SCREAM sits down with the man behind the mask…
By Andy Marren
In today’s world, the word legend is criminally overused. Had a number one record? Legend. Made an arthouse movie or two that were well received? Well done, you’re a legend. Been photographed stumbling out of a bar in the early hours of the morning before an important game? Yep – legend too. So overused is the term that it threatens to rob us of its proper use, to express our admiration for those who are truly successful in their field; icons recognised the world over for their longevity, influence and skill. Horror fans have had more than a few over the years, from innovative filmmakers like Wes Craven, Dario Argento or John Carpenter, to scribes that have shaped our nightmares – Clive Barker, Stephen King, HP Lovecraft- to actors who have given mesmerising performances; Michael Rooker’s terrifying portrayal in ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’, Duane Jones’ Ben in ‘Night of the Living Dead’, or Sissy Spacek’s magnetic turn as psychic teen Carrie White in ‘Carrie’. Each fan has their own that they would doubtless have on these lists and much interesting debate is to be had wandering the highways and byways of the internet on such matters. One thing is unavoidable however; that there is a stratum of horror stars whose work is so iconic, so fascinating, and so unforgettable that they rightly deserve the title of horror royalty. Classic stars Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi, stand shoulder to shoulder with more modern ones Jamie-Lee Curtis, Doug Bradley, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif, and the inimitable Robert Englund on this small, but stellar, list. Inarguably, Kane Hodder belongs here too. With a career spanning more than thirty years, he has earned the right to his place on this list. Scream sat down with Kane to talk about his life, his movies, and a life in horror.
SCREAM: You had an unusual formative period in your early life – can you tell us a little bit about that?
KH: Sure – it’s probably not the typical growing up that most kids have. Early in my childhood, at like ten or eleven years old, I went through a lot of bullying problems and pretty severe ones. Bullying is so much more insidious than people realise, what it does to your psyche, that I try to do whatever I can to speak to groups or individual kids about it because it’s much longer lasting than just at the time of the person being bullied. I try to explain what I went through and tell people the whole story about that ; I was finally able to stand up for myself a little bit and, even though it didn’t work to stopping the bullying, it helped me psychologically because at least I tried to do something. I think that’s almost the worst part of getting bullied – what you feel about yourself because you can’t do anything to stop it. You can’t do anything to bring yourself to try and stop it so you feel badly about yourself because of it; I think that’s almost the worst effect that bullying can have on you. I went through a lot of that then I moved out to the South Pacific where I grew up and everything changed for me. I moved to a tiny island in the South Pacific and had a really unique experience in all of my high school years. I spent my high school and college years out on an island called Kwajalein which is three miles long and half a mile wide. I spent many years there; my whole high school was done there. It had a great education system and was a tremendous place to live because there was no crime that was tolerated; if you committed any kind of serious crime you were literally ejected from the island – they kicked you off. It was such a paradise to live there that no-one wanted to face that situation so nothing ever happened. At the time I lived there it was a trust territory of the US so that means you did not pay federal income tax, and because it’s technically a military base – the entire island – no-one had any housing expenses either. It’s a pretty good place to live if you want to save money; you have a salary, you have no utilities or rent bills, you didn’t have a car because there weren’t any, and no tax. It’s such a great place the live; the sports were great and some of my classes were as few as five students, so the attention from the teachers was tremendous.
SCREAM: I read a story that you tell about impressing your friends by standing on the outside of a barrier at the top of an incredibly high tower…
KH: <laughs> Yeah…
SCREAM: I was wondering – do you think that it was a very early sign that a career in stunt work was beckoning?
KH: At the time I didn’t realise it because I hadn’t even thought about being a stuntman but certainly when I look back I say ‘wow, that was really an indication of what I really wanted to do’, because we were thirty five storeys up and we’re on the balcony – this was my basketball buddies and we had travelled to Hawaii to play some of the high schools there – and I climbed on the outside of the railing and held on just to watch their expressions basically. They were terrified! Then of course when I let go and grabbed on with both hands again before I fell, that was the ultimate; they all ran, so I was like ‘wow that was really fun for me’. Just to watch people react to me doing something dangerous, as it turns out, certainly was a turning point in my mind where I decided that it would really be a fun way to make a living.
