Back in 2009, with the Friday the 13th reboot having just seen release, I got the chance to conduct an exclusive one-on-one interview with the hulking beast of a man, Derek Mears. Mears portrayed Jason Voorhees in Marcus Nispel’s 2009, Friday the 13th spin, and yes, he had a blast.
Check out this throwback interview, once lost, now found. And, of course, enjoy!
Matt Molgaard (Horrorbid): I know you’ve done plenty of stunt work as well as acting. It’s probably safe to assume that stunt work is a bit more physically demanding, but acting is a different kind of challenge. Do you find one more enjoyable than the other?
Derek Mears: Actually no. I enjoy doing both. It’s funny, if I get hired for a straight stunt job I’m constantly like ‘can I make a character? Can I do dialog somewhere?’. But then if I get hired for a straight acting job I’m like ’can’t I punch somebody in the face?’ I equally enjoy both of them.
HB: You rocked the infamous hockey mask for the first time in this years FRIDAY reboot directed by Marcus Nispel. Tell me about that experience. What was it like portraying one of today’s biggest horror icons?
DM: Man, it was like Christmas day when I was like seven years old. It was amazing. Growing up I was a huge fan of FRIDAY THE 13TH, and Jason is my (before I played him, of course) favorite horror icon. It was such an honor and privilege to be able to play him. I’m a fan first and foremost. And this is funny, when I first met with them about doing the character, we were talking about Jason, I go you know what ’if I am right for the part, that’s fantastic, if I’m not right for the part - that’s okay too’ I go ’as a fan, I just want to see the series continue’. So, I’m just happy to be here, I’m very, very lucky to be able to wear the hockey mask.
HB: Something I’ve personally got to know; You’re on this set, decked out in this hockey mask with this giant machete. As Jason Voorhees you’re stalking these young mid 20’s victims… do your cast mates get intimidated by you? I mean, let’s be real - you’re a big guy.
DM: (Laughs) I think they do. I’ve heard stories of them being intimidated, but I’ve heard them do interviews and tell stories about how off camera we’re all close friends, we‘re still close friends to this day. Everyone in the cast, we still hang out and socialize, which is very, very rare, and very special, that doesn’t usually happen with a movie like this. But on set, we goof around. I’d put the gear on, and they’d be kind of weirded out when I had the mask on, but they knew it was me - and we’d joke and goof and play until they’d say roll, and then we’d all switch and flip over into character and bash and murder helpless victims, until they’d yell cut. Then it was back to like ’I’m gonna go hide somewhere in the forest - try and find me!’ - it was a lot of fun.
HB: Were you surprised at all by the embrace this FRIDAY reboot received?
DM: Yea. Being a fan, anytime I hear about a remake - as a horror fan I’m always kind of skeptical. If I loved the original, I’m like ‘I don’t know, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt just to see if the series can continue’, because there’s been some really good remakes in my opinion. There’s the DAWN OF THE DEAD, I was happy with THE HILLS HAVE EYES, the first one. But I’m always skeptical, so I assume other people will be skeptical. So when people started telling me that they really enjoyed the reboot, I was relieved and thrilled both at the same time.
FRIDAY the 13TH
HB: When I went into the theatre to check the new one out, I wasn’t really hoping for too much and I was really surprised. It was a good movie, and it just kind of shocked me.
DM: Thanks. It was wild, when it came to set it turned out a lot of people on the crew are fans of the series, and for a lot of us it was more of a passion project than just another job, clocking in and clocking out. We really wanted to put the extra time in and we really wanted to make it good, because we felt like we were making a movie for our friends.
HB: After Nispel’s adaptation was so successful another sequel was put on the table almost immediately. From what I gather both Damian Shannon and Mark Swift are back on board to handle the script, who is directing the film?
DM: I haven’t heard anything myself. All I know is it’s still in the rumor stages. Mark Swift and Damian Shannon are writing the script, as we speak. But that’s basically all I know about it. It’s all still in the rumor stages, I don’t know if I’ll be returning (I would love to return) but I’ll have to wait and see what happens.
