Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.
The actor: Although his name may not be readily known to those who aren’t horror aficionados, Kane Hodder has achieved a certain amount of mainstream fame as a result of being the man behind the (hockey) mask of Jason Voorhees in four Friday The 13th films. By that point, however, Hodder had already been in the business for more than a decade, having carved a career for himself as a stuntman who was also capable of delivering dialogue should the need arise.
Having racked up more than four decades in the business at this point, Hodder has worked on over 140 films in a wide variety of genres, but it’s horror that’s been his bread and butter in recent years. Currently, Hodder can be seen playing the titular character in Victor Crowley, the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, which is now available on home video and all of your favorite streaming services.
Hatchet (2006)—“Victor Crowley,” stunt coordinator
Hatchet II (2010)—“Victor Crowley”/“Thomas Crowley,” stunt coordinator
Hatchet III (2013)—“Victor Crowley,” stunt coordinator
Victor Crowley (2017)—“Victor Crowley”
The A.V. Club: There’s obviously a history of horror films turning into franchises, but did you have that feeling about Hatchet? Did Adam [Green, writer-director of the Hatchet franchise] already have that in mind?
Kane Hodder: I believe that Adam thought even through the first film that he was going to do more than one. So he purposely didn’t tell the whole story in the first film. He held back things. And that’s a dangerous thing to do, because if the second one never happens, then you’re out of luck. But he had the confidence in himself—and it was correct—that he would do more than one film and then not be grasping at straws trying to figure out, “Oh, shit, I did one and now they want another one, what am I gonna do?” On the contrary, Adam was, like, “Okay, we’re gonna do another one, so now we’re gonna tell some more of this story.” But it still wasn’t the complete thing until the third film, which… I mean, that’s pretty confident. To not tell your story completely unless you do three films? That’s almost unheard of.
But that is, in fact, what happened. After we did the first film, he told me what his plans were for the second film. I was actually shocked to hear someone that prepared for the next one. It wasn’t like he had to figure out what to do now. He already had it planned. When you’re working with a filmmaker like that, it’s just a pleasure, because you can give your suggestions. Since I’d played the character in the first film, I had some ideas that might or might not have worked with the vision he had, but he was always open to listening to my ideas. As an actor, that’s the kind of director you want to work with: someone who’s creative but open-minded enough to listen to ideas from other people and not [feel] insecure. I’ve worked with other directors who just didn’t want to hear anything, because they weren’t secure enough in their own ability to let someone else make a suggestion. I mean, at least hear them out.
AVC: The latest Hatchet film, Victor Crowley, feels like a gift to the fans.
KH: Oh, yeah. When you have an audience that’s laughing one minute and scared to death the next minute and cringing at the violence a minute after that, that’s an entertaining film. Adam always respects the horror audience, as I do, and we just want to put the best product out there that we can.
AVC: It looks like your first work in front of the camera was actually for Robert Altman.
KH: That’s one of the very first things I ever did. And it’s the only time I have ever been an extra in a project. But it was my first time ever being on a set, and here am I on this set with Elliott Gould and George Segal in a casino in Reno. I was in college, and I skipped classes for a day to go down and see what it was all about, because they were looking for extras, and I had so much fun that day that I did the same thing the following day. So I worked two days, and my documentary that’s just coming out… It’s called To Hell And Back, and it’s the story of my life, basically, but they were able to get the footage of those scenes that I was an extra in. It’s pretty funny to see what I looked like in my first on-camera appearance.
The idea of working on a film really was appealing to me, but I never thought at the time that I might do that for a living. So I went back to college and continued, I had a good time, and then after the semester ended, I went to visit my buddy down in Huntington Beach. I was in Reno, so I came down here for a little vacation, and one of the stops we made was at Universal Studios, to go on the tour. At the end of the tour, we watched the stunt show—it was a live Western stunt show—and while I was watching that show, I was hit with the idea that this was what I wanted to do for a living. I’d been doing stuff like this my whole life just to entertain my friends, doing dangerous shit just to see their reaction. Now I’m seeing that people get paid—and paid well—for doing the same stuff that I enjoyed doing for free. That’s when I decided that that’s what I wanted to do.
I went back to school for another semester while I investigated how a person becomes a stunt person, but the next summer I came down here, and I said, “I’m going to try going to stunt school.” There was a stunt school in Santa Monica, and I said, “I’m just gonna try it, and if I don’t like it, then I go back to college and finish my degree.” I fell in love the whole idea of being a stunt person even more, and I never went back to college. I decided to dedicate my life to doing stunts, and then because of that background, I’ve been able to play characters like Victor Crowley and Jason. And the rest is history, as they say.
AVC: I don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but after being inspired by the Universal Studios stunt show, it looks like your first on-camera stunt work was actually for a Universal series: Emergency!