AM – Looking at your career, your stunt career has been running as long as the acting; how did you first get involved in movies at all?
KH – The stunt business is a very tough business to get into because there’s no auditioning process like there is with acting. If you want to be an actor it’s not easy either but once you get your Screen Actor’ Guild card, which means you’re a member of the official union for actors and stunt people, you can audition for jobs; if you’re able to get yourself in there, you can try it out. With stunts there is nothing like that because of the safety issues; no-one will hire you to do a stunt unless they know you have experience and you’ve proven yourself. How do you get experience and prove yourself if no-one will hire you? It’s a really tough situation; it takes forever unless you have a family member who has had a career in stunts. A lot of children of successful stunt people will go into that career too because their parent has already made a name for themselves. If you have the child of someone that you know has had a successful stunt career you will let them have chance much sooner than someone who is completely unknown; I was completely unknown. I had no friends, no family, no nothing in that business, so it took me eight years of starving before I began to make a decent living. I’d say at the beginning, the first ten years, of my career it was ninety eight percent stunts and two percent acting; now in the last ten years it’s probably ninety percent acting. It’s just later that my career has progressed which is great because as you get older you can’t necessarily, or don’t want to, do some of the most dangerous things that you used to do. A lot of stunt people who are in my age group and experience have pretty much retired by now; fortunately for me, I’m working almost more than ever, because it’s more acting stuff and because I was able to make a name in horror, as Jason, as Victor Crowley in ‘Hatchet’, and all that. Now people want me to be in their movies because of that and they’re offering me other types of roles and not even make-up roles, other types of characters. I played an ex-heavyweight fighter that goes to confront a serial killer in Australia; we shot it down there and it’s a great character for me to play because it’s nothing like what I’m known for. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll always love playing characters like Victor and Jason because that’s what put me on the map but, at the same time, as an actor I like the challenge of something new, something outside the realm of what I’ve been doing before. It’s been great.
KH: I had done a movie in 1986 called ‘Prison’ which just came out finally on DVD; I think it’s really well done, Renny Harlin directed it, and it’s got a great cast including Viggo Mortensen who I became friends with because of that movie. I was the stunt co-ordinator on it for the most part and doing a lot of the stunts but John Buechler, who was the make-up effects guy, said “Kane, there’s a role of the end of the movie where somebody has to be in full body make-up” and I had never done that before. He asked if I would do it because it was not comfortable and requires a different kind of acting, and since I was the stunt coordinator he thought I would be the logical choice for someone to be very uncomfortable in the make up! <laughs> I said sure, I’ll do that, and it was a full body prosthetic – full latex head to toe – lenses, dentures, prosthetics glued all over my head; it took three and a half hours to put the stuff on and, when I wore it, I loved it. I loved performing in something like that because it looked so scary and acting in prosthetics is so much different than acting with your expressions and your voice; I enjoyed doing it a lot and he liked how I worked in the make-up. John Buechler was selected to direct ‘Friday the 13th Part VII” and his immediate thought was ‘I want Kane to play Jason because I just worked with him, he worked well in makeup, he’s a big guy and Jason has to do a lot of stunts in this movie’ so to him I was the logical choice. He had still to convince them that he was right – Paramount Pictures – and I had to do a screen test and everything but, other than that, I got the role basically because John wanted me. Fortunately I continued to play the role for the next three movies after that and I guess it’s on the strength of that first one that made the other directors say ‘yeah, let’s make him the first guy to repeat in the role’ – in the first six movies, it was a different person every time.
SCREAM: For millions of fans, myself included, you are Jason…
KH: Well, that’s always nice to hear. Obviously I love hearing that because I enjoyed playing the character so much ; imagine as a horror fan – which I was – and as a Jason fan – which I was – now I’m the one putting on the hockey mask! This is a hockey mask known around the world by now, this is a character known literally around the world, and I’m the person playing him? What an incredible honour! I will always feel that way and I did whatever I could to do the character justice and I guess it paid off for me.
