes or reboots that have been done?
Brad Fuller: Absolutely. We learned a lesson from ourselves. When we made the second Chainsaw, I think we made Leatherface... compassionate is the wrong word, but accessible by showing his background and I don't think you could do that to Jason Voorhes. That's why this is not an origin movie. We didn't want to spend a tremendous amount of time seeing him be ostracized so that you understand why he's killing. I think that really demystifies him in a way that doesn't help.
Is there a point to humanizing these guys who are supposed to be monsters?
Brad Fuller: The audiences will tell us, because there are scenes that we shot in this movie both ways. We humanize him a little bit and then we pull back and say maybe we don't want to show him this way. At the end of the day, we're going to have to watch the movie in its entirety and see if we're making him too sympathetic or not, but we do not want him to be sympathetic. He is not a comedic character, he is not a sympathetic character, he is a killing machine. That's it, plain and simple. That's what he's there to do.
When you have 10 or 11 films to draw on, is there any temptation to throw in any references like Tommy Jarvis?
Brad Fuller: I knew that was coming. You know, we really fought and there was a big discussion with the Tommy Jarvis of it all. At the end of the day, this isn't going to be Friday the 13th Part 11 or 12. What we're trying to do is create our own mythology, based on the mythology that's already been created and not burden ourselves with all those characters. It is tricky, though. I'm not saying whether Tommy Jarvis is or is not in this film, but I can tell you that you won't see Corey Feldman strolling around. Certainly, in lot of incarnations of the script, there were scenes where we did that and it's something we debate back and forth. We're aware of all of it, and we're just not sure how it's going to work.
Andrew Form: I think it's also safe to say that we really didn't draw past the third movie, for anything that's in this film.
In your heads, are you already thinking on the Part 2, Part 3?
Andrew Form: No, there's no plan. We wanted to end the movie the right way, and that usually doesn't lend itself to a sequel, automatically. Our ending, I think, suits this movie perfectly and I guess if some day, somebody wanted to make another one... they always find a way. I mean, Jason wasn't even in the first one. He pops up out of the lake at the end. They made a second one and the hockey mask doesn't come on until the third one, so they built that franchise as they went.
Brad Fuller: It's a little bit of the same formula we did with the first Chainsaw movie. First of all, we never thought that movie would get a theatrical release, much less do what it did, so the fact that we cut his arm off at the end, really limited our ability to have a sequel. I think that's one of the reasons the movie was good. It was a definitive ending and the story worked on its own so we're trying to do the same thing here. In terms of our production company, the plan is not to go back to New Line and say, 'Lets go make 2 and 3 and 4." We have other stuff that we want to do and, if we're lucky enough to have this movie hit and there's someone interested enough in doing it, then we would certainly consider it because we love the character, but it's not anything we're going into with a game plan now.
You guys mentioned the hockey mask is there. Is there a definitive origin for the mask?
Andrew Form: Yes. That is a definite. You definitely see where the hockey mask comes from and why he puts it on and all that.
Brad Fuller: I guess it's out there now. We have the sack in the movie and he goes from the sack to the hockey mask.
Were there any other gaps in the mythology you guys made a concerted effort to fill in? The mask just kind of appears in the third one and there's not really a story behind it.
Brad Fuller: It is a story point. It involves a specific character, like it did in 3 and it's, hopefully, we've shot it properly in a way where the audience will fully understand that when he takes off the sack and puts on that mask that he is the Jason Voorhes everyone knows and loves.
Can you talk a little about the kinds of kills that you wanted? A Jason kill can be funny like boxing a guy's head off in Part 8. Did you want the kills to have a comedic touch or super scary?
Brad Fuller: Our tastes tend to go as far away from the humor, when it comes to violence, as possible. I think that, if our Jason, the way we've all envisioned him and the way we all agreed to make this movie, is a real killer. There's really not a lot funny in what he's doing. That's not to say that some of the situations are not absurd, and in that absurdity, there might be laughs. But Jason himself is killing in a brutal, brutal way.
Andrew Form There will definitely be reactions from the audience, when the deaths happen. Not in a gross way, but in a "Oh my God!" kind of way. There's a lot of deaths in the movie. It's hard. In the FIEFbLJIqc6jHL||Chainsaw} movie, he kills three or four people. In this one, it's double digits. A lot of people die in the film. He is a brutal killer, but when he strikes, it's shocking, not in a grotesque, torture kind of way, but in a fun way. Not like laugh out loud funny, but you will smile.
