The actual face of Kane Hodder might not be immediately recognizable, but trust us, you’ve seen his work. For a good chunk of the Friday the 13th franchise (four movies from 1988 to 2001), Hodder played Jason Voorhees — to date, he’s the only actor who has played the role multiple times. As an actor, stuntman, and stunt coordinator, Hodder has become a horror-movie fixture over the past three decades, as well as a fan favorite. In recent years, Hodder has collaborated with director Adam Green, who cast Hodder as the mysterious New Orleans swamp-slasher Victor Crowley in the 2006 indie horror flick Hatchet, then in Green’s Sundance hit Frozen, and now in this week’s Hatchet II. We spoke to Hodder about his new old-school horror franchise, what makes a good Jason, and about that time he made a 9-year-old pee his pants.
So, what made you guys decide to do another Hatchet movie?
I don’t even think of it as a sequel, it’s more of a continuation. It starts on the exact frame that the last one ends. And I’ve always said that I think the first Hatchet was the best horror movie I’d ever done, but I think this one’s even better. The violence in it is so creative, so over-the-top, that people end up cheering and screaming for it instead of being disturbed by it. And it explains where Victor Crowley came from. Adam is so good at developing the characters that you actually give a shit when they die. A lot of fans feel that Victor is a murderous killing machine, and it is pretty hard to feel something for a guy who is ripping apart everybody he can reach, but still they somehow have sympathy for him. Plus, I get to have a sex scene for the first time in a movie!
That was your first time?
Of course! You know my history. I’ve been doing this for 33 years, and I’ve been too busy ripping people apart or cutting them in half to ever be in a position to do a sex scene. Plus, I’m usually covered in prosthetics or costumes.
What's it like to interact with people in full makeup all day?
It's really uncomfortable under all that makeup, so I have to entertain myself somehow. So I’ve always enjoyed scaring people on set. I still do. Even on Hatchet II, I’d just lurk around certain places in my makeup and jump out at somebody, for my own entertainment. On Jason X, the director’s young son came to the set with something like seven or eight of his friends. They’re like 9 or 10 years old. I think I was in the regular-looking Jason outfit on that day. So I stood in the prop room, appearing to be a dummy. Sure enough, the kids came in. Now, when I close my eyes, you can’t tell there’s anyone in there, and I leaned at a weird angle, so I looked like a dummy. The kids were poking at me and all that, saying, “Yeah, looks pretty good.” Only one kid kept saying, “Nah, doesn’t look that scary to me.” So now I’m thinking, “That’s the one I’m gonna go after.” So, after some time of them poking and prodding me and making fun of me, I jumped up. Needless to say, some of them ran out of the room. One of them got down in a fetal position. And the one that was saying I wasn’t all that scary pissed himself. So, I got my revenge.
You’re known for parts where you were behind a mask or prosthetics. But you’ve also done your share of acting without masks and makeup. Which is more challenging?
Obviously, it depends on the role itself. I’m used to covering up my face, so it was a welcome challenge, but it’s nice to get a nice, dramatic role that’s not one or two lines. On the flip side of that, it is not easy to work in the heavy prosthetic makeup. I don’t mean just physically, I mean in terms of trying to get facial expressions across. If you look at the Jason films that I did, that was a huge challenge to look scary, because I couldn’t use my voice or my face. Now, it comes down to how you stand. And then, most guys try too hard, so it looks like they’re trying too hard.
What were some of the things you did?
The Jason character was completely covered with latex most of the time. If you’re standing motionless, it can look like a mannequin. So that’s why I incorporated the breathing thing into it. I didn’t want to look like a statue. I would stand and stare at them, but then I would add the breathing, so he looked a lot more alive. And then I’d just move naturally.
Did you try to go into the psychology of Jason at all? It sounds silly, but a lot of actors, no matter how little emoting they have to do, will go deep into a character.In the beginning, I came at it from a stuntman’s point of view. I wanted to make it look good without going too far into depth. This is gonna sound strange, but I don’t think the Jason personality is actually that far off from my own personality. The road from me to Jason wasn’t too long a trip. I’ve always been somewhat of a violent person, I guess. Hopefully not too much towards other people. I’ve always said that because of my job, I feel like I have a built-in insanity defense if I one day finally snap and go off and kill someone. Don’t be surprised when you see me plead that.
Didn't you once famously object to Jason’s kicking a dog?
After playing the character several times, I started feeling like I knew him pretty well. So when a new director would come on and tell me certain things, I felt free to say that I didn’t think that Jason would do that. I didn’t present it in an egotistical way. The script called for Jason to walk by and kick a dog. I think he more identifies with an animal than a human. And I never thought Jason should hurt a kid or anything. Again, not being Mr. Morality or anything, I just didn’t think it worked for the character. A human adult could be a potential threat, so that’s the one whose head he’s going to cut off and throw across a river.
Have you ever gotten a straight answer from the producers of Freddy vs. Jason about why they didn’t cast you in the film? That was a bit of a controversy.
To this day, I’ve never been given a reason explaining the decision. I think it was more that whoever made the decision was of the opinion that it’s just a big guy in a hockey mask and that it doesn’t matter. Well, I think it did matter, and I think the fans have been consistently on my side. I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with me. I would never have done anything to jeopardize my playing of that character. I loved doing it so much. I would never have asked for too much money or anything like that. It seemed like a pretty shitty thing to do on their part.