SCREAM: It really did. A lot of mis-steps have been made over the years in the casting of Jason, seeing him just as an imposing figure. You’re a big guy, but one of the things that is striking about your version of Jason is his physicality; is this something that came naturally or something that you needed a particular mindset for?
KH: That’s a good question because I feel that my success in playing the character, and being the only person to do so more than once, is based on it looking natural. It has to look scary of course but it can’t look like you’re trying to be scary; it’s such a fine line to walk and I think that other people have not accomplished that, to make it look scary and natural at the same time. How hard is it to be scary without your voice and your facial expressions? It’s not easy at all. It’s all in the way you stand and move, and I think that a lot of guys who have played characters like this have tried too hard. When I watching the movie as a fan I’m like ‘ah, he’s acting’, and I always was striving to make it look as if I wasn’t acting. Maybe it’s because my true personality is a little closer to a psychotic killer than the average one that it’s easier for me to get there, I don’t know, but that’s how it seems <laughs>.
SCREAM: And you do buy into it? You don’t ever think that it’s a guy in a hockey mask; you just buy into the fact that it is Jason.
KH: Right and you do have to do some different things; you have the costume on and I would always rehearse in make-up in a mirror to watch myself to make sure it looked imposing, but it has to come naturally and I guess that’s why it worked out for me.
SCREAM: Jumping forward a little, I’d like to raise the idea of Victor Crowley. You took the role without seeing much beyond a very early version of the script – is that correct?
KH: Yeah actually. Adam Green made arrangements with John Buechler – once again! – and they were talking about the characters and the movie ‘Hatchet’. John asked who he saw playing the role of Victor – this is what I’m told anyway – and Adam said he would love to have someone like Kane Hodder; John said ‘you want me to call him?’. So he did <laughs> and Adam was freaking out that he could just call me on the phone. John told me about it and I met with Adam and he convinced me with his enthusiasm and his knowledge of horror when he wasn’t a proven guy at all yet. I could tell by sitting there and talking to him that he was going to be talented; I know anyone could say that after the fact but it is actually the truth, which is why I committed to doing it with him before seeing the script. He had a way of showing you how good he could be; it’s hard to put into words but I had a great feeling from him. Then I read the script and even the first draft was brilliant. How often do you see an effective horror movie that has comedic elements with the other characters but not at the expense of the bad guy?! Some of the Jason movies, some of the scenes between the killings, were like ‘oh my god, let’s go, let’s get to some more violence already’; whereas with the ‘Hatchet’ movies you enjoy the scenes between the violence as much as the violent ones. What I also like was that even from the beginning Adam had the confidence to not reveal everything in the first film. Most times a horror film is done and it tells a story and if they are asked to do a sequel they have to come up with another idea. With Adam, he always had the idea to not be done telling the story until he was done with the three films; now that may be a pipe dream in most cases but Adam always said that even if we only made one then he’d still told enough of the story that no-one would notice; but now with each film, he’d go back to the previous one and explain something that you hadn’t thought of. I really enjoyed the fact that all three ‘Hatchet’ movies are really just one big story, literally picking up from the end of the previous movie immediately thereafter.
SCREAM: While we’re talking horror franchises, I read that you would be interested in playing Michael Myers. What would your version of that character look like?
KH: That’s a good question; I don’t know what it would be. I always loved that character too. He’s somewhat similar to Jason in some ways – silent and deadly – and I’d love to play that character. Probably not until I was actually given the job would I start thinking about any differences I may do with the character. It wouldn’t be too different because people are used to the way the character has been portrayed but I would add some subtleties to it that would work out. Like with Jason, I added the heavy breathing because when I would look at myself in the mirror, motionless, it would look scary but it also looked not animated enough to me. I started tinkering around with ideas and when I did the chest heaving that looked so much more terrifying, because he looked like he was just about to do something even though he was standing motionless staring at you. I would try to add some little stuff like that if I were to ever play Michael.
SCREAM: You’re clearly a massive horror fan. What are your favourite genre movies?
