Kane Hodder doesn’t get sentimental about too many things. But when the actor/stuntman, who played the bone-crushing Jason Voorhees in Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood and Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, got the call to put on what’s left of the infamous hockey mask a third time in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, something resembling a lump rose in his throat.
“It was kind of like coming back to an old friend,” says that California-born Hodder. “The first time I went over to KNB and tried on the suit and mask, I said, ‘Ah yes, this feels good.’ Yeah, it’s great to be doing it again.”
This time out, Hodder’s duties as Jason were enough to tax the strength of a whole string of stuntmen. Besides taking the title role, Hodder is serving as the film’s stunt coordinator. At one point in Jason Goes To Hell, he crashes through a diner and tears the place apart; during a jail-break sequence, a character possessed by Jason literally busts some heads, as much to the chagrin of deputies played by LA radio personalities Mark and Brian. In the memorable prologue, the body-count king eats a ton of lead from the barrels of a dozen or more SWAT team guns. And, lest we forget, there’s a final physical confrontation that will put previous Friday The 13th tussels to shame.
It’s halfway through filming on this latest Friday epic, and Hodder is taking a break before an afternoon of nonstop bloodletting. The 37-year-old actor, who seems to grow mellow and accommodating with each succeeding film, admits that for a while, he wasn’t sure he’d get another chance to walk in the masked one’s sizable shoes.
“For the first year after Jason Takes Manhattan, there was no question in my mind that we would do another one,” he says. “Looking back, I realize that was probably more wishful thinking on my part than anything else. But as the time started getting longer, I began to think that maybe it was really over. Then I started hearing rumblings about Sean Cunningham wanting to do another one, and that KNB would be doing the effects.”
Hodder felt that he was the missing part of the equation. “Nobody else was considered for the role, as far as I know,” he says. “And once Adam Marcus was signed on as director, he made it very clear that he wanted me for the part. Sean had never really seen me as Jason, because he had not seen the later Friday films. But he recently told me how much he likes what I’ve done with the character.”
According to Hodder, by now he can almost play the character in his sleep. “There’s nothing really different in the way I’m playing Jason. The breathing and some of the more subtle movements are things I developed in the previous two films. People have told me that they like those elements. But the bottom line is that I’m still doing things the same way, because I think they still work.”
Anybody expecting the same old Jason in the new Friday, however, is in for a pleasant surprise. “For one thing, the makeup is totally different,” Hodder explains. “Jason’s body is similar to the way it was in Part VII, with bits of bone sticking out. But the head is very different; there are more bulges on it and a little bit of hair. And, needless to say, the hockey mask has been on a long time, and is becoming part of his head.
“There are a lot of firsts in this movie for my character,” he continues, without giving away any particulars. “Something happens to Jason during a fight that’s never happened before. There’s a scene with a coroner who does something with Jason in the morgue that’s a first—and that doesn’t turn out too well for him.”
And Jason has not been humanized in any way this time out, either. “I’m not crying, and I’m not going to be too friendly,” Hodder laughs. “Jason’s just as violent as he’s been in previous films, but this time out, I’m playing him even more animalistically. The kills are real good and real violent, but probably not as gory. Which is just as well, because thanks to the MPAA, we never get to leave the real outrageous stuff in anyway.”
Director Marcus echoes Hodder’s explanation of how he’s redefining the character for the ‘90s. “Kane is definitely coming off different in this movie,” he says. “He’s not playing Jason quite as straightforwardly as in previous films.”
Integral to this new approach to the stalker is the fact that his trademark machete is only used briefly; most of this film’s violent moments consist of hand-to-hand mayhem. Of particular note, according to Hodder, is the climactic rumble between Jason and good guy Steven (John D. LeMay).
“This fight is one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever filmed as Jason,” he says. “There’s a lot of crashing through things and throwing each other around. It’s easily the best battle sequence between Jason and another person that’s ever been filmed. It lasts much longer, and Jason is almost like a dog playing with a toy in the way he does stuff to this guy. We’ve spent much more time on the action material, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. And you’ll know it when you see this stuff.”
Hodder is not new to flights of fantasy and horror. Since beginning his stunt/acting career at age 20 in an episode of the TV series Emergency, he has preformed death-defying feats in such fright films as The Hills have Eyes 2, all three House movies, Prison, Ghost Town, The Horror Show, Deepstar Six, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and others. Most recently, Hodder has been seen out of makeup in The Rapture and Alligator II, and did stunts on the non-genre hits The Last Boy Scout and Under Siege. In all, he has appeared in over 50 motion pictures and 60 TV shows.
“I don’t like limiting myself to any one kind of movie, because I’ve found challenges in just about everything I’ve done,” Hodder allows. “But the horror and fantasy films do tend to present unusual situations. When I’m playing monster parts like Jason or Forsythe in Prison [for which he swallowed a mouthful of worms], the things I end up doing are totally out there and out of the norm, which is great. I love the challenge.”
Regarding his previous Jason stalkings, Hodder says he liked director John Buechler’s The New Blood better then Rob Hedden’s Jason Takes Manhattan, but allows that even the much-maligned eighth Friday “had some neat moments”—despite a pitiful ending. The actor has kept set diaries on the making of all his Friday flicks, which may be published next year as Jason’s Journal. In addition, Hodder has been a hit at national FANGORIA Weekend of Horrors conventions and on his own college lecture tour. He has also parlayed his success into memorable appearances on TV’s Arsenio and The Horror Hall of Fame—both while in costume. Another positive element of doing Friday The 13th movies, he adds, has been the quality of the people at the helm.
“In all three Friday films I’ve done, I’ve been fortunate in getting directors who were easy to work with, and who haven’t felt so insecure that they resented my input,” he says.
Far from rejecting his ideas, current director Marcus feels Hodder is a godsend. “Kane has been one of the best elements of this movie,” the director says. He’s so breezy about playing Jason. He knows his character so well that it’s easy to direct him.”
The 6-foot-3, 230-lb. Actor agrees that being the only constant in the last three Friday films has given him a certain amount of leverage on the set. “Obviously, I have great input on how Jason does certain things,” he points out. “Nobody else really knows this character like I do, so everybody seems willing to listen when I say that Jason would do something a certain way. But I don’t come across like a jerk with a big ego. I’ll usually explain the scene to Adam and demonstrate it, and what usually happens is that he’ll see that it does work much better. I’m aware that Adam wants certain things in this film and that the final choice is his, but we’ve worked well together and I’ve had almost complete freedom with this character.”
Consequently, Hodder holds high hopes for Jason Goes To Hell. “It could be the best Friday The 13th movie ever made,” he says. “It’s a good script, a good story, there’s a lot of action and the quality of acting is much better than it’s been in previous films. There are definite differences in this movie that will make a lot of people think, ‘I don’t know if I like this.’ But as they watch it, I know they’ll see that this new take on Jason and Friday The 13th works quite well.”
Hodder is aware that Jason Goes to Hell is being trumpeted as the final Friday film, but jokes, “Don’t be too sure. We all know Jason never dies.” He does concede that if this is the last outing as the dreaded Voorhees, he will feel a loss. “There’s a lot about Jason that I’ll miss,” he admits. “Jason is the kind of character that allows you to get totally out of yourself. With Jason I can be as crazy and out of control as I want. Those kinds of roles don’t come along too often.”
Hodder goes on to hint and tease at the particulars of what happens in the final installment of the Friday The 13th saga. “Say, did you hear about how this movie ends? What? Nobody’s given away the ending yet? Well, I guess I won’t either.”
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