Kane Hodder: SMOTHERED, FRIDAY THE 13TH

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Pollard

We’ve given quite a bit of love to John Schneider’s horror ensemble movie, Smothered, over the last few months. Having spoken to Schneider and John Kassir (Tales from the Crypt’s iconic Crypt Keeper) about the film, it would be remiss of us not to seize the chance to talk to the star of the movie, Kane Hodder. As well as his experience on Smothered, we got into a lengthy chat with Hodder about all things horror, and yes, we got real in-depth when it came to a certain Jason Voorhees, including his favourite kills, his passion for the character, and the shock of being replaced when Jason finally did battle with Freddy Krueger.

Starburst: Smothered is a great experience for horror fans, mainly due to the references involved and for seeing you guys all seemingly having a great time together. Despite some obviously dark moments, the film comes across as a fun movie. Was that the case?

Kane Hodder: That’s why when John first contacted me, he didn’t have everyone cast yet so he asked for some suggestions. And I suggested Don Shanks [Michael Myers in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers] and R.A. Mihailoff [Leatherface in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III] because, you know, I’ve known R.A. for 25 years and I’ve known Don for probably close to that as well. That’s why I suggested them, because I knew the chemistry would be there. As you said, part of the fun of the movie is that we have such chemistry. I’ve been working so much lately with Bill Moseley [Otis Driftwood in Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects world]; he and I have played brothers in a movie, so there’s great chemistry there as well. And I’m not sure if John [Schneider] has told you, but I used to work as a stunt guy on The Dukes of Hazzard. That’s way back. So working with John, R.A., Don Shanks and Bill Moseley, for me it was just pure fun; it was just, like you said, working with a bunch of friends. That is in fact the case. Then you add some local actors to the mix, Louisiana actors that are very talented, like Dane [Rhodes] and Shanna [Forrestall]. It’s just a really good cast that John put together. I’ve said it before and I’m not afraid to say it, there are very few horror directors that I am completely impressed with. John is one of them because, first of all, when a director is directing his own written material, I think obviously there’s nobody that has a better sense of it than the person who wrote it. He, to me, is like Adam Green [creator of the Hatchet series]. Adam and John are brilliant writers-slash-directors. It is an absolute pleasure to work with people like them because, first of all, they have the confidence in you to let you maybe try some different things with the character that they may not have thought of or challenge you in ways. Adam Green has given me so many different acting opportunities that I’d never expected. In the same way, John was able to give me a character that, this is not my words, but other writers have said, “It’s nice to see Kane playing the romantic lead.” I’m not sure if that’s the correct term but it is a character that’s more likable than usual.

And Smothered does indeed see you as the star of the movie. Whereas people may be used to seeing you behind a mask or with heavy prosthetics on, this time out Kane Hodder is very much at the forefront as the leading man. How is it for you as an actor to get the chance be seen as you in front of the camera here?

Oh, it’s fantastic. Any actor will tell you it’s nice to be challenged. You can play a different kind of character but because of people like Adam Green and John Schneider, other directors and producers see me in a different light now, so they don’t always just think of the bad guy things – I can be somewhat likeable, and if I’m not likeable to you then I’ll fucking kill you! The opportunities keep presenting themselves more and more for different kinds of characters because of people like that. Even going back to a director called Mike Feifer – he gave me the opportunity to play Ed Gein and B.T.K. Obviously both were real killers, despicable people, but with B.T.K. there were scenes where I had to be kind of likeable. Again, that started changing people’s perceptions, saying, “You know, he’s good as the bad guy but he can be likeable.” I know that people, after seeing Smothered, it’ll even increase more of the thoughts of what kinds of characters I can play.

In our interview with John Schneider, he mentioned that he has plans for both a prequel and a sequel to Smothered, both with you involved. Has he mentioned much about this to you yet?

Yeah, he alluded to that, too. I would be very excited to do it, both a prequel and a continuation. When I first read the script, I was like, “Wait a minute! I’m the only one that survives?” The fact that I end up surviving with the girl I met at the gas station, so continuing that story could be really cool. I just thought that was a nice scene, one of my favourite scenes. Even if the scene doesn’t continue in one stretch, just the scene of us at the gas station, it was just a nice, pleasant, touching type of scene.