KH: It’s an old one but it was so powerfully effective at the time it’ll always be my favourite – ‘The Exorcist’. If you are not old enough to have seen it when it was first released in theatres, you don’t know the impact that it had on society. There were stories in the news with people saying they were now possessed by The Devil after watching the movie! When that stuff is on the news about a movie, <laughs> it makes you scared before you even go in. It was such a powerful movie at the time, and such untested subject matter, that it’ll always be my favourite because nothing has ever given me the feeling of tension like that movie did.
SCREAM: As you have such a broad experience of movies both as an actor and through the stunt work, have you ever been tempted to get behind the camera and direct your own?
KH: I’ve thought about it, yes, but it would have to be the right type of project for me to do so. I think in general I’m more of a performer than a director but it does intrigue me in certain ways, to have that much control over your film. Obviously I have a lot of control over the characters I play but as a director you have control over every department, so that part of it appeals to me. I would have to direct someone else’s written material because I don’t think I’m capable of writing a script, I just don’t have that talent. I wrote my biography, but I didn’t really write it, I dictated my story to Mike Aloisi who wrote it. It does have some appeal for me but I still love being in front of the camera.
SCREAM: You’ve worked with a who’s who of horror faces, past and present. Cheeky question – who would you say are the most talented people you’ve worked with?
KH: In any capacity in horror?
SCREAM: In whatever capacity…
KH: There are two people that come to mind immediately as far as being talented, and they’re both writers that directed their own material. One, of course, is Adam Green because is a brilliant writer, very good director, very creative, I enjoyed working with him immensely and I’ve done pretty much every movie he’s directed. The other one, who is just the same way – brilliant writer, very good director, experienced actor who I used to work with on ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ TV show – is John Schneider who played Bo Duke. He came to me last year with a script. We’d known each other since ‘The Dukes’ but not well, and I hadn’t gotten that same feeling about a script since that first ‘Hatchet’ movie. It was amazing; he wrote and directed the film and it’s called ‘Smothered’; I was an associate producer on it because I helped to get some of the cast on it also. I’m in it, Bill Moseley is in it, R.A. Mihailoff – he played Leatherface in ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3’ which I was the stunt coordinator on, I was also his stunt double in couple of scenes so I played Leatherface in a couple of scenes also…
SCREAM: And Freddy! You were the glove in ‘The Final Friday’ as well were you not?
KH: <laughs> Exactly! I wore the Freddy glove in that scene in ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ so now I just need to play Michael somehow! Don Shanks was in ‘Smothered’ also; he played Michael Myers in ‘Halloween 5’ I think, so a lot of horror faces are in the movie. We all play versions of ourselves; we are all horror icons who are has-beens now. Nobody cares about us any more, we’re bitter, we’re pissed off, we are not happy that fans don’t care about us anymore. We get hired to go to a trailer park in Louisiana for some extra cash and we start getting killed off by a serial killer.
SCREAM: That sounds great!
KH: Yeah – it’s very well written and we play ourselves in a funny light. There’s comedic and horror elements but I think it’s the comedy that appeals to me so much. John was so brilliant at coming up with something on the spur of the moment to add to a scene that he hadn’t thought of before. We’d do a shot and he’d say ‘wait a minute, what if…’ and without fail it made it so much more interesting. A quick example: I’m doused in gasoline, I’ve figured out who the killer is, I’m holding a gun on them, and they say ‘go ahead, pull the trigger, you’ll just set yourself on fire.’ Then John came over and asked me if the killer could now say something and I thought ‘my god, that is brilliant!’ Now bear in mind I’m playing myself, and you probably know that I have burn scars over half of my body from a stunt that went bad many years ago…
KH: And I carry the scars to this very day. So now I’m holding a gun on the killer, and the killer says ‘go ahead, you’ll just set yourself on fire…again’ <laughs> I just saw the movie with an audience and they all screamed at how personal that was! It was so effective to just add that, such a personal assault, to bring up that I’ve been burned before; he did that kind of thing several times through the shooting , come up with something that just adds to the scene that he hadn’t thought of until he saw it being played out. It was just a pleasure.
SCREAM: As with most people associated with horror, you’re the opposite of your onscreen presence; well-spoken, kind, and, by reputation, very generous. Do you find that fans have an expectation of how you are going to be when they meet you?