KH: That was my first professional job, doing an episode of Emergency! in January 1977. I was hired to be a workman that had been knocked unconscious and burned by an explosion. Ironically, in July of that same year, I got burned. It was a little prophetic in a way, I guess, for that to happen shortly thereafter.
But that first real job, it was an amazing experience. I had to go across between two oil refinery towers down in Carson, and because I was unconscious, I had to go across on a rope in a stretcher. So I’m 80 feet up, going from one tower to another, and that was my entire job. Now that’s still fairly dangerous, but it was so much fun that I didn’t want the job to end. And that right there confirmed that I’d been right: This was what I wanted to do.
KH: Daredevil was fun because I hadn’t been on a lot of… Well, I had been, actually. What I was going to say what that I hadn’t been on a lot of big-budget films, but I’d been doing stunts on big-budget films before that. I actually did Batman Forever a little before that, playing one of Two-Face’s henchmen. What I meant to say was that I was playing an actual character, which is something I hadn’t done on a film of that scale before.
I think it’s close to the beginning where Daredevil’s father, who’s a boxer, he’s in a fight and he’s supposed to throw the fight because the mobsters have decided that he’s gonna lose. I’m in the audience with my boss—I’m the bodyguard of the mobster guy—and you see us sitting there watching the fight, and we realize that he’s not throwing the fight. So after he leaves the arena, he walks out into an alley and gets beat up. And that’s actually me and another stunt guy beating him up, to the point where Michael Clarke Duncan comes over and kills him. But you can’t tell it’s me, so people think I was almost like an extra in that one, because all you really see is me in the arena watching the fight. After that, if you don’t know it’s me beating him up in the alley, then you never see me again.
KH: That was an experience, I’ll tell you what. We were doing that movie up in Utah in February in the mountains at a ski resort, and what people don’t know… Well, first of all, that entire film was shot on a practical location, so none of it is on a soundstage, where it would’ve been far more comfortable. It was absolutely freezing cold, and once the actors got on that chairlift and they were put into position, which seemed like about a quarter of the way up the mountain, they were stopped, and that’s where they’d start shooting.
Adam [Green] had cameras on cranes and everything. But once the actors were in position, they couldn’t come down from that chairlift for six hours at a time. People don’t realize that a chairlift—or at least this one—doesn’t operate in reverse mode. So you couldn’t just say, “Hey, let’s bring them down and give them a break,” and then back them down a quarter of the mountain. You had to take them all the way to the top, make the turn, and then come all the way back down before they could get off the chairlift, which took about 35 minutes, as I recall, just to do that trip. So it was impossible to give them a break.
Now, this is freezing cold weather—I’m on the ground and I’m freezing—and they’re up in the chair for hours at a time with no bathroom breaks, and it was too high to be able to take them down on a ladder or something. Adam wanted their predicament to be perilous, so they had to be up pretty high. So there was no way to take them up or down. And I had to rig up safety harnesses for them to be sitting in, because they were moving around a lot up there, and you don’t want to fall. Even 50 feet into the snow wouldn’t be a picnic.
And just because I was there every day, Adam always liked to put me in every film. If I’m not playing a major character, he’ll put me in somewhere. So he said, “I’m going to make you the guy who almost rescues them but doesn’t see them and then leaves.” I was like, “Oh, that’s great: Once again, people are gonna hate me!”
AVC: You’re not actually credited, but were you indeed on Deep Space Nine?
KH: Oh, yeah. I did several episodes of Deep Space Nine as a Jem’Hadar soldier. I don’t know if you know the show, but they almost look like a lizard creature. Reptilian. But, yeah, I did several episodes of that show, and I always loved doing it, because your overtime would be so huge. If I was doing that show and had to be ready to work at 6 a.m., I was in the makeup chair at 2 a.m.
In fact, we did have a day where I was in the makeup chair at 2 a.m., and as far as the Screen Actors Guild is concerned, that’s when my day begins. Not when I get onto the set, but when I arrive at the set, whether it’s for makeup or whatever. So I started my day at 2 a.m., and then we had stuff to film on the soundstage, and then we had exteriors to film at Griffith Park. So we didn’t wrap until about 10 p.m. So working from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a daily contract, where you get overtime after eight hours. That was a huge payday. With a stunt job, you always have an adjustment that’s figured out by the stunt coordinator based on what you did that day, so that goes on top of your SAG daily before the overtime is computed.
AVC: I expect that was a hefty payday.
KH: And it’s interesting, too, that almost every episode I did of Deep Space Nine, if not every one, I also did with Tom Morga. And if you don’t know who Tom Morga is, he played Jason in Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, where it’s not really Jason. It’s a paramedic pretending to be Jason. But he was the image of Jason in that movie. And an even further coincidence is that he and I were both at that same stunt school together back in 1975. Yeah, he was a little further along in school than I was. But there were only, like, 10 students, and two of them went on to become Jason? That’s pretty amazing.