The moments with the one-legged girl at the gas station essentially bookend the movie, showing a much different side to you than most people may be accustomed to seeing.

What I thought was touching, too, was I have burn scars, she has one leg, yet neither of those things are referenced at all. I just think it’s a nice scene where two people that are imperfect hit it off and don’t discuss any of it – it’s never discussed. So I’d like to continue that storyline. Then of course, doing a prequel with all of my buddies again would be all sorts of fun; it wouldn’t even be like work.

In making the movie, a whole host of lawsuits were danced around, for instance using “Mason” and “Teddy” rather than Jason and Freddy, but there’s so many nods and winks for long-time horror fans to keep an eye out for. How was it to be in this slightly off-kilter world?

I liked the character that R.A. played. He took a little bit of a risk, but I think that you have to take risks. He’s playing a guy that’s afraid of the dark and who carries a little puppy around. For us, the most response that we’ve gotten from the movie is for our two characters. Out of everyone, they say it’s just cool to see R.A. completely different and me likeable. Like I said, you’ve gotta take risks otherwise you’ll never change people’s perceptions.

As the movie has a non-linear narrative to it, it was suggested that this was largely so that R.A. isn’t killed off too early on in the film. Was that the case?

Part of it. Obviously it wouldn’t be the only reason, but you can say that the response to R.A.’s character was that, “Oh man, we didn’t want him to die, we didn’t want him out of the movie so early.”

It’s safe to say that the people who know John Schneider for the likes of The Dukes of Hazzard or Smallville will be surprised with how dark and sinister Smothered is. Were you surprised at all?

What I liked best about John and his ability directing is that we would do a take of something, it would work, then he would take one of us aside, he did it a couple of times with me and I assume he did it with other people. He said, “That was good but what if we did this.” He would add a line that would completely change the dynamic of the scene, which would make it 100% better. A perfect example is when she’s thrown the gas on the mask [towards the film's finale], I realise she’s the killer, grab her gun, hold it on her. The first time we did it, she says, “Go ahead and pull the trigger, you’ll just set yourself on fire.” Then we cut. John came over to me and said what if she says this, which is what it is in the film, “Go ahead and shoot, you’ll set yourself on fire. You should know something about that, shouldn’t you, Kane?” Because of my being burned, I thought that makes it so much more personal and evil. That’s what I liked so much about John; after we would do a take with something, he would come up with something spur of the moment that was even better. That was just one of the many things that made it so enjoyable to work with him. Bo Duke is a fucking freak!

Given how Smothered brings together so many familiar faces, what’s it like to be seen as a member of modern-day horror royalty?

I’ve always said that the fact that I ever was able to put the hockey mask on, it was an honour – I still feel that it’s an honour. The fact that I did four consecutive movies as the character, I feel very fortunate because I went into this business to be a stuntman. That’s all I expected. I had a career as a working stunt performer, that was my goal. The fact that I was able to move into horror, which was something I loved anyway, I loved watching… because of John Buechler I played the character of Jason for the first time. I will always give all the credit for my playing the character in Part VII [Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood] to John Beuchler because he had to fight for me. Now because I played it in successive ones, hopefully it’s because of the performance. Certainly I wouldn’t have put the mask on if it wasn’t for Beuchler. I will always realise how fortunate I am to have become known in the horror business. It’s hard for me to say horror icon or anything like because it sounds a little pompous, but I guess looking from the other side that’s what I would consider it. It’s hard to say myself. I just feel really fortunate, which is why any time I do an appearance at a horror convention I appreciate the fans, I always will appreciate them because again without them I wouldn’t be where I am. So I try to make sure everyone has fun if they come to an event that I’m attending. Right now I’m sitting in a hotel in Kansas City, waiting for the weekend for a show called Crypticon. R.A. will be here, Tyler Mane [Rob Zombie's Michael Myers], so it’s gonna be a fun weekend. I will always appreciate the fact that I’m known in horror. I’ve seen other people who’ve become known in horror then think they’re too good for it anymore so they try to turn their back on their horror background. I would never do that because I appreciate every second of it.

