The problem was that those with the power to force changes would read each new draft and because they had become so familiar with the story, it lost it's impact for them.
I went back and read a lot of your interviews from around the time of the release of Jason X, and in every one you were asked "why did you put Jason in space". You were a good sport, giving the long answer to every interviewer who asked. My question is much simpler, did you get sick of explaining yourself over and over?
Well, not sick. I mean, after nine films, for us to up and shove him into a Star Trek mission demanded some explanation. :) If anything I wanted to get across the point that there were dozens of factors involved and that it wasn't just us coming up with an idea, it was our coming up with an idea for a Jason movie we could actually get made. A point that went over most heads I fear. This business is anything but simple.
You also said several times that constant rewrites caused the "tone and characters" to come out different than your original vision. Is there anyway you can expound on that? I'm always interested to hear how the vision of a film changes from inception to filming.
I liked the idea of putting Jason up against a crew who not only finds out early on what they are up against (most of the films have the leads stumbling around getting picked off one by one until the 3rd act), but a crew that actually has the means and intellect to give Jason a good fight for a change. Originally it was much darker than it is now. The humor came out of situations more so than characters cracking one-liners.
Originally the rewrites started due to budgetary needs. But they spiraled all over the place very soon. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer that rewrites improve a script. However, I am not a believer that "every" rewrite improves it. You can certainly rewrite the magic right out of a story. The problem was that those with the power to force changes would read each new draft and because they had become so familiar with the story, it lost its impact for them. Stuff that blew them away the first time they read it got so familiar that they thought it wasn't working so I would be given even more changes. That and differences in opinion resulted in a lighter, even goofier tone. Rather than be scary with laughs at the characters' situations we ended up with no scares and characters cracking one-liners that felt like they were "trying" to get a laugh. I wrote the KM nipple scene as well as the Professor Lowe and Janessa in the sack scene. I thought the scenes were funny and even a little dark based on what the characters were doing. I wish we'd done more of that and less of the one-liners.
I made changes when I lost arguments and I suppose because I didn't make them to the liking of those in control, they rewrote the thing themselves after I returned to the states. The Story is still mine but the characters and tone pretty much belong to others. But that's the business. It was tough on me because I was a newbie. I wasn't aware it worked like that. I figured, I write, others do their jobs. But that ain't the case. Everyone's got his or her opinion and the writer has the least power. Anyway, that's what I meant by the tone and characters being different. Take the same story and make it darker with a less goofy humor and you'll have the original take.
Did you ever consider getting into directing too, just to have that creative control?
I've thought about it. But I'd actually rather find a director with which I share the same vision and just work with he or she. I like writing. I like discovering the story and watching the characters work their way through assorted problems. With the right director and studio then one day I can follow that original discovery all the way to the screen.
So if you had the choice of your dream director and leading actor/actress to work with, who would they be and why?
There are several directors who have done work I love. But as for who I dream to work with...not sure. It's hard to say without more experience working with some of them. More than just their past films it would come down to our working relationship. Do our visions coincide? Do we have similar personalities? Basically could we have fun together? Life is meant to be enjoyed not endured. Lussier and I had a great time working together and I'm confident we'll work together again. As for the rest, we'll just have to work together and see how it works.
As for actors, I'm a big fan of character actors. Those who have those faces you recognize, always turn in a fantastic supporting performance, yet you rarely know their names. I'd fill a movie with these unsung heroes. And as for leads, well, most of my thrillers and actions scripts are written with Willis or Kurt Russell in mind. Dunno why, just always see them in the back of my mind as I write. I'd love to do an ensemble piece with all the old action starts as the leads - Willis, Arnold, Sly...sort of a "Freddy Vs. Jason" for the action genre. I think it would be fun.
Jason X was a funny and entertaining movie, what do you think it would take to make Jason scary again? is it possible?