KH: This is the reaction that I normally get from people that I have not met – ‘oh my god! He seemed so nice!’ <laughs> Because of the hideous and horrible characters I play, for some reason people are surprised that I’m approachable and friendly. I find that pretty funny but that means I’m doing my job right?! <laughs> If they’re nervous to come up and talk to me based on my performance then I’ve done my job.
SCREAM: You see that quite often when you speak to industry figures, especially horror royalty like yourself, that people assume you’re going to be closer to your screen persona in real life, which does seem rather odd…
KH: Yeah. Obviously knowledgeable horror fans don’t feel that way but it is funny how people who maybe aren’t so into horror are the ones who are surprised. I’m like ‘well, what did you expect me to do? Cut your head off as soon as I saw you?’ <Laughs> If that’s what you want then I’m happy to do it, but that’s not what I’m here for typically.
SCREAM: You have a well-earned reputation as one of the hardest working men in horror. Is that a conscious decision to stay busy or just a happy coincidence of the fame you now have?
KH: I like that people consider me a hard worker within this business because it’s so tough to even make a living that I feel very fortunate to have done not only that, but to get some level of recognition that I never expected. I wanted to be a working stuntman and that’s usually in the shadows; no stunt people are very well known typically and that’s fine with me. When I started in this career, that all I wanted. The fact that I’m able to go to autograph shows, and the times when people recognise me out in public, I find it very flattering; I never expected anything like that. I believe that when you go into this business not expecting anything you appreciate the recognition more. There’s a lot of people who go into acting because they want to be famous and so that if it happens they don’t really appreciate that they are very fortunate. I do appreciate it, which is why I do appreciate the horror fans because, let’s face it, if it wasn’t for them then I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you. If you have to credit anyone for your career, besides Buechler for me, then it’s got to be the horror fans. They’re the ones that support you so that’s why, when I do an appearance, I like to engage with people and have fun with them. That’s the whole point of doing it isn’t it? If you don’t want to do an autograph show, and you don’t want to interact with the fans, don’t do it. No-one’s making you do it, so if you’re there, engage with people, have fun with them, because without fail that’s what they enjoy the most.
SCREAM: In true horror style, your autobiography seems to have become a franchise itself. Tell us about ‘The Killer and I’.
KH: <laughs> Well, it’s an interesting thing. We’re putting out a DVD of short episodes of Mike Aloisi, who wrote my book, and myself when we were on the book tour for a year travelling around the world. We took a camera crew with us and shot everything that we would do. The difference between Mike and myself as far as our personalities is dramatic; we couldn’t be more opposite. When we hung around together, I enjoyed doing things that put him in an uncomfortable position, and he would do things that put me in an uncomfortable position also. The dynamic between us is very funny, and my youngest son Reed edited this stuff for us to make little episodes about our travels together. It’s hilarious – the interactions between us, the things we do, and the places we go, Not just book signings; we go to different places around the world and enjoy the attractions they had, like going to The Gun Store in Las Vegas and firing the automatic weapons. He had never held a gun before, so I enjoy putting him in uncomfortable situations and watching how he reacts. It’s pretty funny, I hope people will take a look at it, and I think you’ll laugh your ass off.
SCREAM: Obviously, you’re incredibly busy. What does your down time look like?
KH: <laughs> Well my hobbies, whenever I get down time are playing poker and I read true crime. When I played Ed Gein and BTK, real serial killers who existed, I read books about them. I like reading in particular about serial killers, especially the mindset that a real killer has; maybe it helps me in my portrayals, I don’t know, but I read it just because it’s fascinating that someone can be likeable on one side – BTK was a church president and cub scout leader, but on the other side of his personality he was murdering women. To me it’s fascinating that someone can have such a dual personality. I don’t really like reading fiction because I act mostly in fiction. That’s about all I have time for besides my family.
SCREAM: What should horror fans watch out for you in next?
