Interview with Ari Lehman
(Young Jason Voorhees, Friday The 13th)
Conducted by Kat on May 20th, 2004
How did you get the role of Jason Voorhees?
Hello Kat, and all the members of Shivers Of Horror! When I was 12 years old, I heard that there was a movie company holding auditions in my town. Some of my friends had been in the Sean Cunningham production "Here Come the Tigers", about a rag-tag bunch of kids who play baseball, sort of like "The Bad News Bears". His next film was to be about a rag-tag bunch of kids who play soccer, a sport that I am pretty good at. I managed to sneak into the audition, and landed the 80 line role of "Roger", a girl-obsessed orphan often shown with a Playboy in his hand. The result was called "Manny's Orphans", eventually re-named "Kick", and can be seen sometimes on obscure movie channels if you've stayed up way too late.
About a year later, I got a call from Sean about a new film he wanted me to be in. When I got to his office however, Sean was out, and they accidentally handed me the sides for Kevin Bacon's role. When I read the part where the character goes off to make out with a girl in the woods, I thought "hey...allright!", being only 13 at the time. But then, in walks Sean and says, "No, that's not your part... you're too young for that. We have another role for you...you're going to play the monster!" Needless to say, I was psyched when I heard that. Then Sean Cunningham asked me, "Are you a good swimmer?" "Yes." I said, and that was it, the part was mine. Basically I got the part of the first Jason Voorhees because I was the right size, I got along well with the crew, and I could swim.
Fangoria magazine reported that you were concerned with the film, so you didn't watch it until two years after it was released. Is this true?
Although the entire cast and crew put a great deal of sincere effort into the creation of the film, we had no clue that it would become so famous and popular. I saw it once with friends when it first came out, and then later on video. After all, "Kick" was the my only other point of reference. I was very surprised when other students at my junior high school first approached me about being Jason.
As time passed, I watched the film many times at Halloween gatherings and keg parties, although, even then, we all had no idea that so many more F13's would come out, and no inkling that there would ever be feature films based solely on the Jason character himself. Amazing!
Fangoria also reported that you felt that by taking on the role of Jason Voorhees it basically ended your acting career but allowed you to explore other career opportunities. Do you still feel that the role of Jason was responsible for the end of your acting career?
I think that some of my comments may have been taken out of context. Being in "Friday the 13th" was completely a positive, educational, and enjoyable experience for me. What actually turned me off about film work in general was the start-and-stop, hurry-up-and-wait approach to acting, which is so reliant upon technology, constantly interrupting the mental flow of the actors.
I was truly seeking a more tangible, immediate mode of expression. I decided to become a musician and no longer pursued acting, because music is, for me, just a better mode of expression.
The happy result is that I have spent the past 20 years as a professional recording and touring artist, playing keyboards and singing for some of the top names in Reggae and World music, performing in Europe, Africa and the US.
I now have my own World Rock band, ARI BEN MOSES BAND. We have a steady schedule of concerts and festivals, and a critically acclaimed CD out called "Burning Bush". Two more releases are due out this year.
Please visit us at www.aribenmosesband.com, where you can also order autographed photos of the first Jason Voorhees.
How did it feel to be on the cover of Famous Monsters #163?
Great! I have always had an appreciation for the Horror Classics, and I am especially fond of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. To be on the cover of a magazine usually reserved for such screen icons is most definitely a high honor.
How does it feel to know that back when you were 14 you were the first person to play a character who has become a huge cult icon/hero?
Well, it is a good feeling, and I am very grateful. Honestly, though, if it wasn't for the fans of Jason Voorhees, he never would have made it this far. In fact, it is all of you who bring Jason back to life every year by popular mandate. The truth is that Jason will live on, as long as you, the fans, continue to support and believe in him.
How long did it take for your make-up to get put on? And did you suffer any painful effects from the make-up, like Harry Crosby did with his eye make-up?
Good Question. Without a doubt, the person who spent by far the most amount of time creating Jason, and all the special effects of "Friday the 13th", is Tom Savini. Of course, we worked for many hours in his studio, designing and fitting the mask, eye, and teeth. On the set, we would have to get started about four hours prior to the call, which was usually at 7 a.m. Even though I did not experience any discomfort from the prosthetic makeup, I did have a hard time getting up one morning after we had all been partying the night before. That was a cold day however, so the icy waters of Crystal Lake were a quick remedy!
