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Aaron Yoo is the funniest person in FRIDAY THE 13TH. It’s not a distinction that serves him well in this regard but Aaron provides some short and snappy comic relief before coming face to face with the homicidal maniac looking to kill everyone. The genuinely nice thing about Aaron’s performance, though, is that he represented one potential kill in this movie about, well, murder. As I mentioned in my review of the film this entry stands heads and shoulders (ones that haven’t yet been decapitated) above its peers if you were to stack it against the “horror” entries of the 90’s. Back then it seemed to be all about irony and not so much about the killin’. This FRIDAY THE 13TH, though, is all about the killing and I couldn’t have been more delighted. The screams are great, the creativity that went into the kills was inspired and you have what is a rock solid reboot of a film.
The last time I talked with Aaron he was starring last year in 21 and so having the chance to talk to him again was something I could not pass up. I caught up with Aaron a couple of days ago, the night after the film’s premiere in LA, to talk about Voorhees, the nature of horror and whether Jason ever did a little soft shoe right before takes. FRIDAY THE 13TH opens everywhere today…
AARON YOO: What’s up?
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: I saw the movie last night.
YOO: Were you at that big messy thing we were at?
CS: No man. I live here in Arizona…so I don’t get to do any of that.
YOO: Oh, OK. I more or less saw the movie last night myself.
YOO: There was more of a disaster around it probably than was going on around your end. It was just the premiere and those are always like the equivalent of a human shipwreck.
Chaos and more chaos and flashing lights and cameras and afterwords you are stranded on an island of alcohol.
CS: Well, what was it like seeing it last night finally all put together?
YOO: It’s really interesting. I’ve never done a full on horror movie. I found it interesting. I’ve done scare stuff in the past but when you know a scare is coming it’s kind of, it comes sort of as a intellectual exercise so it’s hard to tell. I’m not really sure and curious to know how editors and directors and such of horror films put movies together because if you are not scared by yourself, what’s the mathematics of what scares a person? People were being scared around me and so I was like, “OK…” It’s a really odd experience.
CS: I was reading a little of what happened on the set and found out that your first day on the set came after you had your appendix taken out.
YOO: Yeah, I actually had a bit of a complication from appendix surgery from years ago and so it was just something that acted up and was at the Kayne concert and I thought I don’t feel good. So it’s basically the equivalent of having appendicitis again. Brutal to have that twice in your life. I went the morning after and called my cast mate Arlen Escarpeta at 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning and said, “Hey, I think you need to take me to the hospital.” So he was like, “OK, I’m coming.” And then the docs said, “You need surgery.”
I initially thought it was going to be schedule prohibitive of me doing this movie but give all credit to Platinum Dunes and everyone in the film and Marcus, and Brand, Andrew and Michael over at Platinum Dunes and everybody. They wanted me to stay on the film so they filled the whole schedule around so I could have time off and I came back on set 10 days after surgery or something like that and started shooting again. So it was pretty cool. I did a fair amount of the movie. My own little trivia question is more like how much of the movie did I do? But I did a fair amount of the movie with 18 staples so it was a pretty interesting experience.
CS: Based on that, there is a lot of wiggling on your part. You get a little physical with Jason.
YOO: Yeah, if you could have seen – I guess what a horror movie is is to see the expressions of my producers every time – I did a lot of falls and stuff and did that on purpose and I didn’t really them I was going to do it until I started doing it. And people thought I should say hey, I might fall here. The first time I would do it in rehearsal or do it in a take people were like, “Cut, cut, cut. Are you OK?” And I’m like, “Really, I’m OK. I’m doing that on purpose. Don’t. That’s a good take.”
So people would just hold their breath. I would freak them out like maybe I should have given them an advanced warning. Andrew Form, one of our producers, would say I was giving him a heart attack every time you do that. But sometimes, and I always feel like, getting to do what we do is a gift so you just have to have fun with it and don’t worry about anything else and you often don’t want to come back and not be doing my job. When I did my scene with Jason they were saying just kind of push him in the wall and mess him up and Derek and I…we were doing the scene and did a couple of takes and it didn’t feel like it was working and I said to him “Can you just push me into the wall?” and he said, “Are you are asking me if that is physically possible? Come on. I could do that with one arm.” So, I said, “OK, do it.”
And then he threw me into the wall and everyone was, “Whoa!” Because it looked real, right?
