Derek Mears has a lot to be smiling about. He’s a lifelong fan of the Friday the 13th series (horror films in general) and he’s just been given the role of a lifetime, playing Jason Vorhees in Platinum Dunes reimagining due in theaters Feb ’09. Mears is welcoming and quite unassuming as we catch up for a few minutes in his trailer on the set of the Friday the 13th remake in Austin. Easily one of the nicest guys to play a horror villain that I’ve ever met. Mears is decked out in heavy shoes, tattered brown pants and a prosthetic that leaves his face wide open and welcoming for that iconic hockey mask. In a few minutes he’ll be shooting a scene in which he’s terrorizing teens in Jason’s underground lair, but not before we have a quick chat with him to find out what it’s like to take on such a demanding role.
You seem really upbeat are you having a good time filming?
Are you kidding me? This is like the best ever.
When people ask you, how do you explain to them that you’re having a good time killing teenagers?
[Laughs] It is a little weird when people ask, “so what are you doing”, and I’m like “I just killed some teenagers”. It’s hard not to squeal and act like a 12 year old girl in a school dress when people talk about it. I have to be very professional and the voice drops but it’s been a thrill working on it. I’ve never worked on a show where everyone likes each other for who they are. There’s none of that Hollywood crap where they’re like “I’m so powerful”, “I’ve done this” or “I have my own TV show”. Nobody really knew, well, I didn’t anyway and everyone became friends. Then I’d feel retarded later when little bulletins would come out and it would be like “Ryan Hansen from Veronica Mars” and I’d be like “Dude that’s awesome congratulations” and they’re just like, “yeah I did that like two years ago, look at this giant dork”. It’s really been fantastic. It’s basically playing with your friends. You run around like a kid playing Jason and Hollywood goes hey, you’re pretty good at that, come do it for every body else.
Seems like the cast has a lot of opportunity to goof off so there’s not a willful distance between you and your victims?
No, no. We get teased In the very beginning. Andrew Fuller went to dinner and he was teasing me saying “dude you seem really, really nice” and I was like thanks and he’s like “well you’re going to be able to switch right?” and I’m like “It’s called acting, that’s what I do”. It’s fun because we’ll do scenes and Amanda (Righetti) will start getting in this laughing fit and I’ll be like “stop it you’re being unprofessional” and she’ll be like “you stop it, you’re being unprofessional”. Danielle (Panabaker) was saying you’ll switch from throwing things and being incredibly brutal and smashing people and it’s like “hey are you okay” and they’re like “Ohh I’m okay are you okay? Did I hit your mask?” and everyone starts laughing. It’s just been so much fun.
So Jason chases people? Usually he just walks…
Not anymore! For this one they’ve changed it around and made him more human, more of a character and not just a machine like later in the series where he gets into the zombie robot mode. You have sympathy for the character and the writers did a really good job with that. When I first read the script, I had been a fan of the series forever, I was like wow this is kind of cool and when I read it I got extremely excited and I had to be in it because this is what I want to see as a fan. The Friday the 13th films, you watch it for the kills and it’s never been big on character development or the plot but I’m so excited because you know it’s going to look great, each of the characters you actually care about they’re not the one like joke characters, it’s actually well written and it’s not overpowering and helps relieve the tension. You care about the characters and they have their own individual story arcs. Anyone can go at anytime. There are no rules and that’s what I dug about it.
In terms of violence how does this compare to the other films?
In my opinion it ups it. I’m excited because it’s not you’re stereotypical slasher film where it’s move-in, kill, move-in, kill. It’s actually smart and as fans, seeing Jason set people up, Jason just set a trap for someone and you actually see him thinking. That’s what they’re doing with this and I’m super excited.
What was it about the character for you that you felt you could get into?
In my opinion, especially in the script, Jason is a victim and he represents victims. Anyone who has been teased as a kid, that’s what he represents and that’s what ties us in and ties me in. He’s a victim of society. The way that I’m taking it is he wants to be left alone, societies rejected him and these kids come in and desecrate his area, he has no where else to run. It’s very much John Rambo in First Blood, he’s basically the victim.
Does Jason talk?
Not in this, no.
How do you prepare to play Jason Voorhees?
It’s a mixture of father issues for myself,..no [laughs]. The physical aspect of it, because this Jason is a lot leaner than the other Jasons who are bulkier and slower moving, Brad and Drew wanted to go with someone, not tooting my own horn here, but someone who was functional; someone who was leaner but still intimidating who would be living off the land and running through the forest and hiding. Basically he’s a hunter. So preparation wise, I did a lot of crazy plyometric training and stuff called ‘cross fit’. It’s a crazy workout and each day is something different. It’s a mixture of weights and core training but it’s for strength and function. For the mental aspect, I did a lot of research on child development because supposedly when Jason loses his mother he sees her get killed right in front of him when he was about 9-10 years old. So I did research about what the child is supposed to be developing and I found out that it’s that age where you are supposed to be integrated into society. You do group sports or group activities so you find out you’re not alone. He missed that aspect of love and reality with his mother and he never got to learn to be a team player. I just explored the psychological aspect of that and serial killers and what makes them do what they do. I also looked at the psychology of wilderness survival and what happens to soldiers when they get separated from their platoons and the psychology of being alone.