Earlier this year, (on February 13th, appropriately enough) Warner Bros reintroduced one of the great movie villains of all time: Jason Voorhees in 'Friday the 13th'. The film is a square-one restart of the famed horror franchise which first shocked moviegoers in 1980 with a plethora of gruesome acts of violence against sexy young campers. Nearly 30 years later, fans are given not just a remake, but a reinvention that makes Jason leaner, meaner and scarier than the original.
On the eve of the home video release of the "Killer Cut" of the movie on DVD and Blu-Ray, Mania.com rang up actor Derek Mears, the latest man behind Jason's mask, for an exclusive one-on-one chat. Here is an edited transcript:
Rob M. Worley for Mania.com: So you're the new Jason!
Derek Mears: It's crazy, right? I'm still trying to get my head around it. We're all done and the DVD is coming out and I'm still like, "How the hell did I get here? This is great!"
Mania: Yeah! It's pretty cool. Did you look to previous Jasons to prep for this or did you try to invent your own thing? How did that work?
Mears: I pretty much did my own thing. I am a fan of the series and Jason is my favorite horror character, so it's an honor to play the character and I'm familiar with all the other actors who played Jason before me, and a fan.
But, knowing that they wanted to reboot the whole series I really wanted to focus on doing my own thing. I used the script as a blueprint and basically did my own interpretation.
There are also times in the movie where I do little homages or little tips of the hat to the guys that have played the character before me. I did a little Ted White cowboy walk in one scene or a Kane Hodder stance.
Mania: This is an all-new, all-different Jason and he is quite a bit different from the past ones. Can you talk about it a little bit for the fans who are seeing it for the first time on DVD?
Mears: The writers' intention was to get Jason back to the basics and make him threatening again. In the original series it started to get a little more campy. A little more tongue-in-cheek and they wanted to base it in reality and make Jason more of a character, as opposed to before he was a kind of entity or a presence.
So, I feel they accomplished that. They balanced the humor and the frightening scenes quite well.
Mania: He's a bit of schemer this time. In the past, like you said, he's more of a force of nature: he kind of shows up and you're screwed, but this time he's got a whole infrastructure supporting him.
Mears: Yeah. They made him an actual human being. You can see he's thinking. He's smart. He's not just a giant – I shouldn't say this – a giant retard of the forest. That's horrible.
I know they made him smart. He's functional. He's not a slow-moving super-zombie. He's actually a human being that feels emotion, feels pain and they based in reality. So it was really fun and challenging to do.
Mania: One thing somebody asked me when the movie was first coming out, they said "how come we always see Jason with an arrow but never with a bow?"
In this one – I think in the Killer Cut you actually see more of the bow, which he uses. In the theatrical version it's a quick flash of him lowering the bow.
I think that's pretty funny though. You're right.
Mania: When I saw that on the DVD, I was definitely reminded of that, so I'm glad the movie answers that fan's concern.
The next few questions reveal story elements from the ending of the film. ]
Mania: So you've been saying it's rooted in reality but in the end you end up with your head in a wood chipper. Normally that would be fatal.
But if you notice – if you watch the head doesn't go completely into the chipper. Not completely. A little scuffing around the back of the skull area. You didn't see the whole splatter or anything like that.
Mania: Do you think any of his brain went in?
Mears: I don't know. I don't think so, because how would he come back? I think that's up to the viewers' interpretation.
Mania: So he is coming back then!
Mears: You know what? How many have they had now? 12 'Friday the 13th's.
I think that's a good sign that Jason will come back and that would be part 13.
That's up to the producers. It's still in the rumor stages.
DVD Extra: Actor Nick Menell on dodging machetes
Mania: What was the hardest thing about doing this movie?
Mears: We shot in the summertime in Austin, Texas and, from my navel up to my head we had a full-body prosthetic that was glued on with medical adhesive. After about a week into it your skin becomes very raw and irritated. It was tough to go in some mornings and know that's gonna happen.
It's like having a super bad sunburn, having some put glue all over it. That was very tough to do, but all in all you focus on the what the outcome is. They say that pain is temporary and film is forever, so I endured it.
Mania: He's covered in a shirt and jacket through most of the movie, but they still had to put the torso piece on?
Mears: Yeah. Scott Stoddard who designed the make up effects, what he wanted to do was – when Jason's shirt is wet or sweaty there's like a small scoliosis curvature to his spine and his frontal pectoral area. And on one side there's actually a small hump on his right shoulder.
Mania: I've heard from a couple of people that Derek Mears is a very nice guy --
Mears: What? Who? Lies. They're trying to ruin my career.
Mania: -- and yet Jason is not so nice. Was it hard to be such a brutal character and manhandle these fine-looking actresses and actors? Or was it liberating?
Mears: Actually, probably more the liberating one.
It's wild because I get that a lot, "Oh my god, you're so nice. You're so different from your character."
Yeah. It's called acting. I don't walk around and have to be tough all the time. There's a side of me that sometimes wants to be a bastard to people, but you control it.
It's cathartic in a sense that you keep that social monster in a cage and maybe you do with the character that you're not normally allowed to do in society. So it's fun to let the monster out of the cage in a controlled and pretend setting.
Mania: Did you have a lot of input into what the new Jason would be like, given that your physical performance is so important?
Mears: Yeah. It really was. They listened to me a lot. With [producers] Brad Fuller and Andrew Form and [director] Marcus Nispel we all sort of sat around and talked about what we wanted to do with the character. They let me do what I wanted to do. They knew that I was a fan of the series.
It's funny, because you talk about the "physical performance of the character" -- a lot of times people say, "you can only act with your eyes or your arms..." but I don believe in that whatsoever.
