Entertainment Magazine

13 Things You May Not Know About Freddy Vs. Jason

Posted on the 30 May 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

You can see our other Nightmare on Elm Street lists here, and you can see our other Friday the 13th lists here.  Today, it’s time for Freddy Vs. Jason (2003), aka, the bastard child of a thousand re-writes

I first saw Freddy Vs. Jason at a sold-out opening night screening in which my best friend and I might very well have been the only white people there.  We were surrounded by individuals who had no problem giving truth to what black comedians have been saying for years: certain audiences turn horror movie watching into a truly communal experience.  The result was the most electrifying theater-going experiences I’ve ever enjoyed, as during the final Freddy/Jason fight it became more like a sporting event with portions of the crowd chanting for Freddy while others chanted for Jason. By the end, when Jason emerged from the water holding Freddy’s severed head there was cheering in the audience that was then drowned out by a deafening roar of applause when Freddy opened his eyes and smiled.

The shame is that absent that type of experience Freddy Vs. Jason is rather clearly a flawed film.  However, considering how long it took to finally happen, and the truly crazy directions it almost went along the way it’s a miracle it turned out as fun and basically coherent as it is.

1. It was officially first proposed back in 1987

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Jason’s James Bond parody at the start of Jason Lives

In 1987, Paramount owned Friday the 13th, which was still profitable but on the financial decline, coming off of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.  New Line owned Nightmare on Elm Street which had just hit huge with Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  Paramount approached New Line about doing a team-up film, offering to distribute it domestically while letting New Line distribute it internationally.  That was a sucker’s deal, and New Line knew it.  Plus, each studio wanted to license the other studio’s character so that they alone could control the making of the film.  Friday the 13th Executive Producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. asked Jason Lives director Tom McLoughlin to brainstorm a potential Freddy Vs. Jason story, but it ultimately amounted to nothing as the studios never came close to agreeing to a deal.

2. New Line began development on the project in late 1993, and would ultimately spend $6.8 million to develop 18 different scripts by more than a dozen screenwriters across the next decade 

After Jason Takes Manhattan went over budget but became the lowest-grossing Friday the 13th film to that point in 1989, Paramount Pictures decided it was time to walk away.  Original Friday director Sean Cunningham worked with New Line’s Head of Production Michael De Luca to buy the film rights meaning as of the early ’90s New Line owned the rights to both Freddy and Jason.  However, they didn’t really know how to bring the characters together in any way that made sense, leaving Cunningham to instead do Jason Goes to Hell in 1993 and Wes Craven to run with his experimental New Nightmare in 1994.  Both installments set respective franchise lows in box office gross.

However, those audiences who did actually turn out to see Jason Goes to Hell seemed to uniformly roar in approval at the final shot:

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According to director Adam Marcus, New Line executives didn’t know about this shot until they saw it at test screenings with audiences

That left Michael De Luca enthused enough about Freddy Vs. Jason to invite Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight‘s writers Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff to pitch him story ideas.  They were the first to do so for Freddy Vs. Jason, and would be far from the last.

3. The unused scripts came from people who’d late write things like Star Trek: First Contact, Battlestar Galactica, and Kung Fu Panda, and included concepts like “Fred-heads,” Jason becoming O.J. Simpson, and Freddy having molested Jason at Camp Crystal Lake

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Ronald D. Moore and his lovely Battlestar Galactica ladies

So, here’s how it went down: Michael De Luca had Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff (Demon Knight) write a script while Sean Cunningham had Lewis Abernathy (Deepstar Six, House IV) write a competing script.  De Luca hated Abernathy’s script, and wasn’t completely sold on Voris and Reiff’s.  So, he commissioned others from the likes of writing partners Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: First Contact), and even gave David J. Schow (Nightmare on Elm Street 5) a shot it because he quite literally just happened to be at the New Line offices one day.  They were finally getting somewhere when David S. Goyer (Blade) and James Dale Robinson (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) re-wrote Voris and Reiff’s script, which special effects guru Rob Bottin (The Thing, Legend, Total Recall) was briefly attached to direct.