CS: One of the things that makes this movie so great is that it does. It feels brutal.
YOO: Yeah. I felt like that too, even if you know what’s coming or not, is the brutality of it. There were definitely scenes – there were scenes that surprised me and I don’t scare easily in general – but there were scenes where people were dying and the first couple of times you could hear the whole theater going, ah, ah, ah, oh, oh, oh. I think my character landed the biggest one of those.
CS: And well deserved because I was going to tell you when it does happen, and I’m not going to ruin anything for anybody, but it’s definitely one that caused a lot of reaction from the crowd.
YOO: Can I ask you what was the audience like where you were seeing it? Was it critics?
CS: No, it was a little bit of both. Very big theater. Maybe a dozen or so critics and maybe 100-200 regular fans.
YOO: Awesome. Awesome. It’s really interesting to see – a bunch of us are trying to see opening night screenings Friday – just to see what’s that like. The photographers at the premiere were wearing Jason masks. I was recently traveling out of the country and anywhere I went people knew Friday the 13th. They couldn’t speak any English at all and I’d say Friday the 13th in their language and they would say “Jason”, “hockey mask” and it’s incredible. So, I’m really curious to see what opening night audiences will be like for this movie. Should be a lot of fun.
CS: I think, genuinely, and I’m being honest, it does count as one of the best entries into the series because it takes out the goofiness and the high sheen of the previous entries.
YOO: Like what?
CS: I’m thinking when he kicks over the boom-box in JASON TAKES MANHATTAN.
YOO: You know the whole story about Friday the 13th is about where the hockey mask came from. It was only thing they could find to cover his head up. They lost the original cover they were using. It was a total accident. So, the whole series, the original, it’s amazing the cultural credit it has because there’s, and no disrespect to the filmmakers, but there’s a lot of on-the-fly patching things together in that original series so I think the plan they had over at New Line and Platinum Dunes was that, “Hey, we have this thing that everybody is so part of our sub-cultural sub-conscious but never been done well.”
I’m not sure what well is but, and you’re probably thinking what the heck am I talking about, this is not going to compete for an Oscar, but it’s a fun, if I may say, it’s a really fun ride.
CS: It absolutely is. You have Marcus directing and he did a great job of bringing back Texas Chainsaw but when you first initially got around this project, was it, and it’s OK to be honest to say a job is a job and I’ll take it, “I’ll do it” but were there any reservations on your part that it was not going to live up to what people were hoping it was in that this was going to be hopefully a straight up horror movie?
YOO: Well, I actually took my time thinking of it before getting on board the project. I went back and watched Marcus’s Texas Chainsaw and enjoyed the hell out of it. I was invited to take a look at the script which they were keeping under lockdown over at the Platinum Dunes offices and you roll up and there’s Transformers all over the place and all these posters and it was, I should have never asked the guys if this was done on purpose but they were like, here, why don’t you go take this script and go read it in Andrew’s office. And the office is just covered in mock-ups in pre-production art, costume posters, all this Friday the 13th stuff – all over the room. I was like, wow, this is Friday, the f’n 13th. Wow! And I was like, “If you’re going to do a horror movie, this is the way to go.” And it made sense from the beginning, Andrew, Marcus, Brad, everybody were like, we say sex, drugs, and Jason Voorhees. Bring back that kind of horror movie they stopped making in the early 80’s. You get the ones that are totally gruesome then you get all the iterations of the Scream genre and the Japanese and Korean horror remakes where it’s all atmospheric. But Friday the 13th is kind of like a theme park and that was the goal and hopefully it delivers.
When we were making it we were in Austin, Texas, one of the best places on earth and we said, “Let’s just have fun.” And one of the good things about having surgery while you are shooting is that it really puts things – makes things very simple – I just had a serious health issue which is now past, and this thing we do is just fun. So I had such a blast.
CS: I have to know, did you ever stand along side Jason at the craft services table, with him in full regalia?
YOO: Yeah! Derek and I didn’t shoot a lot of scenes together. We didn’t actually work together for the first month and so we were all hanging out off set and then we would shoot two sets at the same time on stage and we would kick it. Derek is genuinely – and I don’t know if I should tell people this because I don’t want to ruin their experience at the film – but he’s a genuinely a wonderful human being and hilarious and actually a riot to work with. He will make you laugh with his mask on right before you are about to do a take and then they call “action” and you’re laughing and like, “I hate you.”
