17 Surprising Facts About Friday the 13th

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

In the fall of 1979, a group of unknown actors, a director desperate for a hit, and a special effects visionary got together in the woods of New Jersey to create the stuff of legend. Friday the 13th was supposed to be a simple exercise in good movie business, a film that would make money thanks to clever manipulation of the horror genre and some gory scares. Instead, it became a watershed moment in horror filmmaking, a landmark that has inspired countless imitators and nearly a dozen sequels.

Today, Friday the 13th is an essential slasher classic, but the road to success wasn’t exactly easy. To celebrate the film, and its often tumultuous production, here are 17 facts about the birth of the legend of Jason Voorhees.

1. THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATION WAS HALLOWEEN.

In 1978, producer and director Sean Cunningham was looking for a model on which to build a commercially successful film, and he found one in John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween. The two films ultimately don’t share much other than very broad slasher tropes, but Cunningham says he “was very influenced by the structure of Carpenter’s film.”

2. THE FILM WAS BEING ADVERTISED BEFORE IT EVEN HAD FINANCING.

Hoping to drum up publicity for his project, Cunningham took out an ad in the July 4, 1979 edition of Variety, featuring the film’s now-iconic logo bursting through glass. At the time, the general structure of the film was in place, but Georgetown Productions had not yet fully agreed to finance it, and the advertised November 1979 release date was a pipe dream. Still, Cunningham did get a response from the ad. “Everybody wanted this film,” he later said.

3. THE SCREENWRITER HAD A DIFFERENT TITLE IN MIND.

Though Cunningham very quickly latched on to the idea of Friday the 13th as a title, well before the film got made, screenwriter Victor Miller originally came up with something else. In the spring of 1979, he was calling the film Long Night at Camp Blood.

4. MANY OF THE SPECIAL EFFECTS WERE “BAKED” IN THE CAMP’S KITCHEN.

Tom Savini is now a makeup effects legend thanks, in part, to his work on Friday the 13th. And in making the film, he and assistant Taso Stavrakis actually ended up using the camp to finalize the special makeup effects. According to Savini, many of the latex appliances ultimately used to create the film’s gruesome murders were baked in the pizza ovens at the camp where the movie was filmed.

5. THE CAMP USED FOR FILMING IS STILL OPERATIONAL.

Camp Crystal Lake is actually Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, a fully operational camp that the cast and crew were granted access to after campers left for the summer in 1979. It is still in use today.

6. KEVIN BACON WAS NOT THE FILM’S BIGGEST STAR AT THE TIME OF SHOOTING.

Kevin Bacon stars in 'Friday the 13th' (1980)
Paramount Pictures

Though he’s without question the biggest name in the movie now, Kevin Bacon hadn’t done much prior to Friday the 13th, apart from things like a small role in Animal House. At the time, the film’s biggest name was Harry Crosby, son of then-recently-deceased legendary singer Bing Crosby, who played Bill.

7. SHELLEY WINTERS WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR MRS. VOORHEES.

For the now-iconic role of Mrs. Pamela Voorhees, Cunningham and company went in search of an actress with a recognizable name whose career was nevertheless on the decline, so she could be paid relatively little and the budget could stay low. Cunningham eventually made a list of actresses he was considering, and two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters was his top choice. Winters wasn’t interested, and while fellow candidate and Oscar-winner Estelle Parsons actually negotiated to be in the film, she ultimately backed out. Cunningham also considered actresses Louise Lasser and Dorothy Malone right up until filming began, but ultimately the production wound up with Betsy Palmer in the role.

8. BETSY PALMER TOOK THE PART SO SHE COULD BUY A NEW CAR.

When Cunningham finally got around to offering Palmer the part of Mrs. Voorhees, she suddenly found herself in need of cash. After more than a year on Broadway, her car broke down as she drove back to her home in Connecticut. She might never have taken the movie if she hadn’t needed the money for a new car.

“I got home at five in the morning, and it was a situation where I desperately needed a new car,” Palmer said. “If I hadn’t needed a car, I don’t think I would’ve done Friday the 13th.”

9. SEVERAL CREW MEMBERS PLAYED THE KILLER BEFORE PALMER WAS CAST.

Even as filming got underway, Cunningham was still looking for an actress to play Mrs. Voorhees, so many of the early murder scenes were actually shot without Betsy Palmer, with members of the crew standing in for the hands of the murderer. For example, when Annie’s (Robbi Morgan) throat is cut early in the film, special effects assistant Taso Stavrakis is the one wielding the knife.

10. BETSY PALMER GAVE MRS. VOORHEES A DETAILED BACKSTORY.

When she was finally cast, Palmer dove deep into her character. As a Method actor, she wanted to know more about the character than the audience, and came up with a backstory that built on the killer’s hatred of sexual transgression. In her mind, Pamela had Jason out of wedlock with a high school boyfriend, and her parents ultimately disowned her for her sins because that “isn’t something that good girls do."

11. JASON WAS JUST A REGULAR KID IN THE FIRST DRAFT.

Adrienne King stars in 'Friday the 13th' (1980)
Paramount Pictures

In Victor Miller’s original script, the character of Jason Voorhees was, basically, just a kid who accidentally drowned in Crystal Lake. But financier Philip Scuderi wanted something more, and brought in screenwriter Ron Kurz for some rewrites. One of Kurz’s most important contributions to the film was to transform the tragic boy into the deformed child we see in the final movie.