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Then Scream came out, and the rules completely changed.  

Anything they had before was junked.  Over the next couple of years Mark Verheiden (Timecop, Smallville, Battlestar Galactica), Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (King of the Hill, Kung Fu Panda), and Peter Briggs (Hellboy) would all get a shot.

As you’d expect, the resulting screenplays were wildly different in story and tone, and bordered on the extremely crazy in some cases, such as Braga and Moore’s script which made Jason an anti-hero put on public trial ala O.J. Simpson, whose court case was huge news at the time.  Voris and Reiff ran with the idea that the way to introduce a reason for Freddy and Jason to fight was to introduce a new backstory in which Freddy had actually molested Jason at Camp Crystal Lake before tossing him into the river to drown.  Abernathy (and later Schow) loved the idea of something dubbed the “Fred-Heads,” basically a cult of Freddy worshipers determined to resurrect their “spiritual leader” at any cost.  This was the most popular idea at the studio, and would be a consistent element in most of the scripts, although Verheiden wisely deemed the idea beyond idiotic and would not include it in his script.

4. The project almost died for good when Michael De Luca was fired as New Line’s Head of Production

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Bob Shaye, former President of New Line. This man made Freddy Vs. Jason happen.

Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, writing partners with no prior screen credits, were finally the ones to produce a story treatment green-lit by New Line.  The pair had grown up as huge Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th fans, and had won Michael De Luca over with their pitch of returning to the franchise roots and trying to emulate the best elements of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.  Unfortunately for them, shortly after De Luca hired them in late 1999 he was fired, and New Line underwent executive re-shuffling.  De Luca, who began his career as an associate producer on Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and secretly wrote Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, had been the project’s biggest fan and supporter at the studio.  With him gone, none of the new executives wanted to be the person to cancel the project, but they also didn’t want to be the person who made Freddy Vs. Jason.

Out of desperation, Swift and Shannon penned a 40-page executive summary explaining exactly what should and what should not be in a Freddy Vs. Jason movie, and managed to win over New Line boss Bob Shaye and Production Executive Stokely Chafkin.  If not for either of them, but most especially Shaye, Freddy Vs. Jason would have likely died on the vine or re-entered into another decade-long development hell.

5. The original 130-page script from Damian Shannon and Mark Swift would have cost $60 million to produce and resulted in a 2 hour 28 minute long film

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When New Line interviewed Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky) for the directing gig two months prior to the start of production, he only said yes when they agreed to let him make whatever changes he wanted to with the script.  He ultimately called in David S. Goyer, current renowned hater of all green superheroes, to get the job down, cutting out all the fat and delivering something that could be filmed for just $25 million.

Some of the stuff that was cut included a backstory with Will and Lori’s father as well as an epilogue that wrapped up the characters of Lori and her father.  Plus, Freddy’s dialogue was changed since his one-liners were originally far more in keeping with the dark comedy of the first Nightmare on Elm Street, and he never said more than four or five words in a sentence.  With Goyer cutting out so many scenes he had to give Freddy more dialogue for the simple purpose of needing someone to explain the plot to the audience.  Plus, Goyer was ordered to add a new prologue establishing Freddy’s backstory whereas the original script started in Camp Crystal Lake.

6. As a little girl, Monica Keena was so terrified of Freddy Krueger she would not sleep and lost so much weight her teachers thought she was being abused at home

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So, of course Monica Keena would end up playing Lori, Freddy Vs. Jason‘s final girl.  Exactly how scared was she of Freddy?  She explains it all in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy:

“When I was 8-years-old, I went to my best friend’s house, and they were watching the original Nightmare on Elm Street.  I thought, ‘This is just too terrifying.  I’ve never seen anything like that before.”  I hadn’t been allowed to watch horror movies before that.  I was so traumatized I literally could not sleep for weeks, and it changed my physical appearance.  At the age of 8, I lost like 10 pounds.  My teachers got so concerned they called my mother, ‘Is there something going on?  Is she being abused at home?’  My mother found a picture of Robert England the actor, and Robert Englund in the Freddy Krueger make-up, and pasted them up near my bedside table.  So, every night when I’d go to sleep, literally for like a year, I’d have to look at it and think, ‘It’s just a movie, it’s just a movie, it’s not real.’  I remember thinking that I was going to grow up one day, and be an actress and never make a movie that scares little kids.”

