Even before Freddy vs. Jason was released at cinemas, a young rising executive at New Line Cinema was already plotting a sequel. Combining the characters of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees with that of Ash Williams, the reluctant hero of the Evil Dead series, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash became hot property at the studio and looked set to be their next installment for the fledging Friday the 13th franchise. Yet, despite the success of Freddy vs. Jason, New Line decided to shelve the idea and the project seemed doomed. Yet, through a collaboration with writer James Kuhoric and artist Jason Craig, the story has finally made its way to the fans in the form of a graphic novel mini-series.
Jeff Katz talks about the long journey of making Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash a reality.
How did you become involved with New Line Cinema and, more importantly, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash?
I’d wanted to work at New Line since I was a little kid, about seven or eight years old. I fell in love with genre films – Elm Street especially – at a young age. Bob Shaye was from Detroit (Sam Raimi’s family lived next door to me as well) and I was inspired as a child that someone from my neighborhood could go to Los Angeles, start his own studio and make cool movies. Bob and I started corresponding when I was in fourth grade or so and I resolved to go to New Line as soon as possible. Following some lucky career breaks as a teen I was able to drop out of college, call in my chip with Bob and get an internship at New Line. My entire goal was to get involved with Freddy vs. Jason as I had read every script they’d done on the project to date.
I was fortunate enough to be put on the movie as an executive and, ultimately, it was what launched my career in Hollywood. FvJvA was something I pitched around New Line starting as an intern and, later, as an executive it seemed like something I could actually pull off. So once FvJ performed well at the box office New Line was cool enough to back my idea and had me write up the treatment. We tried to put a deal together a few times but the realities of Hollywood dealmaking prevented it from coming together. Still, I’m incredibly grateful for Freddy, Jason and Ash coming into my life and am proud to see the story live on as a comic.
Had you always been a fan of the three franchises and how confident were you that they would work well together?
Fan would be an understatement. All three franchises were a huge part of my life. They seemed to fit very naturally. My big thing after FvJ was to get a hero that would be as interesting as Freddy and Jason as villains. And in the genre there’s only one that comes close and that’s Ash. To have the Necronomicon in JGTH, enabling us to set it up, was just a bonus.
What was the length of the treatment that you wrote and how long did the process take?
I can’t remember specifically but it wasn’t long. Most of these ideas were things I had been playing around with before it ever seemed like a reality. I knew this would be something that would get people talking and it was an idea that I, as a fan, would’ve loved to have seen. So I wrote it very much from the standpoint of what I’d have loved as a hardcore fan, thinking that other hardcores would enjoy it the same way I would.
The story is centred around the Necronomicon, which was referenced in both the Evil Dead movies and Jason Goes to Hell. Was it difficult to fuse the three separate mythologies together, and which character were you most interested in?
The Necronomicon in JGTH was huge for us, as it gave us a legitimate underpinning to get these franchises together. It would have been forced otherwise, to say the least. It gave us an organic reason. The mythologies actually worked really well together, which didn’t really surprise me. These three guys together just always made sense in my mind. I love all three characters so the idea of Ash meeting up with these two, plus smartening up Jason and giving Freddy greater power generally made the entire thing something I could invest in and love to work on.
Were you impressed with the Freddy vs. Jason movie, as many fans felt it was too camp and dumb, even for a slasher movie?
Ha! But how do you really feel? Well, considering I worked on it and it launched my career, I suppose I’m slightly biased. I’d certainly argue we were less campy than the later Fridays and Nightmares. The idea was to return Freddy and Jason closer to their iconic versions, which to me was Freddy from one-four and Jason from four and six. Both in terms of look and tone. Those were my favorites personally. Generally the fans I’ve met have seemed like the liked the movie and the box office seems to speak to some level of satisfaction. But you’re never going to please everybody. All told though, I am proud of the film and think it’s very true to the characters and their continuity.
How instrumental were Sean Cunningham and Sam Raimi as you were preparing the treatment. Did you find that you were receiving a lot of support from the studio?
Well, I worked at the studio so I think it’s safe to say there were supportive. It required some education for them as to who Ash was, Evil Dead and all that. Generally they were terrific. I love Sean and Sam, who are both terrific guys, but it was pretty much me in a room. Sean, especially, was very supportive.
Had the treatment attracted the attention of any of the actors – Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell – and who were you hoping would play Jason?
Yes. I went to Bruce early on for his blessing. Bruce is also from my area in Detroit originally and his father and my mother were friends. So there was a natural connection. Rob Tapert was someone I roped in early as well. Robert was always hugely supportive. He’s a great guy and loves that character. In terms of Jason, we were open minded but – and I know this one will be controversial with the fans – I suspect it would have been Ken again.
Were any directors suggested for the movie or did talks not reach that far?
We had plenty of people reach out once word got out we were talking about it. Some names that would surprise you probably. It just speaks to the eternal popularity of these three franchises. They’ll be scaring and inspiring kids for generations to come.
How supportive were the fans of the movies once the concept was leaked out onto the internet?
Hugely. Just incredibly supportive. The fans are the reason this thing ultimately saw the light of day as a comic. And the success of the comic since the release is a testament to their dedication and love for the franchise. It’s really cool to see and it makes me proud to be one of them.
Once it seemed that the movie was not going to happen, how did the comic book come about?
It was something we were talking about casually over a couple years until ultimately David Imhoff from New Line put the deal together. It was timing, at the end of the day. Bad timing is what killed the movie deal. Good timing is what enabled the comic series.
How much input did you have in the writing of the comic, or was your treatment just used as a template?
James, Jason and Thomas were terrific about involving me. Initially the idea was for me to adapt the treatment but I left New Line to go to 20th Century Fox and was already writing Booster Gold for DC Comics, so schedule and my obligations to Fox were a major factor. Since Jason took the reins, though, he’s been incredibly gracious about involving me. All of them have been great guys. We’re all fans here and I think that shows in the finished product.
Have you read the comic series and, if so, what are your thoughts on it? Do you still wish it had been made as a movie, as many fans still ask about it?
Of course I read it. Movies are my day job, comics my side gig. I’d obviously love to have seen this as a movie as it was my passion project. But as a comics fan I can’t really be disappointed considering the response to the thing. I’m just proud it will continue to live on. And now, with the Friday and Nightmare remakes coming, in some ways the series is the true continuation of the current (or classic) continuity. I’m very very proud of that.
Had the movie happened, and had been a success, where do you think the new franchise could have gone from there? Which other horror icon would you have liked to have seen thrown into the mix?
The idea was for Ash to be the one to kill Freddy and Jason and then go off into a larger budget Evil Dead film for Sam to be more involved in. That was the idea. There were clearly other icons to get involved, and Malek Akkad and I had talked about it a few times as he’s a friend of mine. But ultimately I think the big battle royale version is best served as a video game, which is something I think will happen eventually.