HB: Let’s say these FRIDAY sequels continue to do real well. How long do you want to portray Jason Voorhees? Do you enjoy it enough to want to continue playing the role?
DM: Yeah, I would love to. I love the character. It’s so funny, I was hanging out with Kane Hodder at a convention, and we were talking about the character and he goes ’hey, if you come back for the sequel, that’ll make you stand out because you can be the only other person to return for a sequel. You know I’ve done four, and that’ll be two for you.’ I go ’you know Kane, I’m extremely competitive, I’ll probably do five, and then I’ll be done’ he started laughing, and we were joking back and forth. He’s a really good guy, he’s got a great sense of humor.
HB: You know I was actually going to ask you about him. From what I’ve read he wasn’t too happy with not continuing on as Jason Voorhees…
DM: There was a problem with him and Kim Kirzinger from FREDDY VS. JASON, they didn’t get along for some reason, I don’t know the details of it, but that’s what I heard. When I first met Kane, being a fan I wondered how he would feel about me playing Jason, but he’s been nothing but welcoming and kind, and he’s been really great.
Ed. Note: Kane Hodder actually spoke highly of Derek in this recent interview taped at our New York Weekend of Horrors.
HB: Do you think it was time for a fresh face (so to speak) behind the mask anyway?
DM: I think so. Especially for this re-launch. You want to start all over, you’re basically saying nothing else has ever happened before this. It’s a wild line to walk, because you need to balance being respectful for what’s happened in the past and also being inventive and welcoming in creating something new for the future fans. So you have to marry the two together, which is a difficult line to walk.
HB: FRIDAY is definitely not your first venture in the horror genre. Are you personally a big horror fan?
DM: I am, I like the horror. It’s weird how you get drawn to a genre when you’re 6’5, bald and full of anger.
At this point our conversation strayed a bit, and went the direction of Sam Raimi’s new film DRAG ME TO HELL, of which Derek had this to say: “It’s so good. I love the EVIL DEAD series. He does such a balance between horror and comedy so well. I loved, loved, loved the movie.” he also noted that he has no ties to the film, and his opinion was voiced strictly as a fan. Who knew Jason Voorhees was such a nice guy?
HB: Any concerns on being typecast if you continue to work on the dark side of cinema?
DM: No because I think of it in the contrast to my own personal life. People are starting to know who I am. I kind of goof around, I’m a fan and a nerd for comic books, sci-fi and horror. So they know I can switch between the two. And my background is doing improv comedy which I perform here in Los Angeles. So, no, I don’t think so.
HB: Goals. Obviously you’re doing pretty well for yourself, but what’s the ultimate goal?
DM: That’s a good question. You know I think it’s to continue to have fun with what I’m doing. I love acting, I love being able to play characters because I love the stories. I love that we’re telling modern myths with our TV and film today. I think my ultimate goal would be… I have so many friends that are talented in different areas of TV and film that haven’t been discovered by Hollywood yet. I would love to be in a position that I could put this group of people together and work with them on a project. That would be probably be my ultimate goal.
HB: Let me ask you this: There’s a whole lot of remakes that come out these days that I’m just not enjoying. What’s your take on all these remakes?
DM: I understand them. I’m like 50/50... I’m always optimistic when a remake comes around because if I loved the original, and they’re not making them anymore, I always have the original if I don’t like the remake. If the remake is good, then it’s a whole new life into a new franchise, or a new take on what I once loved as a child. So I get it. But also, I’ll watch remakes that I’m not a fan of.
HB: What do you say to the blood thirsty fans out there that helped make this latest FRIDAY picture so successful?
DM: Those are my people (laughs). Thank you so much for all the love and support. It’s such an honor to be able to play such a great horror icon as Jason. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everybody. It’s been a real warm reception so, thank you.