One of the criticisms or observations about the other movies are they are more about the protagonist being Jason. Is that the case here? Do you think audiences will necessarily care about the kids?
Brad Fuller: I would say that if the audience does not care about our characters, then we have not done our job. When I'm talking about the characters, I'm talking about these kids. We hired actors who we thought were excellent actors. We were not going to settle and say just because it's a horror movie we can get second-rate people who will just do the movie. We really fought hard to put people who elevate the genre. Aaron Yoo is a kid who was in Disturbia. We put him in the movie the weekend 21 opened at number 1 and it was kind of a coup to get an actor like that to do this movie. I think we have four or five actors who really have credit where they don't have to be in any horror movie just for their career. In doing that, we did that so we could have characters that people could respond to, even if they get killed.
Is there a sizeable role for Jason's mother in this film, or was your challenge to downplay that?
Andrew Form: Yeah, I think we definitely downplayed the Pamela Voorhes character. The movie takes place in 2009, so her role is not that big but she definitely is a part of the film.
Friday the 13th Image #6Andrew and Brad had to leave to go back to the set and, shortly thereafter, we were on our way to the set as well. The film was being shot at Austin Studios, a facility that Platinum Dunes is no stranger to. They did reshoots for their last film, The Hitcher, at this unassuming but huge facility off the beaten path of Austin. We had to tread lightly right when we got there, because they were filming a scene with Jared Padalecki, who plays Clay, and Amanda Righetti, who plays his sister, Whitney, in the midst of Jason's creepy tunnel lair. As the scene progressed, we all saw what Form and Fuller meant about this new Jason, Derek Mears. This lumbering stuntman/actor is quite a frightening sight as Jason Voorhes, as he scours the tunnels in search of his prey. What a welcome.
When the shot ended, we were led around the set and shown different pieces of the set, one of which is a creepy bathroom where Jason pulls one of his victims through the floor, and then we were shown this intricate tunnel system. Fuller explained that these tunnels help explain another one of the little logical beefs some have with the previous films: how Jason seems to just show up everywhere. It seems these tunnels are interconnected all through Camp Crystal Lake, which provides Jason with not only access to the entire camp, but a handy little storage area for the piles of corpses he acquires, which, as we did see for ourselves, is quite a sizeable pile.
After awhile, we were all led in to see the new Jason for ourselves, Derek Mears. He was partially in costume, with a prosthetic neck piece and his chest/stomach plate still attached, but the character-defining mask was off and we could see the big man's beaming smile. You might be asking yourself, "Who is Derek Mears?" There are many answers to that. One answer would be an actor/stuntman, who has performed in bit acting parts for the past decade and who has done stunt work in big productions like Signs, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . Another answer would be one of the honest-to-God, genuinely nice people I've ever met on a film set, getting the biggest break of his career. The best answer, though, is Derek Mears is your new Jason Voorhes. Here's what he had to say during our highly-entertaining 35-minute chat.
Derek Mears: You guys haven't seen the full outfit yet. You just see this (he was basically in some tattered work jeans, work boots and a t-shirt with his protective plating under it) and a lot of the people who aren't fans are like, 'Oh, that's awesome.' There are so many layers that come onto this. It's like, 'Well, can you move because you kind of look like the Michael Keaton Batman thing." I can move but it just pulls the skin.
Do they pad you up more than this?
Derek Mears: What they do is, the coat is gigantic, the mask and they have like a bridle that's been made into a machete kind of sheath, which is pretty cool. With this, Scott (Stoddard) has made this cool scoliosis bend to the body, along with the back and it's sort of a slight hump. It's not like a hunchback, but the rest is, yeah, me.
You seem really upbeat. Are you having a really good time filming?
Derek Mears: Are you kidding me? This is like a dream. This is the best ever.
When people ask you, how do you explain to them that you're having a good time, killing these teenagers every night?