So, yeah, that apparently happened.  Keena does reason that perhaps her screams in the film are so deafening because she was tapping into some repressed childhood fears.  When she told the above story to Robert Englund on the last day of filming he simply laughed because what the hell else do you say to that?

7. Brad Renfro was originally cast as Will, the male lead, but showed up to set so strung out they had to re-cast a week prior to shooting

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Brand Renfro looking so adorable in 2001′s Ghost World

One of those talented-but-troubled young actors who died too young, Brad Renfro was a mess when they hired him to play Will in Freddy Vs. Jason.  His agents assured the casting directors that Renfro’s troubles, such as alcohol abuse and once stealing a speedboat, were behind him as he’d just come out of rehab.  So, the role was his contingent upon his first meeting with Ronny Yu and earning his approval, but New Line hired him before the meeting took place.  When he arrived in Canada to meet Yu, he was drunk, looked like a street bum, and later got so high on heroin he disappeared to God knows where for a full week.

So, they had to cut him loose even though they were again assured by his agents that he had checked into rehab in Phoenix, and was preparing for the film.  This was a week before the start of filming.  Incidentally, Monica Keena got the part of Lori after she tested alongside Renfro meaning they cast her because they liked her chemistry with Renfro.  They then cast Jason Ritter to replace Renfro because they liked his chemistry with Keena.

8.  Ronny Yu rejected casting future Vampire Diaries hunk Ian Sommerholder as Will because he “was too pretty”

13 Things You May Not Know About Freddy Vs. Jason

Ian Sommerholder in Vampire Diaries

They did have to make this decision literally one week before the start of filming, and Sommerholder is arguably prettier than Monica Keena (who is by no means unattractive).  So, Ru’s snap judgement wasn’t wrong, but, still, they could have had Damon Salvatore!  Instead, they ended up with Jason Ritter in a complete coincidence since Yu had just directed Jason’s dad John in Bride of Chucky.

9. It’s still not 100% clear why Kane Hodder was replaced as Jason

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Kane Hodder, keeping the Jason fanboy love alive at a convention

There were people like Michael De Luca championing Freddy Vs. Jason behind the scenes, but the projects’ biggest public cheerleader throughout the ’90s was arguably Kane Hodder, who had played Jason in Friday the 13th Part 7 all the way through Jason X.  Although an in-demand stuntman, Hodder always seemed to make time to appear at conventions, meet the fans, and speak on panels and assure anyone who would listen that it was his sincere hope to play Jason in Freddy Vs. Jason.  However, Hodder also had the unfortunate distinction of being the guy who played Jason at the tail end of the franchise’s popularity, and the embarrassment that was Jason X had just come out in 2002 around the time Freddy Vs. Jason was entering into production.

New Line initially left Hodder in the loop, sending him a Freddy Vs. Jason script in early 2002.  He met with Ronny Yu, and was subsequently made an offer.  They were lowballing him, and when he asked whether or not it was so low because he was going to be given profit residuals on the back-end or if they were simply trying to buy him out he was told they’d have to get back to him.  Next thing he knew they were saying he was still in the running for the role, but they were looking for someone with more expressive eyes.

Exactly who made the decision to ultimately go with someone else to play Jason depends on who you ask.  Ronny Yu has maintained he had no problems with Kane, and that the decision came from above him at New Line.  Freddy Vs. Jason producer Doug Curtis backs Yu up on that.  However, others have claimed the decision came from Yu because he wanted more expressive Jason.  The role would go to stuntman Ken Kirzinger, who had doubled for Kane in two shots of Jason Takes Manhattan.