KH: I’m glad you asked; I have seven films that are completed that have not come out yet. They’re mostly genre ones. One is a movie called ‘Old 37’ where Bill Moseley and I play brothers that drive an ambulance; we respond to 911 calls before the real responders get there, take the victims away and do terrible things to them. It’s interesting to think about if someone comes and they’re in uniform, are they really paramedics? I have a film called ‘Alice D’ where I play a turn of the century brothel owner who’s not real pleasant so that was cool; there’s also one called ‘Love in the Time of Monsters’ which is a comedy about Bigfoot, where I train actors to pretend to be Bigfoot at a resort to entertain the guests and then, of course, the real Bigfoot shows up and starts killing people. I did one this year called ‘Abandoned in Dark’ where I play a weird maintenance guy at a building, and I don’t want to go too much into it because it’s a creepy role which I guess is pretty easy for me to pull off <laughs>. I did a movie called ‘Almost Mercy’ where I play a PE coach at a high school and I’m kind of an asshole there too! I was supposed to be over there in Essex last month to shoot a movie called ‘Shed of the Dead’ in the UK, but we’ve had to postpone; the ‘Star Wars’ movie is taking up all of the production facilities. I’ll definitely be back over there soon to shoot that, and I’m very excited about it; I love being over there in the UK. The two that I’m most excited about are ‘Smothered’, the John Schneider movie because of the likeable character I play, and ‘Charlie’s Farm’.
SCREAM: We’ve been following ‘Charlie’s Farm’ rather closely here at SCREAM, but please explain for those who might not know about it.
KH: It’s a movie we shot in Australia and Bill Moseley – again – myself, and Tara Reid are the three Americans in the movie. We shot it down there this spring and it’s about a serial killer on a big farm that everybody thinks is abandoned but of course it isn’t. But the killer is not me! The killer is an actor called Nathan Jones who did a very good job, and I play an ex-heavyweight boxer that goes to Australia to confront the killer. It’s a cool role for me to play something like the good guy against the murderous killer so I enjoyed that a great deal. I saw the movie recently and it’s quite good I think; it’s directed by Chris Sun who wrote the script, and it’s something I’m quite excited about.
SCREAM: That’s a very interesting slate; a good mix of traditional Kane Hodder roles and some more unusual ones…
KH: Right, and any actor will tell you – and I guess I have to consider myself an actor by this point even though I never anticipated being an actor – that they love being challenged. A different type of role is very appealing. I’ll always love being the bad guy and playing the killer because I think I do it well and it’s fun but, at the same time, I like to try something new and see if I can pull that off. Between doing comedy and the more regular roles it’s really enjoyable; there’s no way to get bored with your job if you’re always doing something different.
SCREAM: Last question – if you had to retire tomorrow, which movies that you’ve been involved with are you the most proud of?
KH: Wow…boy…I think that would be a tough one… I was the stunt coordinator on ‘Monster’ and Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her portrayal (of real life American serial killer Eileen Wuornos – Scream) in that movie and I credit, if I have any acting talent, it’s to watching people like her. I watched her for four weeks get into character and, because I was the stunt coordinator, I’d be around when she was doing stuff. Watching her work was invaluable training; I’m very proud of that movie even though I was just stunt coordinator although I did play the cop who arrested her at the end. I’m proud of movies that were huge successes that I did stunts in, like ‘Se7en’. I loved the first ‘Hatchet’ movie, I’m very proud of the Jason stuff, so I don’t know if there’s a single answer. There has been so many rewarding projects that I’ve done – I even did an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ once! I was a huge fan of the show then all of a sudden I’m going in and doing an episode where I’m fighting with Kramer! <laughs> It’s a rewarding, fun, career to have that there isn’t just one that stands out; there are just so many that I’ve loved doing.
Speaking to Kane Hodder is a refreshing experience. He is charming, funny, and interesting, free with his time and unflinchingly honest about his life. More important than all of this – and to Kane himself too – is that he is a horror fan. He remembers that you, the fans, have given him the life he has, and the appreciation of his fans is what drives him to continue making movies. With roles in more successful horror movies than any other working genre actor that springs to mind, the honour of being the only man to repeat as one of modern horror’s most iconic characters, he’s the only man to play Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Freddy Krueger, and is officially horror cinema’s most prolific serial killer – his place in the pantheon of horror is assured. A genuinely lovely man, a bona fide horror fan, and a true genre legend in every sense of the word; ladies and gentlemen – I give you Kane Hodder.