KH: I’m credited in that as “Older Geek.” I was fucking 29 at the time, and that’s my credit? “Older Geek”? Jesus! [Laughs.] But, yeah, we were the guys that would show up at the beach, and our dog named Worm—a lovely dog name—would steal the bikini tops of the girls who were sunbathing, so we thought that was pretty hilarious. And I had a little bit of dialogue, and I had to do a jet-ski chase.
So it was a lot of fun doing that movie, because that term became iconic in a way from that film. Nobody knew the word “hardbody” until that movie came out. In fact, when we shot it, it was not called that. It was called Beach, because they didn’t want anybody hearing the term “hardbodies” until the movie was out. I worked with Grant Kramer in that, but also… Oh, Jesus, what’s his name? From Children Of The Corn. He played Malachi?
AVC: Courtney Gains?
KH: Right! I worked with Courtney on Hardbodies, but because of his horror history, we still see each other sometimes because we’ll do appearances at the same conventions.
KH: A ha! Yes, another John Buechler makeup that I wore, as a half-human, half… Well, no, not half-human. Half-werewolf, but metallic… It’s hard to even explain unless you’ve seen the movie.
AVC: Having seen the movie, I wouldn’t say that’s a guarantee either.
KH: A giant mechanical werewolf? Let’s go with that. But I had to wear weird foot stilts so I was over seven feet tall when I was wearing them, and it was also so that my legs would be in more of a canine position while I was walking. So it was very difficult to work in, but it was during the filming of that movie when my first son was born, so I still have a call sheet from the day after he was born, and on the call sheet they put a photograph of my newborn son. So that was pretty great.
The Wonderful World Of Disney: Tower Of Terror (1997)—stunt coordinator
The Wonderful World Of Disney: Geppetto (2000)—“Pleasure Island Inhabitant” (uncredited), stunts
KH: I played an island inhabitant. But I don’t think I did too much in that thing. I did have to go to a casting call and get approved for that, though. I guess they figured, “Let’s get all the ugly people as island inhabitants, and that’s all we need.” I also worked at Disney with [Steve] Guttenberg on Tower Of Terror, based on the theme park ride. It was just kind of cool to be on the Disney lot, working with those people.
AVC: You were in one of Renny Harlin’s early films.
KH: His first American film, actually. I was also the stunt coordinator, and as stunt coordinator, I had to do pretty much all the stunts myself, because we didn’t have the budget to transport people to Wyoming just to do one day of stunts.
But toward the end of the film, you see my character, Forsythe, come out of the ground, strapped to an electric chair. He’s been dead for many years, so he’s a rotted corpse thing. And John Buechler, who was doing the makeup effects, said, “Would you mind wearing this Forsythe outfit for a couple of days, so we can get those shots? It’s gonna be a very extensive makeup: head-to-toe body suit, then seven prosthetic pieces on your head, dentures, lenses…” I had never done any extensive-makeup character like that before, but I said, “Sure, I’d love to do it.” And that film is the reason why I became Jason.
Friday The 13th: Part VII: The New Blood (1988)—“Jason Voorhees,” stunt coordinator
Friday The 13th: Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)—“Jason Voorhees,” stunt coordinator
The Arsenio Hall Show (1989)—“Jason Voorhees”
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)—“Jason Voorhees” / “Security Guard #2” / “Freddy Krueger’s Arm,” stunt coordinator
Jason X (2001)—“Jason Voorhees”
KH: Based on that performance as Forsythe in Prison, when John Buechler was hired to direct Friday The 13th Part VII, he said, “I know who should play Jason!” And they said, “Well, the guy that did it last movie, C.J. Graham, was pretty decent.” And Buechler said, “Nope! I want Kane Hodder to play Jason.” And they’re, like, “Who? Never heard of him!” And he said, “Just trust me. He’s the guy to play the character in this film.”
Because what I had in my favor—and what didn’t go in C.J.’s favor, although he and I are good buddies—was that in Part VII, because of the storyline, Jason had to do so many stunts. And they were big stunts, like being on fire and all that stuff. And that worked in my favor, because John was like, “You can’t have an actor playing the character and then a stunt double doing all the action. It’s never gonna look consistent.” Which is true. So he said, “I’ve got a guy who can do all these stunts and play the character.”
So he pushed and pushed for me, and I did a screen test, one which I recently found out was paid for by John. He rented the equipment and got a set and did the makeup and everything on his own dime, so he could shoot me on film doing some stuff, just to prove to them, “See how good he looks on film?” And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened: I was given the job, and I continued playing that character for 15 years. So I guess he was right.
AVC: Was the release of Jason Takes Manhattan when you went on Arsenio?
