Interview with Tom Morga
(Roy's Stunt Double, Friday The 13th Part V)
Conducted by Kat on July 18th, 2003
How did you become a stuntman?
I became a stuntman out of a personal desire, which I pursued, and was fortunate enough to attain. Being from Burbank , California , which is near the studios, I was able to get in contact with the stuntmen who did the stunt show for Universal Studio's Tour. At the time I was working during the summers for the Forest Service as a Smokejumper, stationed out of Missoula , M ontana and was going to school in California. I was in my last year of college when I first talked to the stuntmen and let them know my feelings. They gave me no real encouragement at that time, so I returned to Montana for the coming summer season with the Smokejumpers. After finishing college, I was back telling them what I had been doing and that I really wanted a chance to try my hand at stunt work. Well, my persistence impressed one of them enough to give me the name of a stuntman who had a school at that time. That man's name was Paul Stader, and he was the one that gave me the chance that I needed. I studied with him all winter and spring before returning to Montana for what was to be my last season as a Smokejumper. When I got back in the fall, it wasn't too long before I got my first break to work in a movie.
One thing led to another and by the next summer I had a film to go on and terminated my work with the Forest Service in favor of being a stuntman. That was in 1975. As you can see, I've had quite a run of it, and am hoping to continue for some years to come.
What are some of the movies & TV Shows that you have done stunts in?
In the course of my career I've had the privilege to double some great actors, play some memorable roles, and be in some classic films and TV shows. One of my early successes was doubling Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the original movie, "Star Trek: the M otion Picture". From that start, I've had parts and have been a stuntman in five other Star Trek features, and well over 100 TV episodes spanning all the Star Trek series that followed the original show, i. e. "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", "Star Trek: Voyager", and "Star Trek: Enterprise ". There are few, if any, who have played as many alien creatures as I have throughout my Star Trek experiences. Klingons, Romulans, Vulcans, Borgs, Nausicaans, Bajorans, Jem'Hadars, Cardassians, Kazons, Letheans, and Hirogens, are among some of the more common aliens I've been seen as more than once. M y latest appearance was in one of this season's last episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise , titled "First Flight", where I doubled for Keith Caradine in a bar fight with Archer, played by Scott Bakula.
Some of the actors I've doubled, who you may know, include: Jeff Goldblum, in his first TV series, "Ten Speed and Brown Shoe", as well as other TV shows and features including "The Lost Word: Jurassic Park " Bruce Boxleitner, in his TV series with Kate Jackson, "Scarcrow and M rs. King" and the Sci Fi TV series “ Babylon V”, Patrick Duffy, in his TV series (before Dallas), "The M an From Atlantis", and on "Dallas", Ron Pearlman, in his TV series with Linda Hamilton, "Beauty and the Beast", Tim Robbins in "Shawshank Redemption" Harold Ramis, in "Ghost Busters" Steve Railsback, in “The Stuntman” James Colburn, Leonard Nimoy, M ichael Richards, David Hassleoff, John Travolta, Peter Coyote, Walter M att hau, Robert Stack, M ark Singer, Robert Urich.
I've had many more great times in this business of course, but these are a few of the shows and some of the notable men for whom I've been able to stunt double. Over the past year, my movie and TV appearances have included "Star Trek: Nemesis", "Spiderman", "Dragnet", and "She Spies”. The most recent films I've worked on, and soon to be released, are "Far Side of the World" with Russell Crowe, and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean , The Curse of the Black Pearl"
You seem like a tall man, how tall are you?
How did you get the role of Jason?
Now, concerning Friday the 13th, and how I got the role as Jason, it was by rather normal channels. I was called in for an interview by Dick Warlock , who, as you know was the stunt coordinator. Dick told me that the director was interested in getting someone to play Jason who could do the "walk" and have the demeanor of the character as had been established. My try out consisted of this: I was to start lying on my back. On the director's cue, I slowly sat up, rose to my feet, and walked away as if I were Jason coming out of the grave. This was going to be in a scene at the opening of the movie, and they were concerned that the audience would believe that they were seeing the real Jason Voorhees. I was simply chosen from those who tried out. Of course I was happy to have been picked, and am still very pleased to have made it. Other than reviewing one of the films and practicing his movements a bit, that's all I did to get ready for my interview. Gratefully, it was enough.
You said you only watched one of the films before taking on the role of Jason. Which film was it? And since then have you seen any of the other films in the series? If so, not including part 5 (unless you really have to, lol) , which would be your favorite of the series?
I watched the first movie and I think it would be my favorite of the series. I have to admit I haven't seen the films that followed #5.
What was the experience like? Was it a hard movie to film?
