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Adrienne King ("Friday the 13th") Interview
While at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival last month, I had a chance to speak with one of their special guests, Adrienne King, who played "final girl" Alice in Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2. She was there to introduce a screening of the first Friday, take questions from the audience afterward, and then do a signing. After all of that, she was kind enough to grant an interview to Classic-Horror.com, even though the hour was very late. I have to say that talking to Adrienne was one of the better interview experiences I've had, because at some point it stopped being an interview and started being about two horror fans chatting up the genre.
Classic-Horror.com: Let's talk a little bit about Friday the 13th. You came into it through an open audition.
Adrienne King: I did. They were casting and they were looking at everyone who was a young actor or young actress. They went to LA first and then they went to New York. I auditioned with the rest of the world, basically, you know what I mean? It was that many people there. Slowly but surely, they whittled it down. It was over the course of a month, it took. Then they had the guys reading with the girls, matching us up and seeing who would look good together and the whole deal. And eventually it came down to a screen test with a couple of women. [Director] Sean [S. Cunningham] had told me, “You're in this movie, I know you're in this movie, I just don't know where yet.” And then he told me, he said, “You're our Alice.”
C-H: And the slasher boom was just starting...
King: It was totally going (whistles) straight up there.
C-H: Did you ever look at the [casting] sides and kind of wonder, “What are we doing here?”
King: No, I didn't. It was kind of like, I knew what we were doing. What was wonderful about it was, right from the absolute start of it, you could feel that independent spirit. When everyone's on a film set for the right reasons, to make a movie, and there's no money, you know what I'm saying? It's basically passion and grit. All the actors were just starting out, all of us. And Sean was desperate for a big hit. He had done some little movies that were sweet – as he said, “They were sweet, but sweet doesn't pay the bills.” So we were all out there just kicking butt to make this work for all of us. And you could really feel it, there was a real camaraderie on the set, as soon as you got there. We all took a little bus up there together, and all the kids really got along. What you saw in the film was real interaction between all of us. [ominous voice] It wasn't until Betsy Palmer [who played Pamela Voorhees] showed up that everything changed.
C-H: Was there a feeling on set that this was going to become as it has?
King: You know, never could anyone have ever imagined what has happened to this film. We're sitting here 28, 29 years later speaking about it. It's a phenomenon, it's taken on a life of its own. Maybe we could have hoped it could have gotten finished, to begin with, and then once it was finished, we just hoped for it to be released. Then when we heard there was a bidding war on it between Paramount and Warners and – there was somebody else in it, I don't remember who it was. Then Paramount and Warners split the rights; Paramount took domestic and then Warners took the rest of the world. I don't know if anyone had an idea of how huge it would be, but I do believe at the screening, where I was attending with my mother, sitting quietly in the front, seriously... The suits, as I call them, were standing in the back, deciding how much they wanted to pay for the movie, if they wanted to buy it. Sean was [also] standing at the back with one of the producers. And that day, I believe, Frank Mancuso [Jr.] was there, who was the head of distribution for Paramount. And he was really the guy who saw the numbers, as far as I'm concerned. He had the foresight to say, “If we release this little horror film, it's so damn good" -- because it literally -- when we were watching it, my mom, at the ending, she thought it was over, as should be. When I told her, “Shh, just wait a second or two,” and Jason pops up. Well, she screamed probably louder than I do in the whole movie and jumped up a few feet.
C-H: There's good genes there, then.
King: Screaming genes, yes, definitely. I think that's when Frank Mancuso said “cha-ching.” And he was so smart, he released this movie in, like, 3500 screens across the country. They paid six million dollars, I remember this, in P&A – prints and advertising. Six million and the film cost us maybe 750 [thousand].
C-H: That first screening, did you go into it a little nervous, like maybe they wouldn't react to it?
King: No. Not at all. Because Sean was very open with us – unlike the director I worked with this past summer, [Mel House], on Walking Distance. Brilliant writer, director, producer. He was very closed, and I found this very interesting – he didn't want anyone to see their dailies. Which, you know, some directors are like that. Sean, on the other hand – we all watched dailies together. Actually, they were nightlies we watched. (laughs) It's funny for 2AM. I knew from what I saw – obviously, I didn't see anything edited, I saw just bits and pieces. We would watch them at the camp sometimes. That's how we knew that the canoe scene wasn't working the way he wanted it to work. I knew what he had was amazing, because I had seen it myself. And then when I saw the whole thing together, it was like “Holy s**t. HO-ly s**t.” And, “How the hell did I get to do this?” It was like, wow, this is amazing, this is really going to kick some butt.
C-H: And now you're name is on every single horror film website on the Internet. It's in every film guide.
King: Who knew? Seriously, who knew? Who could've ever, ever predicted such a thing?
C-H: It's crazy!
King: It is crazy! It's iconic, in a way.
C-H: Definitely iconic! I mean there's a whole...
King: That it's sort of...
C-H: Propagated itself?
King: Yes, exactly.
C-H: Not only in the sequels, but in the myriad of rip-offs and...
King: The comic books and the whole other series that have come out of it.
C-H: It's probably the impetus behind getting the Halloween franchise restarted in the late 80s.
King: I'm guessing probably they said, “Hey look, the Friday series is still going, they got nothin'. Let's give it a shot.”
