When New Line Cinema first put "Freddy vs. Jason" on its development slate way back in 1993, it seemed so ... simple.
Just pit the two most-recognizable horror heroes of the past 20 years--"A Nightmare on Elm Street's" Freddy Krueger and "Friday the 13th's" Jason Voorhees---against each other in a feature-film fight to the death.
Of course, in the movie industry, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.
Seven years of development later--highlighted by 12 different writers' attempts to draft a "Freddy vs. Jason" film--the studio found itself still without a suitable script. Then in December 2000, the writing team of Mark Swift and Damian Shannon pitched the studio a new take on the project. Three years later, the film based on their script will finally arrive in theaters Aug. 15.
"Our take was essentially that this needed to be a movie for the fans, and we wanted to do things in the script that the fans of each character would love," Swift says. "We're talking about 17 movies' worth of history we had to deal with here."
But while the writers wanted to satisfy the hard-core fans of each franchise, they also were faced with the reality that the perceptions of both franchises had changed over the years--and not necessarily for the better.
"We realized that these characters had come to be thought of as cheesy, and we wanted to come up with ways to reintroduce them to audiences." Shannon says. "I think the characters and franchises had really gotten off track, and we wanted to make more of an '80s kind of slasher flick--this movie definitely has a nostalgic feel."
But developing a script that reinvented both franchises, satisfied the core audience, offered a nostalgic vibe and somehow combined the Stories of two very different characters proved a daunting task.
In order to find the delicate balance for the script, Swift and Shannon came up with a list of 10 rules that they would never violate in writing the script, among them character staples like the fact that Jason would never speak.
Meanwhile, the studio remained largely hands-off, allowing the writers to craft the colossal matchup as they saw fit.
"The only marching orders we got from the studio was that the movie should be violent as hell," Shannon says.
But even after the writers turned in a script that satisfied the studio, the film's ending remained an elusive challenge.
"Coming up with an ending was by far the hardest part of the process," Swift notes.
The writers eventually went through nine different drafts of the script with five different endings--ranging from a Freddy victory to a Jason victory to everywhere in between. Other writers, including "Blade" scribe David Goyer, were eventually brought in to offer their take on a final sequence.
But in a fitting Hollywood twist, the ending that eventually made the cut was penned by an unlikely source--New Line chairman Bob Shaye, the man who greenlighted the start of both franchises so many years ago.
"After a test screening, (the) audience reacted poorly to the ending we had originally shot, (and) Bob came in with the ending that we now have--and I have to say it is definitely the best," Swift says.
So who wins in the final version?
The writers won't say, but they did promise one thing--the battle between the two horror legends does end with a "clear-cut winner."
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