What’s more remarkable about yourself is that you didn’t come into the Friday the 13th series until seven movies in, yet you’re the name that fans see as synonymous with playing the definitive Jason Voorhees…

Well horror fans are bitchy sometimes, so if I had anything that was negative to talk about then some of them would. That’s why I try to respect the horror fans. I certainly don’t look down on them because I’m one of them myself. I get excited when I meet someone in horror that I’ve never met before. It doesn’t happen very often anymore but each time I would meet someone that is known in horror that I’d never met before, I’d be excited. Why not? I used to watch them when I was younger, so absolutely I’m excited about it.

So how did you first end up with the Jason gig then?

Like I said, John Beuchler. I had done a movie called Prison with Viggo Mortensen, directed by Renny Harlin. I was the stunt coordinator on the movie up in Wyoming in 1987. John Beuchler was the make-up effects guy on that movie – that’s where I met him. Towards the end of the movie, there’s a character called Forsythe who comes out of the ground. It’s a full body make-up, three and a half hours of prosethetics. John asked me if I’d play the character because I wouldn’t bitch about the time and the make-up and all that. I said, “Sure, I’ll do that.” That was my first extensive prostethics work. I only worked in the make-up for one or two days but John enjoyed how I used the make-up. When you wear prosthetics that are glued everywhere on you, when you have a whole body of prostehtics, it’s difficult to work in. It’s a different type of acting; you have to exaggerate facial movements to make it work through the make-up. Bottom line is, John knew I was a stunt person because I did a lot of stunts in that movie. Now I was experienced in wearing make-up. He was hired to direct Friday the 13th Part VII. Because nobody had ever played the role twice in the first six movies, he knew that they weren’t set on anybody yet. So he said, “Look, this is the guy that I want to play Jason because there are so many stunts for Jason to do this time that it needs to be a legitimate stuntman playing the character. I just worked with this guy, he knows how to work in the make-up.” He fought for me and I got the job.

With the Friday the 13th movies that you did, was there anything that you turned down because you felt it wasn’t right or was maybe a bit too much?

In Jason Takes Manhattan, there was a scene in the script where Jason kicks a dog. I’m no big animal rights activist or anything but, to me, that seemed so unlike something that Jason would do. I always felt, if anything, Jason would identify with an animal as oppose to being brutal to one. Since this was the second time that I was playing the character, I thought I had a little clout to say that I don’t think the character would do this. Rob Hedden, the director, ultimately agreed. He probably didn’t like the scene anyway, so it was easier for him to say, “Hey, Kane doesn’t wanna do it.” I just didn’t think it fit with the character. I’ve said it before but I don’t think Jason would be brutal to an animal or a child. That was the only thing. Sometimes I changed or added to a kill over the course of the four films to make it what I thought was more interesting. Most often it worked. Other than that, there was nothing ever that I didn’t want to do.

In your entire run as Jason, what was your favourite experience?

There’s stuff that I enjoyed in each one. Obviously, Part VII will always be my favourite because I loved the look of Jason and the fact that I did so many stunts. That’s closest to my heart. Then you have Jason X, which was the biggest budget of all of the ones. I believe we shot for ten months. Things about it were so cool, and the look of Uber-Jason was fun. So that will always be high on my list. Jason Goes to Hell had some cool stuff in it. I always wished there had been more of Jason in that, though. I guess that was the storyline and the way it was written. But the single most amazing day of shooting of any of the Jason movies was in Jason Takes Manhattan when we shot for one night in Times Square, New York. Unless you were there, you couldn’t appreciate shooting at 10 o’clock on a Friday night in the middle of Times Square. And I’m in full costume! It was surreal to see the response of… I always say hundreds, but there may have been thousands of people watching. I’m standing in the middle of Times Square as Jason and there’s so many people on either side of me, held back by the NYPD. I felt like a rock star because of how many people were watching me perform. That night was just phenomenal. It’ll always be the absolute high point of any Jason scene I ever did.

Did you go to any bars afterwards dressed as Jason?