“First of all, you ruined me. I can’t do the scene.” It’s interesting. I think maybe it’s best to meet Derek after you’ve seen Friday the 13th. The guy is a specimen. A physical specimen. He’s about 6′7”, maybe 270. He literally could chuck me with one arm, but just a genuine and hilarious human being.
CS: I saw him last year at Comic-Con when I previewed the footage. It was just sick. It was great when they showed it and Derek seems to know how to make Jason seem more than what he is.
YOO: Absolutely. We had such a good time working together. Last night I meant to tell him – I’m not sure I ever told him – that there’s this thing about my death scene with Jason where people say it’s just crazy with this certain thing I’m doing and I basically got – Derek and I were riffing between takes and he said this one thing and made me think of this other thing and I tried to do something in the take but it totally failed but in trying to do it, it made the take longer than it was meant to so I died for a really long time and it got really messy, my accident, not intentional at all. I was trying to do something and it wasn’t working but somehow my failure made it a keeper take. I love that how movies and scenes sometimes weird things happen. You’re trying to do something and makes this other thing happen which is what should have happened and everything comes together by mistakes.
CS: How dis that work out, doing your death scene - When are you blocking it out and is it tightly choreographed? I ask because sometimes it looks like people are flopping around, you in particular, like a fish.
YOO: It’s very highly choreographed. I don’t know about all actors but half of why I got into this whole crazy business. I remember being in Disturbia I get hit with a bat. I got to do everything except for, David Morse’s character hits me so hard that they wind up having a stunt guy flip over and fall to the ground and I’m watching that and said, I can totally do that. So I fell over the fence and stuff and said, “Why can’t I do that? I can totally do that.” And they said, “Uh, what are we going to do if you break something?” So I always ask to do as much of that stuff as possible because I get such a kick out of it. It’s like playing when you were a kid. You get to mark it all the way through. You play choreographer. We had a lot of fun. You know my death scene came up the day of. There was no blocking. Most of the death’s you have a blocking rehearsal earlier on some day you weren’t shooting and work out the kinks. And you show up the day of and just agree on realities of the day and the space and schedule of shooting and everything but we didn’t even have the set built and second of all in the original script you don’t see me die on screen. Somewhere along the line they said, “That’s stupid. Why are we not showing that?” And so, it was just back and forth and tossing ideas at the brain trust and then the day of we come in in the morning and they say, we got it.
And they told me, “Now we just have to figure out how to make this work by 2:00 this afternoon.” And, of course, we’re shooting other scenes. The special effects dept – Scott Stoddard is amazing does all the fake heads and amazing stuff and onset blood – very little computer CGI stuff. It’s old school, well done effects. So he had to come up with how it all was going to be done by 2:00 in the afternoon. He had basically 6 hours and we showed up on set and looking at the basic general idea and the tool shed and said, “What if it was over here, and that was over there….” We just kind of made it up. It was really fun. It’s really like when you are 7 years old and say, “No, I stabbed you, you’re dead. Honestly. This is a sword and you are honestly dead.” It’s just that sort of thing and I loved that when I was a kid. The one difference is that you have to get used to being covered in fake blood which is not comfortable after the third hour.
CS: Well, in order to get his up by Friday I have to cut it short but I definitely want to end with a question. Looking back at your experience, seeing the film finished on the screen last night, what did you take away with the nature of what Jason represents to movie history?
YOO: I think of Jason as the id…No, not really. I can’t intellectualize what I hope is a fun movie. I don’t know when that kind of horror film really came in, whether it was originally Halloween or whatnot, but I think it is the kind of movie that titillates people in a good and healthy way. Like scaring the pants off of you is sometimes good for your general well being. And Jason is the boogey man that you know you are going to enjoy being frightened of. He’s not trying to teach you anything. He’s not trying to scare you for any reason other than for you to have a good time. And hopefully that’s what we are putting in a box and giving people for Valentine’s Day.
And now, for those still reading, who would like to win some FRIDAY THE 13TH swag? I have 6 FRIDAY THE 13TH branded hoodies to give away and if you’re interested in winning just jot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and just write somewhere in that e-mail what your favorite entry is of this series. These things are L and XL, have a red little swath on the front saying FRIDAY THE 13TH and a pimp looking Jason mask that will always be looking behind you. They’re pretty pimp so big thanks to the sponsors who tossed some my way.
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