Derek Mears: It is a little weird. It's hard not to squeal and act like a little 12-year-old schoolgirl. When people talk about it I have to be very professional, the voice drops. It's just a blast, man. It really has been an absolute treat working on the show. Just the casting itself, I've never worked on a show where everyone genuinely likes each other for who they are. Nobody was like, 'I worked on this. I'm so powerful.' Everyone became friends and I felt so retarded because later on I'd see little bulletins, and I never IMDB'd anybody. I'd see a bulletin come out like, 'Ryan Hansen from Veronica Mars and Epic Movie.' I'd be like, 'Dude, that's awesome! Congratulations!' He'd be like, 'Thanks. That was two years ago.' I just felt like a giant dork, but it's really been fantastic. It's been like playing with your friends. I said before in a different interview, you run around like a kid playing Jason and having Hollywood go, 'Hey, you're pretty good at that. Why don't you do it for everybody else?' So I'm taking my shot at it.
You guys have a lot of opportunities to goof off, so there's no willful distance between, say, you and your victims?
Derek Mears: Oh, no, no. In the very beginning, Andrew Form and I went to dinner and he was teasing me saying, 'You seem really really nice.' I went, 'Thanks,' and he went, 'No, I mean really really nice. You're gonna be able to switch, right?' I go, 'Yeah, it's called acting.' It's fun because we'll do scenes and (Amanda) Righetti will just make me crack up. We'll just get in these little goof laughter fits and it's like, 'Shut up. I'm trying to do stuff.' I think Danielle (Panabaker) was saying that it's hilarious that I'll switch and it'll be really intimidating, crashing things on the scene, throwing things, chasing people down, incredibly brutal, and smashing people... and cut. 'Hey bro, you OK?' Everyone starts laughing. It's been so much fun, it really has.
So, Jason chases people? He usually just walks
Derek Mears: Not anymore. Not anymore. This one they changed it around and they wanted to make him more human, an actual character and not just a machine or, like in the other ones like zombie/robot movements. You have sympathy for the character and you understand where he comes from. I think Damian (Shannon) and Mark (Swift), the writers, did a really good job of that. When I first read the script, I had been a fan of the series forever and when I got a copy of the script and read through it, I got extremely excited and said I have to be on this because this is what I want to see as a fan. It kept the intensity of the kills, you know, before you'd watch it for the unique kills. It was never really big on the plot or the character development. For this one I was so excited because, I liked Daniel Pearl and how he lit things like in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know it's going to be good. Secondly, the characters you actually care about. It's not like in the 80s where these characters are like, 'Here's my one-line joke. Hahaha. You're supposed to laugh.' It's actually well-written comedy, parts where the comedy is, but it's not overpowering. It's helping relieve the tension in certain areas. It's fantastic. It's not like people are saying it's a giant comedy. It's not, at all. You care about the characters and they have their own individual story arcs. What excited me was, with the different characters, different times during their arcs, before they're completed or they just start, they discover something about themselves... and they get taken out. It sets up the premise or it sets up the game that anyone can go at any time. There's no rules and that's what I really really dug about it.
How does the violence in this compare to the original ones?
Derek Mears: I think, in my opinion, it ups it. I'm excited because it's not just your stereotypical slasher where it's move in, kill, move in, kill, cat jumps out of the closet. It's really smart. Seeing Jason set people up, I don't want to give anything away, but there's something going on and someone does something then you realize, 'Wait a second. That's a f*%&in trap. Jason just set a trap for somebody?' That was smart and you can actually see him thinking. That's what they're doing with this so I'm super-excited about it.
How do you prepare for actually playing Jason Voorhes? What kind of mentality to you get into to prepare for that?
Derek Mears: It's a mixture of father issues for myself... no. The physical aspect of it, this Jason is a lot leaner than the other Jason's. A lot of them were slower and bulkier. Brad and Drew wanted to go with someone who, not to toot my own horn, has more functional training. Someone who's still intimidating but leaner, living off the land, running through the forest. Basically, he's a hunter. Preperation-wise, I did a lot of the metric training. I did a lot of stuff called cross-step. It's a crazy workout and a mixture of like weights and core training. It's designed for strength and function. For the mental aspect of it, I did a lot of research on child development. Supposedly in the script, when Jason loses his mother, and sees her get killed in front of him, he's like nine to 10 years old when it happens. I did research finding out when you're at that age, what cognitive process is happening, what the child is supposed to be developing. I found out that at that age you start to be integrated into society. Your parents maybe group you with sports or other group activities so you find out you're not alone. I discovered that he missed that aspect, he's already the outcast of society from being disfigured and then when he loses his mother, he never learns to be a team player, as it were. So, just exploring the psychological aspects of that. Also, different parts about serial killers. You know, something traumatic happens in their younger lives that makes that happen or makes them not think clearly like everyone else. Also some research into the psychology of wilderness survival, like what happens to soldiers when they get separated from their platoons. The psychology of realizing you're alone, what that does to you and playing off those aspects. Just putting all these ingredients of this recipe and mix it together and take it on from there. So there's a lot of different aspects of preparation.
