Interview with Ari Lehman (The First Jason)

Posted 02 Aug 2009 in Interviews

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Ari Lehman has been a Friday fan’s dream. He is a highly accessable and always willing to talk to fans and answer whatever questions they may have. Ari is a frequent visitor at the Guts and Gory boards and always offers his input into getting what fans want at conventions.

Steve De Roover of  www.moviepulp.be / www.dvdinfo.be caught up with Ari and asked him about all things Friday.


1) How did you get involved in the movie-business and especially in Friday
The 13th?

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.

2) Next year Friday The 13th will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The
Franchise is still going strong. What is the enduring appeal in this franchise?

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.

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3) 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?

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.

4) Did the huge success of Friday The 13th open doors for you?

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, and we just released
our debut CD, “JASON IS WATCHING!”, and did a successful 11-city tour of
the MidWest. 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. (http://www.firstjason.com)

5) 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?

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!

6) 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?

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.

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7) How did you prepare for the part of were you just following
instructions of Mister Cunningham?

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…

8. What do you think of the direction of the character Jason in the
following pictures?

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.

9) 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?

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. This conviction has it’s rewards, and I am glad to
report that FIRSTJASON will be performing at the Festival de Cinema de
Terror de Molins De Rei(http://www.terrormolins.com), in Spain, later this
year. 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.

10) After Friday The 13th you stopped acting and you did start with a
successful musical career. That is completely different than acting. Can
you tell us more about that and how did that come about?

Actually, as explained above, I was a musician all along, and chose music
due to the immediacy of the experience. Filmmaking takes massive amounts
of time, and you get no audience reaction until about a year later. I am
very glad to be touring the Horror/Metal scene with FIRSTJASON. The band
is a trio, that features the Bassist, “Nefarious”, who also plays with
MACABRE, and Drummer, “Cleaver” who tours with THE CRO MAGS too. I have
also had some success composing, performing and recording soundtracks for
several independent films, including VAMPIRA THE MOVIE, about the original
Horror Vixen, Maila Nurmi. This film got the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror
Award for Best Independent Film of 2007. I am now working on another
soundtrack for VAMP FILMS, for a Horror-Musical Comedy about Shirley
Temple as a slasher with Hip-Hop and Tap dancing called “BLACK SHIRLEY”.
(http://www.myspace.com/blackshirley)

11) What will the future bring for you? Can you shed some light on some of
your upcoming projects? Because you started back with movies and you have
some Friday-related music projects lined up. Please shed some light on
those.

FIRSTJASON goes back on tour in the US in September and October, peforms
at the Film Festival in Spain in November, and California in December. I
am hosting a Theatrical Horror/Goth/Metal event called FIRSTJASON’S FEAST
OF FLESH at The Viaduct Theatre in Chicago on October 17th as a part of
the FIRSTJASON tour. Also, I have been cast to play a Cab Driver in
“HAUNTING KIRA” and a Demonic Angel/Pimp in “MASTER’S DEVILS” two
independent Horror films. I also have a lead role in “THE GIRL” opposite
Playboy Playmate Lisa Neeld, which is nearing completion, to be released
in early 2010. “BLACK SHIRLEY” is one of the most exciting upcoming
independent Horror projects, and I have been working on the soundtrack all
Summer with Southside Chicago DJ Risky. I am also writing a screenplay to
be produced by myself and one of the other more famous Jasons…because as
we always say in the Voorhees Family, “Blood is Thicker Than Water!”…

12) Thanks for your time and success in the future with your music!

MANY THANKS FROM CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE!!!…and remember…

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

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Posted by jasonsfury

13 Comments

  1. FridayFan (02 Aug 2009, 16:45)

    Its great Ari attends the conventions and whatnot, but i think his attempt at music is pretty terrible. sad really.

  2. vorheesfanduder (02 Aug 2009, 17:19)

    well, just remember that we all have our own tastes in music. his music is his art and in no way is it ” sad ” or ” pretty terrible “.

    it is just what HE prefers to play.

    that is the way it should be, in life and in all things you do.

    great interview!

  3. Jeremy Bowen (02 Aug 2009, 19:03)

    why not have a two-disc set with the original and it’s remake for the 30th anniverarsy

  4. Chad (03 Aug 2009, 9:13)

    That’d be nice, but I doubt it will happen. I don’t care about the remake though.

  5. JoeyCypher (03 Aug 2009, 17:26)

    I like Ari and all but im kinda sick of seeing interviews with him. he was in it for what 3 seconds??? to me thats like getting questions answered by warrington gillette.

  6. jasonsfury (03 Aug 2009, 17:51)

    Joeycypher,
    Point well taken! And people have asked Warrington Gillette many questions, so I guess having three seconds or so in a Friday the 13th movie does matter.

  7. Sarah (04 Aug 2009, 1:06)

    I kind of understand where Joeycypher is coming from. Anybody could’ve done Ari’s part in the movie. The credit for the effect that part had, really belongs to Tom Savini. I don’t mean any disrespect towards Ari.

  8. TheSmashing (04 Aug 2009, 15:08)

    Maybe you guys are right, but he did it and it’s cool that he so open to the fans of the franchise.

  9. FIRSTJASON (04 Aug 2009, 15:56)

    Hey Everybody!
    Thanks for all the comments, and it’s true everybody has a right to their opinion. I play hardcore Punk/Metal Monster Music, and that is the TRUE VOICE OF JASON VOORHEES who has been silent for all these years. FIRSTJASON gives a LOUD voice to the voiceless:

    “Can you hear me growl? I’m on the prowl,
    I’m in the need of something foul,
    And deep inside I start to Howl!
    See the mark I bear?, Best to beware,
    ‘Cause I can kill without a care,
    And I will take you unaware:

    They come with a sword but I didn’t die then,
    They come with a gun but I didn’t die then,
    They come with a bomb but I didn’t die then,
    Jasons’s life – They can never end!

    Bring out the Army, Navy and Marine,
    I will wage a battle like the world has never seen,
    Fire at will all your weapons of war,
    Jason will be asking for MORE!

    JASON NEVER DIES, JASON NEVER DIES!!!

    “JASON NEVER DIES” FIRSTJASON (c)2009 “Jason Is Watching” CD

  10. Rich (04 Aug 2009, 16:56)

    Wow! Ari is a huge fan of the genre and of the frenchise. I am very glad that someone like that was the very first person to play Jason! He supports the series to this day. That is awesome!

  11. TheSmashing (04 Aug 2009, 18:22)

    Like I said ;) He is a huge supporter and deserves some credit, even if he is only a few seconds in the movie. It’s actually on of my favourite moments in the whole flick :D

  12. Chad (05 Aug 2009, 2:19)

    I think the point that some of the people above are trying to make, is that the credit should go to Savini. Because he could’ve put the same FX make up on anyone, and the movie would’ve turned out the same. Hell, the end with Jason was Savini’s idea to begin with. The director and writers wanted to go with a happy ending.

  13. Jason (03 Oct 2009, 9:46)

    Are you going to the Haunted House this year?

    Heres the website and info:
    http://www.DarkMinds.Biz

    Northern MI. Larget haunted attraction
    Oper from 7p.m. – 11p.m. Fri and Sat every weekend in Oct at the Alpena Armory.

    “ARI LEHMAN” (the FIRST Jason Voorhees “young Jason”) from the ORIGINAL Friday the 13th movie will be making a guest appearance on Fri. the 23rd of Oct. 2009.

    Hope to see you there!



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