My take on it is that we're all professional actors and it doesn't matter of you have a mask or makeup blocking you from camera, if you're in the right mental state that is required for that character in that scene that energy will transfer through the mask and be captured on camera. So if I had the mask off you would see the same exact thing.
DVD Extra: Inside Jason' lair...SPOILERS!
Mania: Were there any stunts in Friday the 13th that went wrong or were a little hair-raising?
Mears: Yeah. The water scene which you see for a split second at the very end where Jason is floating in the water.
Fun fact: when you have full winter clothes on, and you have an actual chain tied around your neck with a bear trap and prosthetic teeth in your mouth and you're not able to close your mouth, it's hard to spit water out once you go down and try to swim up and you keep going down, so the divers have to keep bringing you up each time. So it's a big trust issue with myself and the stunt team.
Luckily it turned out great. At the time it was a little hair but I'm happy with how it turned out for the three seconds it was on film.
Mania: That does sound a intimidating.
Mears: "Aaaand action!"
"OK, I'm going to swim up. That's not up! I'm going down. I wonder how long I can hold my breath."
Mania: Did you take in any water?
Mears: Oh yeah.
Mania: Oh boy.
Mears: Every take. I would come out of the water and you have to be able to purse your lips in order to expel the water, and I had these giant teeth, which you can see on the behind-the-scenes material. So I couldn't put my lips together to spit the water out. So every time I'd come up and
Mania: That sounds pretty bad. You know when the first trailer hit and we saw that Jason was fast, some of the fans weren't really prepared for that. Have you encountered any resistance to it since the movie's been out?
Mears: You know what? No. It's been really, really weird. Each time I do a project with an acting role I expect fifty percent of the fans to love it and fifty percent of them to hate it.
The majority really seems to dig what we've done with the new movie, so I'm thrilled with that. No one has threatened to burn my house down or stab me in an alley, so that's cool.
Mania: Damian Shannon & Mark Swift, who wrote your movie, also wrote 'Freddy vs Jason' a couple years ago, which was a great movie. If Jason were to come back and fight another monster or villain or superhero or something, who would you want to fight?
Mears: Paris Hilton.
[laughs around the room]
No. I can't say that?
[Goes into a monotone voice]
Um. Predator. It would be awesome to have Jason fight Predator.
Mania: [laughing] – but getting back to Paris Hilton --
Mears: [laughs] Here it comes.
Let me tell you. Everybody knows somebody. If you make a joke about somebody – I've made a joke like that and somebody on the set would be like, "Oh. That's funny. That's my sister."
"It's a joke! I'm not being – I gotta go..."
DVD Clip: Trapped in the cabin...SPOILERS!
Mania: These celebrities actually inhabit the world you live in, don't they?
Mears: It's weird. It's really weird.
Mania: Are you looking to do more traditional acting, out side of a mask and makeup ...
Mears: To me it's all traditional acting, so definitely. It's been great having a career bouncing between the two, between showing my pretty mug and covering up my pretty mug with makeup.
It's all a giant playground and I just keep moving from playground to playground to playground, so I'm looking forward to that.
Mania: Anything you think my readers need to know about Friday the 13th or Jason or Derek Mears before we go?
Mears: [laughs] Oh, we've come to the open round. "What do you want to talk about?"
It was so nice. I just went to the MTV Movie Awards. I was nominated for "Best Villain" and it was such an amazing experience and it was such an honor. I myself voted for Heath Ledger. But it was such an amazing experience to be in the same category. I'm such a huge Batman fan and he did such an amazing job with the joker.
Mania: That was quite a performance in that movie.
Mania: Would you ever want to be in a movie like that?
Mears: Are you kidding me? That's like my lifeblood. I want to be in a Batman film. Some day before I die I want to be in a Batman film.
Mania: What villain would you play in the next Batman movie if you could pick?
Mears: I think I'd be right for Killer Croc.
Mania: Yeah! Yeah, that's what I was thinking too.
Mears: That would be fun.
Mania: But then you'd have to put on all that prosthetic stuff and be under water again.
I would not mind that. As long as it looks cool I don't mind.
Mania: Are you talking to the Marvel guys at all?
Mears: No, not right now, but I would like to.
Mania: Any favorites there?
Mears: From the Marvel movies? Thor's coming into production. I don't know much about it but I know they're doing Captain America. If they did a retro Captain America, like a World War II, I would love to be some sort of super-nazi to fight Captain America. That would be awesome.
I gotta make some phone calls. You got me excited about it.
Mania: Yeah. Make that happen! So, what's next for you?
Mears: There's one thing I'm up for but it's super-secret. I feel like a jerk. I can't give away the secret or Hollywood thugs will come and break my legs.
Other little things I've been doing: Coming up an June 19th on Xbox Live I'm going to play "Call of Duty: World at War" with some fans, which is fun.
I'm doing improv comedy here in Los Angeles over at Comedy Sportz. Which is my background that everyone laughs about. "You play horrible bad guys but your background is comedy?"
Mania: Are you going to the conventions and meeting the fans and doing those kinds of things?
Mears: I've been doing that a lot. There's one coming up in Connecticut called Monster-Mania [http://www.monstermania.net/ June 12-14] being that I'm a giant horror nerd myself.
"Let me get this straight. You want me to come out and talk about sci fi, comic books and horror with people who like the same thing? Yeah, alright. I'll do it!"
It's unbelievable. That's what I would do in my free time so I totally relate to the fans. It's fun. I feel like I'm a fan representing the fans, so I'm very lucky.
The "Killer Cut" of 'Friday the 13th' arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray June 16th.