I did not do that but I also never took the hockey mask off whilst I was out there. I didn’t want people’s perception of the character to change. Once I put the hockey mask on, I kind of transformed into the character. I wouldn’t be joking around anymore on the set, I was pretty serious, I tried not to talk too much unless I was talking to the director. Maybe it’s a little method but it worked for me.

How did the cast of the films take you during the moments where you were in the Jason zone when you were on set?

With all the characters, even in the Hatchet movies, I try to never be too buddy-buddy with any of the actors during the shooting on the set. If I’m in my costume and character, I didn’t even want them to be too comfortable around me. I think it helps their performance. A lot of times I would do things to make them think, “Wait a minute! What is wrong with him? He is not the same person when he’s in character.” It makes them a little uncomfortable and entertains me at the same time. I know if I’m on the set and with the mask on, if we’re about to roll a scene where I’m about to kill an actor, if they’re watching me and they think that I don’t know that they’re watching me, I’ll do things like I’ll be yelling, talking to myself, growling, smacking my head against a tree, something. It’s a little bit for me but it’s more for them, so they think, “Oh my God, what is wrong with him?” It was entertaining for me because those costumes are not comfortable to work in. It helps them a little bit but probably more for myself – it entertains me.

Friday the 13th as a series, one of the biggest bones of contention amongst fans it that when it finally came down to Jason facing off against Freddy you were replaced by Ken Kirzinger. Fans wanted to see you against Robert Englund. How did you feel about that whole thing?

Well that’s what I thought, after four films. I really, to this day, was never told why. No matter what you may have heard, it had nothing to do with money, no disputes, nothing negative from my side at all. Because I loved playing the character so much, I would never have jeopardised playing the character by demanding too much money or being difficult to work with. I would never give them a reason to replace me. When the script was being talked about and the movie was greenlit, I had a meeting with an executive at New Line Cinema, a lunch meeting, and she gave me the script and said that we’re finally doing this movie. I was so excited! To me, I assumed I was doing the movie when she said, “We’re doing the movie, here’s the script.” A director was hired and things started changing. I don’t know who made the decision but all of a sudden I was out for no reason – still, to this day, never given a reason. I was replaced unceremoniously. Nothing to do with anything that I did, and no decent reason ever talked about. They shot it in Vancouver and that’s where Kirzinger lives, so I don’t know if that’s a reason. My opinion is I think whoever made the decision did so because they said, “It’s a guy in a mask, nobody cares who it is, you can’t tell who it is.” With Freddy, you can see that it’s Robert. With Jason, you can’t see the face so it’s not that big a deal. Whoever made the decision, I think that’s what their thinking was.

That film was certainly a mixed bag in terms of fan reaction and critical reaction but, particularly to fans, it didn’t mean as much because it wasn’t Kane Hodder as Jason…

People tell me that. It’s nice to hear. Even Robert [Englund] said at one point that it wasn’t so much about Freddy vs Jason, it was more Englund vs Hodder. It’ll always be a sad point in my career that I wasn’t able to do that, because we had worked so hard to develop that. Freddy’s hand coming out of the ground and grabbing the hockey mask [in Jason Goes to Hell] pretty much set it up. I dunno if you know, that was my hand in the Freddy glove. I thought, “Hey, now I can say I did a shot as Freddy!”

And there was talk at one point of putting Michael Myers, Ash or Pinhead into the mix with Freddy and Jason, but it seemed that fans were turned off that idea once you weren’t playing Freddy.

That’s nice to hear. As soon as they announced that I was replaced, there was a pretty big backlash from the fans and petitions online to not replace me. That’s when I think they realised, “Wow! It is a bigger deal than we thought.” Then they started coming up with reasons like, “Well we wanted an actor with more expressive eyes.” When I read that one I was like, first of all, Jason only has one fucking eye – the other one’s been gone for many movies. That’s the one thing that people always say about me, that I do have expressive eyes. So I’m not sure how that would matter. Then Kirzinger is a slight bit bigger.

The general story out there is that they went for Kirzinger because they wanted somebody taller against Englund’s Freddy. Do you think there’s any truth in that?

I dunno if the inch and a half really reads on film, but whatever. I wish I had been given a reason so that I could at least know. It seems like I’ll never know.

