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At twenty-six, Paul Kratka was the oldest of the principal cast members of Steve Miner’s 3-D sequel Friday the 13th Part 3. A client of acting agent Judie Savage, whose daughter, Tracie (later a respected anchorwoman), would be cast as one of his fellow victims, Kratka’s first and only role for over twenty years was as Rick (originally named Derek), the boyfriend of Dana Kimmell’s heroine, Chris.
Retiring from acting, Kratka studied marine biology but, after visiting a chiropractor, decided to change his studies and instead earned a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree. Having ran his own practise in Carlsbad, California, for almost twenty years, Kratka dedicated his career to informing his patients on the importance of healthy living, finding the right food supplements and maintaining a balanced diet. More recently, Kratka returned to acting with appearances in several short films.
Paul Kratka talks about his work with 3-D and Jason Voorhees on Friday the 13th Part 3.
How much acting experience did you have prior to Friday the 13th Part 3, and how did you become involved with the project? What kind of audition process did you undergo?
Great question – I’ve never been asked about my experience prior to F13. I had had just a little professional (i.e. paid) experience; I had been studying for over seven years and I had done a few commercials, and a small part on General Hospital and I had done some theatre shows. Well, one day a good friend told me about a casting call he’d had where the casting directors had actually been friendly (which isn’t necessarily the case with casting directors, which is not very smart on their part because the more they put an actor at ease, the better the reading will be). Well, I went and read for them and they were nice and they seemed to think I would be good for the male lead so they asked me to come back the next day to read for the producer and director. I remember Bill Lytle, one of the casting directors, telling me he had gone home for lunch one day and his wife happened to have General Hospital on the TV and it just so happens that it was the episode I was on, and when it was over Mr. Lytle said he commented to his wife on how I did okay with my small part.
Also, when I was leaving that first day, the casting directors told me that the character I would be reading for was a guy who lived in the mountains and worked as a carpenter (meaning he wasn’t a city boy, so don’t dress that way). The next time I came in to read I had decided to come ‘in character,’ so I wore jeans, work boots, parka and I was carrying some lumber and a power saw. The producer, Frank Mancuso, Jr. (whose father was the head of Paramount Pictures at the time), and the director, Steve Miner, loved the fact that I came in ‘in character’. They also seemed to like my reading. Over the next six weeks they had me read again and again with various actresses as they were trying to lock down who the star was going to be. It was a nervous time for me because though I was inclined to think I had the part, I hadn’t actually signed any contract yet.
Were you already familiar with the previous two films before accepting the part, and were you a fan of those types of horror films?
That’s another funny story: when I came back for my second interview with the producer and director, they asked me if I’d seen the first Friday the 13th or Part 2. I was honest with them and told them that I hadn’t seen either and that horror films weren’t really my ‘thing’ (my film tastes run more toward drama ). They looked at each other with that kind of “Just our luck, this guy doesn’t even know about our films” expression; but truthfully, I think they were, if not impressed, certainly okay with that fact because at that point they knew I was honest (which was consistent with the character) and that I wasn’t trying to patronize them to ‘get the part.’
What was your opinion on the script when you first read it? Were you pleased with your character and were there any aspects which you were uncomfortable with for whatever reason?
Well, to put this into its proper context, I was so thrilled just to be hired on this film that I didn’t concern myself with too much thought about whether I liked the script or not. There was nothing that was uncomfortable for me. I did wish they hadn’t cut out the scene where Dana and I run across the old guy on our way back from our trip out to the lake (after the car battery died); but that’s just because no actor wants any of his scenes to end up on the editing room floor. I thought my character was perfect – he had a playful side to him, yet he wanted to reach Chris emotionally (okay, considering the hayloft scene, physically too). I also enjoyed the fact that he wasn’t part of the group that came up with Chris, so it gave him some separation and his own identity, apart from all the goofballs (sorry Larry!).
Were you hesitant about appearing in the third installment of such a despised series, as many critics seemed to have a strong hatred towards Friday the 13th?
Initially, the film wasn’t titled Friday the 13th – they were keeping it a secret – I believe because they were considering doing the film non-union. I wish I could remember what the working title was, maybe I still have the original script with the title on it (or check with Peter Bracke, he knows everything about the F13 series). I didn’t give the critics’ opinion one second of thought, they just like to bash films that don’t cater to the particular taste or genre that they enjoy. It’s a known fact that many ‘B’ movies make the ‘A’ money for the studios and critics never acknowledge that fact or that movies geared toward teens aren’t made for them (the critics). I think what many people don’t appreciate about horror films in general is that they’re simply entertainment for people who enjoy that type of movie, nothing more and nothing less. Some films are written to communicate a message or to make some social statement, but the vast majority are made to entertain. It’s no different than saying something derogatory about reading murder mysteries or watching the Hannibal Lecter movies. Now to the quality of the plot or the acting in horror films; no one is claiming exalted artistic mastery with these films or that horror films should be compared to Academy Award contenders. It’s similar to comparing quality TV shows (Law and Order, etc.) with reality TV shows – they all have their niche market, their own demographics.