Sure it's possible. You simply go dark and don't hold anything back. Don't be afraid to offend and don't be afraid to disgust. It's Jason. Ninety percent of the population considers him a joke. You got nothing to lose by going all out. No fear. No remorse. Put the audience in their seat then shock the hell out of them over and over.
Here's an example: In the original Crystal Lake Virtual Reality scene when Tsunaron and Rowan need to distract Jason, they had KM summon up a VR image of his mother drowning in the lake, pleading for Jason to save her. Jason's body had physically changed. I wanted to show he'd changed emotionally too. That he'd become even darker than he'd ever been. His mother was always his constant. His grounding. I had Jason stalk out into the water, stare at her for a moment then place his hand on her head and dunk her. He kills his mother! Thus removing the distraction so he can return to kill our heroes. I loved it! But alas I was alone in this thinking. Everyone else said, "You can't have Jason do that." Why?! It's the tenth freaking "Friday the 13th!" They suggested he pull her from the water to reveal that she was just a wire rendering from the waist down. Bah!
There's been a fair amount of speculation as to why Betsy Palmer didn't reprise her role as Jason's mother. Do you know specifically why a deal couldn't be made?
My understanding was that it was financial. Depends on whom you ask as well because there are two different stories floating out there. During production I was told it was because Palmer asked for points - meaning she'd share in the profits. That would never happen. Tom Hanks, maybe, Betsy, alas no. And I was told she was not willing to negotiate. Later, after we'd wrapped production someone told me they'd spoken with Palmer and her side of the story was completely different. Said she'd asked for 10 grand but was only offered the rate of a day player since she'd only be working for one day (roughly 500 bucks I think). Regardless of which story is true, my opinion is that not having her in the film was a big mistake. Not just because I wanted to see it or because it would please fans but I'm confident her being there would have been worth a couple extra million at the box office. Just my opinion though.
It blew my mind. It pissed me off. It wasn't money. It wasn't his size. It wasn't his freaking eyes. That's all publicity BS.
Okay now I have a style question. After watching "Jason X," I realized that in the future everyone will be wearing fuzzy purple sweaters. Did you describe the wardrobe like that? Or was that a choice of the wardrobe dept. on the film? Did you like the wardrobe?
No, I never describe clothing and the like. That's someone else's job. Yeah, I guess I liked it. I think the wardrobe gals did fantastic considering the direction they were given. But I think I go back to my original concept that the movie should have been darker. That includes clothing. Clothing adds to the tone and it seemed a little teenybopper to me. I got nothing against cleavage and sexy outfits but less bubble gum is better in my book.
To be honest, while I loved the film, I wasn't very fond of the "Uber-Jason" look (reminded me of 'Super-Shredder' from the Ninja Turtles). I was wondering if the way Uber-Jason looks in the finished cut is how you described him in your script. Were you happy with the way he turned out visually?
I described Uber Jason slightly, basically said he was biomechanical...chrome mask, metal leg and arm. That's it. But then, it's not my job to describe him perfectly. That's someone else's job. (Funny, I go out of my way not to do other people's job, but yet everybody and their girlfriend is more than willing to rewrite the script :) ) But, the FX guys were free to go a dozen different directions - which I'm sure they did. I think I was probably thinking about that bio-mech dude from that Stallone movie...with Rob Schneider and Diane Lane...Judge Dredd. Once Dredd and Schneider crash out in the forbidden zone they run across this strange "Hills Have Eyes," "Deliverance" family. Anyway, the bio-mech member of that family was probably what I was thinking while writing. A very harsh, almost painful looking mesh of flesh and machine. But I'm not unhappy with what we ended up with. Rather than a clapped out Delta 88 we get a streamlined Porsche. Fine by me. I mean we were dealing with the same guy who designed Robo-Cop after all. :)
Ronnie Yu has joked (in Rue Morgue magazine) that "Freddy Vs. Jason," "won't be like 'Jason X,' don't worry". Does it bother you that he's sort of bashing the film you wrote?
