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Fangoria #68The Six Faces of Jason Part 1
Fangoria #68
By Marc Shapiro

Jason Voorhees turns 7 years old this year. That's right, it's mindless, indestructible killing machine and all-around groovy guy crawled out of Camp Crystal Lake to chomp, mangle and mutilate his way into our hearts. Beginning in 1980 with the Original Friday The 13th and through five subsequent sequels, Jason as deformed delinquent, in a sack a la The Elephant Man and in his trademark hockey mask-has risen to Hall of Fame status in the guts and minds of stalk-and-kill fans worldwide.

Which is more than you can say for the six actors who have portrayed him. All those who have played Jason came to the role from total obscurity and, to a large extend, went right back there afterward. Only one of the six was ever offered an opportunity to play Jason a second time, and he turned it down. For one, the emotional drain of playing Jason was so great that he promptly gave up acting altogether. And another is so tired of being associated with the role that he refuses to discuss his Jason appearance at all. It is a little wonder that even the most astute trivia buff has difficulty name this half dozen.

Until now, that is. For these are the men who have been Jason. Welcome to their niche in horror history.

Jason 1: The Puberty Years

Ari Lehman went into the audition with the intention of knocking producer/director/screenwriter Sean Cunningham dead. The 14-year-old actor, who earlier had auditioned unsuccessfully for a Cunningham obscurity called Manny's Orphans, was fully prepared to make like Olivier and get the part of a deformed teen called Jason in a low-budget horror flick called Friday The 13th.

"But I did not have to say a word," recalls Lehman of that audience with the creator. "He took one look at me sand said, 'You're the right size, you've got the part.' "

Lehman, 22, long ago gave up acting in favor of music and currently heads up the popular East Coast funk-rock group Max Groove. But he smiles as he remembers that four-day stint as Jason, and how each day began in Tom Savini's makeup chair.

"We had it down to a science," Lehman chuckles. "Tom would come in, pour a bucket of plaster over my head, and I would become the monster."

Not having any previous Jason’s to model his performance on Lehman concocted an image of Jason that was equal parts scary and sympathetic. He took his mental motivation to Cunningham for approval. "I had the idea that I would be psyching myself up to become Jason. I was taking it very seriously. Cunningham told me what he wanted, but you could tell he was getting a kick out of this kid wanting to know how he should be playing Jason. Everybody else on the set just laughed. I was probably taking the role of Jason much more seriously than anybody else on the film was."

As Jason, Lehman is briefly glimpsed drowning in a Crystal Lake flashback, and later reemerges to attack sole survivor Adrienne King in the shocking twist ending. Lehman calls that final bit his toughest.

"It was freezing out there, and all I had on was a jockstrap," Lehamn shudders. "Every time we had to shoot the scene, I would have to reach down into the lake and rub mud all over myself.

"We rehearsed that scene a number of times," he continues. "At one point, Sean saw something he liked and told me to try it again, but to move a little bit slower. What he did not tell me is that he had the cameras rolling. Consequently, what was supposed to be practice ended up being the cut that made the film."

Following the completion of slasher trendsetter, Lehman was so concerned about soft-pedaling his role in the film that he did not see Friday The 13th until two years after its release. When he did go, he brought his parents with him. "My parents were really grossed out," he laughs. "They had to give the OK for me to do the movie, but I don't think they really knew how bloody it was going to be."

Lehman considers his Friday The 13th experience a positive one, but he candidly points out that playing Jason had everything to do with ending his acting career after one motion picture. "Since I came from a theater background, playing Jason confirmed some fears I had about the movie industry," Lehman admits. "If I had stayed in acting, I saw a future of doing a lot of characters that I would not always be into. With music, I have more control in doing the things I want to.

"But don't get me wrong," the former actor maintains. "I have no regrets of playing Jason."

Jason 2: So Mad He Could Kill

Francis Warrington Gillette III holds no regrets, either. Gillette, currently in the women's clothing business but previously a struggling actor, originally red for a non-Jason role in Part 2.

"They decided to go with another actor in that role," acknowledges the good-natured Gillette. "So they asked me if I would be interested in the part of Jason. They told me I would have to get my head shaved and wear a lot of uncomfortable makeup. I was a beginning actor, and I had to take whatever I could get, so I said, 'sure.' "

Gillette knew the first Friday movie and thought, "The idea of running around killing people and offering the kills to my mother's head would be amusing."