It was not an easy film to make, just due to all the night work, and of course being wet a great deal of the time. I think the toughest part went to M elanie Kinnaman. I didn’t envy her with all the screaming, running around, acting scared, especially while having to be cold and wet all night in that wardrobe, or lack of it, she had to wear. But over all, I think everyone had a pretty good time. I got along well with all the cast and crew, and have a couple pictures from the set. Dick Warlock , as ever, was in good spirits and did his share of kidding around. I have some photos of Dick and I with our director, Danny Steinmann, mugging it up near the catering truck at lunch. The main location was on a little farm with an orange orchard, and of course, the house and barn. The drive for me was almost an hour, which added to a long day’s work.
One of the best things for me was setting up and shooting the tractor hit. I got to ask for one of my good stunt friends to double Shavar Ross, who played Reggie. His name is Ray Woodfork. Ray and I started together as stuntmen working live shows for Universal Studios and then eventually moving into television and films. Dick, of course, knew Ray and when I suggested him, Dick was perfectly happy to bring him in. We worked out the speed of the tractor and put a hand brace inside the bucket for my right hand and had a good spot for my left foot to push off. When we did it, I felt we got a pretty good looking hit with some travel through the air, and the wet and the mud made for a great landing and slide.
Another fun scene was breaking through the door. We had to do a couple takes of that. The first time the door wasn’t scored enough and I didn’t break all the way through it. But the take in the movie sure looked like the door exploded.
What other memories do you have of being on the set?
I have to thank my good friend and buddy Dick Warlock for one of the funniest things that happened to me. You know, as the stunt coordinator, you’d think Dick would be the one to want everything to go smoothly and everyone to do their best job. That’s what you might think. Well, that’s true, but even Dick found a moment to play a joke. There was this scene near the beginning of the movie where Tommy looks down out of a second story window and sees the image of Jason standing next to a tree. By chance, when the camera was placed in the window, it just happened to be above the back door to the house which also faced the tree. So, since I was to hold still and just look menacing up at the window, Dick figured it was a great opportunity to test my concentration. Now mind you, Dick is like an important guy on the set with a certain degree of responsibility and authority to get the shots done as scripted. Well, when they started that interminably long roll, he suddenly stepped just outside that back door and amused himself by doing all he could think of, to make faces, act silly, etc. in an attempt to crack me up. Somehow I managed to hold still, and hopefully look menacing, scary, or whatever, but all the time I was laughing behind the mask.
How do you feel about playing the imposter Jason?
People have asked how I felt about actually playing a copycat Jason. While doing the movie, I never gave it much thought. It wasn’t until the significance of the fact was brought to my attention later, that I considered the possibility that it might prove disappointing to the fans. Nevertheless, for me, if it wasn’t the real Jason, it was just like him, and besides, when Tommy was having his vision of the real Jason, wasn’t I playing him then? At any rate, it was as real as it could get for me, and I think, real enough for the rest of the cast. If the purists felt a little cheated, I hope they could still enjoy the movie, realizing that that’s what it really was, a movie.
Besides, who’s to say for sure that a scene hadn’t been cut, just after the ambulance left, that showed Roy, from the back, digging up the real Jason, to do his dirty work; and that Roy’s death scene hadn’t originally been longer, showing Jason placing the mask next to his face, and walking away, leaving the authorities to close the case!? Hummmm.
Were you in any scenes that were filmed but eventually cut out of the film?
Actually, to my knowledge, the film was shot very economically. I think everything we shot, that I was in, was in the movie.
Were you able to keep anything from the set?
Just a few personal photos.
I'm assuming you saw the final edit of the film, did you enjoy it?
Yes, I did. Of course, I think you have to realize it's a "horror" movie, and anyone watching it has to expect parts that are meant to scare you, and scenes with shocking killings. With respect to it's genre, I think it was good film. If I were a more serious fan, I could see how the "copycat Jason" twist to the story might have disappointed me. As far as the technical aspects, i.e., special effects, stunts, direction, photography, and editing, I think it was well done.
I know there are many fans of the film who don’t know that Dick Wieand wasn’t actually under the mask for the entire film, in fact you were the man behind the mask for the entire film except the very end. I’ve been told that there are some fans who have had Dick Wieand sign autographs of “Jason” but he wasn’t the one wearing the costume in the photos. M any of the photos he has signed have been of you and Kane Hodder dressed as Jason. What is your take on this problem?
As in many movies, after the film comes out, controversies arise. Unfortunately, there’s one involving me and Dick Wieand, the actor who played Roy , the character who supposedly took on the Jason persona in the movie. The controversy arose when he autographed and sold pictures to fans that were really photos of me. Dick Warlock who brought this up on the internet, has made clear his opinion of anyone who would take credit for a photo that is actually a picture of someone else. I’m sure it’s a feeling shared by many fans as well. I really don’t know Dick Wieand very well, and have only spoken to him once on the phone about this situation. I’m sure he wishes we could resolve the whole thing. During the filming, I barely got to know Dick, mainly because he and I were only together on the set during the first scenes, when he played the ambulance driver. He didn't come back again until the final reveal scene, and I wasn't there that night. I actually became better acquainted with Dick Wieand a couple years after the film had been released when he and I, and Ted White, who played Jason in IV, were asked to be on a game show where a panel of celebrities tried to guess what the contestants had in common. Of course our association was having been Jason. The panel didn't guess what was common to us in the time allotted, so we "won". Actually, I don't think we won a prize, but they did pay us to work on the show, so that was fine with us. As I recall, all three of us got along well, and there was never a concern as to who had credit for what. That, of course, was before any of us were ever asked for autographed photos. I guess at first it didn’t seem like a big deal to Dick, when someone asked him to sign a photo of Jason. I understand where Wieand might figure, since he was the actor who had the role of the killer, he was justified in saying he was Jason.