How do you process all that stuff when you get to set and on camera?
Derek Mears: Well, you basically kind of program it ahead of time. For myself, as an actor... it sounds so silly because my background, before I started acting was roleplaying, like Dungeons and Dragons. It's like you have your character sheet in your head of this is how he acts, this is how strong he is, these are his weaknesses. You have that going in and you're basically memorizing the likes and the dislikes so that when you're in a scene, you don't pre-think what's going to happen and you improvise, you're in your character. It's so silly. It's like you're playing Dungeons and Dragons. Whatever's thrown at you, you roll with.
Have you done all the stunts yourself?
Derek Mears: Yes and no. I had a double come in... if you see a whole body and a face, then it's me. I went to get married in the middle of the shoot, so for one of the days I had a double come in. If you see like hands coming out of the floor grabbing a guy, it's just his hands. Chris Ganz, a friend of mine, would dress like me and walk in certain shots. He did a rollover from the dock into the water. So, yes and no.
What does your new wife think of all this?
Derek Mears: She's actually very supportive. I had opportunities, before this, for other shows, like really nice roles on other shows, before I even auditioned for this, but I knew this was coming up. People were throwing my name around for possibly doing this and, financially, the other jobs were great. I talked to her and she completely understood. She said, 'Well, you really want to do Friday the 13th.' I said, 'I know but I'm turning jobs down.' This is like a leap of faith. I didn't know how this was going to turn out. I said, 'I've just got a feeling.' She said, 'Well, would you kick yourself if you got it but you weren't able to do it because you were on another show?' I said, 'Yeah, that would suck,' and she said, 'Well, there's your answer.' It was a complete leap of faith and I'm so blown away that it's worked out. She's been really really supportive.
What's your favorite film in the series?
Derek Mears: That would be Part 4. I really really like Part 4 a lot. I really identified with the Tommy Jarvis character. I'm very lucky. Everything happens for a reason. I have Alopecia, which is a hair-loss, I lose hair. It fell out in like fifth or sixth grade. It'd fall out in patches. When I saw the scene where (Corey) Feldman came down the stairs with his head shaved to look like Jason, that's kind of how my head looked at the time, little patches here and there. I totally identified with Jason more than I already had. I guess it's subconscious, but that's one of the reasons I really identify with and dig the character was because I was different. It wasn't cool to be bald at the time and it was like, 'Look at the weird kid.' But everything happens for a reason because, now, we come full-circle, a lot of it turned out great because of the creature stuff, it's so easy to apply makeup, glue and it's really been an absolute blessing. It's been a real lesson for me.
When you were on location at the lake, did you ever walk around with the mask and freak people out?
Derek Mears: There's a funny story. At one point, we were at a Boy Scout Camp. They didn't know what we were shooting, but the Boy Scout Camp had like 200 Boy Scouts in these cabins right next to where our base camp once. Brad and Drew came over and were like, 'We totally gotta go over there and say hi to the kids.' I'm like, 'No way! They'd totally freak out. Plus their dads would probably have guns and I'd get shot.' I go, 'Plus, you guys are thinking about this all wrong. What you do is you choose one kid, you go over, scare the shit out of the one kid, after he runs back and goes, 'Oh my God I saw Jason Voorhes!' Everyone thinks that kid's crazy.' They said, 'You're worse than we are.'
What's been your favorite stunt so far?
