Interview by Royce Freeman
HOW DID YOU ORIGINALLY COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR "FRIDAY THE 13TH"? WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
Sean called me and said that Halloween was doing fantastic box office. He wondered if we couldn't come up with something as good as what John Carpenter and Debra Hill had done. I went to see Halloween and figured out the way they did it, saw the form, and then Sean and I sat down and talked for several days. We needed a way to isolate a bunch of teenaged kids and, after discarding several hundred possible locations, I came up with the idea of a summer camp before it's opened.
HOW DID YOU COME TO KNOW SEAN CUNNINGHAM? DID HE WRITE ANY OF THE SCRIPT?
Sean and I had been friends for several years. We met through the late Brud Talbot when I was writing the screenplay for "The Black Pearl" as well as a western for Brud. Sean had come in and offered some really good criticism on those projects and we started to hang out. Later I did the screenplays for two films which Sean made: "Here Come the Tigers" and "Manny's Orphans" and we'd kicked around thousands of film ideas before that. Sean didn't write any of the script but he was in on the creative process every step of the way. His gift, as I remember it, is he is a terrific editor and critic.
WHY WERE THERE SOME THINGS CUT FROM THE FILM? WHY WAS THE OPENING SHORTENED? WHY WAS CLAUDETTE'S DEATH NOT SHOWN EVEN THOUGH IT WAS FILMED?
Once the screenplay was completed I was pretty much out of the loop as far as what got shot, and why. I would suspect that budget and oncoming autumn were almost always the chief considerations.
WHERE DID YOU PICTURE 'CRYSTAL LAKE' WHAT STATE?
I knew there was a Crystal Lake in Connecticut, but I guess I thought of this camp someplace in New Hampshire or Vermont---one of those places I never went to when I as a kid.
WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH "JASON VOORHEES"? WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM?
I knew a girl in high school with the name Van Voorhees and always loved the sound. It's unusual, maybe a little threatening sounding? I'd used the name Jason in a novel I'd written called Hide the Children for, I think, Pocket Books, and paired my two sons names in that---Ian and Josh, changing Josh to Jason because I was getting too creeped out.
WHY DID YOU CALL IT "FRIDAY THE 13TH"? AND HOW DID YOU THINK UP THE NAME "CRYSTAL LAKE"?
Sean came up with the name of the film which, up until that time, we'd called, as a working title, "Long Night at Camp Blood". I think that history would have played out differently with that title and there never would have been the success that Friday engendered. Crystal Lake was a CT name and it sounded pure and wonderful in contrast with what we knew lay at the bottom of it.
WHY WAS THE STATE IN WHICH THE FILM TOOK PLACE NEVER ESTABLISHED AND THE YEAR IT TOOK PLACE NEVER MENTIONED IN THE FILM, THOUGH THE OPENING WAS SAID TO BE 1958 BY A SUPERIMPOSED TITLE CARD?
The state was never mentioned so that any kid in America could identify with the film---if we'd said, New Hampshire, that might have made audiences in the Midwest think it was an eastern-type thing and limited. I graduated from high school in 1958. The present day was not mentioned because we assumed the audience would know that the initial events (the drowning death of Jason) had happened 22 years earlier. (The first Friday came out in 1980...)
DID YOU EVER WRITE A BACKSTORY, LIKE WHERE DID JASON'S FATHER GO? WHERE IS HE?
We had a few weeks to come up with the shooting script. There was no time for a backstory except that the counselors had let Jason drown, thereby starting the tragic events that followed, sending Mrs. Voorhees over the edge. I always assumed that Mr. Voorhees had run off after creating a kid like Jason and couldn't take his wife who was starting to get slightly bent as she focussed totally on their child.
DID SEAN APPROACH YOU WHEN THEY MADE "JASON GOES TO HELL" TO DO WRITING, OR EVEN BE INVOLVED?
I haven't spoken with Sean since our partnership came unglued during the pre-production of "Spring Break";.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FRIDAY FILM? IF IT IS THE FIRST, WHAT IS THE SECOND FAVORITE?
I have not seen so much as a frame of any of the Friday films that followed. I was paid for the rights, etc., but I was never all that happy that Jason became the villain. The best part of the film I wrote was that the villain was a mother, thus making a super-travesty out of mother love. Jason had only been an innocent victim, a retarded child whose mother went insane when he drowned. His appearance in the "dream" at the conclusion of the first film was intended to be a "chair-jumper" for the audience, not the precursor to what came afterwards.
WERE THERE ANY SCENES THAT WERE FILMED BUT NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FILM? WHAT ABOUT SCENES IN THE SCRIPT THAT NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FILM?
I am sure, but it's been so long...
DID YOU EVER WRITE A SCENE WHERE JASON SEES HIS MOTHER GET KILLED?
I never did. I don't know what came later.
IS THE SOUNDTRACK FOR THE ORIGINAL FRIDAY AVAILABLE ON CD. WHERE COULD PEOPLE FIND IT?
I have no clue, but I do know that kids in my old neighborhood used to imitate the sound track when they walked past my house. It was pretty funny...
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE PROFESSIONALLY SINCE FRIDAY PART ONE?
I co-authored Sean's next film, "A Stranger is Watching", published a bunch of novels, went on to write for daytime TV: ONE LIFE TO LIVE, ALL MY CHILDREN, GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD.
HAVE YOU EVER MADE A CAMEO APPEARANCE IN A FRIDAY FILM OR ANY FILM?
I've never been asked.
WHAT SONG DID THEY PLAY IN THE DINER IN PART ONE WHEN STEVE TELLS THE WAITRESS HE HAD TO GO BACK TO CAMP?
I haven't seen the film in a couple of years, so You've got me...
HOW DID STEVE KNOW ALICE, WERE THEY INVOLVED? CAUSE HE SAYS, "GIVE ME A WEEK. IF BY THEN YOU'RE NOT HAPPY, I'LL PUT YOU ON THE BUS MYSELF" WHY, DOES HE HAVE SOMETHING WITH HER?
In previous drafts there'd been an illicit relationship in more detail, but it got in the way of the story.
WHO DID YOU ENVISION CRAZY RALPH TO BE?
Crazy Ralph, known as Ralphie the Rat Boy when Sean and I were working on the screenplay, was one of those crazies you see in Deliverance, a demented person who knows the truth, a character who gives you the sense that the world you're in is not what it seems, a soothsayer right out of Shakespeare. Most people think people like Ralphie are nuts, but they are closer to reality in some ways than the "normies".
WHAT CAMP DID THEY FILM THE ORIGINAL CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE AT?
Camp NoBeBoSco in New Jersey, North Bergen Boy Scouts in Blairstown.
DID THEY DO ALL THE FILMING IN BLAIRSTOWN, N.J.
Yes, as the leaves were changing to red and gold which made the shooting difficult at best. They were racing against autumn in a film which was supposed to take place in early spring.
WHERE THERE OTHER PLACES THAT THEY WERE GONNA FILM THE MOVIE AT, BUT NEVER DID?
Not that I know of.
WHERE DID YOU ALWAYS ENVISION THE MOVIE BEING FILMED WHEN YOU WROTE IT? WHAT CAMP, OR CITY?
Just a perfect-looking place that everyone would assume was a good, safe place for their kids.
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