Interview: Ari Lehman (Jason Voorhees, Friday The 13th 1980)

Writer Steve De Roover of / has been steadily collecting interviews of Friday The 13th alumni over the years and has agreed to let publish these interviews for fans to read and enjoy. Below is Steve's interview with Ari Lehman (Jason Voorhees, Friday The 13th 1980). Big thank you to Steve for letting us share his interview with Ari!

Ari Lehman Interview
(Steve De Roover) How did you get involved in the movie-business and especially in Friday The 13th?

(Ari Lehman) First of all I want to give a warm greeting to you and all of your readers from over here at
CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE!...Now, when I was 13 years old I was interested in both
Music and Film, and I wanted to find out what it was like to be in a movie. Coincidentally,
Film Director Sean Cunningham happened to have his offices in the sunny, suburban town
of Westport, Connecticut where I grew up. I heard that there was to be an audition held in
the town YMCA, so I devised a plan. I arrived with a clipboard and a pen, and asked
"Where is the audition?", "Upstairs", was the reply, so I wrote that down in an official manner,
 and proceeded to walk upstairs, read for Sean and his casting director, and land an 80-line
role in "MANNY'S ORPHANS" a comedy about a bunch of inner-city kids who play Soccer.
The film was not a success, however, perhaps due to the fact that in 1978, most Americans
were not familiar with Soccer.

Director Sean Cunningham came up with an idea to make up for this setback after seeing
the success of the film "HALLOWEEN". His idea was simply the now-famous name:
"FRIDAY THE 13th". When Screenwriter Victor Miller said that there was a child needed
for a drowning scene in a lake, the first suggestion was Sean's son Noel. However, Mrs.
Cunningham would have none of that. Producer Steve Miner, remembered me from
"MANNY'S ORPHANS", and said, "Hey, why not Ari?". So, one Summer day, Sean
Cunningham calls and says, "We've got another role for you - can you swim?", "Yes.", I
replied, "Great - you got the part!", said Sean, and the rest is Horror History.

(Steve De Roover) Friday The 13th has celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Franchise is still going strong. What is the enduring appeal in this franchise?

(Ari Lehman) The dedication of the fans is what keeps Jason alive, and the "Friday the
13th" series is still going strong 30 years later. The original "Friday
the 13th was released at a transitional time for Horror in America. Movies
like "THE EXORCIST", "ROSEMARY'S BABY" and "CARRIE", which focused on
demonic possesion and the struggles of the human psyche, were all the rage
in the 70's. However, when "JAWS" was released, the effect was phenomenal,
bringing about a change in course. "JAWS" reminded film audiences how much
they are drawn to simply brutal Monsters, because the shark is reminicent
of The Creature in "CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON", and other Monsters.
Meanwhile, "JAWS" also took a usually festive location, the beach, and
turned in into a place of sheer terror.

The original "Friday the 13th" is a bridge between the female-character
driven Horrors like "EXORCIST" and "CARRIE" and the later Slasher Genre
Films. Betsy Palmer masterfully portrays a good woman, Pamela Voorhees,
sadly deranged by the drowning of her only son, Jason. Like "JAWS", she
turns usually placid location of a Summer Camp into a killing field, right
in broad daylight. During the chilling scene in which she confronts the
final survivor, Alice (Adrienne King), Pamela begins to speak to a vision
of Jason drowning, revealing that she is an insane murderess. This is very
much in the style of many Horror Films of the 60's and 70's.

It is in the final scene, however, where Jason comes up out of the water,
that the NEW ERA of the Monster was truly born. Very reminicent of "JAWS",
this scene was in fact not in the original script, and was written much
later, after Sean Cunningham saw "CARRIE", and wanted a similar surprise
ending. For one shocking moment Jason re-emerges, seemingly bursting out
over the heads of the audience, filling the theatre with slime, decay and
vengance! After this moment Jason ceases to be a vulnerable child and
bcomes an indestructible Monster, one that we were all waiting for since
our childhood films filled with Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The
Mummy, The Creature, Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and the evil Mr. Hyde.

Thanks to Crystal Lake Jason, Hockey Mask Jason was brought to life, and
this rekindled infatuation with Movie Monsters brought us Freddy Krueger,
more Michael Myers and Leatherfaces, and a slew of similar brutes. Fans
enthusiastically defend their favorite Monsters, and their favorite
actor's portrayals of those Monsters, just like I used to debate who was
better: Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula or Christopher Lee's? True Horror fans
will always flock to see films created in this grand tradition of
Hollywood Monsters, pioneered by Greats like John Barrymore and Lon Chaney
and championed by Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Lon Chaney, Jr.

(Steve De Roover) Were you aware at the time that you were working on something special and how does it feel to know after all these years that you were the first who played the iconic Jason?

(Ari Lehman) My interaction with the friends and fans of Jason Voorhees and "Friday the
13th" at Horror Conventions and FIRSTJASON concerts is extremely
gratifying and rewarding. In 1980, we all had no idea that this film would
capture the audience's imagination with such success. Now, it is clear to
me that each film in the series has essentially been created as a direct
response to the dedication of F13 fans worldwide. I have heard hundreds of
stories from fans about where they were when they first saw "Friday the
13th", as if it is a historical event. The reactions are so diverse: some
get nightmares, while one little girl told me she calls upon Jason to save
her from the bad Monsters in her dreams. I am honored to be the 1st Jason.

