It’s so commonplace to see Friday the 13th’s influence everywhere today, from countless other horror films to television commercials and more. You name it, it’s there. But back in 1980, Friday the 13th was just a little horror film that nobody thought would go anywhere, outside of a few screenings at local drive-ins. 25 years and two-hundred million dollars later and the Voorhees legacy is now forever cemented in the annals of American film history. Emmy-award winning writer and creator of the Mrs. Voorhees and Jason characters Victor Miller spoke to Camp Crystal Lake Online recently about his work on the film. Thanks to Victor for taking the time to speak with us.
1) How did you first meet Sean Cunningham?
I was working on a movie with producers Brud Talbot and Saul Swimmer (The Black Pearl)and Sean knew Bud. We discovered that we lived 20 minutes apart in CT and hit it off.
2) The two of you worked on several films together before severing ties. What were the circumstances surrounding your troubles with Sean and what (if any) is your current relationship like with him?
Sean and I hit a karmic wall in 1982. I am happy to say we had a warm reunion at the time of the 25th Anniversary celebration.
3) Along with A Stranger is Watching, Friday the 13th is one of the only horror films on your resume. Are you a fan of the horror genre at all?
I am not really a fan of the horror genre. I scare far too easily. In 1946 I ran screaming from the screening of “The Seven Keys to Baldpate” at the Green Cove Springs Naval Base. That film was a horror comedy and, by present standards, is right up there with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy..
4) When is the last time you’ve seen the film, and how do you think it holds up to today’s releases?
I have seen the film two or three times in the last couple of years. I still think it is what Sean and I wanted to make: a damn scary roller coaster ride. But I think today’s films are hipper, more ironic, more self-referential. I think my demographic is TiVo-ing Law & Order SVU.
5) There seems to be some controversy surrounding the actual background of Jason. When writing the script, did you see him in your mind as the deformed, mongoloid child that appears onscreen?
Jason was, when alive, a slightly retarded kid. He wasn’t a deformed creature from the Black Lagoon, but that’s how movies are made. I don’t think the ending would have been as good if he were a cute blonde kid who looked like Betsy Palmer at 8 years old, do you? Tom Savini’s magic made that shot horrifying and we are all the beneficiaries.
6) Apparently, there were some uncredited rewites to the script by Ron Kurz. As a writer, how does it feel to have your script changed, and see something onscreen that you didn’t write? Is it personal, or does it come with the territory on such a collaborative effort as filmmaking?
Read Eleanor Perry’s Novel, BLUE PAGES, about her time in Hollywood. She quotes an overhearing in The Beverly Hills Hotel: “Writers are the women of the film industry.”
7) How much of an influence was John Carpenter’s Halloween when you first sat down to write Friday the 13th?
If it weren’t for John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s teaching me the structure of the 1980 hit horror movie, you wouldn’t be interviewing me right now. I have always credited that film as my model and I thank them for making it so accessible.
8) As an Emmy-winning soap opera writer, how do people react when they find out you wrote one of the most popular slasher films of all time?
We both laugh. In actuality, though I love daytime and it has been wonderful to me and my family, I would rather have written with the Zucker Brothers. The interior of my brain is more AIRPLANE than CRYSTAL LAKE or PINE VALLEY.
9) The first film was a straight forward revenge story, ending with the decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees by the lake. While I’m a fan of the series, it’s pretty obvious that the original story ended there. Having Jason actually alive and killing in parts 2 and onward requires a total lack of reality to the proceedings if it were to be believed at all. How do you feel about that?
The magic of my script is that THE MOTHER DID IT! Mrs. Voorhees takes apple pie and James Macneil’s Whistler and stands them on their head.
10) Over the years, many writers did scripts and/or rewrites for the films and some actually had their names removed or used a pseudonym for the credits. How do you feel about having your name attached to the Friday the 13th franchise?
The same way Barry Bonds must feel when he hits one into McCovey Cove.
11) 25 years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, did you have any idea that Friday the 13th would achieve such a level of notoriety?
Are you kidding? A few months before Friday opened I was trying to sell my blood to feed my family. Sean and I had done two movies that made squat. There were long odds against us.
12) What’s next for Victor Miller?
I’m going to open a Salvadorian restaurant and gain 300 pounds.
13) Any last words for the fans reading this interview?
Read Eleanor Perry. And learn.