C-H: You're not very fond of the Friday sequels.
King: I think they ran out of steam. I think that there's enough creativity in this world, there was so much to work with, that they could've come up with some better stories. They had this legion of fans that were so built-in to the series, I think they felt, “Whatever we put up there, as long as it says Friday the 13th, they're gonna come and see it.” And in a way, they were right, which I think is sad. I'm feeling, “Hey, took a little advantage here.” Let's at least give them something. Is it so hard to come up with something original? I guess so!
C-H: It's an exploitation of the horror fan.
King: Which is kind of in its way....
King: Slightly, yes. An oxymoron of sorts.
King: No, I'm saying, that's the way they look at us. Y'know, our genre, as the “black sheep.” We can make all the money and support all their artsy-fartsy films, but don't give us anything decent after the fact. What's this all about?
C-H: “What's the point, they'll come anyway...”
King: They do the same things with the DVD sets. “Let's just throw in another five minutes, the fans will buy another.” And personally, after having really connected with the fans and been, basically, resurrected by the fans, I kind of find a lot of fault in that. I truly do. I think that, if the fans are willing to come to the theater and put out their hard-earned money, why not give them something worthwhile? It's not hard. I don't think it's hard. There are a lot of talented, young filmmakers. Do a little research, do a little creative... Read some scripts, don't just pick up the next guy who's got the hot stuff in town.
C-H: And don't go off the last film that made big box office.
King: Thank you!
C-H: That's part of the reason why I think that the Friday the 13th series has endured as long as it has. There's a mythos there. There's a certain aspect of the American urban legend.
King: Absolutely. I agree with you there. The thing is, hopefully there will be some sort of infusion – if it's the remake, God bless – of some new energy that all of the sudden... Maybe they'll go back to somewhat of the original storyline and maybe pick up where they left off.
C-H: Try something new. Try something different. Not just a different location this time.
King: Exactly. And not just different girls in different costumes waiting to die different ways.
C-H: I like this! They should be talking to you more. It should not just be, “Maybe we'll use her, maybe we won't,” which is what happened with you and the remake, right?
King: They were toying around with Betsy [Palmer] and me doing cameos, which would've been nice and everything. But after... Well, I'm not going to say a word. I really wish them well. I hope that the fans are not upset, because I listen to them, I respond to them.
C-H: Will you be in the theater when it comes out?
King: I probably won't be in the theater. I'll probably wait for the DVD. But at the same time, like I said, I just hope for the fans' sake that it's good. I want it to be good.
C-H: Because they deserve that.
King: They do. And they're gonna go out and watch it, I know that. I have a MySpace, that one of the writers, who's a producer also... That's the wonderful thing – I meet young talent like you. I meet writers. I meet upcoming producers and directors, and it's like, I want them to have a chance. Y'know, let everybody have a chance. Network. Work together. There's enough talented people up-and-coming that they should utilize that. Seriously, read the websites. Read some of these horror sites, like Classic-Horror.com. See who's out there that maybe has something to offer. You are the guys that grew up on the originals.
C-H: We know what we're talking about. Well, I hope we know what we're talking. You certainly know what you're talking about.
King: Well, I'm plugged into it now. For the longest time, I was hiding under a rock, as you well know.
C-H: We're glad to have you back.
King: I'm glad to be back! [laughs] Seriously. I'm hoping that, be it the remake or maybe another sequel – like I was saying [during the Q&A] when I did the documentary [His Name was Jason] and I had to do research, which is just amazing in itself that I had to do research on the movie...
C-H: Why did they have you do that? You were in it!
King: I was in it, but they wanted me to intelligently be able to speak about the series as it progressed, which I could only get through so far. I don't mean that in a bad way, because I know that there's elements in each one of them, but I only had so much time to do so much homework, but I do love the genre and I enjoy watching it. When I did the research and I watched Part II, from the beginning – I [hadn't] watched it since it came out. I watched it and realized that you don't actually see Alice dead. You don't see her dead body. You don't see Jason and Alice together. You don't see Jason inflict the wound. I said to Dan [Farrands], the director of this, when he asked me, “How did you feel about being killed off in the second one?” I said, well originally, what I was told is that it was going to be open-ended, and, after having done my homework, I think it was. I think that there's a way that Alice...
C-H: You could do a Halloween H20 and show back up.
King: Right! You know, Alice and Jason have some unfinished business. You know, Alice unleashed the monster in Jason, as far as I'm concerned. When he saw her, or did he see her, kill his mom. Was he really a dream or was there some kind of toxic waste in the lake and he was a little boy and in six weeks all of a sudden he was a huge man who could somehow read the phone book and find out where Alice was staying. I don't know! ... Somewhere Alice is painting. Alice is painting somewhere and take it from there.
C-H: Your new film, Walking Distance, is that going to be out soonish?
King: Right now they're in post. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll be out, like, Spring of 2009. We're hoping for a theatrical release. Reggie Bannister is in it. And when I tell you that the script was worth my coming back for, all these years later, the film should be as good.
Classic-Horror.com would like to thank Adrienne King for taking the time to talk with us about her iconic role. King is very active involved with her fans -- you can follow what she's up to on her official MySpace page.