(Steve De Roover) Did the huge success of Friday The 13th open doors for you?

(Ari Lehman) Ultimately, after doing "Friday the 13th", I decided that I wanted to be a
musician, largely due to all of the waiting around one does as an actor on a movie set.
Truly, I live for the thrill of being at the edge of the stage in between a kickass band and
 a screaming audience. I now front a Monster Metal Band here in Chicago called
FIRSTJASON. FIRSTJASON is a musical experience that channels the inner workings
of the mind of Jason Voorhees. Jason is silent: FIRSTJASON is The Voice Of Jason Voorhees. (

(Steve De Roover) You were only four days on the set, but do you have some special memorable story's about shooting the movie? How was it like to work with director Sean S. Cunningham, actress Adrienne King and FX-wizard Tom Savini?

(Ari Lehman) Most of my experience working on "Friday the 13th" was directly with Tom
Savini, and his assistant at that time, Taso Stavrakos. It was the 1970's
still and there was a LOT of wild times going on, both on the set and at
Tom's studio in the Connecticut woods. This is just before Savini did
"KNIGHTRIDERS", the Motorcycle-Jousting movie, and he a Taso would ride
motorcycles and practice stagefighting with fencing sabres all over the
set. I had to learn to defend myself! One funny tale is how there was so
much joking around that there were actually laugh lines on one of the
molds for the original Jason head. Tom came up with a plan to get me to
sit still for the half hour it took to set the alginate. He asked me, "Do
you know Jim Morrison and The Doors?" "I have heard of them", I said.
"Well, listen to this," said Savini, and he put on "People Are Strange"
from the "Strange Days" album - I was instantly entranced, and remained
motionless throughout the entire LP, so we got a perfect mold!

(Steve De Roover) Friday The 13th was the first in line of many gory horror films. How did you experience are the bloodshed, because you were very young at the time of shooting?

(Ari Lehman) Having been working for months together with Tom creating the Jason masks
in his studio, I had already seen all of the setups for the effects, and
was mainly interested in watching how they worked. I was on the set for
the scene where Kevin Bacon's character is killed in bed, and also when
Harry Crosby's character was pinned to the cabin door. Harry Crosby was a
hero, by the way, and insisted that they continue shooting even after his
eye was in great pain. He was rushed to the hospital immediately after.

(Steve De Roover) How did you prepare for the part of were you just following instructions of Mister Cunningham?

(Ari Lehman) In fact, I did make an effort to "get into character" by staying away from
the other actors, and staring down into the waters of "Crystal Lake".
Imagining what it would be like to survive underwater like the "Creature
From The Black Lagoon" or "Swamp Thing". Kevin Bacon happened to see me
doing this and asked, "What are you doing Ari?", "I am getting into
character..." was my reply. He just about fell down laughing as hard as he
could, then went and got Harry Crosby and asked me to tell him what I was
doing. They both laughed even harder when I asked them how they "got into
character", and Kevin commented that he was more interested in "getting
into" the pants of the female "characters"! Funny stuff...

(Steve De Roover) What do you think of the direction of the character Jason in the following pictures?

(Ari Lehman) I feel that each actor who portrayed the grown-up Jason brought something
new to the role, starting truly with Steve Dash, who established the walk
and gestures, to Richard Brooker, who was the first to wear the Hockey
mask, to Ted White, a legendary Hollywood stuntman who added an element of
sheer brutality, to CJ Graham, who showed how Jason could withstand
anything. Kane Hodder is perhaps the most well-known, having played Jason
in four separate episodes, but more than that, I feel that he truly
embodied the role, mentally, emotionally and physically, setting the
standard for all future Jasons. Freddy vs. Jason focused on other aspects
of Jason's power, and Ken Kirzinger convinced us all that there was room
for new interpretations and collaborations, and brought the character to
new heights. Finally, Derek Mears has won over all of us Jasons, as well
as the fans and the critics, playing the role with a blinding ferocity,
maintaining Jason's rightful place in the legacy of Great Monsters.

(Steve De Roover) You were involved in the "Crystal Lake Memories" book, in Daniel Farrand's great documentary "His Name Was Jason" and in some of the new Deluxe Editions of the first three films. It looks to me that you are a huge supporter for the franchise. Why is that?

(Ari Lehman) First of all it is because of the friends and fans all over the world who
are dedicated to Jason and F13. I am an entertainer, mainly a musician,
and as such, I go where the audience is, and bring them music and theatre.
This is my role in life, and I do not take it for granted when I am
invited to appear. Another reward for me is how the most wonderfully surrealistic
moments ocur at Horror events. To walk into a room where others perceive
you as a representative of a legendary Hollywood Monster is always a
thrill, and sometimes even more. I have found Horror fans to be the most
interesting and warm people, and FIRSTJASON has been welcomed with open
arms by the Horror scene and the Metal scene all over the world. The fans
of Jason, F13 and Horror in general are the last vestiges of the darkly
romantic American literary movement exmplified by Edgar Allan Poe.

(Steve De Roover) Thanks for your time and success in the future with your music!

(Ari Lehman) MANY THANKS FROM CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE!!!...and remember...

JASON NEVER DIES!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Ari Lehman/Jason The First -

(Source: Friday the 13th The Franchise, April 20, 2012.