Derek Mears: Well, my not-so-favorite stunt so far was there was a scene where I'm under a dock and I have to burst through the dock. I don't know how many times we did it. We did it like five times one day, the next day we did it three times. I'm thinking I'm used to blasting through. Ready and action. I shoot up and my hands and my head go at the same time, nothing happens. I thought that one of the actors had stepped right where I was supposed to go, as a joke, and I just gave myself spinal compression. Of course, I yelled some sort of lovely creative profanities and all I hear is the other actors start laughing. He didn't step on it at all, it was just the board didn't break. So they set everything up and I'm all ready to do it. 'For realsies, for realsies this time.' Action. The same thing happens. I'm just sinking in the water and everyone's laughing. That was the most painful but the craziest was swimming in the lake. I have these full prosthetics on, which, of course, take on water. We're testing everything out. I have the full, giant jacket, like this Frankenstein, pieced-together, giant jacket. I have this chain with real pieces of metal weighted on me. I have my prosthetics in for like teeth and I can't close my mouth at all and I learn that even if you're swimming and water comes into your mouth, you still can push your cheeks together to spit it out. I'm scuba certified and I didn't know that. I'm out on this little buoy and they pull the safety buoy away so I start to tread water. The respirator won't fit in the mouth so I can't do any of that and they have an underwater shot so they see me go down. They pull it away, immediately, I go under. My jacket gets caught on my shoulders so I can't raise my hands. I realize at that time, I can't close my nose because the prosthetics are on and the teeth. I'm taking in water and I get that point where I'm going down. This is really bad. I start kicking like crazy, come to the surface, trying to get the dive sign for 'Need help.' Can't get my hand up to do it. They're like, 'We're rolling.' Then one of the safety divers is like, 'No he needs help.' So we got rid of some of the stuff and tested it again and everything was fine. That would be a good headline. 'Remember the time that one guy died on Friday the 13th?' That was a tough one.
How has Marcus guided you, in terms of the level of intensity and level of violence? Is he encouraging you to be as rough and violent as possible?
Derek Mears: He is, he is. His eyes get this little tunnel vision and you can almost see what he's seeing. He gets animated like a child. He's like, 'No, no, Derek, you've got to be... and it's ferocious like an animal, then you strike like this.' He gets so excited. There was one death scene where he was like, 'No, scream. Scream to the heavens. Reach up and SCREAM!' He's yelling louder than the actor is. I'm trying not to laugh because he's so passionate about it and he's getting the performance that he wants and it was wild.
How do you think the fans will accept your take on the character?
Derek Mears: I really don't know. Truthfully, I've been blown away. I was on the Internet all the time because I was a fan myself for other things. I feel like I've almost switched sides. If a new James Bond will be announced or a new Batman will be announced, I'm like, 'Who's this guy? I totally liked so-and-so before. All right. We'll see.' I can totally understand where the fans are coming from. It's strange. Heavy is the head that wears the mask, I guess. I've been blown away about how positive and how supportive people have been so far. Just people wanting to see the character in general, and wanting the franchise to continue. I really haven' t seen that many negative comments. I've seen a few, but they've never really been directed towards me. They're very respectful and directed in a sense like, 'I really liked this guy. Why didn't they hire this guy?' It's not like, 'This guy sucks!' I feel a lot of responsibility. I really want it to be good and what I try to do on set, are a lot of people on different departments, are actual fans of the series. They're passionate about the project. They'll go in and clock in for work and rather this just be another job, when they clock out, they're still working on something because they want it to be the best they can be. I'll go to this group of fans, like Brad from the EPK camera, I'll do something in the scene and it'll be really intense where Brad and Drew and Marcus will ask my opinion on something, like, 'I don' t think Jason would do this,' they listen to me and I'll always double-check. I'll go over to the fans and go, 'In that scene, was it too over -the-top?' And get their feedback. I do openly make my own character choices, but I want to make sure that I'm on the right page. Especially Scott Stoddard, who I always describe as working on the character and working on the prosthetics. It's not just me. It's a 50-50 teamwork. I use the symbolism for it like NASCAR. I'm the lucky one who gets to be the driver, but I have a whole team behind me who make the car, they're on the headsets telling me things from a perspective that I can't see. I'm open as an actor to know what they want to get across for the pieces. They'll tell me, 'Lift the chin up here. There's a little flicker and it's really cool when that happens.' We work together as a team and it's been great so far. I just hope it all edits together and comes out well, which I'm pretty sure it will.