12. DURING FILMING, THE CREW WAS ENTERTAINED BY LOU REED.

Because the camp was closed during filming, and situated in the deep New Jersey woods, the cast and crew didn’t see much outside interference, but it turned out they had a very famous neighbor: rock star Lou Reed, who owned a farm nearby.

“We got to watch Lou Reed play for free, right in front of us, while we were making the film,” soundman Richard Murphy said. “He came by the set and we hung around with each other and he was just a really great guy.”

13. ONE ACTOR WAS TEMPORARILY BLINDED BY FAKE BLOOD.

For the scene in which Bill (Harry Crosby) is killed by multiple arrows, one of which lands in his eye, Tom Savini used a fake blood formula that included a wetting agent called PhotoFlo, which was supposed to make the fake blood soak into clothing and look more realistic. Unfortunately, PhotoFlo is not an ingredient used for “safe blood,” meaning blood that’s going to be encountering the face of an actor. For the arrow-in-the-eye moment, a latex appliance was applied to Crosby’s face, along with the blood. As the scene was shot, the blood welled up into Crosby’s eyes, causing intense pain when the appliance was removed.

“So our unsafe blood had an opportunity to fill up Harry’s eyes under the appliance used to keep the arrow looking like it was in his eye and it surface-burned poor Harry,” Savini said. “Not a proud moment.”

Crosby had to be taken to the hospital for treatment, but was ultimately fine.

14. KEVIN BACON’S ICONIC DEATH TOOK HOURS TO FILM (AND ALMOST DIDN’T WORK).

Perhaps the most iconic death in the film occurs when Jack (Kevin Bacon) is killed with an arrow shoved through his throat from underneath the bed he’s lying on. It’s a brilliant special effects moment, and was also the most complex death scene in the film. To make it work, Bacon had to crouch under the bed and insert his head through a hole in the mattress. Then, a latex neck and chest appliance were attached to give the appearance that he was actually lying down. Getting the setup right took hours, and Bacon had to stay in that uncomfortable position the entire time. For the bloody final moment, Savini—also under the bed—would plunge the arrow up and through the fake neck, while his assistant—also under the bed—operated a pump that would make the fake blood flow up through the appliance. To further complicate things, the crew needed someone to stand in for the killer’s hand as it held Bacon’s head down, and they settled on still photographer Richard Feury.

So, after hours of setup and latex building and planning, it was finally time to shoot the scene, and when the moment of truth came, the hose for the blood pump disconnected. Knowing that he basically only had one take (otherwise they’d have to build a new latex appliance and set everything up again), Stavrakis grabbed the hose and blew into it until blood flowed out, saving the scene.

“I had to think quick, so I just grabbed the hose and blew like crazy which, thankfully, caused a serendipitous arterial blood spray,” Stavrakis said. “The blood didn’t taste that bad either.”

15. THE FINAL SCARE WAS SUPPOSEDLY NOT IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT.

The story of who invented the final scare in the film, in which a deformed Jason bursts out of the lake and grabs Alice (Adrienne King) from her canoe, is disputed. Victor Miller, Tom Savini, and uncredited screenwriter Ron Kurz all claim credit for it, Kurz because he claims to be the one who made Jason into a “creature,” and Savini because he claims the moment was inspired by a similar final scare in Carrie. Whatever the case, it left a lasting impression.

16. THE MAIN THEME MUSIC CAME FROM A LINE OF DIALOGUE.

When composing the score for the film, composer Harry Manfredini was looking for a distinctive sound to identify any point when the killer appeared in a scene. When he first saw a print of the film, he heard Mrs. Voorhees, imitating Jason, saying “Kill her, Mommy!” and decided that was the key. So, he took two syllables from that line of dialogue, spoke them himself, and made the iconic sound.

“So I got the idea of taking the 'ki' from 'kill' and the 'ma' from 'mommy,’ but spoke them very harshly, distinctly, and rhythmically into a microphone and run them through this '70s echo thing. It came up as you hear it today! So every time there was the perspective of the stalker, I put that into the score,” Manfredini said.

17. THE SCREENWRITER HATES THE SEQUELS.

Jason Voorhees in 'Jason Takes Manhattan'
Paramount Pictures

One of the key twists of the original film, particularly in light of its many sequels (counting a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street and a reboot, there are 11 now), is that Jason is not actually the central figure. He provides a haunting mythology, but the real villain is his mother. For screenwriter Victor Miller, this was very important, and he framed Pamela Voorhees as the mother he never had, a woman who tirelessly professed love in her own crazy way. When the film became a hit, and the inevitable sequel featured Jason as the new killer, Miller was disappointed.

“To be honest, I have not seen any of the sequels, but I have a major problem with all of them because they made Jason the villain,” Miller said. “I still believe that the best part of my screenplay was the fact that a mother figure was the serial killer—working from a horribly twisted desire to avenge the senseless death of her son, Jason. Jason was dead from the very beginning. He was a victim, not a villain. But I took motherhood and turned it on its head and I think that was great fun. Mrs. Voorhees was the mother I'd always wanted—a mother who would have killed for her kids.”

Additional Sources: On Location In Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th by David Grove (2013)

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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