Did you actually see the movie in the end, and if so, what were your thoughts on it?

I did. It’s hard to say, I would’ve done some things differently. It didn’t seem like… it was just different. I don’t wanna go into it too much.

And did you get to see the rebooted Friday the 13th at all?

That’s a movie that I chose not to see.

With roles like Jason and with Victor Crowley of the Hatchet series, you’re behind a mask or prosthetics. Is that like a safety blanket of sorts for you?

It’s harder to act with that stuff, especially when you have to look scary and be intimidating and stuff without your facial expressions or your voice, which are probably the two main tools that an actor uses to be intimidating. So to get that across without those two things, that’s much harder to do. I think a lot of people that have played characters like this tend to overact because they tend to force it. Then it doesn’t look believable or scary either way. I just looked at is as a challenge. Now that I’m a lot of time playing characters just as intimidating but I get to use my face, I think that this is much easier.

Do you ever find that you’re pigeonholed at times?

Well obviously at the beginning that was it, I was pigeonholed. But you prove yourself otherwise, then you have directors like John Schneider, Adam Green, Mike Feifer. They give you a chance to do something else. That certainly helps get you out of that. I’ll always enjoy those kind of characters anyway.

And having portrayed so many vicious bastards on screen, how do people react to you in day-to-day life?

I think at first maybe people feel like, “Oh no!” Then they get to talking to me and realise I’m just a pretty normal guy. It’s kind of like a pleasant surprise, I think. Other than people that I’ve confronted with my road rage, ‘cos I do tend to have a little problem with people when I’m driving if they’re assholes, but other than that people are pleasantly surprised that I’m more approachable and friendly than they expect.

So what's next on your plate then?

I just keep getting offered these cool roles in horror films that is a different type of role, and I’m enjoying that now. This whole year I’ve been playing characters that I didn’t expect. I just did a movie in Australia, so I was there for six weeks shooting a movie called Charlie’s Farm. I don’t play the killer, I play an ex-heavyweight boxer who goes to confront the killer. That doesn’t turn out well, which is interesting being on the other side of that, being killed. The actor playing the killer makes me look tiny – he’s 6’11”, 350 lbs. His name is Nathan Jones.

He used to do some wrestling?

Exactly! He plays the killer. I go up against him. Bill Mosely plays his father and Tara Reid is in the movie also, being stalked by Charlie. That was a lot of fun, being on the other side of it and seeing what, for all these years, what other people have had to deal with when going up against me.

What side of the fence do you prefer being on?

It’s always more fun being the killer.

And to wrap it up, if it wasn’t Jason, which other horror icon would you have liked to play for just one day?

Michael. Michael Myers. I always wanted to play that character. I did one shot as Freddy. The one thing I’ve never done is play Michael. That would be the trifecta, I guess.

Were there ever any talks for you to play Michael at any stage?

I actually was talked about to play Michael in whatever one it was that shot in 1989, which I believe was Halloween 4. I was still doing Jason Takes Manhattan at the time so there was no way I could’ve done it anyway. And they decided to go with George [Wilbur] shortly after, which I think he did a good job. But I think it was discussed if nothing more.

If it was possible, would you have taken that gig or would your loyalty to Jason have gotten in the way?

Technically there’d be a loyalty to Jason, but I kinda feel like they kinda ditched me, so if the opportunity came to play Michael then yes I would do it. But above that, I would rather come back and play Jason again.

There is that new Friday the 13th being developed, which has been suggested as being a found-footage film…

I think they’ve moved away from that idea, but I just hope that one day somebody realises that it might be cool to bring me back. After two films without, maybe it’s time for me to come back one last time. I still feel that I could play the role well. Whether you think I did the best or not, still nobody can dispute I’m more known for the character considering I did four of them, so I think there would be value in bringing me back.

And what was your favourite kill out of all of those films?

Sleeping bag [from Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood]. Just because it was so creative and it was killing somebody with something that was not a weapon. A close second though is the frozen head in Jason X.

Smothered is still awaiting a UK release date, although you can find our review here. Additionally, be sure to check out our interviews with John Schneider and John Kassir.

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