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
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 2: So Mad He Could
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
"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,
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
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
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
"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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