However, with fans, they want to know the true details of how things were done and who did what, as they have every right to know. It becomes a stretch to sign a picture for a fan, that’s really of someone else, and allowing him to think it’s you. We all want credit for our own work and that applies to me as well.
Strangely though, when I think of it, I’ve spent my whole career doubling actors, taking their risks, trying to make their character look good in some piece of action, while at the same time being conscious to avoid undue attention in order to insure their recognition for the roll of their character. As stuntmen we’re really not in it for the notoriety. Sure, we definitely want the stunt community to know, and give us credit, for the things we do in film and on TV. That’s how we get work. But it's a funny situation when you consider what we do for a living. Actors, stunt- people, dancers, background players, and anyone who works in front of the camera, is attempting to bring to the screen, characters, and a story, that make that movie entertaining and enjoyable to the viewing audience. If it were a book, we’d give the author the credit. If it were a painting, we’d give the artist the credit. But when it’s a movie, we generally give the actor, and to some extent, the director credit.
In reality, we all know full well that it took the work of a great number of people to create the whole show. How much would a movie suffer without good lighting, camera work, wardrobe, make up, set design, screen writing, editing, special effects, post production work, etc. So, is any one person really due full credit for any one character in a film? Not really, but we’re all working to create movie magic, and, in that attempt, we try to give the illusion that the person seen on the screen is the one living that part.
So, movie photos and credit for the parts, for the action, the effects, and all the things seen in a movie; as to who did what, and where their credit stops and another’s starts, the lines are not always clear cut. Dick, taking credit for a photo of me was a mistake. And I’m sure, thinking back now, it dampens his feeling about having been in the movie. But what the heck. I would like to think he could still feel good about having been in the movie as I do. M aybe there’s something we can do to resolve the controversy.
What if Wieand and I got a composite picture made of us together that we could both sign for the fans. We wouldn’t even have to be at the same appearance. It would give a fan something to work for. If you bought the picture from Dick with his signature, then you could get my name at another time for just the autograph fee. Or it could work visa versa. Would that satisfy everyone concerned? Then Dick would have an honest photo with the Jason image, and fans could get a “complete” picture of the character they saw in the movie.
As for now, if anyone has a picture of me as Jason, signed by Dick, and they would like, I would be happy to add my autograph, without charge. They can send it with a self address, stamped envelope, to:
11100-8 Sepulveda Blvd.
Mission Hills , CA , 91345
Just be sure to include the return envelope with postage so it won’t cost me, and I’ll have a way to return the picture.
A few other stuntmen and actually some actors/actresses as well like to deny or ignore the fact that they were every in a Friday The 13th film. How do you feel about this? If asked would you ever play Jason again?
Looking back, playing Jason was quite a highlight for me. That feeling is primarily because of the fans. I’ve done other films that have had stunts that were great fun to design and perform. For instance, I doubled Jeff Kober, the evil killer in “First Power”. “First Power” was a 1990 film staring Lou Diamond Phillips and Tracy Griffith. Although it was as much fun to double the killer as it was to play Jason, it never got the fan attention as did “Friday the 13”. Having fans of the movie makes it all the sweeter.
It makes you feel more special for having been part of a movie in which so many people express a personal interest. As you might expect, if I were asked to play Jason again, I would certainly be happy to do it.
What other roles have you played where you were a killer?
I’ve done other well known characters like Jason. I played Michael Myers in the first part of “Halloween IV”, and did a scene as Leatherface in “Chainsaw II”. But I think “Friday the 13th, part V” was the best for me. It was a pleasure to have been involved in the making of one of the Jason movies. From being on 13, part V, I have good memories and good friends and feel privileged that there are fans out there who know of me, of what I did in the movie, and who might hold this one, among others, as special for themselves.
I have to ask this, because I am also a huge fan of the Halloween Series. In which scenes did you play Michael Myers?
Half of what I did as Michael Myers in Halloween 4 was when he was wrapped in gauze. I killed the mechanic in the garage, and was standing in the kitchen of the restaurant when Donald Pleasance shot at me over the lunch counter. Then, I drove the tow truck through the garage door and tried to run him down, causing the gas station to blow up. I was in a couple other scenes, one where I frightened Jamie with my reflection in a mirror, and later where I killed the girl in the house with the shot gun. I believe I was seen at a distance lurking around the neighborhood as well. I did other scenes, but I don't think they made it into the movie.
Please to not
reproduce this interview!