KH: Yes. And, yes, that really was me playing Jason. I also did Arsenio’s show a second time, wearing the Jason Goes To Hell makeup. But it wasn’t the same kind of thing as it was the first time, where I was a guest and he was asking me questions and I was staring at him. That was fun, because I was laughing my ass off the whole time. He never told me what he was going to ask me. He said, “I want you to be a guest on my show,” and I said, “Great!” And then he said, “I want you to be in character as Jason,” and I said, “You stupid fuck, I don’t talk as Jason! How am I going to be a guest?” He said, “That’s the whole point. It’ll be funny.” And I said, “Ah, I see what you’re saying now.” So it was a lot of fun, and he was a lot of fun to work with, because he totally made the whole bit work just with his delivery and stuff. The next time I did it, though, I just did some stuff with the band.
AVC: In Jason Goes To Hell, you—or at least your arm—received an additional credit for playing Freddy Krueger’s arm. Is there any truth to the rumor that you were actually in the running at one point to play Freddy?
KH: No. What happened was that I had done a movie called The Hills Have Eyes 2—this was back in the early ’80s—with Wes [Craven], where I did some stunts and I doubled the character called The Reaper. A few years after that, Wes contacted me and said, “You know, I’m developing a new character called Fred Krueger that is gonna have burn scars.” And since I had worked with him previously, he knew that I had burn scars for real. So I said, “Oh, that sounds interesting,” and I went into his office to talk to him a little about it, but he ultimately decided that he wanted more severe burn scars and that they were going to do it with a full prosthetic makeup job because it’d look much scarier. I totally agree. And his choice to use Robert Englund was obviously a brilliant one, because Robert… He played that character like nobody else ever could.
AVC: Your final Friday The 13th film was Jason X. It wasn’t your choice, but you clearly came to terms with the situation eventually.
KH: Yes. Very, very gradually. [Laughs.] The problem was that I was called into New Line to have lunch with an executive to talk about something, so I did that. It was just the two of us at lunch, and she hands me a script. It’s called Freddy Vs. Jason. She says, “We’re finally doing this movie.” Now, maybe I assumed too much, when I’m given the script and being told, “We’re finally doing this movie,” I assumed that I was doing it, as Jason. And since Robert and I knew each other well by that time, we both agreed that it’d be an amazing project to be a part of. But in the subsequent weeks, I realized something was not quite right.
I wasn’t getting phone calls returned and stuff like that, and I ultimately found out that they’d hired a director who did not want me to play the character. So I was out unceremoniously, and unfortunately I was never given a reason why. It’s been speculated that either I asked for too much money or I was difficult to work with, but I’m not that stupid: I love playing the character, and I’m not going to give them any ammunition to replace me. It was just a director decision, that’s what I was told, and they wanted to go a different way. They were shooting in Vancouver, and they went with a Vancouver stuntman in the role, so to me it looks like it had something to do with money. But I never really did that well doing those movies, because I didn’t really care. The money wasn’t the main focus of my wanting to do the character. I just loved playing the character.
Ed Gein: The Butcher Of Plainfield (2007)—“Ed Gein”
B.T.K. (2008)—“Dennis Rader”
To Hell And Back: The Kane Hodder Story (2017)—himself
AVC: Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
KH: I guess the Hatchet films have gotten a fair amount of coverage and response, but I always felt like they could’ve been bigger. The appeal is so wide that I was always surprised that they didn’t appear to be more successful. I don’t know what happened with box office and all that, but I think the movies are brilliant. I’ll always be happy to be a part of them, and I’m surprised that they’re not more widely enjoyed. Hopefully that’ll change in the future. I also hope that people will give my documentary a look. The documentary on my life is coming out very soon, and it’s gotten a great response so far, so hopefully people give that a look, too.
AVC: Indeed. By the way, I actually thought you might mention Ed Gein here, just because it’s one of the rare films where you have the lead role.
KH: I’d actually say B.T.K., because I did that film, I had the title role there also, and it was for the same director. In fact, that’s a good answer. Let’s say that was my answer.
AVC: It’s okay. You can say both.
KH: Okay, because now that you’ve gone in that direction, I was very happy with my work in B.T.K. And what a character to play: You’re asked to be murderously violent in one scene, and then you have to be really touching and a family man in the next scene. Yeah, that would be one I’d say that—as you say—should’ve gotten more love than it did. I’ve been told, and I don’t know how accurate this is, that Dennis Rader would like to talk to me. Now, whether that’s true or not, I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers and the mindset of such, so the fact that he might be interested in talking to me, I guess because I played him in a film, is intriguing. But who knows if it’s true?
AVC: If it is, you might have a whole other film right there.
KH: Yeah, or a film about me playing so many horrible characters that it took hold of me, and I became a serial killer for real. Talk about an understandable motive: “Hey, man, when I killed all those people, I thought I was in a movie!”