In case you didn’t know, the hockey-masked killer from the Friday the 13th series of movies is named Jason Voorhees. He has been portrayed by quite an array of actors and stuntmen. How many? Let’s break it down by the movies.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Following up on the success of the late 70s indie killer-who-chases-teens horror hit Halloween, directed by John Carpenter, the first Friday the 13 did well enough in theaters and in VHS for the series to continue into sequels. And believe it or not, there is no hockey mask in this movie and Jason Voorhees himself appears for only a few seconds in the film. The main killer here is Jason’s mother, Pamela Sue Voorhees. Jason himself only appears twice in the film, and quite briefly. He appears in a silhouette as a child when his murderous mother tells a tale about her past, and he appears in what seems to be a dream or hallucination by the movie’s sole survivor at the end of the film. But who portrayed Jason in the original Friday the 13th movie? It was then-15-year-old actor Ari Lehman, who has gone on to have a career in pop music.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
In this, the first of many sequels to the original Friday the 13th movie, Jason Voorhees steps into the spotlight as the main killer. Masked with a sack over his head, there is still no hockey mask to be found here. In this movie, Jason is played by two men, actor Warrington Gillette and stuntman Steve Daskawisz. Daskawisz was Jason throughout almost all of this movie, with Gillette playing Jason during an unmasking scene near the end of the film.
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
The hockey mask finally arrives! It’s a historical moment in horror cinema! In this movie Jason is played by Englishman and former trapeze artist Richard Brooker. And how did our killer receive his first hockey mask? Having been unmasked in the last movie, here Jason takes the hockey mask from a victim he kills.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
As pretty much everyone knows, this of course wasn’t really the final chapter. Though it was supposed to be, at least for Jason Voorhees who was appeared to have been hacked up with a machete by the Tommy Jarvis character at the end of the move. What happened? Money, of course! Paramount Pictures wasn’t going to let a little thing like the main character getting chopped into little bits interfere with them making millions. And who could blame them? Stuntman Ted White portrayed Jason in this movie, and he has gone on the record that he did not fully enjoy his experience on this film while portraying a murderer and he did not find any interest in stories where a deformed killer murders young people. So, why did White do the movie? Money, of course!
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
This film was supposed to bring about a major change in the Friday the 13th franchise of movies. Jason was dead. A new killer was needed. Who would it be? Well, for this movie it turned out to be character Roy Burns (played by actor Dick Wieand) who wore a hockey mask like Jason and who tries to kill Jason’s killer, Tommy Jarvis. Unfortunately for Burns, Tommy slays him, too. However, Jason does appear in this film in a few flashbacks and dreams. Stuntman Tom Morga had the honor of being Jason in this movie, and he played the Roy Burns character in some scenes, too.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
In this one, the real Jason returns. From the dead, even. Tommy Jarvis is back, too, and it’s he who accidentally resurrects our notorious killer. And yep, Jason is still wearing his trusty hockey mask. But who is the man behind the mask this time? It’s none other than C.J. Graham, who was a night club owner picked to play Jason in this movie after being seen portraying Jason in a night club act. Graham also appeared as Jason in the Alice Cooper video for the song “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask).”
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
This film begins actor and stuntman Kane Hodder’s relationship with the Jason Voorhees character. Hodder was Jason for this movie, and he would portray the killer for four movies total, by far more than any other actor to this date. So, Hodder has become a bit of a celebrity among Friday the 13th fans in particular and horror movie fans in general. In this movie, Jason is raised from the dead (again) accidentally by telekinetic Tina Shepard (played by Lar Park Lincoln). As usual, Jason goes on a rampage. It is only when Shepard uses her powers to raise her father from the dead that Jason is defeated once more.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Kane Hodder returns to play Jason for the second time. In this film, Jason yet again is revived from the dead (this time by an electric cable) and goes on another bloody hunt for young people. What’s different about this bloody rampage from all the others? This one mostly takes place in Manhattan instead of the country surrounding Jason’s normal stomping grounds of Crystal Lake. Here, Jason jumps aboard a boat that is taking some teens to New York. Upon arrival, Jason jumps off ship and continues his normal slaying ways.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Yep, Kane Hodder is back, but this time he’s not in the mask so much. “Jason Goes to Hell” takes a different plot than the earlier movies. In this one, Jason is hunted down and killed by the FBI, but then his ghost manages to possess the bodies of others. So, Jason’s spirit jumps around into different characters throughout this film. The first person Jason takes possession of is the coroner, played by Richard Gant. Next, Jason takes over the body of a police officer named Josh, played by actor Andrew Bloch. In another move, Jason becomes TV reporter Robert Campbell, actor Steven Culp. Finally, Jason takes over the body of a police officer named Randy, actor Kipp Marcus, and then Jason is finally destroyed and sent to hell. So, a total of five people portrayed Jason in this film, though most didn’t garb the famed hockey mask all the time.
Jason X (2002)
This is one of the goofier of the movies featuring Jason Voorhees. In this one, it’s the future. Jason is brought back to life once more, the nearly destroyed again. But parts of his body remain, and tiny, spider-like nanobots rebuild Jason, except he’s bigger and better than ever. Kind of like the Six Million Dollar Man. They can rebuild him. And they do. And Jason goes on yet another rampage, this time on a spaceship against the spaceship’s poor crew. This is Kane Hodder’s final performance as Jason, at least to this date. This film has its moments, I suppose, but it’s generally my least favorite of all the Jason films.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Two of the best-known horror figures face off in this move. Jason goes up against Freddy Krueger (actor Robert Englund) of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise of horror movies. Here, Freddy raises Jason from the depths of hell so Jason can terrorize Freddy’s old neighborhood of Elm Street, but the tables eventually get turned and Jason and Freddy go at one another head on. Who is the winner? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out. And watch for Ken Kirzinger, who plays Jason in this film. And let us not forget stuntman Glenn Ennis, who performs some of the stunts as Jason (and who also plays Hooded Justice in the Watchmen movie).
Friday the 13th (2009)
This, the latest film in the Friday the 13th franchise, isn’t a sequel. And it’s not an exact retelling of the very first movie despite the names being the same. This film is more of a retelling of the first few movies, though it has major plot differences, too. And who plays Jason in this film? Well, first up is child actor Caleb Guss, who acts as Jason when Jason was a boy. The adult, masked Jason is played by actor/stuntman Derek Mears (who is rumored to play the next Jason in an upcoming Friday the 13th film set to be released in 2010).
The final tally?
There have been a total of 16 actors to portray killer Jason Voorhees. Some might argue the number should only be 12, but I am including the four actors who portrayed characters in “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” who had their bodies taken over by Jason’s soul. Either way, it’s quite a number of actors. Interestingly, if Derek Mears does indeed play Jason in the next film in the series, he will be the only actor other than Kane Hodder to have appeared as Jason in more than one film.
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