Damn that Jason is just so friggin cool! While I'm sure all of us in our assembled press corps would've loved to just stick around and talk with Derek Mears all night, we had many more to interview. Next up we got to talk to one of the other lovely laides on the set, Danielle Panabaker, who plays Jenna, the kinda-sorta girlfriend to the guy whose lake house they all visit that gets the whole ordeal started. She was recently seen playing the precocious daughter of Kevin Costner's title character in Mr. Brooks and she also played daughter to James Woods in the TV series, Shark. Here's what Panabaker had to say about her new slasher role.
What can you tell us about your character?
Danielle Panabaker: I play Jenna and the story sort of follows a bunch of kids who are on their friends' lake house or cabin. It's a great house. Anyway, the guy who's family owns the house is a guy named Trent and I'm Trent's girlfriend, kinda. It's a little ambiguous. They hooked up but it's not clear how interested she is in him. So Jenna is definitely the sort of athletic adventurous type, having fun, having a good time with her friends.
They told us this movie has sex, drugs, violence...
Danielle Panabaker: You name it, this movie's got it!
Did you have any trepidations going in that they might ask you to do something you might be uncomfortable doing, either with the violence or sex scenes?
Danielle Panabaker: Well, when I read the script I sort of knew what I was getting myself into. On top of that, there's the whole element of them shooting a horror film and there's a lot that goes on, the intensity. Marcus (Nispel, the director) has everything very frantic and frazzled and that sort of thing. Here's a funny story about shooting frantic and frazzled. I thought that I wasn't going to get too hurt in this movie, but we were doing a scene in a house and you think, 'Oh, we're shooting in a house. Nothing's going to happen in a house,' with all the scenes we shot in the woods and running and I made it through OK. A couple of bumps and bruises but nothing too bad. We're doing this scene in the house and it's Friday night/Saturday morning. We've been working all week doing nights. It's six o'clock in the morning on Saturday and your body's just exhausted. We're shooting a scene, trying to get it done before the sun comes up. We're running and he wants us to go faster and myself and the guy that plays my boyfriend are trying to get out of the house and our bodies tried to occupy the same space at the same time, we collided, he being over six feet tall and ripped, and I got run into a windowsill and cut my chin open, passed out, like down, out cold on the floor. I had to spend half the day in the emergency room. Yeah. I have a scar, it's covered up with makeup, but I'll always physically remember Friday the 13th.
You've got battle scars.
Danielle Panabaker: It's true, but all the boys think I'm pretty bad-ass right now. It's cool. I'm one of the guys.
Do you think your character is well-defined in the script, or did you have to work to...
Danielle Panabaker: Absolutely. I think that's one of the benefits of this movie. Here is a horror movie. There's sort of two ways it can go. I feel like the trend right now is to sort of be this really cheesey horror movie with kids running scared and whatever, where it's not actually that scary. Then there's the really gruesome, to the point where you can't even watch, kind. I think the benefit of this movie is that it's got all the deaths that are gross and gnarly, but they're fun. You want to watch them. It's not like you want to turn away. You're into it and you're really enjoying it. On top of that, the characters in the script are hilarious and they do such an amazing job casting this movie that everyone here got along really well. I think we all really stand out. In terms of my character, it'd be really easy to just sort of write her off as a floozy, but I think so much more is going on and, as an actor, I try to bring as much as I can to it as well, give her backstory and all that. Hopefully, what I've created is something that will stand out. I won't know until the film comes out, but fingers crossed.
How have you liked working with Derek (Mears) so far?
Danielle Panabaker: I adore him. I don't know if you saw us hanging out, but he could not be a nicer, sweeter guy and just a joy to be around, such a pleasure. He's also an incredible actor. It's funny because he doesn't have a lot of dialogue, per se, in the movie, but the way he acts with his body and his physicality, even the way he turns his head and his muscles, he's an incredible performer that way. He's very focused and works incredibly hard and it's very scary to be on set with him. Marcus laughed at me in the take we just shot. I see him coming and I gasped. I wasn't supposed to and Marcus laughed at me, but I was a little proud of myself. I thought it was authentic to be terrified of Jason. Come on.
Is it easier or more difficult to be that scared because you do share that easy rapport?
Danielle Panabaker: I think the difference is when we see him, when we're not on set, even if he's in wardrobe and the mask isn't usually on and he's not suited up in the jacket and all that. When we work on set, it's a true character that is terrifying. I think that's where the difference is. Being on set, he's scary.