No. The film I wrote didn't get made. Doesn't bother me in the least. Besides, this is nothing new. Everybody involved has bashed "Jason X" at one point or another. We're their scapegoat. If "Freddy vs. Jason" tanks (which it won't) then they'll say we killed the franchise. It's typical Hollywood insecurity. Truth is, "Freddy vs. Jason" was still floundering in development when we started "Jason X." Our making "Jason X" is the only reason "Freddy vs. Jason" finally got a fire lit under it.
Having worked with Kane Hodder yourself, and being a huge fan of the series, did it hit you hard when you found out he wasn't going to be in it? (because it did to most of us)
It blew my mind. It pissed me off. It wasn't money. It wasn't his size. It wasn't his freaking eyes. That's all publicity BS. It was plain and simple, their attempt to separate themselves from anything to do with the previous Friday films and probably "Jason X" as well. Shame on them. Smiling Jack Ruby said it best and I'm paraphrasing here but Kane Hodder has spent the last ten years going from convention to convention single-handedly keeping the dream of "Freddy vs. Jason" alive and this is how they repay him? Screw'em. And for those who stand back and say, "But it wasn't up to me, I had no say." Screw them too for not fighting harder. Bunch'a wimps.
Now, "Freddy Vs. Jason" looks like it may be a big money maker for New Line. If it does well, do you think that is good or bad for future stand alone Friday the 13th films, and why?
Yeah, "Freddy Vs. Jason" was always sort of a slam-dunk. I loved it when I first heard about it all those years ago. Would have been there opening night regardless of reviews or feedback or anything...just to see these two icons go at it. Course, their treatment of Kane has put a bad taste in my mouth. Doubt they get my box office bucks now on principle if nothing else. But as I'm sure they were betting, most fans won't be able to stay away and the cross-over crowd could have cared less if it was Kane or David Letterman playing Jason. It'll make money. And if box office and DVD returns reach that unknown predetermined accounting total then there will be a sequel and so on and so forth. I don't see Freddy or Jason getting single outings again until that moneymaker has run its course.
IMDB.com has you attached to a film called "Totem," directed by Patrick Lussier. Can you tell us about that project? What's it about? How did you get involved?
I pitched Revolution my take on an idea they had back before Christmas of 2002. They liked my take best so I got the gig. It's about a farmer struggling to keep his farm and his family together through drought and financial woes - until a stranger gives him a corpse-like scarecrow to place in his field. Suddenly his life turns around although strange deaths begin occurring within the small town. I wrote my first draft and based on it they attached Patrick, who by the way is "the man". I did a rewrite taking his vision into consideration and turned the final draft into Revolution. They later decided they didn't want to be in the genre business after all so now it's in turnaround. Last rumor I heard (as of last week) was that Raimi's company liked it and may pick it up. Either way, I'm done and it's in the capable hands of others now. But I liked working with Revolution. It was a very pleasurable experience. Granted I would have preferred they made the movie but I have no complaints. And Lussier was great. He and I have pitched a project together since and will certainly work together again in the future.
Is Jim Isaac's "Crystal Lake In Winter" script still floating around? What are the chances that it will ever get made?
It was never a script. Just the idea for a setting. There was never any plot or story attached to it. Just Jason and snow. Still, a very good backdrop but we never took it any further.
Are there any projects out there that you were involved with, that people may not know about, that they should check out?
I sold a spec to Constintin which has Jonathan Hensleigh attached to direct. I'm finishing that rewrite presently - based on Jonathan's notes - which has been a rush job since he goes into production on "Punisher" at the end of the month. Dean Lorey and I are writing a couple of horror/thriller specs together. Lussier and I have pitched a movie to Wes Craven. I have two video game movies I'm going out to pitch next month and I'm awaiting word from Sega on a third already pitched. And there are always assorted projects in some stage of development around the Farmer house. I can't complain. :)