How was it having to work with the 3-D effects? What kind of problems did it cause during filming and do you think your performance suffered at all due to this?
I don’t know if ‘problems’ would be the best way to describe the issues surrounding the making of F13 Part 3; I think a better word would be ‘challenges’ and yes, there were some for sure. We had to take more time in the set-ups for each shot because the technology was utilizing a dual-lens system for the 3-D effects, so I think that created more issues. Also, with the idea to exploit the 3-D effect with various scenes demanded careful filming and more takes than usual to maximize the 3-D effects. Another thing that was utilized on this film was a special type of remote operated crane called a Nooma crane which allowed for creative and interesting angles; however, it too demanded more time and special expertise for those technicians operating it AND, combining that with what I mentioned above regarding the 3-D technology challenges, there were some difficult days. Once, the crane structure/dolly collapsed and it was miraculous that no one was injured or killed. One weekend, a swarm of bees roosted on the set which required professionals to come out and smoke them out of the cabin, which delayed filming for a day or two. We had extreme weather swings from very hot to freezing cold days.
Were there any scenes of graphic violence or nudity that were cut during filming? What about the two endings that were reportedly filmed; one where Chris is decapitated and one where she cuts Jason’s stomach open, spilling his guts?
I’m unaware of either of those two possible alternate endings. As far as scenes that were more sexually or violently graphic, I have no idea – I do know that Dana and I did not film anything of that nature. I imagine that because it was a ‘slasher film’ the first edit was probably more violently graphic and the editors then toned it down to get the ‘R’ rating. That’s probably always the case in movies of that type.
When Richard Brooker wore the hockey mask for the first time, what kind of response did he get from everyone on set? Did anyone feel at the time that they were witnessing something very special?
I don’t think any of us had any idea of the historical significance of the now-famous hockey mask and the icon it would become (nobody ever does while something’s in the process of happening, right?). I do recall there being excitement on the set over the fact that Jason now looked much more menacing with the mask. And then of course there’s the fact that we didn’t even know that there would be a part 4.
How do you feel about your death scene, where your eyeballs fly out at the audience? Were you disappointed that a dummy was used instead or would you rather have filmed a death where you could have had prosthetics applied?
No, I loved the idea that the dummy was used – it was the most fascinating process. Two months prior to starting the filming, I went to a special effects lab where they encased my upper torso and head in plaster to create a realistic, life-size manikin of my upper body and head. The night we filmed that scene; it was three in the morning, dark, cold and perfect for filming. When the special effects technicians wheeled my manikin out, it was so spooky for me to look at this incredibly realistic model of myself with all the make-up and hair and everything so accurate. The head was made of a special silicon material which allowed the skull to be crushed again and again while they filmed multiple takes; the eyeball was on a monofilament line that was attached to the lens dead center so that it was not visible on the film as the eye came out – it was all very cool!
What was it like seeing the movie in 3-D? Was it as good as you had hoped? Most fans have only seen the film on VHS and DVD, where the 3-D effects were absent. How well do you think the film has aged without the 3-D effects, or do you think this takes away from the overall experience?
The first time I saw the finished film in 3-D (they screened it for the cast) I was blown away by the entire film – everything about it was awesome; it was suspenseful, scary, gory enough to get your attention and then the 3-D effects were off the charts. The first time the 3-D is revealed is in the credits, which come out off the screen in stages so that the audience is taken totally by surprise and it immediately captures the audience along with the opening musical score. Not long ago, I went to a horror film festival up in LA where the film was screened using its original 3-D print and it was just awesome again! I encourage all the F13 fans to try to see it sometime in a theatre in 3-D – it is so much fun and so many of the deaths in the film are enhanced with the 3-D effects that the film takes on a new dimension in horror.
What kind of effect did Friday the 13th Part 3 have on your life? You left acting to become a chiropractor for many years, during this time did you try to distance yourself from the movie, and have you attended many conventions over the years?
Well, on one level I can divide my life by the ‘Before F13‘ and ‘After F13‘ – it was a watershed event in my life that is still with me twenty-five years after the fact. I have always been proud of my involvement in F13 Part 3 and have never attempted to distance myself from it or the incredibly passionate F13 fans that have followed it over all these years, as well as the fans discovering it more recently. I have attended only a couple of conventions, mainly due to time commitments but sometimes because the people who organize events don’t always have their act together so I’m reluctant to invest my time or money on events that seem somewhat ‘sketchy.’
Have you followed the franchise over the years, especially with Jason Voorhees becoming such a pop culture icon? Did you ever wish that your character had survived so you could have returned for the fourth film?
I haven’t really followed the franchise, other than what comes across my radar regarding Part 3. Of course I would have love to have been involved in subsequent installments, but then again, I had one of the best deaths in the franchise. I haven’t seen any other F13s (can you believe that!).