How familiar were you with the franchise before you started working on this?
Danielle Panabaker: Honestly, I was not that familiar, because I'm a chicken. Bambi gave me nightmares as a child. I don't do horror movies well. It's hard for me to watch them so, with this one, when I had gotten the offer for the movie, I grabbed a friend and we watched the movie, but I made sure it was daylight outside, there was going to be time to get up and walk around and take a break if I needed to. I've now seen the first two and it's fun. It's really fun. I'm excited to be a part of this.
You said you had a genuine freak-out reaction with Jason. Do you find you have many of those on the set?
Danielle Panabaker: Especially with Jason. Especially when we see Jason, because he's terrifying in the way he's shot. The other thing is the sets on this movie, the movie is gonna look amazing. I think it'll be fantastic, but only time will tell. The smoke and the lights and the way it's shot is going to be terrifying.
Were your expectations of being in a horror movie, the physicality and all that, was it what you expected?
Danielle Panabaker: I worked out a little harder before getting here, and I'm glad I did because I needed it. You don't just run once, you run 10 times in 10 different ways. I was expecting some, but, you know, passing out from getting hit on the chin I wasn't expecting, so it did exceed my expectations for how physically demanding it was.
You were joking around back there a bit ago. Is it easy to go from that and then go to being scared?
Danielle Panabaker: I think you're seeing us at a really fun time because we're really close to the end of the movie and we've all bonded and had a really good time. We have wonderful producers and the cast, as I'm sure you can tell, is amazing. We're also a little giddy. We've got one more day and we have ice cream on set, so you guys are getting a little bit of a different view. I think for me, like I said earlier, I have to take my moments and step away, but there's enough time that when we're sitting behind the monitors and by the time we get on set and they get ready, there's time to slow down and to get into that moment, which is important for me. I always have to take that minute to get there.
How have you liked working with Marcus Nispel? It seems like he's really fast-paced.
Danielle Panabaker: Absolutely. Marcus is a very visual director and loves to shoot. I don't know the technicality, you can probably ask our producers, but we have a lot of footage on this movie. He really likes the camera to be rolling, which is great because it means we're really making a movie. In that sense, Marcus is excited to get interesting shots and so it's fun to be a part of that.
When you signed on to the movie, from the start, did you know what the evolution of your character would be, or have they made changes?
Danielle Panabaker: There have been a lot of changes to the script as we've gone along. Changes have been made, then taken back, then changed again. It's been evolving. I think the producers really want it to be, I think everyone one on this film really wants to be respectful to the legacy of Jason and all the films, but they also want to make a great film that's not going to disappoint audiences. I think audiences that are new to the Friday the 13th series and audiences who are die-hard fans, they worked incredibly hard to make sure it's going to be a great film. Brad and Drew are very talented that way.
So how would you sell this film, to both the new audiences and die-hard fans alike? How would you sell it to each of those camps?
Danielle Panabaker: I would sell it by saying that it's the best horror movie of my generation because it has a terrifying villain who is out to get the characters in the film, and yet it's totally realistic. It doesn't take you out of it, but it's also an enjoyable experience. I think the people who are going to watch this movie are going to have a great time. They're going to root for certain people to get killed, they're going to be really crushed when others do. They're going to love the interaction with all these kids, because these kids are crazy. They do everything that real - I say kids, but they do everything real young adults would do. They're driving off on a weekend alone, there are people hooking up, love triangles everywhere. There's all kinds of alcohol and drunkenness, pot. There's everything. I think that's why people will really like this one.
When you're picking your projects in general, what are the things that you look for when you're choosing roles?
Danielle Panabaker: You know, I spent two years on a television show that just ended, and I'm really excited to get out there and find something new and challenging. I'm young. There are a lot of things I want to do. I want to do a romantic comedy. I worked on a mini-series a long time ago called Empire Fall, and I want to do something of that caliber, that is that challenging for an actor. I want to do it all, which is why I'm here too. I want to do a horror film and what better one to do than Friday the 13th.
This slashtastic day was so big we had to split it up into two parts, so be sure to check out Part II where we sit down with special makeup effects artis Scott Stoddard, director of photography Daniel Pearl, actor Jared Padalecki and actress Amanda Righetti. Peace in. Gallagher out!