Friday the 13th: The Producers

Friday the 13th: The Producers

By Ryan Stewart

Nov 28, 2008

This past summer -- Friday, June 13th to be specific -- SuicideGirls hopped a plane down to Austin, Texas to visit the set of Friday the 13th, the remake of the 1980 slasher classic that introduced the world to drowned-boy-turned-unkillable- ghoul Jason Voorhees. You can read about our night on the set right HERE, but the interviews conducted during that trip have been under studio-mandated lock and key -- until now. Here is the first in our series of five interviews with those responsible for bringing horror back to Friday the 13th and giving Jason Voorhees a new lease of life.

The Friday the 13th film franchise is being brought back from the dead by horror genre grave robbers Platinum Dunes. The three producers of which the company is comprised, Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, have been responsible for digging up and brushing off the carcasses of such classic titles as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, updating these chilling tales for a new generation of bloodthirsty film fans. We caught up with Fuller and Form on the second-to-last night of filming to find out what we can expect from Voorhees latest killing rampage.

Question: What are you taking from or drawing on from the old films?
Brad Fuller: There are things we loved from the originals, and when I say the originals, for us I really mean the first four. We took kills that we loved and story points that we really thought were great and put those into a blender and that seems to be the back of this film. It's not really a remake of any of them per se, it's just taking some of those story points and putting them together.
Q:
Was there a core, a mandate that you wanted to follow?
Andrew Form: We wanted the movie to take place at Crystal Lake -- that was very important to us, to go back there.
BF:
And we wanted it to be current.
AF:
Yeah, we wanted it to be a contemporary film, not a period piece the way Chainsaw went back to 1973.
Q:
Why was that?
BF:
Because we wanted to get the clothes from the movie after wrap. [laughs]
AF:
We wanted the movie to feel different. Because it's not a straight-ahead remake like Chainsaw or Amityville, this one is kind of like what Brad said -- we drew from the first three and maybe four, and there was no reason not to tell that story in 2009. It didn't have to take place in 1980.
BF:
There's nothing specific to this story that makes it have to take place in the late 70s or early 80s. Also, all kidding aside, practically every movie we've made has taken place in the 70s and we did want to have the kids look like normal kids with normal-looking cars.
AF:
The important things were who Jason is and where he comes from and to set the movie in Crystal Lake, which I think the franchise got away from.
BF:
Some other things were important -- we wanted to have a fun horror movie. When I say fun, I don't mean funny, but everyday kids hanging out and drinking and smoking weed and having sex. As a production company and as producers, Drew and I have spent so much time in basements dismembering people that it kind of wears on you. So we wanted to kind of get out of that and have a movie that takes place outside and have hot girls running around -- a more fun type of horror movie. I think our first three films and the one we finished called Horsemen -- a lot of these films are so dreary. At the time it was kind of novel, but a lot of horror movies now are dreary and we wanted to get away from that and have a scary movie that's not dark and...
AF:
...Fingernails being pulled off and people not being able to look at the screen. I'd rather them not look at the screen because they're scared of when Jason is going to pop out than someone being put on a meat hook. A movie like this, it's not about torture. The kills are fun and it's scary, but the killings are fun -- it's not torture horror and that was one of the things that excited us about this.
BF:
Jason is a very efficient killer.
Q:
The score is also very big in Friday lore.
AF:
Yeah, there would be no Friday the 13th without that iconic music, and we've already licensed that music.
Q:
Jason vs. Freddy used a hard rock kind of score that didn't really work.
AF:
This movie is really more classic horror, even though its 2009 -- it feels like classic horror.
Q:
Do you actually use Harry Manfredini's score?
BF:
No, it's not that specific. Our composer we've worked with on almost all of our films and he knows what we're looking for. He did the scores for Chainsaw and Amityville, and those were referential of the original scores and that's what we're going for here.
AF:
The theme has been licensed and when you see the Jason POV, you hear that theme. There's no doubt that we've licensed that and it's going to be in the film.
Q:
You're pretty close to the end of shooting -- have there been anything that surprised you?
BF:
Anything? Everything about this movie has surprised us.
AF:
This movie was so different for us. In the movies we've done in the past, the casts have been very small. Chainsaw there were five actors, and this movie has thirteen young actors -- it's an enormous cast. The casting alone was extremely difficult. There's two groups -- a group of five and a group of seven and getting those groups to gel and putting them all together was really difficult. Seeing that come to life after a six month casting process, that was a really nice thing.
BF:
Normally our movies are cast, the cast hangs out together for a week or two before shooting, and that happened in this movie for the most part, but we were re-casting up to a day before shooting. In fact, Richard Burgi, who plays the sheriff in this movie, we cast him twelve hours before he was working. It was that crazy. We saw him, we signed off on him, we got the disks to Bay, and Bay had to sign off between nine and ten because his plane was leaving at like eleven thirty and if he had said no, I don't know what we would have done, because we had no one else. You asked what was surprising? Casting was surprising because it was a Herculean task to get everyone together and here on time.
AF:
You know what was surprising? You're making Friday the 13th. It's Jason Voorhees. Brad and I both grew up with these movies and the first time I saw Derek Mears put the mask and wardrobe on and come to the set, that was surprising. You talk about it and you see the mask and it looks great and you do wardrobe fitting...
BF:
When you see it the first time, you can't help but be a fan first and working second.
AF:
He turns around and looks at you and Derek isn't there anymore. It's iconic and you just stare at him. When he puts it on, he's truly gone and that's Jason. He's transformed.
Q:
You think he's the best Jason of the franchise so far?
BF:
Yeah, he's our favorite.
Q:
What lessons did you take from other horror reboots that have been done recently?
BF:
We learned a lesson from ourselves when we made the second Chainsaw. We made Leatherface -- compassionate is the wrong word, but accessible because we showed his background -- and you can't do that with Jason Voorhees. This is not an origin movie. We didn't want to spend a tremendous amount of time showing him being ostracized so you see why he's killing. I think that demystifies it in a way that doesn't help.
BF:
Well, the audience will tell us. There are scenes in this movie that we shot both ways. We would humanize him a little bit and then we would pull back and say, "Maybe we don't want to show him this way." At the end of the day we're gonna have to watch the movie in its entirety and see if we're making him too sympathetic. But we do not want him to be sympathetic. Jason is not a comedic character, he is not sympathetic. He's a killing machine. Plain and simple.
Q:
There are moments in the originals when someone tricks him, for a split second, into believing that they are someone else, like his mother, and you see that there's someone in there.
AF:
We have those moments. He's not a robot.
BF:
What I'm talking about more is feeling sorry for the guy, feeling empathy -- that's what we are never gonna do.
Q:
You've got ten or eleven previous films, so you can pepper in as many references as you want. Is there a temptation to give a nod to Tommy Jarvis and so on?
BF:
I knew that was coming. We really fought and had a big discussion about Tommy Jarvis, et al. I think that at the end of the day, this isn't going to be Friday the 13th Part 11 or 12. We're trying to create our own mythology on the basis of the mythology that's already been created and not burden ourselves with all of those characters. Does that make sense? I'm not going to say whether Tommy Jarvis is or is not in the film, but I can tell you that you will not see Corey Feldman strolling around the set tonight. In a lot of incarnations of the script, there were scenes where we did that, it was in there, and we debated it back and forth, whether or not it's something that will work. We're aware of all it, and we just don't know how it's gonna work.
AF:
I think it's safe to say that we didn't really draw past the third movie for anything that is in this film.
BF:
But there were Tommy Jarvis conversations.
Q:
Do you already have a plan for sequels?
AF:
There's no plan. We wanted to end the movie the right way, and that doesn't usually lend itself to a sequel, automatically. Our ending, I think, suits this movie perfectly. And if someday someone wants to make another one...they always find a way. Jason wasn't even in the first one and the hockey mask didn't come on till the third one. They built the franchise as they went.
BF:
It's a little bit of the same formula we did with the first Chainsaw. First of all, we never thought that movie would get a theatrical release, let alone do what it did, so the fact that we cut his arm off at the end really limited our ability to do a sequel. I think that's one of the reasons the movie was good -- it had a definitive ending -- the story worked on its own. We're striving for the same thing here. In terms of our production company, the plan is not to go back to New Line and say, "Let's do two and three and four." We have other stuff we want to do. If we're lucky enough to have this movie hit and someone is interested in that, then we would probably certainly consider it because we love the character, but it's not anything we have as a game plan.
Q:
Is there a definitive origin for the hockey mask this time?
AF:
Yes, you definitely see where the hockey mask comes from and why he puts it on and all that.
BF:
I guess it's out there now. We have the sack in the movie and he goes from the sack to the hockey mask.
AF:
It's like II to III for us -- II is the sack and III is the mask and we took them both.
BF:
It is a story point and it involves a specific character and hopefully we've shot it properly in a way that when he takes off the sack and puts on the mask, he's now the Jason Voorhees that everyone knows and loves.
Q:
What are your thoughts on striking the balance between appeasing the hardcore fans and newcomers?
BF:
I think the most important thing is the story. The movie lives on its own, and you go from that place. We came up with a story that we were all interested in telling about a camp and kids who go there and this unfortunate figure, and that's the guts of the movie, that story. Then when you talk about making sure the fans are happy, that's about being respectful and true to the things that have been established up front and not dismissing them or being irreverent about them. That's what we tried to do, be respectful to those ground rules. At the same time, we don't want to alienate people who haven't seen the movies. There's a generation of kids out there who know the hockey mask, but they don't know that it came in the third movie. They don't know that. It's a very delicate balance, and the balance totally won't work if the story sucks, so we start with the story.
AF:
I think we've kept very true to who Jason is. The machete is the weapon. We know who Jason is, we've seen all the films, so to the die-hards, you're getting Jason Voorhees. You're not getting some new character who wears a hockey mask.
BF:
Except that he sings and dances in ours! [laughs]
Q:
Can you talk about what kind of kills interest you? Jason kills sometime have a comedic touch, sometimes not. In Part Eight, he boxes a guy's head off.