What was not amusing was the trial by special FX torture that was his constant companion on the part 2 set. "The makeup [by Carl Fullerton] was extremely uncomfortable," says Gillette. "They glued rubber pieces all over my face to distort it. One of my eyeballs was completely closed off, and the makeup people put distorted dentures in my mouth that kept it forced open. I had trouble eating and drinking. With only one eye open, I lost depth-perception and was always dizzy."

Gillette's troubles continued in the climactic scene that called for Jason to crash through a window. "The problem was that the art director forgot to score it. So I ran full speed into the window, hit it and bounced straight back."

But rather than throw a screaming fit, Gillette did what any self-respecting actor in pain would do. He cried. "And because I did, all the tears, saliva and snot were running all over me." Gillette winces. "By the time we reached the scene where I jump through the window and attack the girl [Amy Steel], I was so sick and uncomfortable that I definitely felt I could kill that girl."

The actor's spirits improved after the Steve Miner movie wrapped. In a positive frame of mind, he and a group of friends limoed to the Loews 86th Street Theater in New York for Friday The 13th Part 2's premiere.

"I was expecting more," jokes Gillette of his first look at the sequel. "I thought I had this really great part, and there I was on the big screen, saying absolutely nothing and killing a bunch of kids."

Gillette moved to Los Angeles, where he appeared in another genre flick, Time Walker, and continued to act sporadically. He temporarily gave up acting, started his current business and has presently returned to the acting game.

He admits that his part of Jason pain and all, made a lasting impression on him. To this day, he has refused to see any of the other Friday chapters.

"It would be too depressing," Gillette concludes. "Seeing somebody else playing Jason would be like somebody else going out with my girl friend. It may be happening, but I don't have to know about it."

Jason 3: Motivation? What Motivation?

Richard Brooker had no idea the ad he was answering in Dramalogue (a casting magazine) for a big man to act in an unnamed horror film was going to bring him into the world of Friday The 13th.

"I was only recently in this country," says the 32-year-old lighting technician/actor/trapeze artist. "I was established in Europe, but I needed to get some non-union work over here before I could join the unions. At 6 feet 3 inches, I was definitely a big man, so I applied for the part."

Brooker did not blink an eye when he discovered that the part he would be playing was Jason in Friday The 13th part 3 in 3-D. He had seen one of the first Friday films and remembers "being neither totally put off nor a fanatic about it." Still, the idea of starring as a totally mindless killing machine seemed the perfect opportunity to test out a pet theory.

"I believed that you did not have to talk to act," observes Brooker. "The director of the film, Steve Miner, pretty much agreed with my idea that Jason should be portrayed in a largely improvisational manner. I remember him telling me that I better not ever come up and ask what my motivation is for a particular scene. He told me Jason had no motivation."

Brooker has fond memories of Part 3. He points out the historical importance of the movie being the first time Jason wore the now-familiar hockey mask. The production also shot in 3-D, which, outside of the cold weather and all-night shoots, incurred the most vivid memories he has of the filming.

"The kills were probably the hardest things we had to shoot because the split screen 3-D process we used necessitated multiple takes on everything." he recounts. "It was not uncommon to do 14 or 15 takes of a simple stabbing sequence. We spent hours and hours on the eyeball squeeze."

Brooker recalls getting on well with the third installment's cast and crew. "There were no egos involved, nobody was laboring under any illusions. We were pulling together to make as good a film as we could.

"I remember the night I went to see the movie, I had my fingers crossed," he confesses. "I was pleasantly surprised. Part 3 delivered the scares, and it was very entertaining. And as Jason, I wasn't bad, either," he laughs.

Friday The 13th part 3 in 3-D served the purpose of getting Brooker into the unions. He subsequently found regular work both as a tech and as an actor/stuntman in such movies as Deathstalker. He laughingly admits that playing Jason has also given him no small measure of notoriety.

"I get fan mail from people who have found out that I played Jason. Occasionally, I'll get stopped for an autograph," he smiles. "There was also the time I was introduced to a girl in a bar as the guy who played Jason, and she wanted to know if I slept with a hatchet in my bed."

Brooker was never approached to repeat the role, but he points out that his place in terror trivia history is assured.

"I had the opportunity to play the most famous monster you never saw," Brooker beams. "You can't ask for more than that."

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