While Part 6 had its fair share of memorable executions – Graham himself is fond of the scene where an unlucky sheriff has his spine folded up like an accordion – perhaps the most iconic sequence of the entire film is the grand finale in which the flick’s hero attempts to drown Jason at the bottom of Crystal Lake with the help of a humongous boulder.
While the exterior shots of Jason Liveswere filmed just outside the city limits of Atlanta, that scene was actually shot in an Olympic-sized swimming pool in Los Angeles. Black felt was draped around the natatorium and safety divers were onset to provide Graham a steady supply of oxygen.
“They dropped me in the water in normal wardrobe – and that is a real chain around my neck – and they stood me on a cinder block 20 feet down,” he said. “We went down several times and finished the shot in one night.”
Hodder had a similar experience filming Part 7. He described the unanticipated results the first time he hopped into the pool while wearing the full body Jason costume.
“I floatedright on top because foam latex is so full of air bubbles,” he said. “The safety divers had to attach a cable at the bottom of the pool … and then looped it around my ankle because when I would go underwater, I would stay perfectly upright.”
Although Hodder does have some misgivings about the critically maligned Jason X – when a New Line Cinema rep told him the concept was “Jason in space,” he thought it was a joke – he does appreciate it for facilitating what he considers one of the most inspired death scenes in the entire franchise.
“At least there’s the frozen head kill in there,” he said, “that’s a good one.”
Behind the Screams
Hodder, already a huge fan of the Friday the 13th films, said he was utterly awestruck the first time he donned the goalie gear and tattered mechanic uniform.
“I still can think back to the feeling I had when I was on the set,” Hodder remarked. “Saying ‘holy shit, there’s people around the world – literally – that know this character and I’m wearing the fucking mask.’”
He considers the one night of shooting in New York for the somewhat misleadingly subtitled Jason Takes Manhattan to be the single most remarkable moment of his 40 years in stunt work and acting. He vividly recalled thousands of spectators flocking to Times Square to catch a glimpse of his character.
“Just imagine, you’re in the costume, shooting one of the films, people know the character all over,” he said. “You’re standing out there by yourself, in between shots, and you just look over in one direction and they just start going fucking crazy, cheering and yelling and stuff.”
Promotional work for Part 8led to an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Showin 1989 when Hodder appeared as a guest on the program in full Jason get-up. Before filming, the host made the dire mistake of telling Hodder he was deathly afraid of his character – Hall’s terrified reaction when Jason yanked his hand at the end of the segment, Hodder said, was 100 percent genuine.
Interestingly, Graham said he also made an appearance in-character as Jason on The Arsenio Hall Show shortly after Hodder’s visit to the set. In a backstage skit set up by Paramount, he reprisedthe role – albeit, while wearing the old burlap sack from Part 2 instead of the more famous hockey mask – as a green room server.
Not that he didn’t have some memorable moments filming his canonical Jason Voorhees role. He recounted a scene where Jason plunged his arm inside the rib cage of Ron Parillo (yes, the actor who played Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter), and – before the Motion Picture Association of America rating board scissored it to shreds – yanked out his still beating, blood spraying heart. Then there was the shot where he had to bust open an RV door. The prop people merely unhooked the hinges, then Graham stepped up on a couple of crates andliterally sent it sailing off the frame with one punch.
Graham said he was treated very well during the filming of Jason Lives – indeed, he was one of the few cast and crew members to have his own trailer during the shoot. The antithesis of the Hollywood prima donna, however, Graham loaned out his mobile home to any weary set transportation workers who needed a quick nap; as a token of appreciation, the department let Graham keep the trailer after filming wrapped up.
An Ode to the Stuntman
While all three men share bonds in one of Hollywood’s more atypical acting fraternities, they are similarly united by an altogether different type of brotherhood – the fellowship of stuntmen.
Before portraying Jason, Dash, Graham, and Hodder all had extensive experience as Hollywood stunt performers. Hodder alone has performed stunts in more than 100 films and television programs – including big budget offerings like Lethal Weapon 3, Batman Forever, Gone in Sixty Seconds and Daredevil – and has served as stunt coordinator in more than 40.
“This is the person who keeps everybody alive on the set,” Graham remarked. “He’s the general.”
Hodder certainly takes set safety seriously. Early in his career, he was nearly killed in a fire stunt gone awry. Nearly four decades later, his neck, biceps, and upper body still display the scars of third-degree burns.
“Sometimes, the directors get really crazy with what they want to shoot and it becomes an art to say ‘OK, that’s great,’ even though what they’re coming up with you know in your mind is impossible,” Hodder said. “In your mind you’re saying ‘we have to do it this way or else somebody’s going to get killed,’ but you have to present as if you are making the shot even more exciting … it’s kind of a tightrope you walk.”
He brought up one of his more harrowing recent stunts – a sequence in the 2010 horror film Frozen in which an actress had to lie on an icy road, with a car jettisoning downhill swerving to avoid hitting her at the last second. “That kind of stuff is some of the most nerve-racking,” Hodder said.
Although Dash has never served as a stunt coordinator, he has performed stunt work in more than 30 films and television programs. He said he greatly admires coordinators like Hodder, who not only are tasked with ensuring performer safety but doing so without costing the studio extra money.
“If the budgets for these stunts is $600,000, it better not be $600,001,” Dash said, “because they’re on his ass constantly.”
And if you’re wondering what could possibly strike fear into the heart of a man who has the word “kill” tattooed on his bottom lip and whose biography touts him as “the world’s most prolific cinematic killer?”
“If you’re going to shoot for three months and you have 100 stunts, it’s going to be very hard to budget, and you’ve got to stick to that budget,” Hodder said. “Or else, those producers have no interest in hiring you for the next film.”
Forget being chased through the woods by a hockey mask-wearing psychopath with a machete –the fiduciaryresponsibilities of filmmaking terrifies even Jason Voorhees himself.