What was your favorite moment on the set? Do you have any stories you'd like to share?
Working with Tom Savini and his assistant Taso Stavrakos was a blast. We were all living on the campgrounds, which lent a festive air to the production, especially after we were done shooting for the day. Tom and Taso liked to practice stage fighting with fencing sabers all over the camp, jumping off tables and swinging on ropes. I had to learn how to defend myself from surprise attacks!
We would go canoeing on the lake as well. One time we were out there late at night, dredging up muck from the bottom for the Jason makeup, when we heard a loud sound coming from the wooded shore. "It's Jason!" we joked. We were relieved to see that it was only a big bear, coming to the lake to get a drink.
Do you keep in touch with any of the actors/actresses from the film?
I met Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King, as well as Kane Hodder, Warrington Gillette and C.J. Graham at the past Fangoria/Chiller Theatre event at the Meadowlands which was a lot of fun. I heartily recommend attending these events to all of the fans of Jason, and Horror in general.
Were you able to keep any props from the film?
No, I think the false teeth and glass eye are in Tom Savini's studio, which makes sense. Also he has all the prototypes and design work that he did for Jason.
When you heard that a sequel was in the makes, did you want to reprise your role as Jason?
Well, I knew that they would be portraying an older, bigger Jason, so I knew they would be using a taller actor than myself. Also, Sean did not direct or produce the sequel, so I was unfamiliar to the new production team.
Have you seen any of the other films in the series? If so, what did you think of them? And which would be your favorite film in the series?
I have seen almost all of the other F13 films. I find something to like in all of them, and appreciate the different ways that each actor has portrayed Jason, bringing something new to the role every time. I particularly like "The Final Chapter", because of Tom Savini's special effect work. Also "Jason X" is a good film, not a classic F13, but I am a big sci-fi fan, and I think Kane Hodder was excellent as Jason in space.
Would you ever want to be in another horror movie again? Maybe even another Friday The 13th film?
Recently, I have been approached by some independent directors, and I may be appearing in an off-beat Horror soon. I support independent artists, and can relate to them, because I promote my music independently as well.
As far as F13 goes, I guess it might be pretty cool to see the original young Jason onscreen after all this time. I might be convinced to do it if it makes dramatic sense, and does not shatter the illusion of reality. A good idea might be to have me and my band performing in the background of a scene in a bar, keg party or beach party. Only true F13 fans would be hip to what was going on.
If fans would like to see me in another movie, I welcome them to encourage the director/producer himself to include me. That would be by far the most effective way of getting their attention.
If there was anything about the Friday The 13th storyline you could change, what would it be and why?
I would like to see a clarification of what occurred during the 11 years in between Jason's drowning and his re-surfacing. I have some theories about how his being under the waters of Crystal Lake caused his transformation from mongoloid to monster. I am actually working on a Jason-inspired Rock recording that delves into the workings of the mind of Jason during this time.
By the way, in "Freddy vs. Jason", I was very impressed with the accuracy with which they portrayed the young Jason. However, even they did not cover this aspect.
Many of us know that you are now in your own band. When did you start your band? Are you planning and trying to have an international career in music, or is it more for the fun?
Yes, all of the above, and Thank You.
As I previously mentioned, I have been a professional touring and recording artist for the past 20 years, and have made records for top labels like Interscope Records and Bob Marley's own Tuff Gong Records.
My band, ARI BEN MOSES BAND, put our first CD out in 2000, called "Burning Bush" which has received critical acclaim and been featured on WLIB-AM, WBAI-FM and WSIA-FM radio in New York City, WNUR-FM in Chicago, and Radio Eshel 106-FM in Israel. Through the internet, I have successfully reached listeners in Holland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Philippines and The United Kingdom.
ARI BEN MOSES BAND will be appearing as featured artists at this year's Greater Chicago Jewish Folk Arts Festival on June 13th, in Chicago, IL, and at the Atlantis Music Conference on July 22nd in Atlanta, GA.
For more information please visit us at: www.aribenmosesband.com and www.cdbaby.com/abmb.
Autographed photos of the first Jason Voorhees in action are available from me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Thanks to you and all the Shivers Of Horror members! Remember, you are the ones who keep Jason going strong!
More Power To You. Have Fun! ~ Ari
Please to not
reproduce this interview!