BF:
Our tastes tend to go as far away from humor when it comes to the violence as possible. I think our Jason, the way that we envisioned and the way we all agreed to make this movie, is a brutal killer. There's really not a lot funny in what he's doing. That's not to say that some of the situations are not absurd and that in that absurdity, there might be laughs, but Jason himself is killing people in a brutal way.
AF:
There will definitely be reactions from the audience when the deaths happen. Not in a gross way, but an "Oh my God" kind of way. There's a lot of deaths in this movie. In the Chainsaw movie he kills three or four people -- in this movie it's double-digits. Some of the stuff is shocking, not in a torture way, but in a fun way. You'll smile.
Q:
Jason is definitely a more creative killer than Michael Myers, who just knifes you or strangles you.
BF:
He has a flare. Not all of the killings take advantage of his flair, but some of them do. You can't do that on every kill or it becomes absurd and we wanted to stay away from the absurd -- if it becomes absurd then everything is off-balance and everyone is just waiting for the next kill. There will be an element of that here, but we're hopeful that the variety we give the audience keeps them invested in the story. If the audience doesn't care about our characters then we haven't done our jobs. When I say the characters, I'm talking about these kids. We hired actors who we thought were excellent actors. We weren't going to say that just because this is a horror movie we can get second-rate people to do the movie. We fought hard to get people who will elevate the movie. Aaron Yoo is a kid who was in Disturbia and we put him in the movie the weekend that 21 went to number one and that was a coup to get him. We have actors who really have credits where they don't have to be in a horror movie for their career. We did that so that we could have characters that the audience will respond to, even if they get killed.
Q:
How does Jason's mother figure into this film? I imagine your challenge was to downplay her role.
AF:
Yeah, we definitely downplay the Pamela Voorhees character. The movie takes place in 2009 so her role is not that big, but she is definitely part of the film.
Q:
Are you expecting any issues with the MPAA?
AF:
Sure. Sex, drugs and violence in one movie.
BF:
We've never not had issues with the MPAA and I don't say that as a badge of honor. We're not necessarily proud of that, but usually our films are very violent.
AF:
We've never had all three -- we've had drugs and violence, but now there's sex too.
Q:
What's your plan?
AF:
Pray. We go big and see what happens. We're shooting a Friday the 13th movie, we're not holding back.
BF:
We've never had sex in any of our movies. We've never had nudity before, but you can't make a Friday the 13th movie without it. You can't not have hot girls running around nude -- that has to happen. Fortunately both studios were very supportive of that and we went after it in a big way. The other night we were shooting a scene where a couple is having sex in a tent, and it's in silhouette, and the studio exec was on set and the male character is...they're having sex...and the studio guy says, "You can't have him pump more than three times, the MPAA won't let you get away with that." And I said, "I didn't know there was a pump limit." We shot a lot more than three. I don't know if that's actually a rule, but let them tell us. No one will be disappointed with the lack of nudity in this film.
Q:
So are you actually quoting old kills from the first three films?
AF:
We don't do them identically at all, but we mix some of those. There are misdirects and things like that.
BF:
Let's say a favorite kill was in a sleeping bag -- then we'll have a sleeping bag kill, but it's not the same kind, something along those lines.
AF:
If your favorite kill is Kevin Bacon with the arrow, then we'll take something from that kill and put our twist on it.
BF:
And we've already heard from everyone about their favorite kills -- we've put that all in the blender.
Q:
How many kills are we talking about?
AF:
There are thirteen. We kill thirteen people. The math worked out perfectly.
BF:
To me it seemed like a big number because we were shooting for forty days and that's basically a kill every two and a half days. It was surprising how much work it was to kill thirteen people. And to be in Starbucks talking about dismembering people, and having people all around us while we're figuring out how we're going to kill someone...
Q:
In terms of marketing, the original Friday has the famous countdown trailer and all of that. Have you guys talked about that stuff?
AF:
We've definitely talked about it. I think the countdown was brilliant. We happen to have thirteen in this movie, but yeah, we're all talking about it...We went back and looked at the marketing from the originals.
BF:
Great campaign.
AF:
Yeah, great campaign on the first one so maybe there's a take on that for us.
Q:
Was Marcus your first choice to direct the film?
BF:
No. There was another director attached at one point, Jonathan Liebesman. When we started this we were coming off of Chainsaw: The Beginning and Liebesman was gonna do it with us and...
AF:
...The schedules didn't worked out and the movie got pushed and with all the rights issues, he couldn't do it and Marcus was the next choice.
Q:
During this process did you ever talk to Steve Miner or Sean Cunningham, those guys who crafted the original mythology?
BF:
Yes, we talked to Sean a lot. Sean was very helpful and has been a great cheerleader. He's offered his services and said, "If you need me, I'm here, and if not, that's great." So he was really very kind to us. We deal with a lot of rights holders when we make these movies and Sean has been a perfect partner. I'm not just saying that. If you had asked me that question about other movies I would not have said that. He was so great and supportive.


Friday the 13th opens in theaters nationwide on February 13, 2009. Check out the official site HERE.
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