10. A scene cut from the script made it clear Jason was afraid of drowning; not simply afraid of water!

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Seriously? The dude who constantly walks through rain at night is going to let that thin wall of water stop him from killing Freddy!

It makes no sense (no sense!) why Jason is suddenly afraid of water in Freddy Vs. Jason considering how frequently Jason encountered water or rain in the Friday the 13th films and showed no sign of fear.  The idea is supposed to actually be that he’s just really afraid of drowning since that’s how he orginally died, and was ultimately neutralized at the end of Jason Lives and The New Blood.  The original script made this far more explicit by featuring a scene in the dream world where Jason observes a little boy drowning and freaks out, thus making a far more concrete connection for the audience.

11. Proposed alternate endings included cameos from Pinhead from Hellraiser, a CGI Satan, and potentially Corey Feldman

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That creepy little bastard could have been back

The Pinhead cameo, to come during the final fight, was rejected before filming because New Line didn’t own the Hellraiser franchise.  A CGI Satan would have cost too much.  So, Swift and Shannon’s scripted ending involved a subplot about a housing development being built near Camp Crystal Lake, and among those protesting the construction would be Tommy Jarvis, potentially played by Corey Feldman, reprising the role from Friday the 13th Part IV.  These protesters would unwittingly come in-between Freddy and Jason during their final fight thus presenting even more victims for the two icons to slash through before getting to each other.

12. No one knew how to end the dang thing

At some point during the development process in the ’90s, Michael De Luca’s idea for Freddy Vs. Jason’s ending was to mimic what the movie Clue did: film multiple endings, but create different film prints for theaters.  Then, through advertising they’d let it be know that in one version Freddy won, the other version Jason won, but audiences wouldn’t know which version of the print their theater was showing.  That way the hardcore fans would definitely have to see it at least twice, right?

Obviously, that idea was abandoned, but it took quite a while until they came up with a better idea:

None of the proposed endings discussed in the above video were actually filmed.  Instead, the original filmed ending came from the mind of David Goyer, calling back to Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in the worst possible way:

Test screening audiences hated that nonsense!  It’s admirable and all to return our focus to Lori and Will at the end, but the freakin’ thing is called Freddy Vs. Jason.  We didn’t come for the main event hoping to see it end with the opening bout.  After that, either Ronny Yu or Bob Shaye (or both) came up with the idea which made it into the finished film: what if the result of the fight is a draw?  So, we get Freddy winking at the audience even though it makes no sense since he is literally nothing more than a severed head at that moment.

13. New Line’s advertising budget for Freddy Vs. Jason surpassed the marketing campaigns for all 10 prior Friday the 13th films combined 

New Line orchestrated a media blitzkrieg of Freddy Vs. Jason advertising, inundating television, radio, print, and the Internet with promotional material.  All told, they spent $25 million on advertising, almost identical to Freddy Vs. Jason’s production budget if you take away the near-$7 million in developmental costs on all the un-used scripts over the years.

 The final damage

  • Body Count: 20, 19 for Jason, 1 for Freddy
  • Box Office: Opening in August 2003, Freddy Vs. Jason took in a surprising $36.4 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a slasher movie to that point.  It ultimately amassed $82.6 million in domestic gross, $114 million worldwide, setting Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchise records for domestic gross.  That being said, the original 1980 Friday the 13th actually sold 1.1 million more tickets in its day, and had the lowest budget of any film in either franchise meaning it remains the most profitable Nightmare/Friday film ever. 

Next time, we’ll ponder just why they made everyone except for the main girl and guy so utterly despicable in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake.  Plus, no, they weren’t really having sex.  If you’ve seen the movie you know what scene I’m talking about.  

You can use the following links to check out all of our other “13 Things…” lists: Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Friday the 13thPart 2Part 3The Final ChapterA New BeginningJason LivesNew BloodJason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X,

Sources: Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street LegacyNightmareOnElmStreetFilms.com,  Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (the book & the documentary), FridayThe13thFilms.com

Freddy & Jason’s Full Final Fight


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