Both expressed their excitement with the project, with Robert especially seeming to rejoice in being able to play Freddy Krueger again. Unlike most actors who might feel trapped by an icon like Freddy, Robert Englund seems to delight in portraying all the eccentricities that the character possesses. He comes across a man who understands and appreciates what his fanbase and the character have given him in life.
As for Ken, this is not his first Friday film. He worked as a stunt coordinator on Jason Goes to Manhattan. This is his first time getting to play the man behind the mask though, for which he expressed a great gratitude. But that begs the question, what happened to the last guy who played Jason?
For those that don't know, Kane Hodder is the name of the actor whose been portraying Jason ever since Friday the 13th part 7: The New Blood. Unlike most actors who portrayed the killer with some degree of reluctance, Kane embraced the role of Jason wholeheartedly. Appearing at conventions and promotional tours, Kane seemed proud to have his name associated with the horror icon. To boot, he was one of the biggest boosters for putting together this Freddy vs. Jason movie. So when the movie finally ramped up from development to honest pre-production the actor was ecstatic. However, once director Ronnie Yu was selected Kane received an unpleasant surprise. The actor was not going to be hired on to play Jason for this movie. This of course created a small furor in the horror film community, but the decision remained firm and Ken was granted the opportunity to play Jason instead.
"Well I would like to say that there's no hard feelings between Kane and myself," stated Ken. "We're still good friends." Indeed the two have worked on many films together designing stunts and portraying movie monsters.
Robert was quick to echo that statement, and carefully chose his words about why Ken might have been selected for this movie over Kane. "I don't think Ronnie was as familiar with the Friday franchise as he was with the Nightmare one when he was offered the film. So the first real image of Jason he had were conceptual sketches that portrayed him as a practical giant. I think that image burned into his mind as he planned the movie." I would like to point out that Ken is a giant. At 6'2" I'm not a small guy, but the actor dwarfed me when I stood next to him.
Moving on to happier topics, the actors talked about their experiences in making F vs. J. Much like the characters they portray, Ken was mostly silent; content to sit and observe as the more loquacsious Robert regaled with anecdotes.
"One of the things that this movie does so well and that I absolutely love," states Robert, "Is examine the characters through a variety of different lenses. For example both characters are linked to a certain elemental characteristic that defines them. For Freddy it's fire, and for Jason it's water. It's an underlying theme that only becomes readily apparent when the two are held in contrast to each other. And this elemental pull between them creates such great visuals."
When discussing the legacy of the two franchises, Robert was equally enthusiastic. "Sometimes you lose sight over just how ingrained Freddy and Jason are into pop culture," he remarked. As an example, he talked about a late night shoot that they were filming at Camp Crystal Lake. Tired and wet with no end to shooting in sight, it was one of those evenings that make an actor wonder what they're doing. Of course it was that night that the cast and crew received some unexpected visitors.
"Bryan Singer was up in Canada as well," explained Robert, "putting up some finishing touches on X-Men 2." Singer, purportedly a big fan of both franchises, took his crew with him on a field trip to the Freddy vs. Jason set. "So naturally we all perked up," laughed Robert. "I mean Bryan is somebody who we'd all like to work with one day." But when they met him, Bryan was just overjoyed to be standing in the midst of Camp Crystal Lake and shaking hands with Jason and Freddy in full makeup. "So many people have grown up with these characters," ruminated Englund.
As far as the finished product itself goes, both were overjoyed with the result. "Ronnie has a very unique vision that definitely strengthens the film he's working on. I remember when I was in France at a horror convention watching some movies with Sam Raimi," recounted Englund, "and Bride of Chucky came on. I wasn't sure how well a movie like that would translate, but the fans ate it up. It was at that point I knew Ronnie was just a great choice to direct this film."
Ken was equally enthusiastic. "He [Ronnie Yu] provided great direction for the character of Jason himself. The movements are very stylized to bring out maximum effect. For example, Jason moves so calmly and sedately through the film for a very specific reason."
"Exactly," Robert added. "The audience gets used to viewing Jason as this very slow moving automaton. But when a scene like the rave occurs in the movie, where two teenagers are making fun of Jason, he suddenly lashes out and crushes their heads together with incredible speed. And the contrast between those two movements really imprints itself in the movie goers mind."
At that point the two actors had to go do photo and video promo spots. But their enthusiasm for the project was certainly infectious in person. I know I'll be there opening night ready for a fun night at the movies.
Tim Ritenour secretly has his money on Jason, but don't tell Freddy that.